You wouldn’t expect your average 59-year-old Glaswegian woman (if there is such a thing) to be an internet superstar. But for stand-up star Janey Godley, her political voiceover videos – in which she dubs over clips of Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May in her own unmistakable Scottish accent – have amassed an enormous audience on social media. How did it start?
“As comics, we always wait on TV people coming to see us. They never have,” Godley says. “So, what comics like me have done is create our own content, find our own audience, and now my videos get more hits than some TV shows.”
Even before this, Godley had gone viral for her political activism in 2016, when an image emerged of her holding an obscene protest sign against Donald Trump’s visit to Scotland following the Brexit result. “People get upset at me swearing, but nobody minds the word ‘foodbank’,” she says, with audible anger. “I think ‘foodbank’ is a worse word than ‘cunt’!” It goes without saying that she’s not one to mince her words.
Godley has spoken frankly of her traumatic early life, surviving poverty and sexual abuse, not to mention her mother’s murder at the hands of a violent boyfriend in 1982. When discussing this onstage, the last thing she wants is pity. “There’s an opportunity to air a lot of issues out through comedy. But I write about poverty because it’s still very endemic and entrenched in our society today.”
After honing her crowd control skills running one of Glasgow’s dodgiest pubs, she burst onto the ‘alternative comedy’ circuit in the 1990s. As a working-class Scottish mother, she made a space for herself on a scene overwhelmed by young, often middle-class men. But is the industry more accepting now? “No, there are still barriers. I was the first working-class Scottish woman to be on Have I Got News For You, and that was just last year.” Her daughter, Ashley Storrie, is also a comedian – but has she had any advantage, with a mother in stand-up? “Comedy’s a meritocracy. It doesn’t matter if your da’s Billy Connolly – if you’re shite onstage, people will tell you.” words SAM PRYCE
The Riverfront, Newport, Fri 14 Feb. Tickets: £17.50. Info: 01633 656757 / tickets.newportlive.co.uk