They say write about what you know, and that is certainly what comedian and writer Katy Brand has done in her debut novel Brenda Monk Is Funny.
It is refreshing to be told about the inner workings of the comedy industry in the form of something other than a stroppy article or bitter passing comment. In today’s world it seems like a large majority of people get their information from such sources, which is understandable, and don’t feel the need to find out what a different person on the inside might have to say due to the effort it might take to find the information. Katy Brand, however, has made it easy for us, so we really have no excuse for being ignorant.
Brenda Monk is the girlfriend of successful and entirely intolerable circuit comic, Jonathan Cape. She loves comedy, but Jonathan is the one with a career in the industry and she has always accepted that. However, this is a time of change for Brenda as she begins to question things she has never thought about before: could she cut it as a stand up comedian?
Brand has effortlessly cumulated her skilful storytelling with her in depth knowledge of the comedy industry to great effect. She has fairly and honestly represented the highs and lows of being a stand-up comic as far as I can understand, whilst also scratching the surface of more controversial topics such as the role of women in comedy and the different ‘classes’ (for want of a better word) within the industry.
“People who come here are grown ups. If they can’t handle it, they shouldn’t come. Or they should just go and see the big tours of the nice, safe stand-ups they know they already like and will never say anything that will challenge anything they already think and feel.”
On a personal level, I found this book to be very relatable and even reassuring as a result of Brand’s dealing with the nitty gritty aspects of what being a comedian entails. As well as being interesting, this story is also very endearing and the development of Brenda’s character has been dealt with fluently and sensitively, whilst being sufficiently informative and therefore a useful read.
And there is still benefit to be gained for those who don’t share my interest in stand up comedy. Brenda Monk is Funny gives a powerful message to its readership, one of striving to achieve an end goal.
“and thought, “I could say anything I want to. I could say anything I want to.” She was reeling from that one moment alone. The rest was just a matter of writing some jokes.”