She’s been told by late comedy legend Spike Milligan she has “a great pair of bristols” and now openly lesbian comic Jen Brister (pictured right) is set to work her own charm at the Melbourne Comedy Festival next month.
Recently performing her new show British(ish) at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Brister said she was relieved South Australian audiences responded well, particularly to a rather risque lesbian porn anecdote in her act.
“I think a lot of people come to my show because they’re intrigued by the title British(ish), so I did get a lot of the grey hair brigade in the beginning,” Brister told the Star Observer.
“But it’s fine, we should never assume what people are going to like and not like.
“I’m an openly gay woman talking about lesbian porn in front of an 82-year-old woman and no one’s feeling awkward about it, so I’ve been very lucky.”
British(ish) is based on Brister’s observations about what it is to be British. Her own background is part Spanish, which she has mined heavily in the past for material.
Since landing in Australia, the Londoner has also wasted no time casting a watchful eye on Aussie quirks.
“I’m in Sydney. It’s the first place I’ve been to in Australia where people look generally pissed off. It’s just like home really.” she tweeted last week.
Brister said she’s not been left short of material, adding an extra part to her show for the local crowd.
“There’s loads of things I’ve noticed, like you’re usually more direct than us. You’ll say ‘I do like this, I don’t like that, that’s shit’, ” Brister said.
“Whereas at home it’s like ‘Do you like that? Do I like that? What’s your opinion about that? Do you have an opinion? If you had an opinion, what would it be?’
“We’re very similar in lots of ways but I’d say Australians are happy.”
Unlike the usual story of falling into the comedy circuit, Brister studied drama and theatre at London’s Middlesex University which set her comic career on course.
“As part of that [degree] we did a comedy module and that’s when I tried some stand-up,” she said.
“I did it and I got a first for it and I thought ‘Blimey, I’m really good at this, I should do this for a living, I’m actually really funny’.
“Then I went on the circuit and I was absolutely dreadful, I was dying on my arse everywhere, so I don’t know why I kept going. It was sort of a slight delusion on my part that I was funny.”
It was in the those early days during a BBC comedy award that Milligan spotted her talent.
“I got to the semi-final and it was between me and another chap to get into the final and basically what happened was Spike Milligan voted for me and the other judges voted for the other guy.
“So I didn’t get through but I got a vote from Spike who was very nice and said I have a gift and was really lovely.
“But he also said something about my tits. He said I’ve got a great pair of ‘bristols’, so he was sort of polite but I was sexually harassed by him at the same time, it was great.”
Billed as a ‘lesbian comic’ Brister does not shy away from her sexuality on stage and said she doesn’t really mind the categorisation.
“I think of myself as a comedian first and foremost, not even a female comedian or gay comedian, just a comedian.
“But I am out, I’m very visible, I don’t drop a pronoun or call my girlfriend ‘partner’, because as far as I know, I’m not in a law firm, I’m very upfront and I really like it that way.
“If people find you funny, actually, no one really cares. Are you gay, who cares? Are you going to make me laugh? Great, let’s go.”
Although this will be her first time in Australia performing, Brister lived in Melbourne for around five months 13 years ago when travelling.
The city appealed for the same reason Melburnians wouldn’t live anywhere else.
“I’m going to eat my way around Melbourne, I remember last time I was in Melbourne, the food,” she said.
“It sounds horrible but I’ll dig deep.
“I’ll close my eyes and think of England.”
info: Brister will play British(ish) at the Tuxedo Cat, Blue Room, 335 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Show from April 1 – April 24, starts 7.45pm. Tickets: $18.75 adult (Mon-Thurs) and $23.75 (Fri-Sun). Bookings: 1300 660 013 or call Ticketek on 132 849.