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I try to be unreasonable, I think it's funny to be unreasonable ; This much I know Annette Fagon, 37, comedian

August 10, 2013

YellowBrix

Iwas born and bred in Braunstone, one of five kids. My mum came to England from Jamaica and met my dad here. It was her dream to own her own business and she got that, taking over the newsagents. There was probably only about five or six black families in Braunstone and we all knew each other. It was interesting, 'cus it wasn't the friendliest of places at the time. I think it's different now.

i went to imperial avenue and Folville Junior schools, then Fullhurst and then I went to Melton Mowbray Further Education Corporation, as it was called then, to do dance and drama. My sister was into that sort of stuff and I followed her. I did Joseph at the Haymarket when I was about 12 or 13, and I went to the Guillain School of Theatre in town. That was good because we had to read poems and sonnets and it really helped me with my English and punctuation.

i went to uni twice. There was a multi-media course at Birmingham I wanted to do but I didn't get the grades. I was going to Ibiza when clearing was on, so I got my sister to do it for me. She managed to get me on the library studies course, which had a media module. It was awful.

In my second year, I decided I hated it. I took a year out and then went back, this time to do multi-media technology.

But in the second year, I failed a module. The resit was the day after the Notting Hill Carnival and that was that, I wasn't ruining my carnival rushing back. I made a deal with myself that uni wasn't for me.

my introduction to stand-up came around that time, when I went to a show with some friends. I had blonde and red hair extensions and my mates all said I would get picked on, and they were right. As soon as he saw me, he started taking the piss out of my hair and he got me up on stage and asked me to dance. He was trying to embarrass me but I just started grinding and didn't care. After that, my mates were like: You should be on stage.'' i wasn't sure about doing it myself at first. I mean, I loved watching it, but I'd never written comedy. My sister found this Funny Women competition and I entered. I did my set about David Beckham getting cane rows in his hair. I didn't get anywhere but I went to see the final. The girl who won was excellent, but some of the other acts, I was like: Really?'' That taught me that comedy isn't always logical - not for me, anyway.

they say when you start out in comedy, you should expect not to get paid for about two or three years. On my fifth gig I got paid Pounds 20 and I was ecstatic. That led to more and more paid gigs. I met a guy called John Simmet - he played Dipsy in the Teletubbies - and he ran a comedy club. He put me on a tour, this was in about 2006. It was a black circuit tour and I'd started doing mainstream shows so it was scary for me because it was like, these are my people. But it went really well.

richard blackwood was supposed to be headlining the last show of that tour, but he didn't show up. If the headline act doesn't show up, that's when the crowd usually gets pissed off.

They weren't told before I went on, but I tried extra hard. It was good, because my trousers split right up to the crack of my backside when I was doing some dancing and everyone was laughing. At the end of the show, John came up to me and gave me Richard Blackwood's wage packet. That was good.

my break, i suppose, was getting a churchill ad. There was all these thespians,'' as I call them, at the audition and I was so nervous. I thought it had gone really badly but they recalled me and I got the part. The advert was a quiz show and I had to ask Churchill the dog about his services, and he'd answer: Correct''. It was surreal because we had to keep filming it, once with the body of the dog, once with just the head, once with an empty chair. It's animated so they have to put all the bits together. It was funny. And I was treated so well - picked up from wherever I was and given my own dressing room.

now, i do a minimum of two gigs every weekend but it can be busier. Last weekend, for example, I had gigs on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and then on Sunday, I opened a show in Manchester and closed one in Liverpool. On the same day. There are times when there's loads on and times where there's nothing That's the way it is.

when i'm moaning to friends about something I'm annoyed or upset about, they're usually laughing at me. So that's what I use for my material. I try to be unreasonable, I think it's funny to be unreasonable. I like to be ignorant, like a Jeremy Kyle-type person.

People will sometimes come up to me afterwards and say they disagree with something I've said and I say good,'' I disagree, too. Then they ask why I said it and the answer is, because it's funny. I don't mean most of what I say.

Any political issue I'll talk about will be with my tongue in the side of my cheek.

sometimes my stuff is filthy. I want people to go urgh,'' that's the reaction I want. I did a joke about a smear test once at a Jongleurs and I was told to take it out of my set by the woman there, she said it was too foul. But I got a standing ovation for that.

it's good when you can appeal to everyone - all ages, races, sexes. I think everyone understands me, gets my jokes. I'm not trying to be too clever. I just want people to laugh. You don't even need to laugh with me, come and laugh at me if you want.

being a woman on the comedy circuit is hilarious. I always tell females who get into comedy that they'll be feminists within a couple of years. Because it's a man's world, and, do you know what, women are the worst about that. It's always women who come up at the end and say they weren't expecting me to be funny. But, unfortunately, the only women comedians you see on TV are Andi Osho, Sarah Millican and Shappi Khorsandi. There's bitches much funnier than that out there. But the industry likes its token blacks and token women, and that's it. We always joke that until Lenny Henry is dead, we ain't going to get no TV work.

i'm nowhere near the funniest person in my family, I'm probably the least funny. My mum is funnier than me. Meet my sister or my brother - they're the comedians in the family. But it's about crafting humour for on stage. You can say things to your friends and they'll laugh, but you can't just walk on stage and say the same thing. You have to tailor it.

i have a great laugh, doing what i do. I always come off stage and think: I can't believe I get paid to do this.'' I have a day job as well, and I'd like it to be more regular. I always say to people that it's the loneliest job you can do. You can be doing a show with hundreds of people cheering and clapping for you and then you go back to a lonely hotel room... take drugs, self-harm and watch porn. I'm only joking, but it can be hard. I miss out on lots of stuff and it's hard trying to explain to people like my mum. I'll be like: I know it's your birthday but I'm getting Pounds 200 for this gig. Can you give me Pounds 200?'' I have to eat.

one thing i always come back to Leicester for is the Caribbean Carnival. I live in Birmingham now and don't get back that much, mainly just for family occasions. But I always come back for the carnival. There wasn't that much of a black community when I was growing up in Braunstone and the carnival helped me identify who I was from a young age.

in the years i've been doing this I reckon I've probably only done about 20 shows in Leicester. London is the best place for gigs and Manchester is good. But if I do come back I try to drag my mum along. She doesn't like swearing or talking about sex, though, so has to wait at the bar for quite a lot of it.

comedy is like therapy for me. I'll joke and say that I do it because I can't afford my therapist any more as I spent all my money on weed. But it's kind of true, about the therapy bit. It's a release. When you're having a bad day, you can get up on stage and just lock off. And making other people laugh is a really nice thing. ? .M: info: Follow Annette on Twitter: @annettefagon

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