Sunday, January 19, 2014

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is a writer and comedian from South London. Today's Out Spotlight is Jen Brister.

Jen (Jennifer) Brister,was born in February 1975, in South London.
Brister studied theatre at Middlesex University, where she took a course in stand-up comedy in the mid 90s, which was the only course of its kind at the time in the UK. Other famous graduates include chats show host Alan Carr, Renton Skinner and Clare Warde. Brister's first gig was a showcase for course and held at the Kings Head in Crouch End.

Since then, she has performed in London venues that include Comedy Camp, Banana Cabaret Comedy Store, The Kings Head and ED Comedy as well as hosting her own nights that include Hysterics at Shaun & Joe and CatFlap Comedy at the Player Bar, Soho.

Also a comedy writer, she has and performed alongside Doug Faulkner & Clare Warde, as part of the comedy sketch group, The Loose Connection. They appeared regularly at the Hen & Chickens Theatre, Etcetera Theatre, Sketch Club and The Enterprise in the mid-2000s.

Despite people in the business advising her not to come out publicly for what might happen to her burgeoning career when she started out, she knew that she had to because that is who she is, and her life is the source of her comedy.

"My comedy is almost entirely autobiographical so it didn't make sense to lie about or evade the subject of my sexuality. I have rarely encountered any real homophobia whilst on stage, I'm not saying it has never happened but it's so rare that it's never worried me. Comedy is as meritocratic as it gets. If you're funny the audience will laugh, if you're not they won't. No one cares if you're gay or straight, just be funny."

In 2006 Brister appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with her show "Me, My Mother and I."  She told Time Out in March of that year that the show was about "'It's really an exploration of my relationship with my mum. It's an analysis, as well, of where I am at this point in my life. I'm 31. I'm single. I don't own a house. Or a car. I don't have kids. Or any solid financial security. At 31, my mother had three children and a fourth on the way. She was married and she had a mortgage."

From 2007 to 2008, she worked for BBC 6 Music as a stand in presenter and in 2008 took a show to Edinburgh Scotland called Reception with her comedy partner at the time Clare Warde.

In 2009 she returned to the Edinburgh Fringe again  doing a stand up show as well as appearing in a play called "The One and The Many" by Trevor Lock.

In 2011 she performed her new stand up show, ‘Jen Brister is British(ish)’ at the Adelaide & Melbourne Comedy Festivals before taking it to the Edinburgh Festival to a raft of great reviews.

Back to the festival circuit she brought another new show called ‘Now &  Then’ to the Adelaide Fringe Festival and then back to Edinburgh Festival in 2012.

"The fact is I'm happy to be gay. If there was a pill that could make me straight, I wouldn't take it."

Thanks to Prairie Girl for suggestion of Jen Brister for the Out Spotlight.

If you have someone you think would make a great Spotlight, let OMG know.


prairiegirl said...

I really liked this gal and I found this interview with her through someone else who was on Twitter who I found somehow through searching Jake. LOLLLL!!! Don't ask me how.

But anyway, I really enjoyed the interview and I just found her shared experiences really interesting.

When did you first think or know that were gay?

I think I've always known I was, even when I was a child. There were years of denial, particularly in my adolescence when I had a lot of strong feelings about different girls and no idea what to do about them. I just felt embarrassed and ashamed so I never told anyone. I tried to like boys but that never worked either so I just stayed single and celibate until I left University. I think I must have been the only one of my friends that got no action at all for the entire three years. The irony was of course that everyone knew I was gay, I just couldn't admit it to myself.

What was your coming out experience like?

I came out as bisexual at 21, which is hilarious given that I had never had a boyfriend and never really been attracted to men. I finally came out as gay when I was 23 and that was mainly down to my friend Kel who I was living with at the time. Kel is a confident, no nonsense gay man who knew I was a big ole lesbian that needed to just fess up. “Jen, you’re gay.” “No, I’m bi-sexual.’ “No, you’re gay.” “No really, I’m bi.” “Fine. So let’s say you are bi, but right now you’re interested in women, so why don’t you just try saying you’re gay? Obviously if you do go out with a guy you can call yourself bi.” “Er...ok.”
I never called myself bisexual again. Who knew it was that simple?

I think I've been very lucky because I literally had no negative experiences from anyone I cared about. Most of my friends had been waiting for me to come out for about five years and my family seemed nonplussed by my announcement, particularly my Mum. I use the story in my stand up and I think it's funny because it's true.

When I did come out to my Mum all she said was, "You're gay? Thank God, I thought you were going to tell me you were a vegetarian."

prairiegirl said...

Here's a bit more from the interview:

If you can accept your sexuality then you're over halfway there. If you know you're gay then the next step is to tell someone you trust. It might be a member of your family, but for most people it's a close friend who you know won't judge you. Tell them and see how you feel. I can tell you now that you're not going to feel worse, only better. If that isn't a horrific experience you can think about telling more people in your friendship circle. Honestly, if you feel embarrassed or weird about the attention this might generate, just know this, people will be interested in your coming out story for all of about a week and then they'll have moved on to the next piece of gossip.

As for family, that's a tough one. I think you have to know and trust that your siblings and parents love you, if they do struggle with it to begin with, most people eventually come to terms with it. Sometimes you just need to give them a bit of time to process the information. Remember it's taken years for you to come to terms with it, your family may need time too.

I would never tell anyone to come out before they're ready, equally I would always encourage someone to get to a place where they can. There is nothing worse than living in the closet, I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Be out and be proud of yourself and seriously, unless it's close family and friends, who gives a flap what anyone else thinks?

Since coming out, how has your life changed?

Coming out was the best thing I ever did. Before I came out I was pretty miserable. As a kid and teenager I was always very skinny, but in my final year of A levels I started to put on a lot of weight. I didn't realise it at the time but I was quite depressed and I'd comfort eat all the time. I very quickly piled on the pounds and by the time I left for University I was two stone heavier and really unhappy about my body image. I was consumed with internalised homophobia - I hated myself and the way I looked. I couldn't imagine anyone ever being attracted to me and I remember thinking that I would spend my entire life single.


prairiegirl said...

At University I suffered with long bouts of depression that led to me sleeping a lot. I can remember being practically narcoleptic at 19 and 20. I would always rather be asleep than engaged with 'real life.' The real problem was that I didn't know anyone else like me. I didn't know any lesbians, there were no gay women in media or television and the few that were 'out' were a lot older than me and I couldn't relate to them.

But when Kel helped me to come to out, suddenly the fat young woman hiding behind overly large men’s shirts, listening to Tracy Chapman and eating a lot of bread was gone. I discovered a new me. I’m not going to tell you that I stopped being the cynical old bag I’ve always been or that I lost weight overnight, but I did like myself a lot more and as a result I thought it possible that someone in the near future might like me too. Yeah, it's cheesy but true, deal with it!

Jen Brister comedienne from the UK

prairiegirl said...

It just sounds like she's a great role model for young members of the LGBT community. She's very positive and can-do.

That's what our young people always need to hear, no matter what it's concerning - sexuality, talent, skills, schoolwork or personal relationships, whatever.