James Burns

James Burns

From Miserable Mother to Funny Woman

My way of being part of any social interaction has always been to put on a stupid voice. This didn’t go down too well with the other mothers at the school gates when picking up my children. 

There is nothing like having children in Battersea to bring on sincere, sincerity and seriousness. It’s a nappy valley full of so called yummy mummies who are busy nurturing the next Prime Minister in a hot house hub of work and not much play – violin lessons, homework, organic food and 11-plus practice. Whenever I tried to speak in this environment I felt the other mothers were ready to put heavy bricks round my ankles and throw me in the nearest river to see if I would float.

The choice was to be with these other mothers or alone with two small children, catering to their every need and conversing at length about Teletubbies or the Tweenies. I was trapped in a cliche and longed for freedom and adventure.

I sought out the nearest cognitive therapist – that was quite entertaining but what really saved me from this grey, dormant, redundant way of life was my friend Lolly Jones – herself a very funny woman. She booked us both in for five minutes of comedy at an open mic gig and I had a month to prepare. A month of hair pulling, nail biting, brain wracking in which I came up with some really terrible jokes and consequently did a really terrible five minutes and that was it – I was hooked!

There’s something about that fear – makes you feel alive and when you come off stage, even if it goes really badly, you feel sure you could do it better next time. It’s like a never ending quest. So I chased this quest for a couple of years and drove the children mad in the process – well I had to test my jokes out on someone.

As a side dish, for some reason, during this time I became obsessed by women in WWII. There is a fantastic archive called Mass Observation with real diaries written by real humans since 1936. This vivid world of WWII plays out like a cartoon to my mind. And in all the time of doing comedy and telling jokes there was still something missing – my desire to put on a stupid voice.

So having trained myself to be up on stage on my own the next chapter in this adventure was to couple that with stupid voices and women in WWII.  Now I find myself having written a character based comic solo show, bound for Edinburgh, about a repressed housewife who becomes a spy for the Resistance in WWII – one woman’s journey into freedom and adventure.

Well they say you should write about what you know…!


Kate Cook actress/comedienne/writer can be seen in her solo show ‘Invisible Woman’ at Brighton Fringe and Edinburgh Festival 2015.  Details can be found on her website: katecookcook.co.uk.  Follow her on @katecookcook

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