Glasgow Comedy Festival - Joanna Neary
Ahead of her appearance with her own show Magic Hole, Joanna Neary tells Brian Donaldson all about nannying, Skins, her teenage fanclub and typecasting
When character comic Joanna Neary worked as a nanny in a previous life, she didn’t let the job stop her imagination running wild. One boy she took to school would be entertained by stories of how he lived in a house where the food would come out of the bin at night, climb the stairs and crawl over his face. ‘I’d say that there were teabags in his ears and beans in his eyes and there was a dog at the bottom of the bin that would come upstairs to kiss him on the face.’ Despite being a storytelling nanny for most of her twenties, the case of Louise Woodward (the British au pair convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 1998) put her off the profession and she merrily pursued a stage career.
Her debut Fringe show in 2004, Joanna Neary is Not Feeling Herself, earned a Perrier Best Newcomer nomination and she has gone on to woo those who like their humour a bit more subtle and nuanced. Still, it’s not all willowy thirtysomethings she attracts, admitting to some surprising fans. ‘I’ve had 16-year-old boys coming up to me to talk about the dolphin character I do and some 11-year-olds have quoted my lines at me from the Celia Johnson character.’ While the Brief Encounter Dame and any number of aquatic creatures won’t be able to hold much of an opinion on their stage representation, Neary does include some real-life celebs among her repertoire of oddities and oddballs. ‘Janey Godley told me that Heston Blumenthal got wind that I was doing him on stage and he thought it was a funny thing. Apparently some people have gone up to him and said “Oi, Heston, I’ve got a tampax and a tin of cat food; what do you reckon I could do with that?”’
Neary herself is steadily building a reputation from appearances on the small screen, having appeared as Johnny Vegas’ neighbour in Ideal and in the shortlived E4 sketch affair, Dogface. But more of those admiring teenagers will have spotted her in Skins. ‘I was the hippie drama teacher. I always tend to play middle-aged women with ten cats who have never had a husband and are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I don’t know what people see in me. I’m perfectly settled down and I hate cats, yet I get typecast as the freaky women who’s about to collapse.’
Clearly, Neary has a career not about to fall in on itself, though after this appearance with her Magic Hole, she may not rush back to Scotland with another hour-long extravaganza to perform in August. ‘I’ve been offered parts in other people’s shows so I might not do my own one this year. But I’m not sure if I’d get jealous not having my own hour or whether it would be great being there without having the pressure and loneliness of doing a show on your own.’
Joanna Neary’s Magic Hole, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 18 Mar.