Katherine MacAlister talks to ‘angry’ comedian Jo Caulfield

When female comedian Jo Caulfield’s husband is cold-called, he has his patter down to a fine art: “He always pretends he’s terribly interested and I hear him walking round the house talking to them on the phone saying ‘so what is double glazing?’ or ‘when were mobile phones invented?’ until they hang up on him,” she laughs. Cold-calling is just one of the subjects Jo tackles in her new show The Celebration of Anger where her views on call centres, customer services and modern technology are all aired on stage.

“It’s terribly cathartic, and leaves me and the audience feeling much better afterwards,” she promises. Can she give me an example? “That woman on the Ryvita advert who acts like she’s really enjoying herself,” she spits. “You know; the big things in life. And yet I know it’s irrational to get that angry about such silly things, but they can become insurmountable. We have got so used to dealing with people we don’t know that we are really polite, which makes us even more aggravated.

“Think about customer care — it is never helpful and doesn’t do any good, and there is so much technology out there, that we have to fight against it as well as enjoy it,” she rants, and as she unloads, you begin to see why this show is such an animated success. Jo admits that she had been developing this material for a while, but it wasn’t until an audience member pointed out how much Jo seemed to enjoy being angry that she was inspired to craft a whole new show. “I went home to Edinburgh and had a long hard think about it, concluding that if this was the case, perhaps the audience would enjoy watching me get angry too. So this show is my anger management, which works because it makes me feel better, and if you can see the funny side it always helps.

“So I’ve learnt not to take it out on the person at the other end of the phone, because it’s not their fault things are so terrible, and this way we all get to feel better and have a laugh.” The subject matter is almost irrelevent, because whatever theme Jo chooses it’s always comedy gold, her tours becoming so popular she had to give up the day job as a gag writer for Graham Norton. “I stopped working on Graham’s show when my tours started taking up all my time. I still watch him though. And still laugh,” she says.

Jo’s last tour, for example, was about discovering she wasn’t actually legally wed at all, having got married on holiday. So did she do anything about it? “No,” she laughs,”but people did come up and say I didn’t have anything to worry about and that they thought it was legal.” And you took their word for it? “Yes,” she says in surprise: “I am married; we just can’t be bothered to do it properly. If we did, it would be a register office job, although I’d rather spend the money going on holiday, which might result in the same situation all over again,” she says, collapsing with laughter.

Marital bliss in Edinburgh does mean, however, that the commuting is quite substantial: “I decided to move to Edinburgh on a whim, but commuting-wise it’s not ideal, although it’s almost the same as when I was living in London...” she stops and then laughs, “it’s amazing how well you can lie, even to yourself.”

Happy on the road, Jo has built up a massive fan base who wait eagerly for her newest take on life, although if she had to pin down her favourite subject matter, relationships usually feature prominently: “I’m always fascinated with what happens behind closed doors and how people stay together for such a long time,” she admits. “So it’s often men who come up after a show and say ‘you’ve enlightened me. I didn’t know that was how women think’,” she laughs. Which is no doubt why Jo has recently been nominated as ‘the best female stand-up in the country’ and ‘one of the Top 100 Comedians’ by Chortle and Ch4 respectively.

Coming to the North Wall on Sunday, she says: “It’s a while since I’ve performed there — it’s a bit like a posh prison, isn’t it? Didcot’s Cornerstone was more normal — I could have bought a house there. And as for Chipping Norton, it was full of Range Rovers and wellies. I couldn’t believe how posh it was, like a village for rich people who want to live in the country,” she says. The question then is whether the North Wall is ready for her. “You’ll have to see the show to find out. But I love to have a good rant — it’s the only sensible approach most of the time. “Let’s face it, so many things are annoying or unnecessarily silly that if you don’t stop to laugh at them they may very well drive you up the wall.”