Channelling the Divine Miss M, Jayde Adams is leaving vulnerability behind in favour of bright lights and big numbers, Bette Midler-style.
This year’s show title is an homage to Bette Midler – have you always been a Bette fan?
For all her rom-coms, massive music career, Vegas shows (and let’s not forget she’s queen of the gays) Bette Midler has been an idol of mine my whole life. I won’t be plagiarising anything she’s done
(except the title) but if I can get reviewers to say things like, “she’s the next Bette Midler” or, “Jayde Adams is a gay icon,” I’ll be chuffed. I’ve been doing vulnerable for the last couple of years, but I don’t feel like that anymore. Time for some jokes and songs and fabulous gowns I say! Most of the gay icons that I adore are from the US, but why can’t a gay icon be from Bristol?
You experienced the classic comedy rite of passage – finding your funny as a form of defence. Were you aware that was what you were doing?
Mum sent us to a nice school to have a good education, but that meant I fell into an obvious stereotype as a normal Brizzle girl in one of the top schools in the South. I was the fat, plain, working class, Bristolian yokel when I was growing up. To be honest, I’m still all of those things with a few surprises up my sleeve for all the judgmental people who never thought I’d amount to anything.
Now laughter has become the way I pay the rent. Before I was just trying to get attention and I couldn’t do it by showing off my sporting skills or how sexually desirable I was or how clever I was. Survival, ain’t it!
But it took your sister’s death to free your funny completely. Do you feel she would be proud of you?
Wherever she is, she’s jealous! Sooooo jealous.
There would be a part of her that would be proud but she loved attention as much as me. When she got cancer – as much as it scared her and she didn’t want it – the attention she got from it was something she didn’t deny. Humans are odd, ain’t they? And Jenna Adams was no exception. She also would love how much I have to talk about her in interviews and would totally take all credit for my success. But yes, of course she’s always with me. I don’t know what I believe but it comforts me massively to know she’s somewhere near by, smoking fags and giving me a wink and a nod.
My brother, who is still alive, does not give a fig about my job. I asked him once, “why don’t you come watch me perform?” And he said, “well you don’t watch me do electrics do you?” Fair play.
Do you think having had experience of dancing competitively and singing from a young age helped you with stand-up?
The first time I performed in front of people was when I was five, and at least once a week until today. A lot of stand-ups’ first time on stage is their first gig. I’m very lucky that my mum spent 12 years making me do something I never wanted to do. Kicking and screaming up the road, “I don’t want to go! Don’t make me do it!” 12 years that woman put up with me being a wimp. She’s harder than anyone I’ve ever met.
You’ve had several wins since taking home the Funny Women 2014 prize. Is the winning important to you?
I hate competitions, and I hate that people feel like they’re in competition with others in comedy. I entered Funny Women because Lynne [Parker] had asked me loads and I kept saying I wasn’t ready. I was shoved into competitions as a teenager with my talented sibling, and she’d always win and I would lose. Competitions are horrendous. I will admit it’s lush to be recognised after working this hard, but there are always loads of people who don’t think you deserve it. And yes, I love it when the audience are in the palm of my hand but I have to remember that my shit still stinks and I don’t know the answer to anything.
Does being Bristolian help with the funny?
Mate. Before the jokes, there was the accent. I cannot deny it. I’m blessed! I’ve been ridiculed by middle class people my whole life, instructed to say words like “butter” and “purple.” And the best thing is that people think I’m putting it on! We traced my family ancestry back to the 14th century and do you know what we found out? That we’re originally from Bristol. I’m a thoroughbred my lovely, and I’m proud. I fly the Bristol flag up high (we don’t have a flag).
WHERE & WHEN
Jayde Adams: The Divine Ms Jayde,
Pleasance Courtyard, 1-27 August, 9.30pm