‘At No Time Should The Escort See You Picking Up Articles From The Floor’ – The Books That Shaped Me.
I’m Joanna Neary, I do comedy and I’m doing a Book Stage at Firle Vintage Fair on Sunday 11th August. Here are some of my books I’ll be sharing tomorrow.
I’ve been doing a stand up show based loosely on being a wife. It’s called Wife On Earth and was going to be all about being a wife, until I did half an hour’s research, and discovered that the history of being a wife is frankly hideous.
Growing up on a diet of books bought from jumble sales (Girl’s Crystal, Schoolgirl’s Own, School Friend, How to Be Charming, Anita Colby’s Beauty Book, Here’s Looking At You, Miss Teen, Stepping Out for instance) made me into an old fashioned type who thought marriage was the main goal in life. I did once buy a copy of Blue Jeans for 10p because there were no other books, but it had a photo story in it that ended in kissing, so my dad bought it back off me and burnt it on our fire.
It’s taken me years to realise that reading books from the 1920s in my formative years (the 1980s) has shaped me in a strange way. Anita Colby’s Beauty Book is a 1940’s book about following a four week beauty regime, that ends in having a baby. In Week 2, Day 5, you have to lie upside down on an ironing board to get rosy cheeks. It’s called ‘The Hollywood Slant”. I start off trying to laugh at these books, and end up following the advice.
My Wife On Earth Show stars a Sussex arty character based on the Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston Farmhouse staff. I’ve been doing this character but with different material for years now, she endlessly amuses me. She’s called Peg Bird and is a slight revenge character, based on a composite of a wafty woman who was mean to me when I was a teenager in Cornwall, and a woman I saw at Charleston (I later found out her name, as the Director of Charleston saw me do this character at Brighton’s Komedia and recognised the characterisation but I don’t want to say it, in case she reads blogs with ‘Firle’ in the title. I wouldn’t put it past her). Peg will be sharing ‘Bloomsbury – A House Of Lions’ by Leon Edel, that my brother bought for me from a bookshop in Lewes (pronounced LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEZ).
In Search Of Charm by Mary Young tells you how to not pick things off the floor in front of a man, or he’ll be absolutely livid ( you can see him scowling in the picture below. She should have left it for the waiter to do, the dirty cat).
How To Be 30 for 40 Years is one of the most startling titles I’ve seen. I used to LOVE my book collection, until my friend, the comedian and author Robin Ince saw it and told me they were self-help. When I told him he’d put me off my book collection, he said they’re the right kind of self help. Meaning a sort of social document I suppose, and perfect for comedy inspiration. I know these books can be awful and funny but I also love them, I love how simple they make things. If only you can wear the right colours so you don’t look like you’re dead, and then get out of a car without flashing your bum, all will be well in the world.
I’m really looking forward to sharing these books and more tomorrow, I’m on at 4.30 at the Spoken Word Pavilion and I’ll be wearing a long wafty kaftan, so I can blend in. And if it goes well, I might be wafting about with my book collection next year, in a field or room above a pub near you. Yes, I did follow Anita’s course and look at me now. In a country field, working, married, with rosy cheeks, in silk and face cream. Hopefully, we’ll all be laughing.
Wife On Earth is Jo’s latest touring show and is a work in progress, available for bookings for next Spring. It was co written with Joseph Nixon and features songs co-written with Joseph Nixon and Heather Minor. Joanna is married now and it’s fine. Her husband makes her laugh till she falls over.
Here are some of the books.