Cut it back to 1996 and Jenny Ross, age 22, has just won the BBC's New Comedy Award. Soon after, she supports mega comedian Rob Newman on tour and co-presents pop culture prog, The Sunday Show, on BBC2. It was the era of `Cool Britannia' starring Oasis, Tony Blair and co…
"I was young, a whippersnapper, but very quickly was on telly and I think in a way that almost stops you finding your feet as a stand up because there's a lot of pressure to go with what the audience find funny" Jenny explains "I was doing things like alternative, pop cultural jokes about the Gallaghers…There was politics in there but it was a completely different climate politically.
"It was quite frustrating" she adds "because Tony Blair was in power, and no-one at that point, apart from really far left lefties, could see how awful he was. When I cracked jokes about him people thought `What? Are you a Tory?'…I did stand-up for a decade, then did writing for telly and having babies and being a journalist, and kind of went away from it…"
And then…along came Barton Moss, the Salford anti-fracking protest Camp, and the addictive daily protests which changed so many people's lives…
"The minute I saw those tents go up it was like a calling to me" says Jenny "I was actually pregnant with my son during Occupy and felt the same admiration for people camping out on the front of St Paul's; so now, with a two year old, I was able to go down to Barton as often as I could and became one of the tribe…"
At the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp, everyone's skills were put to work. Jenny began by thinking up slogans for the iconic signs that greeted IGas lorry drivers and the GMP every day…and ended up compering the rally at the end of the 2,000 strong anti-fracking march in Manchester. Finally she got back on stage at fundraising gigs for the protectors.
"It was always in the back of my mind to get back into stand up but talking about fracking and showing support for the great stunts that the protectors did led me to write my set" she explains "I suppose my natural thing to do when public speaking is to crack jokes because I think it's a good way to connect with people. It's not that kind of leftie shouting at people thing, it's therapeutic for people to laugh at what's going on as well, because it's pretty alarming stuff.
"Barton Moss gave me a platform to write material and to have something to say...In a way I'm getting to be the comedian I always wanted to be" she adds "I'm taking apart establishment holy cows and it's amazing how much people are up for it – slagging off the GMP, slagging off Kate Middleton, UKIP, Ed Miliband…I'm loving it because if I didn't have something to say I wouldn't have gone back to it. That's what it's all about, as well of course making people laugh."
As people look to the gagged mainstream media for non-existent alternative views, other forms are overtaking it…You Tube videos, social media, colourful street protests and live shows…
"Back in the day my set was 20% politics and 80% other stuff but now it's the opposite, and it's been really well received" she says "Back then it was difficult whereas now it's a turkey shoot. Labour has completely abandoned all socialist principles, the Tories are even worse than Thatcher and we have the rise of a far right party, UKIP, who I take great pleasure in taking to pieces on stage... I think I've also managed to get enough smut in there to make it acceptable. It would be fair to say it's a dazzling blend of smut and politics."
Jenny Ross returns to the comedy circuit proper this Friday, 13th June, at The Dancehouse Theatre on Oxford Road in Manchester, sharing an all-women triple bill with Barbara Nice, the hilarious Stockport housewife, and Caz n Britney presenting the ace sounding Scottie Road The Musical (From Primark to Prison)…
"Barton Moss was an inspiration for me on many levels, as a campaigner, a human being and a comedian" Jenny explains "It has allowed me to find new umph which is more me, and to follow that well trodden path of comedian activists who have been my idols. People like Bill Hicks, Mark Thomas and Stewart Lee, and Josie Long on UK Uncut. It's allowed me to follow in their footsteps, which is an honour."
Kate Middleton, UKIP, Ed Miliband and co better watch out. Jenny Ross is back. With a Barton Moss bang!
Jenny Ross, Caz and Britney and Barbara Nice
Friday 13th June 8pm
The Dancehouse Theatre, Oxford Road, Manchester M1 5QA
Tickets in advance £10/£8
For full details click here
Photos by Steven Speed