Next to Godley

JANEY GODLEY surely runs on dura-cel. The woman with more front than Frasers has big plans for the next two years. "I'm gonna do everything! I'm going to learn to play the violin. I'm going to Australia to swim with dolphins - nah, done that and been bitten on the backside by Flipper! - but I'm going to travel more and I intend to shag Brad Pitt. Only joking - but if the opportunity arises ..."

The gallus Glaswegian is serious, though, about the fact that she intends to spend the next 24 months "doing everything - and I do mean everything".

Godley is 45. "My ma was murdered at 47," she says. "So I've decided that over the next two years I am going to do the lot. Every single thing I think about doing, I'm going to do. F*** it! Because my ma died at 47, and what if I die at 47? Obviously, I won't die like that because she was murdered.

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"But it's testament to her that she had me and I had her," says Godley, gesturing at her 20-year-old daughter, Ashley Storrie, a film and screenplay student at Paisley University, with whom she has just been to New Zealand - where she was on tour with her stand-up routine.

Her own mother, Annie Currie, never got to leave Shettleston, Godley says. Annie's deeply troubled life was cut short when she was murdered, her battered body thrown into the Clyde like so much detritus - "a dead leaf", as Godley puts it. Her killer was her violent boyfriend Peter Greenshields, who was never charged with her murder. He has since died. Ironically, he was also murdered.

"To the police, my mammy meant nothing. She was just an ordinary, insignificant wee woman from the East End," says Godley, who was 21 when her mother died.

"See, I'm not talking about doing 'everything' in a cheesy 'in her honour' way; it's more about living my life to the full. I've had great success," she says of her career as Scotland's funniest woman. Godley's certainly a one-off - a cuddly-looking woman who sounds like the mordantly lippy love child of Joan Rivers and Billy Connolly.

Not only a comedian, demon blogger and racy raconteur, who has staged her "straight-talking, sharp-elbowed" act in Las Vegas, New York, Hollywood, and Glenochil Prison, Godley is also the author of a bestselling memoir, the harrowing but life-enhancing Handstands in the Dark, which comes out in paperback next month. She's also an actress and a playwright.

"I'm Scottish, so I've never celebrated my success," she says. "I'm gonna do it now, though." Good for Godley, since she has had, to say the least, a traumatic life. Apart from her mother's murder, there's been rape, child abuse, poverty, alcoholism, marriage into Glasgow's underworld and domestic violence. But she's survived it all and used her past as fuel for her stand-up act. Life threw terrible things at her, but Godley fought back, with the most dangerous weapon in the world - her wit.

As someone once noted, Godley's life makes the McCourt family of Angela's Ashes look like the Von Trapps. She grew up amid dirt and deprivation in a cramped, "skanky" flat in Kenmore Street, Shettleston, with her hard-working but hard-drinking father, Jim, and Annie, a much-loved but often feckless mother, who was addicted to tranquillisers and forever mired in debt. Janey and her sister Ann and brothers Mij and Vid almost always had fleas and head lice.

Throughout her childhood, Godley was raped and abused by her uncle, David Percy. More than a decade ago, she and Ann, who also revealed that she was sexually abused by Percy, went to the police and their uncle was charged and imprisoned in Barlinnie, where on his first night both of his arms were broken.

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Psychologically "f***ed-up," Godley left school early and married at 18 into one of Glasgow's most notorious gangster families. The young couple ran her fearsome father-in-law Old George Storrie's Nationalist Bar in Calton, a dive that was a hang-out for prostitutes and heroin addicts. Her husband Sean - Ashley's father, to whom she has been married for 26 years - turned out to be prone to fits of manic depression and physical violence. "He was just as f****ed-up as I was," she sighs.

Not for nothing was he known as Mad Eyes in his youth, although he's a changed man nowadays. "All he cares about is cooking my dinner, making strange sandwiches for himself and working out bus routes to various shopping centres," jokes his daughter, who patently loves her dad dearly. "He won't read this - he hasnae even read my book," says Godley.

"He's dyslexic. If I wrote on my blog, 'I picked up a man', he would read it as 'I was eating Spam'. Anyway, he never sees my show. He says, 'If you were a secretary, I wouldn't come and watch you typing.' He just says, 'Go'an de' that wordie thing you do.' "

To the litany of woes that have made up Godley's life, add the fact that one of her brothers, a heroin addict, became HIV positive; then Godley and Sean were arrested and imprisoned when a police raid revealed their house to be packed with small arms and explosives - stored by the Storries without her knowledge. The incident never led to a court case.

People are always telling Godley that she's amazing to have survived all this, to have made so much laughter out of her dark material. She simply responds that she's having the last laugh. "My sense of humour helped me to survive. Life is so precious - and I love every minute of mine now," she says when we meet in Glasgow's Hallion Club.

"That's why I took Ashley to New Zealand with me. We might never get the chance to go away like that again together. I had one day out with my mammy in Saltcoats, and I remember it to this day. We had one day together at the beach. Whereas Ashley and me have had five weeks in New Zealand. We went to beautiful places, did great things together. You cannae change that, whatever happens.

"And that's why we're both going to f***ing live life to the max - and do you know the worst that might happen? We might enjoy it."

That list of things to do includes Godley's more immediate plans to perform three shows a day every day for three weeks on the Edinburgh Fringe. Since the shows are in different venues, it sounds like a marathon. Is she mad, or what?

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"Gimme a break," snorts Godley. "I used to run a pub, working 15 hours a day, and Ashley's used to hard work. She's written one of the shows - Square Street, which we're also developing into a sitcom - and she's appearing in it with me. She's also directing me in my one-woman play, The Point of Yes, about the dangers of drug abuse. And she films me for my blog and my other show, Janey Godley's Blog - Live." The latter is a new piece based on her near-the-knuckle blog, which appears on more than 30 websites.

"Three shows a day? Nah, that's no' mad," says Godley firmly.

Ashley interjects: "When you work 15-hour shifts for a catering company and your feet are killing you - as I've done to get through uni - I'd pick doing three shows a day any time. Anyway, if the worst comes to the worst and Janey runs late, I'll start Square Street on my own."

She'll do physical theatre or dance, just marking time, says Ashley, who made her Edinburgh debut in 1998 at 13, the youngest ever stand-up comic on the Fringe. She would warn audiences: "Please don't heckle me - a Lego brick thrown by a small child can take your eye out."

In between her studies, she works as a karaoke DJ in Glasgow. She was "the wee girl in the metal tea-urn" in the movie Alabama and was in a TV ad for Fairy Liquid, directed by Ken Loach. At ten she was the star of the indie movie Wednesday's Child, winning rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival.

Her first Fringe show was "shite", Ashley insists today, but she promises that her new character-driven one will be the sine qua non of political incorrectness, since it includes a rookie hooker and a cancer sufferer gagging to win a TV talent show. And that's just for starters - Godley plays Attention Deficit Jesus and Ashley his Chelsea PR. There's a biting sketch about special needs, which they expect to prompt unjust comparisons with Little Britain. "It's not catchphrase comedy like that show, though. We've characters who actually develop," says Godley.

"We've seen some dead dodgy shows on the Fringe," Ashley adds. "Remember that arty woman with a fishbowl on her head?' I shouted at her, 'Hey missus, your fish is deid'!"

And then Godley is off on one of her effortless stream-of-consciousness riffs that Virginia Woolf might have written had she only had a pawky sense of humour and a broad but beautiful Glasgow accent salty enough to be peppered with expletives. "I can't think why we didn't think of this before, chicken," Godley says to Ashley. "You could go into a fish tank naked and do the show while eating jelly; then I could come on reading Russian knitting patterns backwards and wearing only wellington boots."

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There is much more in a similar vein. So what is it like for mother and daughter working together? "We never fall out over work. Ashley's always understood that work is serious. She would sit in the corner at the pub colouring in, never speaking because she knew her mammy and daddy were busy," replies Godley. "More important, though, we really trust each other - and that's really special to me."

Ashley adds, "If it's work-related, we just forget that we've had a big barney at home or whatever. You have to be professional about work. At home, though, I'm bitch-whipped. We have a volatile relationship. It's different when it's not work-related.

"Whenever Janey tells me I can't have something - like having my boyfriend come over - and I ask why, she always says, 'Because you hurt my vagina in 1986'," a reference to the fact that Godley was dangerously ill while pregnant and went into a coma.

"I was suffering from hyperemesis gravidarium. I thought those must be the Latin words for 'vomiting too much' and 'hating being pregnant'," says Godley, who was advised to terminate the baby because the foetus was killing her. She refused.

It was a strange and difficult pregnancy, she recalls, and Ashley arrived silent, but with a very angry face "as if annoyed we had interrupted her mission to kill me ... But I managed to get the evil baby out of my body," she says, making Ashley sound like Rosemary's Baby. "Anyway, I forgave her. She's ma baby and I still want her to be five with bunches."

"She's so embarrassing," says Ashley. "She can be overbearing as a mother because I'm an only child ...

"It's because you are barren and you won't be having any more children," she tells her mother. "But she's got her claws right in there - she even threatens to kill people."

"'Touch my daughter and I'll stick an axe in the front of yer heid,' is one of my favourite catchphrases," admits Godley. "Then she showed this guy the point on his head where she'll stick the axe," says Ashley.

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Has she read her mother's autobiography? "Well, I didn't need to read it to find out my family's bizarre," she explains. "Janey told me what her uncle did to her when I was about four - not in graphic detail - because she wanted me to know that these things happen and if anything like that happened to me I was to tell her immediately.

"But who else had parents that kept money in the ceiling? Don't ask! I read about half of Handstands in the Dark. I had to stop when the dog died, it was too sad." As a child, Godley felt she could not tell her secret to anyone in the family, so she told her dog, "because my dog would listen and not tell anyone the truth about me".

Film-makers have been queuing up to turn Godley's story into a movie. "It's too soon," she says. "I need time to be me."

"Look, I'll probably do it after she's dead," says Ashley. "I'm young, I can wait until she dies."

"Bitch!" explodes Godley.

Before we part, Ashley tells me a typical story about her mother. When flying, they always try for an upgrade. "We had a massive barney on the plane from Auckland to LA. I just walked away and left her at the airport, then when we were checking in, Janey asked how much for an upgrade. The woman said, 'Three hundred dollars for three extra inches'.

"Mum said, 'A hundred bucks an inch! Trust me, as a woman, f***ing three inches doesn't actually make a difference.' The woman laughed so much she gave us the upgrade for free.

"So, yeah, nobody can make me laugh like my mum, who can also be a moany, scary old cow. She's mental. I'm so proud of her, verbal tirades and all. I love her - she's a woman who talks too much. And so do I."

• Handstands in the Dark is published by Ebury, priced 6.99. The Point of Yes is at the Assembly Rooms, 4-27 August; Square Street and Janey Godley's Blog - Live are both at the Underbelly, 3-27 August. For tickets, tel: 0131-226 0000, or visit

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