London-born Jane Bussmann has been there and done that. By there, we mean the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, New York, Los Angeles, Uganda and Nairobi. By that, she has been a comedy writer for television (Brass Eye including that episode and Smack The Pony) and radio (with David Quantick) as well as working in LA as a celebrity interviewer before stalking famous UN peace activist, conflict negotiator and all-round hunk John Prendergast all the way to Uganda. She didn't get the date she was after but she did get to investigate ‘the most evil man in the world’, Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony who was wanted on charges of rape, murder and mass child kidnapping.
She later wrote a book about her experiences, The Worst Date Ever: or How It Took a Comedy Writer to Expose Africa's Secret War: War Crimes, Hollywood Heart-throbs and Other Abominations, and turned it into a live show which has sold out the Soho Theatre and Notting Hill's Tabernacle.
She currently lives in New York (probably under a pile of T-shirts) but she'll be back at the Tabernacle this Tuesday and Wednesday with the second show being in support of Amnesty International.
We pinned down Jane on her whistlestop tour long enough to ask her some questions.
Introduce yourself in one sentence. What would someone not guess about you from having met you?
I am a comedy writer and therefore pretty horrible. However, I always pay for the drinks, which makes me unique among comedy writers.
How did you wangle celebrity interviews in LA?
You get a phone call from an editor who has managed to persuade some unspeakable ratbag narcissist of a celebrity publicist that you will write that their client is happier, thinner and more fulfilled than they've ever been. Then you turn up at the photoshoot where a suicidal celebrity is being painted brown and told to look at the camera like they're about to fellate it. Then the publicist comes in and tells you you are lying when you claim to have an interview booked and sends you packing. Next day the publicist calls you to admit they were wrong, however you can only have ten minutes on the phone with the celebrity, so you can't write how suicidal and drug addled they look. Frankly, dog vets whose job it is to send unwanted puppies 'to the country' feel better about themselves at the end of the working day than I did.
You grew up in North London. What are the best things about where you lived? Where would you ideally live?
When I lived there I loved taking over the upper deck of the W7 with my friends and writing things on the seat backs in magic markers. Life was simpler then. In London I'd ideally live in Shepherd Market, Mayfair, because it feels like Dickens without the rape and rickets.
If you could own any London landmark, which would you have?
Regents Park. I'd put in a huge Swedish sauna and outdoor iced plunge pool with high walls so no one could see in. 15p a session and no spitting.
You've been in America recently. What do they make of you there?
They can't believe we really do say cunt as a term of affection. I think it reassures them and makes up for their disappointment over the Queen Mother and her stumpy brown teeth.
Is being a comedy writer better than being up there on stage?
It depends on if the audience are very angry that they came for a nice play about the wonderful things Bono and Bob Geldof are doing for little African orphans and instead get an hour of disgraceful attacks on public figures and Geldof in particular.
You've told your tale from Soho to the Houses of Parliament. What would be your ultimate gig?
I'd do it to the president of Uganda, Geldof and world's most wanted man, the child kidnapper Joseph Kony in the same room.
Did you get many hecklers in Uganda?
No but when I did it in Kenya, the venue was exorcised afterwards by the local pastor! He literally grabbed the mic and started shouting 'Blood of Jesus! Blood of Jesus!!' for an hour. Ugandans laughed their heads off at different things to the UK though - the African kids liked the bit where I'm mocked by tiny African schoolchildren, and EVERYONE liked the stuff about how charities behave in Africa. When I made some crack about the only safe hotel in Northern Uganda being so expensive you had to work for a charity to afford it, there was a massive cheer and round of applause. That's what they don't tell you on the TV christmas appeals.
What would your top three dating tips?
1. Decide immediately if you like them or fancy them.
2. If b), act on it fast before you realise you don't like them. Not acting on it will make you hung up on a berk for years.
3. If a), don't take action more suited to b) or it will take you years to get out of it because they are a nice person and you may have to apologise in writing.
What's next for you? More gigs, more writing?
A sitcom with no war crime. I'm going to go and write it on a cliff in Mombasa.
You can find more information on Jane's shows tomorrow and Wednesday at the Tabernacle's official site.