Interview 35. – Janice Connolly


Actress, comedian and artistic director. She runs the Birmingham-based group Women and Theatre, and performs stand-up comedy as her character “Mrs Barbara Nice”. She has also appeared in several TV shows including Coronation Street and Phoenix Nights.

Twitter: @BarbaraNice

Describe something that has recently amazed you and how it made you feel.

I had been looking for some items of costume that I use for my comedy character Barbara Nice. I was convinced I had lost them (a pair of shoes, a coat,  a dress). I had been through my case I take on tour with me countless times and couldn’t find them. Then after about two weeks of looking and berating myself for my inability to look after stuff I opened the case and they were all there. I had looked loads of times but hadn’t been able to see them. My eyes had been scaled with self doubt and a belief that I would never find them.

I felt amazed and that a great weight had been taken off me. I had been working hard on a play about hoarding and it was like a creative message suggesting a fresh way of looking at the subject matter and that it’s all down to our perception and we need to trust ourselves.

How would you personally define wonder, awe and curiosity? And how do they relate to each other?

Wonder is appreciation of chance moments and experiences of beauty.

Awe is feeling over whelmed by the magnitude of a sight or occurrence.

Curiosity is a deep desire to understand.

I feel wonder and awe maybe don’t invite curiosity they just are and there isn’t always an answer behind them.

What inspires you to be creative?

It’s a spark in me. I am inspired by other people and also injustice inspires me to find a creative way of encouraging positive change. Inequality is a big driver for me – I want to correct it when I see it. I think it’s good to be a bit bored sometimes – I find walking very helpful for coming up with ideas, problem solving etc.


Where do you think our sense of wonder comes from and what can we do to cultivate it?

I think trying new experiences cultivates it. Also conversely appreciating the day to day daily life experiences and appreciating the marvels of being alive and the natural world.

Can you tell me about the Mrs Barbara Nice character? Where did she come from and why do you think she is loved by so many?

Barbara came out of a desire to create a comedy persona that meant I could successfully stand up on a stage at comedy clubs. I also wanted to offer an antidote to “cruel comedy” that backed up stereotypes and targeted minority communities. I think people are behind Barbara because she is true to herself. She’s smart and clever and a good laugh and reminds us all that we are all capable of having a good laugh and that things being  fun is a good enough thing.


Play, silliness and the mundane are an important part of your comedy shows. One could even call Mrs Nice an urban clown. There is a real therapeutic element of a shared experience of laughter. Why do you think this is?

She is an urban clown, yes. I think the shared experience is very beneficial to us. I like to create a community. Barbara is able to unite strangers; she is trustworthy and creates an environment where we can play together safely.


You taught stand up comedy on the “laughing for a change project” that encouraged performers and audiences to talk about mental health issues. What did you learn through being involved in the events?

I have taught a variety of comedy courses to a wide range of groups. What I know from doing this is that finding our own voices and having a platform to share our points of view is very strengthening.

What stood out for you? Any questions? Things you disagree with? Write a comment and join in the discussion.

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