Janey Godley’s new memoir a ‘love letter to her daughter’: ‘It might not be the longest life, but we’ve had a great time’

In her new memoir titled Janey: The Woman That Won’t Shut Up she takes readers through her journey since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2021.

Scottish comedian Janey Godley has released a new memoir
Janey Godley Scottish comedian Janey Godley has released a new memoir

Comedian Janey Godley doesn’t have a bucket list.

The Scottish stand-up and actress, 63, is clear on this as she talks about her new memoir, Janey: The Woman That Won’t Shut Up.

“People keep asking me have you got a bucket list… there isn’t anything I haven’t done. I don’t want to jump out of a f*****g helicopter or climb a mountain… I’ve done everything I want to do.”

Her latest autobiography offers a very personal and poignant look at her life since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2021. In November of that year, she shared the news on social media, posting a picture of herself in a hospital bed on X, formerly Twitter.

Godley’s latest memoir is called Janey: The Woman That Won’t Shut Up
Godley’s latest memoir is called Janey: The Woman That Won’t Shut Up

She was later given the all clear before announcing in December 2022 that a recent scan showed signs of the disease in her abdomen. She has been undergoing immunotherapy (which helps someone’s own immune system recognise and attack cancer cells), and explains when we speak: “My cancer number is really high, which means it’s active.

“But they can’t find it on the scan, which means it’s in there somewhere, but it’s back in hiding from me… so until it raises its head, like my kidney fails or my liver f***s up or my eye falls out, they don’t know until it raises its head.”

The book is, she says, a love letter to her adult daughter, comedian and writer Ashley Storrie, her child with husband of more than four decades, Sean Storrie.

“That was the intention. It was a love letter to my daughter, to tell her it might not be the longest life, but we’ve had a great time together.”

Born in poverty in Glasgow in 1961, Godley went on to become a regular co-presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends, as well as fronting BBC Radio 4 series The C Bomb, written and presented with Ashley. She won the inaugural Sir Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award at the 2023 Glasgow International Comedy Festival. This isn’t her first book – others include childhood memoir Handstands In The Dark and novel Nothing Left Unsaid.

Godley (L) with her daughter Ashley Storrie
Godley (L) with her daughter Ashley Storrie (Alamy Stock Photo)

Godley found viral fame with her dubbed pastiches of Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s coronavirus news briefings during the pandemic, but her career hasn’t been without controversy.

After offensive tweets by her came to light following an investigation by the Daily Beast website, the Scottish Government coronavirus adverts she featured in were pulled. Godley profusely apologised for the tweets and donated the fee she was paid (£12,000) to charity.

Speaking to her, she is searingly honest and if you’re offended by a few f-bombs, then block your ears.

“I don’t find comedy difficult,” she says.

“I think it’s the easiest job I’ve done. You meet people and they can speak like three languages. And you’re like, how do you do that? Well, comedy is like a second language to us (comedians).”

And it’s people who also speak that language, like Sir Billy Connolly, fondly known as The Big Yin, who she refers to as her “hero”. In the book, she remembers meeting him for the first time in New Zealand.

She heard rumours they were staying in the same hotel for the local comedy festival, and when she got a phone call from someone with a “familiar Glaswegian accent”, she initially couldn’t believe it was him.

Godley refers to Billy Connolly as a ‘hero’
Godley refers to Billy Connolly as a ‘hero’ (Alamy Stock Photo)

The two eventually met up, with Godley recounting in the book: “Billy and I chatted for over an hour. I managed to calm down, and tried hard not to gabble and talk utter s***e. He has a way of putting you at ease – he is such a warm, genuinely lovely man.”

When considering Connolly’s influence, she recalls watching TV in her childhood.

“It was all Monty Python,” she says of the famous comedy troupe, adding: “And it was all men dressed as women. I never saw anybody that sounded like me.

“So I didn’t think comedy was for people like me. And then this man with long hair, and big wide flares of all many colours and platforms and not wearing a suit and telling a joke… I remember coming to the TV and going somebody sounds like me. And that just changed my life”.

Growing up, everyone had a Billy Connolly LP, she says.

“People sat in their houses on a Friday night… and they put on the Billy Connolly LP and they all sat there. I never saw anybody do that with classical music, with jazz music, with pop music, with spoken word, with anything.

“They had a Billy Connolly LP and they wore it to death, and everybody I know sat around and listened to that. That’s a cultural shift of magnificent proportions”.

A chapter in the book also focuses on swearing and being a woman in the traditionally male-dominated comedy scene.

“Does my swearing sound worse because I am a working-class Scottish woman?” she writes.

“If I was an Oxbridge graduate, wearing a tea dress and swearing onstage, would it be seen as ‘edgy and gritty’, like a hipster getting angry at a flat tyre?”

So did she ever feel pressure to change herself at all?

“I would deliberately not swear at events where people would expect me to swear,” she says, adding: “It changed how I spoke. When I was doing Radio Four I wouldn’t swear, because I knew that would be the first thing people would pick up on. They wouldn’t hear the comedy, they would just hear a Scottish woman swearing, because that’s all they’re f*****g good for.

“We’re working class and Scottish. It’s so frustrating… So I had to modify how I sounded.”

She continues: “There was always this huge hypocrisy around swearing where if you swear in a middle class accent it’s fine. If you watch stuff like Fleabag or any TV show or comedy, where it’s fine if you’re, you know, Katherine Ryan.

“I love all these people. I love them. But they can get away with swearing – Dara, (Irish comedian Dara O Briain) can say feck, but if I say f**k it sounds as though I really mean it in my accent, so I get so annoyed at the hypocrisy of swearing.”

Swearing ‘hypocrisy’ aside, Godley is also candid about regrets in her life.

“I have loads of regrets,” she says. “I regret lots about how I raised Ashley, there was things I should have done better.

“I should have been more present with her instead of working all the time, I should have been more present with my dad when the stepmum died, all my regrets are about not being present because I was always working.

“But I had to work… It was all down to me to make sure the mortgage was paid, to make sure the bills were paid.”

But that’s the main takeaway she wants people to have from her memoir, saying: “I’m deeply flawed like everybody else. Everybody is deeply flawed… But we’re all just getting by.”

Janey: The Woman That Won’t Shut Up by Janey Godley is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20. Available now.