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Francesca Martinez: Interview

FRANCESCA Martinez thought her dad was crazy when he suggested that she’d make a great stand-up comic.

FRANCESCA Martinez thought her dad was crazy when he suggested that she’d make a great stand-up comic.

But the comedienne, who was born with cerebral palsy, though prefers to be referred to as “wobbly,” decided to go and do some comedy workshops.

“I was so terrified of getting up there, but finally I was pressured into doing a routine, and I realised this is what I wanted to do,” she says.

“I love making people laugh, but I think it’s also a way of looking at issues and challenging people’s preconceptions. Comedy allows you to do that without people feeling they’re being preached to.”

Starting her career in children’s drama Grange Hill, she invented the ‘wobbly’ moniker because she felt cerebral palsy “sounded like a Doctor Who baddie.”

“I hate labels and wanted to restyle myself. Some kids where I lived called me ‘the wobbly lady’ and I thought it was something that wasn’t scary or judgemental It was cool.”

She thinks her new show is very personal, but has an important message for everybody: “The idea of not being ‘normal’ haunted me through most of my teenage years.

“During my high school days, I let the other kids’ views of who I was affect me. I eventually realised that they didn’t have to and that was very liberating.

“What we think is so important and yet there’s that pressure to surrender that – to conform.”

A few years ago, the comic appeared in Ricky Gervais’ sitcom Extras – opposite Kate Winslet – and hopes the appearance made viewers think.

“You don’t see many people who are different on the TV, that’s what made the Paralympics recently so special.

“Some people may have questioned whether what Ricky did was controversial or offensive, but he was one of the first mainstream comedians to tackle the issue.”

And she still holds out hope of convincing TV bosses to commission the sitcom she has written herself - though admits it’s been a bit of a battle.

“It was in production for five years and came very close, but in the end I think the BBC felt it too much of a risk.

“I’m an optimist though, and I will keep hammering on the door.”

q Francesca Martinez performs at the Glee Club tonight (Friday). Doors open at 8pm, with tickets on 0871 472 0400.

 

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