Posted 20 hours ago

The Funny Thing About Death

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A moving, occasionally beautiful but down-to-earth account of family ties, creative ambition and lust for life, The Funny Thing About Death is the comic's first book and it admirably succeeds in conveying Jo's assertion that 'cancer was the least interesting thing about Annie'. All the same, one struggles not to read the sections about being an artist in 1980s London with envy, where hard graft and a willingness to slum it were at least rewarded by feelings of opportunity, time to find yourself and broader horizons than appear possible for the less affluent now. They didn't fit in at the Air Force bases they were raised on or the strict convent boarding school they were sent to.

But The Funny Thing About Death remains an affecting portrait of two distinct yet forever entwined personalities.

In brief, measured chapters suffused with tenderness, warmth and some heartbreaking fragility in spite of herself, Caulfield has delivered a fitting tribute to her sister that, crucially, you suspect Annie would sneakily delight in. Annie devoted much of her life to writing about other people, those she believed to be far more interesting than her, the product of a boring, Anglo-Irish, itinerant Forces upbringing who never settled anywhere for long when they were young. A brilliantly engaging read' — Susan Calman 'Jo's writing is a masterclass in letting the catastrophe of loss speak for itself. The title derives from the stand-up "being the younger sister, I was always wearing Annie's old clothes" she told BCG. Whenever new comics ask me for advice, I always tell them: the audience have come along to have a good time, the audience want to laugh, so don't be scared of them.

Structurally it’s fascinating, as the story of their lives together is juxtaposed with the arc of Annie’s illness. She just wanted to be interesting like her big sister and thought it might involve eyeliner, smoking and being in a band. Almost right up until Annie died in 2016, aged 57, Caulfield admits that she was often ignorant of her sister’s prognosis, believing that she would recover, leave the hospice and simply go home. Like her stand-up, Jo Caulfield's caustic wit and razor-sharp observations make her account of life with her sister, even in the worst of times, as entertaining as it is touching and relatable.Annie is full of frustration and confusion and anger and wonder, all these emotions tied together with a ribbon of humour, sometimes dark as night, other times laugh-out-loud, always on the mark. Jo has performed stand-up comedy all over the world and is renowned for her sellout shows at the Edinburgh Festival. Might she now follow Annie's example again and belatedly begin to share more of herself there as she increasingly gives fewer fucks?

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