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Janey Godley: Trolls say I'm faking cancer

For comedian Janey Godley no subject is out of bounds. Not her abuse as a child, her alcoholic parents or her family connections to gangsters.

So when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2021, it didn’t take her long to find the humour in an otherwise hopeless situation.

Godley says she often jokes about it with her daughter Ashley Storrie - who is also a stand-up comic.

"Last night we were sitting on the couch with the dog between us and we were laughing about it all," she tells me.

"Ashley said 'what do you want me to dress you in when you die?' and I said 'nothing expensive, I don’t want you burning my good stuff'."

And it was her daughter who first touted the idea of making a film of Godley performing her comedy tour while living with "bad, bad cancer", as the pair call it.

“She said 'if this is going to be your last hurrah, let’s capture it on film',” Godley says.

The result is Janey - which will have its world premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival in March.

It follows her Not Dead Yet tour which culminates with an emotional performance at the 3,000-seat SECC Armadillo in Glasgow.

Godley insists that nothing was off-limits when making the documentary - whether that was backstage or on the oncology ward.

“I think if you’re going to do this, you are either all in or you're out, and I was in,” she says.

“If I was dying, I’d have let the cameras in to see it."

Her best friend Shirley provides the sandwiches at a “chemo picnic” but also joins her as she considers some of the darker periods of her life, including abuse at the hands of an uncle, and the violent death of her mother.

David Percy was sentenced to two years in prison after Godley and her sister gave evidence in 1996, and she remains convinced that her mother, who was found dead in the River Clyde in 1982, was murdered but no-one has ever been charged.

“I think the hardest thing was going back to Kenmore Street where I’d been abused and the house of Peter, who’d ended my ma’s life.

"That was hard and I’m glad it was Shirley who was there to talk about it, just two women talking.”

Godley was born in the Shettleston area of Glasgow in 1961.

It is one of the most deprived wards in the city and she recalls a childhood of hand-me-down clothes and poverty.

She did not become a stand-up until her mid-30s when she left her family and their pub to forge a career in comedy.

She relied on the banter from the bar for her early routines, sometimes angry, sometimes sentimental and often foul-mouthed.

Janey at her infamous protest against Donald Trump
Godley at her infamous protest against Donald Trump

In 2016, she was photographed at Turnberry golf resort with her now infamous “unwelcome” sign for President Trump.

And she was similarly outspoken on social media.

That is where her other great battle began, rebuilding her career and reputation after a number of racist tweets she had made a decade earlier were unearthed.

"I made some horrible ,mistakes," she says.

"And I learned that wee white, middle-aged women like me think they can say things and people won’t take it badly, they can’t.

"Just because everyone knows you’re not racist, just because everyone knows you marched against fascism, doesn’t mean you can open your mouth and say things and hope it’ll be accepted.

"What I said was offensive and I apologised. The problem is that people don’t want an apology, they want you to die.”

In the wake of the scandal over her tweets, Godley was immediately dropped as the face of a Scottish government health campaign.

For someone who had been a guest onstage with former FM Alex Salmond, and admired by Nicola Sturgeon, whom she had mimicked in a series of comedy voiceovers during Covid, it hit hard.

"It was definitely political, she says.

“There were people ready to get me. They tried. So did cancer, and guess what? I’m still here."

Godley insists she was not "cancelled" and the only other lost business was a pantomime in Aberdeen, which she would have been unable to do following her cancer diagnosis.

She continued to tour but was worn down by the noise on social media.

"It made me suicidal," she says.

"I was ready to end it all because I felt I had let down so many people.

"But every night I stepped on stage the whole theatre was on their feet cheering me on and I thought these people want me to keep doing this," she says.

Godley remains vocal on social media and continues to make her spoof voice-overs of Nicola Sturgeon.

And she still sparks extreme reaction.

"Even to this day, I still get a lot of hassle from a certain section of Scotland on social media," she says.

"They tell me I’m faking cancer, they mock up my gravestone or send me horrible tweets."

Spirit of Glasgow

Last year, she won the inaugural Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow award, named in honour of a fellow working-class comedian she had admired since she was a child.

She says his plain speaking, often dark, humour is something she will always defend.

"I still stand by really offensive jokes and I won’t stop making them," Godley says.

"If people are scared of hurty words, don’t come and see comedy. It’s not as if I’m shouting it through your letterbox.”

Janey - The world premiere is at the Glasgow Film Festival on 10 March and released in cinemas across the UK from 15 March, with a special live stand-up set from the comedian at selected screenings in Scotland.