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Northern Society of Chartered Accountants

At the heart of northern business since 1882

Comedy: it’s a funny business 6 September 2019

As the Edinburgh Festival Fringe draws to an end, Jane Walker talks to Jo Caulfield – the guest speaker at this year’s NorSCA Dinner – about the surprisingly serious business of stand-up comedy.

They may not work in an office, but – as Jo explains – professional comedians may have more in common with accountants than first meets the eye.

Comedy, The Edinburgh Fringe and accountants

“Just as there’s a business year, I think that there’s also a comedy year where certain things happen at certain times” says Jo, who’s currently wrapping up the run of her 2019 Fringe show, “Voodoo Doll” at The Stand in Edinburgh.

“I started working on my Fringe show back in May and it takes up most of my time from then until the end of August. I’m very lucky to be at a stage in my career where the Fringe is profitable for me; but it’s also where I have to have new jokes to ‘sell’ for the next year.”

For many comedians, the Fringe is essentially both a trade-fair and a huge motivator; “If I don’t do the Fringe I get lazy and maybe don’t write as much material as I should, but once my Fringe run is in the diary I know I have to do it,” says Jo.

“It’s basic business; you have to have a new product to sell and you have to be as prepared as possible, for me that means that if I’m in a certain situation I can dip into my notebooks and set lists and go ‘oh, I’ve got material on that’.

“I did an awards ceremony for independent garden centres last year and, thanks to my Fringe show, I already had some material that I could use as a starting point. It’s surprising what you have material on sometimes, and doing an hour long show every year, means that you’re forced to write a lot of jokes about a lot of things.”

As Jo points out comedy, like business, has its busy times as well as its less pressured periods; “My sister-in-law was a tax accountant and on Christmas Day she would often be doing accountants at the Christmas dinner table – whereas for me, that’s the quiet time of the year; people have had their work night’s out, so it goes quiet until mid-January when the Burns’ Suppers start.”

The race towards key dates and deadlines isn’t the only similarity Jo’s noticed between comedy and business. “I think in both you have to be aware of how things are changing and how to use things like social media to promote yourself. In comedy, as in business, you’re trying to keep up with what’s happening and make sure you’re not left behind,” says Jo who uses social media not only to promote her shows, but also to share jokes and interact with fans.

“The one social media thing I’m not sure that I really understand is LinkedIn. I’m on there and the jobs it tells me that I should apply for really make me laugh. I don’t know it it’s any better for people with actual professional qualifications, but I’m constantly getting messages about jobs that aren’t really relevant… I got one the other day that said I could be the logistics manager of a biscuit factory in Dundee – I’m not sure what that job involves, but I am pretty sure I’m not qualified to do it!”

Join Jo for dinner on 11 October 2019 in Newcastle

The Northern Society Business and Awards Dinner takes place on Friday 11 October – tickets are on sale now.

Read more at norsca.co.uk/dinner

About Northern Society of Chartered Accountants

Northern Society of Chartered Accountants (NorSCA) represents 4,000 ICAEW members and ACA students working in business and the finance profession across the North East of England, Teesside, northern Yorkshire and Cumbria.

We have been assisting businesses in the north of England and producing chartered accountants for over 130 years.


There are over 1.7m chartered accountants around the world – talented, ethical and committed professionals who use their expertise to ensure we have a successful and sustainable future.

Over 149,000 of these are ICAEW Chartered Accountants. We train, develop and support each one of them so that they have the knowledge and values to help build local and global economies that are sustainable, accountable and fair.

We’ve been at the heart of the accountancy profession since we were founded in 1880 to ensure trust in business. We share our knowledge and insight with governments, regulators and business leaders worldwide as we believe accountancy is a force for positive economic change across the world.

ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) is a founder member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide and the Global Accounting Alliance.


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