Josie Lawrence is a comedian and actress probably most famous for her work on the televised improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway?.
Josie Lawrence was born in Old Hill, Dudley in the West Midlands, England on the 6th of June 1959. Named Wendy at birth, she renamed herself later in life after her aunt to become a member of Equity. Raised in Cradley Heath, Josie has two older siblings, twins called Janet and John.
Early on Lawrence showed signs of having a lively imagination. When young, Lawrence had an imaginary friend who alternated betweeen being her husband, and a female best friend. She can also remember dressing up as the Pied Piper with clothes from the school dress-up box and making the boys in her class follow her around pretending they were rats. Her acting abilities were also encouraged at school, once playing a gravedigger in Hamlet and as Honey in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", amongst other roles. She was also one of the class jokers. She was quite sucessful at school, leaving with 7 O-Levels and 3 A- Levels, one in English, one in Art, and one in General Studies. She also gained a OA Level in Drama which was high enough for her to gain a place at the Dartington College of Art in Devon where she graduated with a Ba(Hons) degree in Theatre and later gained an honorary doctorate.
In 1982, Lawrence started work as a professional actress by trying to get an Equity card by singing in a band called "Denise Black and the Kray Sisters" on the social club circuit in the Black Country. She also sang with bands named "KJB", and "La Pasionaria" as well as stints waitressing and fly posting to earn money in between acting jobs.
Whilst waiting for her big break, she went to live in London at the age of 23. Her first theatre job was playing a young boy in "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" at the Half Moon Theatre in which she was very convincing. This is when she changed her name to become a member of Equity. At one point she was going to call herself Florence Lawrence but thought best of it.
In 1985, Lawrence was performing in "Songs For Stray Cats" at the Donmar Warehouse and stayed after the show to watch the next show which happened to be an improvisation show starring Jim Sweeney and Steve Steen. This was the start of her professional "improv" career as she joined them the next week.
The Comedy Store
After this, Lawrence seemed to have more work available to her due to her flexibility. She had a part in founding the Comedy Store Players in 1986 after meeting up with Kit Hollenbach and Jeremy Hardy at the Edinburgh Festival. The group of improvisational comedians gradually gained a name for themselves at The Comedy Store, a comedy club which was housed above a strip club in London. They were soon paid a decent amount for their work as well as their original wage which was beer, even though it was a percentage of the takings for the night. In 1987, Lawrence participated in a sucessful pilot show for a new programme on Channel 4 called "Whose Line Is It Anyway" in which she starred with Paul Merton, Richard Vranch and Greg Proops amongst others. On a talk show presented by Greg Proops a few years later, he was to persuade her to perform her party trick which was to put a condom on her head, all whilst being interviewed.
By 1989, Josie was combining her television work and theatre work with more experimental theatre performances. "Poppy" in which Lawrence starred at the Half Moon theatre once again was a play written by Peter Nichols about opium wars. Lawrence herself played the principal boy, Dick Whittington, who in this pantomine styled play, was a fascist.
In this year, Josie had her self-confessed worst experience on televsion. She was a guest on "This Morning" on ITV in the UK on her 30th birthday which she attended with a group of friends. After she was interviewed, she was offered a birthday cake which had on it trick birthday candles. She somehow managed to set fire to the hairspray which she was wearing which in turn set fire to her hair on live television. Her language wasn't very polite, but her expletives were easily explained away as the whole audience and television crew had just seen what had happened. However, she had to go on stage that night at The Comedy Store, whilst having singed hair, and slightly merry on champagne. After the show she was meant to go out for a chinese meal to celebrate her birthday, but she just managed to fall asleep at the table.
In 1995, Josie was nominated for Top TV Comedy Drama at the British Comedy Awards, as were the rest of the cast, for their performance for "Outside Edge", a sit-com on ITV based around a small amateur cricket club in which she starred with Brenda Blethyn. In this show she played Maggie Costello, the loving, but slightly offbeat wife of one of the cricket players. This year was also the year when Lawrence starred in "The Taming of the Shrew" as Kate with the Royal Shakespeare Company for which she won the Dame Peggy Ashcroft award for best actress at the Shakespeake Globe Awards. She won a less prestigious award, but one that kept her in the public eye the next year, when she won the Spectacle Wearer of the Year award.
By the year 2000, Lawrence furthered her career by graduating to direct productions when she directed "Berkoff's Women" at the Edinburgh Festival.
As for Lawrence's private life, she has never married, but once dated Neil Mullarkey. She now lives with her two cats, Aynoch and Ayli, in Bethnal Green in East London in a house she calls "Yoghurt Villa" because it was bought with the proceeds of a voiceover on a yoghurt commercial. As well as continuing her acting and singing career, she paints watercolour pictures.
Telvision, Film and Voiceover Credits
1985 - Songs for Stray Cats - as Marie at the Donmar Warehouse
1985 - Rachel and the Roarettes
1986 - Riders of the Storm - as Guerillette
1987 - Whose Line is it Anyway - as herself in this improvisation game show
1987 - Campaign - as a gay film producer
1987 - Comedy Wavelength - in many roles in this sketch show
1988 - Friday Night Live - as Florence, Mistress of the Earnest Monologue, who was also an alien
1989 - Hysteria 2 - as herself in this improvisation show to raise money for AIDS
1989 - Norbert Smith, A Life - as a singer/dancer
1989 - Poppy - as Dick Whittington at the Half Moon Theatre
1989 - Poirot - as Mrs. Grant
1989 - Alas Smith & Jones
1989 - Not With A Bang
1990 - The Green Man - as Lucy in this Kingsley Amis ghost story
1990 - Not With a Bang - as the last woman on earth
1990 - Jackson Pace - as Rita Tusk, a journalist
1990 - I Love Keith Allen - as Emma Thompson
1991 - Josie - as herself
1991 - Tatyane - as Tatyane at the Nottingham Playhouse
1992 - Enchanted April - as Lottie Wlikins
1993 - The Masterson Inheritance
1993 - The Comic Strip Presents - as Susie in "Queen of the Wild Frontier
1993 - Moll Flanders - as Moll Flanders at the Lyric Hammersmith
1993 - Jamaica Inn
1993 - Polly and the Wolf Again
1994 - Outside Edge - as Maggie Costello
1994 - Downwardly Mobile - as Sophie, a shopoholic
1992 - Bed and Breakfast Star
1995 - The Taming of the Shrew - as Kate for the Royal Shakespeare Company
1995 - Little Miss Bossy - one of many "Little Miss..." audio books she has read
1995 - Absolutely Fabulous - as a shopping channel hostess
1996 - The Alchemist - as Doll Common in this theatre production
1996 - The Cherry Orchard - as Dunyasha for the Royal Shakespeare Company
1996 - Faust - as Brenda, an overweight skinhead for the Royal Shakespeare Company
1996 - Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson's... - as Sarah Tiptree and Primrose
1997 - Much Ado About Nothing - as Beatrice at the Manchester Royal Exchange
1998 - Married to Malcom - as Natalie
1998 - Frozen - as an American Lecturer in this production at the Birmingham Rep
1998 - Alarms and Excursions - at the Gielgud Theatre
1998 - The Alchemist - again, as Doll Common in this theatre production
1998 - Duck Patrol - as Shemeralda
1998 - Starhill Ponies - as the voice of Baz
1999 - The Sin Eater - as Kate
1999 - The Flint Street Nativity - as Debbie Bennett, who plays Mary in the school play
1999 - Man of Soup - unknown character on this radio show by David and Caroline Stafford
1999 - Married
1999 - Dog and Duck - as the voice of Duck
1999 - Never Mind the Buzzcocks - as herself
2000 - A Many Splintered Thing - as Camilla
2000 - Fat Friends - as Julia Fleshman. a dietician
2000 - Picasso's Women - as Gabrielle at the Edinburgh Festival
2000 - Going Loco - voicework
2000 - Once Upon a Time in Letterland - voicework
2001 - The King and I - as Mrs Anna in this musical at the London Palladium
2001 - The Illustrated Mum - voicework