Britney: Turning a brain tumour into comedy

Britney. Image shows from L to R: Ellen Robertson, Charly Clive. Copyright: Johannes Hjorth

Comedy double act Britney - aka best friends Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson - put on their first comedy show after a life shaking event spurred them into action. They explain all here...

Image shows from L to R: Charly Clive, Ellen Robertson

To start from the beginning is to start with Charly getting diagnosed with a pituitary brain tumour last year - pretty much exactly this time last year in fact...

Naturally - like we do with all situations together - we took it in our stride, listened to Avril Lavigne and had a good chuckle. Well, actually there was quite a lot of crying and screaming at the sky with fistfuls of fresh soil in rainy graveyards. (Not literally the graveyards bit, but we were upset. It's a really horrible diagnosis).

As a result, Charly, who had been living in New York, had to move back home with her parents and deal with the treatments and surgery and recovery.

Plus, as a result of that result, Ellen moved in with Charly and her family to be there for all of it, because she loves coffee machine mochas from waiting rooms. Seriously. She can't get enough of the creamy chocolatey caffeinated little bastards. It was a lucky coincidence that kept the friendship alive.

Ellen also had an important job, arguably job number one above all others: Make Charly Laugh.

We laughed as much as we possibly could about all these really unfunny things like MRIs and needles and vomiting and hospital gowns and peeing in plastic cups. And, one day, Ellen said 'we should write all of this down' and Charly said 'no', but Ellen is very persistent and Charly was on a lot of morphine, so one thing led to another and we began working on the show that would become BRITNEY: A Comedy. We even managed to convince/manipulate/blackmail our incredibly talented director Emily Burns and our ever-patient, ever-monotone producer Alex Cartlidge into joining the team.

Britney. Image shows from L to R: Charly Clive, Ellen Robertson. Copyright: Johannes Hjorth

A few months after Charly had got the all-clear about the brain tumour, we took the show to the Edinburgh Festival. It was our debut show together, and so we were very nervous and didn't expect much at all by way of audiences or feedback or remembering our lines.

However, after not very long, we were getting a bit of 'buzz' and selling out shows, even getting some good reviews - although for the sake of balance it should be noted that one reviewer criticised the show for being "too powerful" and accused us of allowing them to "connect with the story probably a little too much". And that's fine.

Doing the show has marked the beginning of our writing/performing career together, which is something Ellen has wanted to mark since we were fourteen, but Charly always told her that performing witty dialogue sequences on Chat Roulette into a webcam to strangers didn't count. I know, weird?

Anyway, in an odd twist of fate, Britney the Brain Tumour (named after Britney Spears in the breakdown years) gave us the kick-start we needed to actually put on a show. We were forced to stop worrying about whether we were any good at comedy and just do it, because sometimes you don't have any choice but to try and make your best mate laugh and find something big and scary and deliberate to look forward to. And I mean, if you can't laugh about a brain tumour, The Times is right and political correctness really has gone too far.

To find out more about Britney visit

Share this page