WHAT happens when you are branded abnormal in a world obsessed with normality?

Comedienne Francesca Martinez, who has mild cerebral palsy, (which she defines as “wobbly”) has developed a hit stand-up show around the subject giving defiant, insightful and fascinating answers.

“I’ve been on the UK tour for nearly a year now,” Francesca tells me, “it’s my most personal show so far, because it looks at all the crazy pressures that exist on us being normal, and of course having been born wobbly, I have this unique relationship with the idea of normal.

“That kind of haunted me through my teenage years, and one day I realised, hang on a minute, I’ve never met a normal person. That realisation kind of changed my whole life. I stopped feeling kind of the odd one out. Everyone has there own differences and it really made me appreciatemydifference, rather than be ashamed of it.

“It’s a universal issue, it’s not about having a disability, it’s about living in this world where there’s constant pressures to conform and live in a certain way, act in a certain way, and there are so many, especially the younger generation, who really suffer fromthis crazy kind of aspirational torture we live in.

“I really wanted the show to be an antidote to all those superficial values and just really encourage people to embrace who they are, because frankly, life is way too short to spend it worrying about trivialities.

Francesca began her career as an actress, appearing in hit TV children’s school show Grange Hill. She turned to comedy after her father, playwright Alex Martinez, wrote a script for her which portrayed her as a comedienne.

“The script was bought by a film company, but I felt very nervous trying to tackle comedy without any experience,” she says. “I joined an Equity workshop in 1999 and foundmyself doing a gig at the end of the course.

“It was really strange, because even though I was so terrified, I had that sensation of “wow, this is what I want to do withmylife”. A year later, I found myself at the Edinburgh Festival winning an award for the best new comic and my Dad was like “I told you”.”

Francesca has gained a huge fan base in the decade since, pursuing comedy and even had a part written for her by Ricky Gervais in his TV series Extras opposite Kate Winslett.

“He wrote that part especially for me and has been very supportive,” says Francesca. “I had real fun making that show. My dream has always been to be in my own sitcom. He’s really attracted to areas that are on the line and making comedy out of awkward situations. Whatever you think of him, he’s the only comic in the country that acknowledges difference exists and uses it in his comedy.”

As well as her 55-date tour, she is also developing her own sitcom, as well as writing a book based on her current show. She has also become an important figure in the news,taking on Michael Portillo over welfare reforms, appearing on Newsnight and debates on Channel 4 News.

“As someone in the media who has a bit of profile, it’s great if I can use that to give a voice to important issues,” says Francesca. “I think with disabled people most of us don’t have a voice in society. I feel honoured if I can be in a position to speak up about the general cuts that are happening right now.”

Naturally Francesca’s honesty spills over into her live show.

“The hope is that people will have their views challenged,” she says.

“That’s what excites me, knowing what you can leave them with beyond the laughter.”

  • Tickets for Francesca Martinez at The Riverfront tomorrow are £11.50 and £13.50 at newport.gov.uk/the riverfront or by calling 01633 656757.