Born To Perform: in conversation with comedian, Jayde Adams

After capturing our hearts on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, Bristol-born comedian Jayde Adams chats to Melissa Blease about body confidence, brand-new shows and living the dream…

According to a Times journalist, Jayde Adams – the uniquely charismatic Bristol-born comedian, actor, writer and singer – “unites the political with the personal in a way that many comics aim for, but few pull off with this sort of aplomb.” The Evening Standard says her stardom-bound trajectory is inevitable, and the Guardian claims she’s already reached stellar heights.

So: is Jayde talking to me from a luxury five-star hotel suite in Mayfair where she’s getting ready for her next red carpet appearance? Oh, very much no; she’s at home with her slippers on, watching her dad put masking tape on her skirting boards. And is Daddy Adams surprised by the acclaim, attention and appreciation that his celebrity daughter attracts? “No,” he says – and that’s that. “I’m just doing what I do, babe”, says Jayde; “just doing what I do.”

Jayde “does what she does” in all kinds of different ways. She ‘does’ Leanne, for example, in the award-winning BBC sitcom Alma’s Not Normal. She’s the host who presides over superstar chefs including Heston Blumenthal on fantastical Channel 4 cooking show Crazy Delicious and is a regular panellist on 8 Out of 10 Cats. She’s appeared in recent locally filmed hits including BBC’s The Outlaws and the independent feature film, The Fence. She’s starring in Greatest Days, the Take That movie that comes out next spring, she’s preparing to take her stand-up show, Men, I Can Save You on a UK tour in March… and, of course, she’s done multiple live stand-up gigs all over the country over the last dozen or so years. But most recently, Jayde was introduced to a whole new audience when she Cha-Cha-Cha-ed into the Strictly Come Dancing spotlight in pro-partner Karen Hauer’s arms. Jayde: are you over your glitter ball experience yet?

“I was over Strictly ages ago!,” she laughs. “I had to be – I’ve got a lot to be getting on with. Right now, I’m in pre-production for my ITVX series Ruby Speaking, which starts in January; if I’d stayed with Strictly until the end I’d have been pretty exhausted by now.” Is Strictly really as exhausting as it looks? “People think it’s worse than it is,” she says. “When you’re doing it, your body sort of gets used to it and it’s fine, totally manageable. And it was a super-positive experience: a really great thing to do at this point of my career.”

I’m swiftly learning that pessimism, negativity and defeat are three words that simply aren’t in Jayde’s vocabulary. But I have to ask: surely the relentless trolls that attempted to dominate her social media feeds during her Strictly stint were a bit, well, down-bringing, to say the least? “Oh, they were a bit of a pain, at times” she says, in a similar fashion to the way one might dismiss a temporary mosquito invasion in August. “But y’know, they’re actually nice, normal people who live on the Isle of Wight or wherever, and have Help Ukraine in their bios. They’re not evil; they’re just sat on their own somewhere, bored out of their minds, seeing other people doing something they’d quite like to do but they’ve held themselves back from doing ‘cos they’ve heard society tell them all these negative things about their personalities, or their bodies. Then I come along and show them that they don’t need to worry about all that stuff, and that really annoys them. I get it, I understand where they’re at. But the more they do it, the more I’ll galvanise support for what I’m doing, so they can carry on as far as I’m concerned.”

I don’t go out there to save the world, I just like people releasing emotion in my presence; that’s who I am

Jayde Adams

I don’t think I could be that strong; I know for a fact that I’d find it hurtful. “Oh babe! It’s not worth it. Those people make decisions to post stuff within seconds of seeing something that makes them angry; four minutes later, they’re not even thinking about what they’ve posted. But to us, it can go on for longer, because we keep hold of it. Matt Goss [of 80s pop group Bros] and I were talking about this the other day, and he said, if you hold a full glass of water for a minute, you don’t notice it. But if you carry that glass around for an entire day, your arm’s going to start hurting, or you’re not going to have any feeling in it; the longer you hold on to that glass the more it’s going to hurt you, but if you put it down, you forget about it – so true! Anyway, I’ve had much worse things happen to me than being trolled, and I’ve got a bit of a shield around me, and her name is Jenna Adams.”

Born in 1982, Jenna was Jayde’s big sister by two years. They were a huge part of each other’s lives and regularly participated in professional dance contests together over 13 years, excelling in Freestyle Disco. Tragically, Jenna was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour at the age of 23, and died in 2011 after battling her illness for six years. Until Strictly, Jayde hadn’t danced professionally since Jenna passed away, which is why she wanted to be partnered with a woman on the show. Few people who watched Jayde’s tribute to Jenna (following her American Smooth to Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, which she dedicated to her sister) would fail to have been deeply moved. Was that moment, perhaps, the toughest of Jayde’s career to date? “It was just, y’know…”, she says, pausing for a quiet moment in an otherwise 100mph interview; “it just seemed like a good, right place to talk about Jenna, at a good, right time”. And the right point, perhaps, to talk about Jayde’s roots…

“I grew up in Bedminster as part of a pretty close working class family,” she says. “We all get on well with each other, we’re not estranged from each other, we support each other through difficult times, and all that stuff – we’re just normal, very normal. I’m the only performer in my family; we were all part of my aunt’s dance school when we were kids, but the entertainment side of things is just me.”

Above: Jayde hosting Channel 4’s Crazy Delicious with British chef Heston Blumenthal Image credit: Channel 4

Where, then, did Jayde’s career inspiration come from? “I suppose I used stand-up as a way to get to where I want to go to, which ultimately is acting – but I’m not sure where that came from. I couldn’t get straight into acting ‘cos I neither went to Cambridge nor Oxford and none of my family are related to anyone in the industry, so my route was via working with drag queens until I entered the Funny Women Awards in 2014, which I won. But I don’t watch comedy and never really have. When I was younger, I used to watch the Vicar of Dibley, but that’s not stand-up. Today, I’d watch Alma’s Not Normal but I’m in it, so that doesn’t really count. There are a few scientific things you can learn around joke-writing and the tools and the techniques that make people laugh harder, but I’ve taught myself all that over 10 years. Anyway, if you start comparing yourself to other people, you get stuck. As far as I’m concerned, I’m the only comedian in the world!”

The ideal starting blocks, then, for world domination? “Put it this way: I don’t wonder what I’ll be doing in 10 years time – I know what I’ll be doing in 10 years time!” she says. “I’ll be doing a lot of TV and film work and acting a lot. I won’t be moving on from comedy, but acting’s going to be my main focus for the next five years, and making inroads to becoming a director – I believe that’s something I’d do really well. It’s a hard industry to get into for sure, but I love a challenge.”

Would Jayde describe herself as ambitious, then? “I don’t think it’s ambitious to just do what I should be doing. Everybody should do that. Just keep goals small, and manageable, and slowly take little baby steps towards what you want to do. And learn to be okay with failure, because failure is an important part of creativity; stand-up taught me that – there’s no quicker way of learning how to fail than standing in front of a massive group of Madness fans at a Madness Weekender, and none of them get you!”

Personally, I can’t understand the concept of ‘not getting’ Jayde; after all, she’s so many things, to so many people – and, perhaps, a role model? “Oh, I just make people laugh and stay positive while I’m doing it,” she says; “People can take whatever they want from that. I don’t go out there to save the world, I just like people releasing emotion in my presence; that’s who I am.”

Jayde Adams: her own creation.

See Jayde Adams’ new stand-up show, Men, I Can Save You, at Bristol Old Vic on 2 April 2023. Book your tickets at:

Featured image: Jayde at the BBC New Comedy Awards 2022 | Image credit: BBC / Phil McIntyre Television / Ellis O’Brien