Janice Connolly BEM is a British actress, comedian and artistic director. She runs the Birmingham-based group Women and Theatre, and performs stand-up comedy as her character "Mrs Barbara Nice". In 2017 she appeared in the New Years Honours list in recognition of her work with Women and Theatre .She was awarded a British Empire Medal. Connolly has also appeared in Coronation Street, That Peter Kay Thing, Phoenix Nights, Max and Paddy's Road To Nowhere, Thin Ice and Dead Man Weds. She worked a lot at the Birmingham Rep with Roxanna Silbert as Artistic Director .
Connolly is best known for her character Barbara Nice - a caricature of a middle aged housewife and mother of five from Kings Heath, Birmingham. Her act is heavily reliant on interaction with the audience, for example acting as an agony aunt to the audience. She performs on the comedy circuit as a headline act and has performed one woman shows across the UK. She appeared as Barbara Nice in solo shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012 and 2014.
In October 2015, Connolly recorded a pilot for BBC Radio 2's Comedy Showcase series, which will be made available on the BBC iPlayer in November before being broadcast later that month. The BBC said: "Barbara is worried she and Ken [played by John Henshaw] are at risk of adding to the numbers of silver splitters - they have nothing in common; Ken's idea of retirement involves a marathon session of Pointless and that doesn't fit with Barbara's idea of a well spent golden age. When a homeless Spanish busker (David Sant) needs some help, Barbara sees it as the perfect opportunity to do some good and stir things up home ... A little more than she expected." The pilot was well received and 4 episodes commissioned -broadcast in March 2017 .
Janice Connolly was also part of the Birmingham independent music scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was part of "The Surprises" and "The Evereadies" playing regularly in Moseley at the Fighting Cocks. Singles championed by John Peel included "Jeremy Thorpe is Innocent" and "Martian Girlfriend". Other Brum bands active at the time included UB40, Echo Base, Beshara, Steel Pulse, the Beat, the Aupairs, the Denizens, Dexy's Midnight Runners, the Nightingales, the Privates and Swansway.
Connolly was performing as Barbara Nice when spotted by Peter Kay at the finals of the Manchester Evening News New Act of the Year in 1998 and went on to appear in several of his television shows. She played Mrs Bamforth in That Peter Kay Thing and Holy Mary in both Phoenix Nights and Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere. Her other television work includes playing Carole in Dave Spikey's Dead Man Weds and appearing twice in Coronation Street as Dolly Gartside and Sheila Wheeler. Radio work includes the second series of Arthur Smith's Balham Bash where her comedy creation Barbara Nice plays the resident housekeeper and mistress of the house. The Radio 4 show is unique in that it is recorded in Arthur's flat. Guests are invited to join Arthur at home and to become a live audience for bands, poetry and comedy. The show was first broadcast in 2009, with a second series in 2010.
Janice is also the artistic director and founder member of Birmingham-based Women and Theatre. The company is committed to social change through new theatre and drama and in its mission statement states that it aims to make heard the voices of those who are not usually listened to. The company performs in a variety of settings including schools, arts centres, health centres and conference halls. She ran the 'Laughing for a Change' project, funded by Time to Change, which encouraged comedians and audiences to talk about mental health; this culminated in a stand-up tour in 2014 featuring Seymour Mace, Rob Deering and others. In October 2015, Connolly appeared in the stage adaptation of Meera Syal's novel Anita and Me at the Birmingham Rep, for which she was acclaimed for her "comic talent".
- "New Year's Honours 2017 - Press releases - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
- "Barbara Nice Profile". Chortle.
- "Barbara Nice Profile". Comedy CV.
- "Radio 2 Comedy Showcase pilot for Barbara Nice". Comedy.co.uk. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- Stephenson, John-Paul (21 February 2014). "Laughing for a Change: Stand-up tour raises mental health awareness". Giggle Beats. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- Gill, Becca (1 March 2014). "Review: Laughing for a Change – The Stand, Newcastle". Giggle Beats. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- Laws, Roz (14 October 2015). "Review: Anita and Me at Birmingham Rep is funny and shocking". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 22 November 2015.