Judge Jo Looking for a Certain Brand of Romance; Comedienne Jo Brand, Who Will Soon Help Judge a Comedy Romance Literature Competition, Explains to Alun Thorne Why She's Partial to a Bit of Self-Deprecating Birmingham Humour

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Byline: Alun Thorne

"All human life is on the National Express", or so runs the cult song of the same name by Divine Comedy.

It's quite right too - pop down Birmingham Coach Station and you'll see people from all walks of life in the glassy station, which nowadays is more reminiscent of a sleek airport.

One thing many of the journey-goers have in common is reading to while the time away.

The teens with the latest celebrity biographies, football fans thumbing through the sports pages, women with the latest chic-lit titles, they're all there. And with the explosion in popularity of online reading via the Kindle and the Ipad, the number of people who enjoy reading on the move is only set to increase.

It's appropriate then, for the second year running, Birmingham-based National Express, is sponsoring the Melissa Nathan Award, the UK's only gong honouring the best in comedy romance literature.

Six novelists are on the shortlist for the Melissa Nathan award, which was set up by the husband of successful novelist Melissa Nathan, who died of breast cancer in 2006. Alongside best-selling novelist Sophie Kinsella, comedienne Jo Brand is one of the judges and she said she felt compelled to sit in the judge's hot seat.

"Well first and foremost, I was contacted personally by Melissa Nathan's husband Andrew and was touched by Melissa's story. I know people who have had cancer, friends, friends of friends and it's horrible and it's scary. It really is something that affects everyone and I thought, yes, this is something I'd like to be involved in.

"Also, on a lighter note, we all love a good read don't we and I do enjoy a good romance if it has an element of comedy in it.

"Comedy romance is seen as a bit of a guilty pleasure and you shouldn't deny yourself," said Jo.

Whilst it's safe to say Jo, who has been one of the most recognisable faces on British TV screens for the past 20 years, knows a thing or two about comedy, if you don't think she seems the most romantic of characters, you're quite right.

Famous for her bluntness and quick tongue, Jo emerged as an alternative comic and an unmissable one at that, with her trademark shock of unkempt hair, over-sized clothes and Doc Marten boots. These days, her image may have softened and she's now a devoted mumof-two sharing her North London home " with her daughters, husband and five cats, but there's still nothing wallflower about her. …