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Francesca Martinez (born 1978) is an English comedian, writer and actress, born in London to a Spanish father and half-Swedish, half-English mother. She has cerebral palsy, but prefers to describe herself as "wobbly".
She has had many sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Festival and internationally, including the Melbourne Comedy Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Perth Festival and the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. In 2018 she completed a 140-date tour, and has had multiple off-West End London runs at the Tricycle Theatre, the Hackney Empire, and the Soho Theatre. She is currently working on her first play, All of Us, for the National Theatre.
In 2000, Martinez became the first female comic to win the prestigious Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award at the Edinburgh Festival. In 2003 she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy.
Martinez has performed sell-out shows in many countries including Australia, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, as well as the United States, performing at Caroline's on Broadway, 92YTribeca and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (all in New York City), and the Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store (both in Los Angeles). She also performed at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland with Emma Thompson.
Her most recent tour 'WHAT THE **** IS NORMAL?!' clocked up over 140 dates around the world – winning a Fringe Media Network Award at the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as being nominated for Best Show at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival and at the Perth Festival, Australia.
She has organised many charity shows featuring comedians such as Frankie Boyle, Mark Steel, Robin Ince, Jo Brand, Johnny Vegas, Al Murray, Richard Herring, Stewart Lee, Jeremy Hardy, Lee Mack, Mark Thomas, Rhod Gilbert and Milton Jones.
In 2014, her best-selling book WHAT THE **** IS NORMAL?! was published by Random House to critical acclaim. It has been nominated for the Chortle Comedy 'Best Book' Award and The Bread And Roses Radical Publishing Award. She was described as one of 'Britain's Five Funniest Women' in The Guardian in November 2014 along with Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan and Susan Calman.
In 2016, she supported Frankie Boyle on his sell-out UK tour.
Television and radioEdit
In October 2012 she made her debut appearance on BBC Radio 4's topical panel show The News Quiz, alongside regulars Jeremy Hardy and Sandi Toksvig. She appeared on The News Quiz again in January and July 2013.
Martinez has become a regular face on television, including appearances on The Frank Skinner Show, Russell Howard's Good News (BBC Three), The Jonathan Ross Show, ITV's Loose Women, Free Speech (BBC3), RTÉ's The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O'Connor, Adam Hills Tonight, Spicks and Specks and Question Time on BBC1.
She has written scripts for the BBC and Channel 4. In 2018, her debut radio play How We're Loved aired on BBC Radio Four.
On 8 December 2012, Martinez launched a campaign War on Welfare which pledged to get 100,000 supporters to sign a petition calling for an end to government cuts for disability benefits and an independent impact assessment of the government's welfare changes. The petition attracted 5,000 signatures in the first 48 hours and achieved its target of 100,000 supporters on 30 November 2013.
An outspoken opponent of welfare reform by the government, she uses her public profile to raise issues about disability and fight for what she believes would be a fairer system. Martinez said: "As a disabled person in the media, I want to help give this issue a voice. It's morally wrong for the government to target those in need instead of saving money by targeting the real causes of this crisis – and close tax loopholes and regulate the financial sector. To me, it's a human rights issue."
Martinez has become a respected social commentator, speaking at meetings and demos across the UK, as well as being a key part of the People's Assembly Against Austerity.
In 2015 she helped organise This Changes Everything, a one-day event on climate and social justice, with Naomi Klein, Russell Brand, and many other speakers. The event was streamed globally and aimed to kick-start a movement to unify the left against climate change.
In 2013 she was nominated for a Women in Public Life Award, and won the Public Affairs Achiever of the Year Award. In April 2014 she was named as one of Britain's most influential women in the BBC Woman's Hour power list 2014. She was also nominated for Red Magazine's Woman of the Year Award 2014 and for a European Diversity Hero of the Year Award 2014.
An experienced public speaker, she has delivered numerous motivational and after-dinner speeches at conferences and events all over the world.
She has received honorary doctorates from the Open University and Bradford University.
In July 2015, Martinez endorsed Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election. In 2016, along with other celebrities, Martinez toured the UK to support Corbyn's bid to become Prime Minister. In September 2016, she performed at the Keep Corbyn rally in Brighton in support of Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election.
In November 2019, along with other public figures, she signed a letter supporting Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election. In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, she signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few."
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- Robson, Steve (30 November 2013). "100,000 sign War on Welfare petition asking for assessment of cuts to the sick and disabled".
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