The Funny Thing About Death

I’ve written a book which I hope is in part a celebration of my big sister who died of cancer age 57. People have said to me that it must have been hard and upsetting to write but strangely it wasn’t, it was like spending time with her again.

My sister Annie was a writer and when I was writing I felt connected to her, as though I was feeling what she had felt being a writer, sitting at her computer, why she loved it so much, just you and a laptop, like a muscle memory but it was hers not mine. I have the same muscle memory when I’m gardening, I seem to know how to do things because I saw my Dad doing it, it’s him doing it not me. It’s a comforting feeling that sense of whoever you’ve lost moving through you, fleetingly.

I have used some extracts from her writing in the book, as there’s no better way to get to know her than to read her own words and also I can hear her saying “Oh so you’re a writer now are you? Hmmm… would you like to point out my books to people”. Yes I will Annie.

Six years ago, Jo Caulfield was about to go on stage when she found out that her big sister Annie had cancer. Not the best way to start a nationwide comedy tour. But the tour turned out to be a welcome distraction for both sisters. As Jo reported back from various hotels and service stations, they revisited their childhood and adolescence while navigating Annie’s illness, learning through trial and error how to behave when someone you love gets sick. 

The Funny Thing About Death began by Jo writing a few articles to help herself process what had happened, it is now a hilarious memoir of two unconventional girls growing up in the 1970s. It will was published on 3rd August by Birlinn Polygon.

Like her stand-up, Jo Caulfield’s caustic wit and razor-sharp observations make her account of life with her sister, even in the worst of times, as entertaining as it is touching and relatable.

All of Jo’s profits from The Funny Thing About Death will be donated to MacMillan Cancer Support – a charity which Jo has already raised over £50,000 for through bucket collections at the end of her Edinburgh Fringe shows. There will be a chance to buy a copy of the book at the end of each tour show.

Comedians Who Have Read My Book


“There’s so much I’d like to say about this book, it’s a wildly satisfying and moving read. Big laughs combined with rare insight and heartbreak… I loved this special book.”


“Jo navigates the treacherous waters of bereavement and its unpredictable  behaviour and emotions in this open, funny, sad, wry and highly readable gem.”


“Laughter isn’t just for the good times. Laughter is what gets us through the toughest times, and Jo Caulfield demonstrates that beautifully in this heartfelt and hilarious book.”


“One of my favourite comedians Jo Caulfield has written this beautifully funny and moving book which I loved! Not only is it worth your time, all proceeds go to Macmillans too!”


“Warm and tender, frequently very funny and ultimately incredibly moving tale of siblings and cancer”.


“I have the great good fortune of a copy of this book before it is officially out. I’m on holiday and I did not go this evening in beautiful Valencia because I cannot put it down”.

“Captured her big sister’s sense of humour and humanity beautifully.”


‘The Funny Thing About Death’ — Scottish Sun Newspaper

THERE is no guidebook to dealing with cancer.

These past couple of weeks, though, I’ve read and re-read maybe the closest thing to it yet.

It’s called The Funny Thing About Death, it’s written by comedian Jo Caulfield and it’s about losing her sister Annie to this ratbag of a disease.

Annie was a writer, an adventurer and when it came to her demise she was very much a planner.

She did the running order for her own funeral – “if this bit runs over, cut that

bit and left the most beautiful quote to be read out on the day:

“If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry; nature will tell you what to do on the spot, finely and adequately.

Isn’t that perfect? Sad and happy and wise all at once. Just like this book.

Jo’s retelling of her life with and now without

Annie is full of frustration and confusion and anger and wonder, all these emotions tied together with a ribbon of humour, sometimes dark as night, other times laugh-out-loud, always on the mark.

Too many of us have been on the journey these two sisters shared, too many more will embark on it. My guess is that every one of us would read The Funny Thing About Death and nod at so many moments that echo what we’ve gone through or are going through.

And hopefully we’d also nod our appreciation at the fact that every penny from Jo’s book will go to Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity she has raised more than £50,000 for since Annie’s demise. Please get a copy and add a little more to the fund. Bill Leckie (25th July, 2023)

GoodReads review (31 Oct 2023)

The Funny Thing About Death is comedian Jo Caulfield’s memoir about her sister Annie – a successful writer who died far too young in 2016 aged just 57.

Jo charts the progress of her sister’s cancer from the initial diagnosis to her untimely death. By delving into their shared past she gives us an honest and unflinching portrait of her older sister, strong-headed, funny, vibrant, inventive, vulnerable and acerbic. When Annie does the unthinkable and dies, leaving Jo behind, the depth of her grief shines a light on the genuine and joyful relationship they shared. Their mutual love of the absurd and the irreverent stories they concoct together is a delight to read.

Annie gets her say too, as short excerpts of her writing are included within this book. It’s a great way to get to know her, and whets your appetite to discover more of her work.

Jo Caulfield is well known as a clever, sharp and witty comedian. But now she is an author too. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if Annie might be slightly put out (if also proud) by how good a job she has made of this personal and tragic story. I’m certainly hoping that this isn’t her last book.

The Funny Thing About Death

All of Jo’s profits from The Funny Thing About Death will be donated to MacMillan Cancer Support – a charity which Jo has already raised over £50,000 for through bucket collections at the end of her Fringe shows since 2017. There will be a chance to buy a copy of the book at the end of each tour show.

Book cover featuring a photo of Jo and her sister as children with the text 'The Funny Thing About Death'.

The Funny Thing About Death