(Original post at The Boar)
Tell us about your new show, Consequences.
It’s a show about aging, and about how much I’ve let my sixteen-year-old self down, basically. It’s called Consequences because I realised all the things I thought I’d be doing when I was sixteen that I’m very much not doing now. I’m not married to Morrissey, I’m not living in America, and I’m not driving a classic car.
What do you think your sixteen-year-old self would say about your comedy?
Well, my sixteen-year-old self wanted to be a war correspondent like Kate Adie, and was very serious and political and earnest. So I think she would have thought being a comedian was a terribly frivolous, wasteful, lightweight thing to be, which is completely true. But I’m pretty pleased. I think I’m probably having a more fun time than I would have done if I were Kate Adie.
What was it about comedy that first attracted you to it?
I’ve always loved comedy. When I was a kid I used to watch all the TV comedy shows, and listen to radio comedy shows late at night in my bedroom. So I was a bit of a comedy nerd, but I never really thought about doing it. But then I was at university and wanted to be a serious journalist or writer, and I realised that everything I wrote seemed to make people laugh. I thought, let’s make a virtue of that weakness.
So when you set out to do a show, do you consciously decide on a theme to work around? Or do they just happen?
The themes completely suggest themselves. I look back over my 11 solo shows, and there’s been ones about luck, ones about happiness, ones about love. It’s a good document of what the things are that are really weighing on my mind at the time… I’ve been describing it as a midlife celebration because a lot of people at my age have a mid-life crisis. Also for younger people, I think it’s really depressing when older people talk about how miserable it is getting older, so I wanted to concentrate on all the good things about getting older.
I’m very much looking forward to being an older woman. I’m not very good at being a young woman.
Take heart! I was exactly the same, and I‘ve found that in my forties I’ve finally realised this is the age I was meant to be all along.
As a woman in comedy, do you think it’s still a boy’s club?
It’s been getting steadily better as the years have gone by. I’ve just been up at the Edinburgh festival and we’re still not at 50/50 representation, but about a third of the acts now are women. Crucially, audiences aren’t as surprised by seeing a female comedian.
Who are your comedy influences?
My earliest influences were people like Dave Allen. We always watched him on telly in our house, so his easy, conversational style was something I picked up early on. Victoria Wood was on TV when I was younger, and again, I loved her down to earth, relaxed demeanour. Caroline Aherne was a huge influence; I went to Manchester University, and when I left the first job I got was working on The Mrs Merton Show for Caroline. She was just fantastic.
What was your funniest university experience?
I look back at my university life with a degree of horror, really. We lived in the most horrific house with six of us sharing. It was squalid, none of the plumbing worked… I had a little Mini Metro car, which the local children used to break into to eat chips and have sex. We’d come back and find that these teenage orgies had taken place in our house while we were out. It was just really depressing that these teenagers were having a much better time than we were. At the time it was awful, but you look back and you have a more sanguine approach to these things.
You’re 4’11”. Can you confirm my personal theory that short people are funnier?
I can absolutely confirm that. My husband is 6’5” and he’s not funny at all. If you have any physical abnormality or deviation from the norm, you often use humour as a coping mechanism. Being short, you want to get to the joke before other people do… When I started [doing stand-up], I looked incredibly young. People were aghast, they thought some sort of work-experience child had come on stage to check the microphone. I learned very early on that I had to disarm the audience before they pounced on me.
In 2014 you wrote a play for the Edinburgh Fringe, The Fair Intellectual Club. How did you find the experience? Is it something you’d like to continue with in the future?
Yeah, I’m writing another play right now […] which I’m hoping to do in the autumn. I’ve just made The Fair Intellectual Club into a six-part sitcom which is going on Radio 4 in the autumn.
Tell us your favourite bad joke.
There’s a joke I love and hate. A woman’s looking in the mirror, and she turns to her husband and says, “Darling, I look old, fat, and ugly. Give me a compliment.” He says, “well, your eyesight’s spot on”. Given that my show’s all about aging, that’s a horribly accurate joke.