Smile of a pixie, mouth of a docker

JON WELCH She’s cheeky, chatty and charming, but her angelic appearance belies her devilish nature. Comedienne Lucy Porter appears in Norwich this Thursday night – if she can drag herself out of bed, that is. JON WELCH spoke to her.


Don't be fooled by her wide-eyed look and elfish stature - comedienne Lucy Porter is anything but innocent.

Not for nothing was she described as having “the smile of a pixie but the mouth of a docker”.

She laughs. “That's absolutely fair. Well, I'm not sure about the pixie bit but definitely the mouth of a docker.”

At 33 she's already a veteran of the stand-up comedy scene, and crops up frequently on TV, radio and even in West End stage plays, having appeared alongside Christian Slater and Mackenzie Crook in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Her UK tour - her first, surprisingly - reaches Norwich this Thursday. She'll be appearing at the Arts Centre, a venue she likes and knows well, having used it several times to preview material for her Edinburgh Festival shows.

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Lucy, who has friends in Norwich, says: “I like the beautiful Norfolk coastline and having a little run along it. Well, I mean running about 50 yards and collapsing.

“It always makes me wish I owned a dog. Unfortunately, with my studio flat in Elephant & Castle, that's just a dream.”

Lucy started out in comedy after realising she wasn't cut out for her job as a TV researcher. She'd been working for Granada TV, booking guests for This Morning, in the days when it was still presented by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan.

“They were lovely. I was on their show again recently but I don't think they remembered me,” she says.

“I was really rubbish at my job: that's why I had to do stand-up comedy. We had this one guy who booked O J Simpson - morally questionable, but a great booking in terms of ratings - after which he could have taken the rest of the series off. I would say, , I can get you George Best.'

“I was quite lazy and desperately disorganised. Everyone was relieved when I realised my place was in front of the cameras, not behind them.”

One of Lucy's teachers wrote in her school report that she was “lazy, disorganised, uninterested and content to do the bare minimum.”

“She's been proved right!” says Lucy.

“I'm lying in bed as I speak to you - that's lazy - and I can see yesterday's washing up in the sink and CDs and DVDs strewn about.”

Not that Lucy's too bothered. She reckons being a comic is the ideal job for someone of a slothful disposition.

“You have an agent to tell you where to go. You just turn up and do an hour-and-a-bit's work. I've even got a support act on tour, Pete Cain, to warm up the crowd so I just coast in on top of his laughs.”

Although she's written for the likes of Johnny Vaughan, Griff Rhys Jones and even Jimmy Tarbuck, Lucy admits: “I do quite like the show-off aspect of performing.

“When you write for other people you have a responsibility to write in a style they can deliver, and when you're acting you have got to be in the right place at the right time and say the right lines. I find that an awful responsibility. Stand-up is the most purely selfish job in the world. I do love the freedom and irresponsibility of it all.”

Former convent girl Lucy stands just five feet tall and her big brown eyes help give her a butter-wouldn't-melt quality, which she delights in shattering with some of her material.

“It's a little bit of fun but there's definitely a little bit of language,” she says. “It's not gratuitous, but it is a bit saucy. It's very like the old-fashioned, end-of-the-pier stuff.”

You sense Lucy's cheeky, chatty and charming stage persona is no act: she's exactly the same when she's not performing.

Where does she get her material?

“I'm an observational, confessional comedian, so anything that happens to me, even the worst thing, can make material.

“Luckily, my family are a bit weird and I live in a rubbish area, so that helps.”

Her current show is entitled Happiness. In the show, she asks the audience what it really means and how it can be found.

“I say on stage that it's gallons of Jack Daniel's, a team of Filipino men and a harness, but for me it's doing what I'm doing now: lying down, talking about myself and having a nice cup of tea.

“For most people, true happiness isn't winning the lottery, buying a Porsche or running off with a blonde 16-year-old, it's sitting in a favourite armchair with a hot water bottle.

“I address some of the big issues, but anyone expecting a serious philosophical treatise on long-lasting joy might want to go to a self-help session instead of my show.”

Lucy Porter appears at Norwich Arts Centre this Thursday, March 2, at 8.30pm. Tickets, priced £10 (£8 concessions), are available from the box office on 01603 660352.

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