Sue Perkins' funny old world

EMMA LEE Comedian Sue Perkins brings her second solo stand-up show to two Norfolk venues this month. Emma Lee spoke to her..


Sue Perkins has a confession to make.

“I once broke a nun's leg,” she confides. “How many Hail Marys do I deserve for that?”

It was, of course, an accident. But it's just one of the times in her life when she's done something disappointing.

“It happened at school. I'm left-handed and they tried to make me eat right-handed. I was eating mashed potato and it flicked on to the floor. She slipped on it and broke a femur. I didn't tell anyone at the time,” she says.

She will be sharing this, and other anecdotes in The Disappointing Second Show, at Norwich Arts Centre on January 25 and King's Lynn Arts Centre the following night.

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Be assured the show's name doesn't in any way reflect the quality of the material.

She will be dealing with the many ways life falls short and lets us down - promising jokes about cheery subjects such as sadness, disease and rejection, with special appearances from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of the 20th century's most irritating inventions, the Microsoft paperclip, and a 98-year-old homophobic grandma.

If my chat with Perkins is anything to go by, audiences are in for an absolute treat.

“It's about disappointing my family, the nuns who educated me - there's anecdotes, stuff about the Royal Family and the Queen's Silver Jubilee. But it's basically silly and there's lots of jokes,” she explains.

Luckily for you, the reader, I was too busy laughing at her jokes to scribble down anything apart from the odd incomprehensible punch-line in my notebook, so there'll be plenty of surprises in store.

The show was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival.

“When I start working on a show I write it and make a map of where I'm going, and you do preview shows,” she says. “It's painful. And terrifying. And then you get to a point five or six previews in where it starts to gel. The good thing about this tour is that the show was written last year and I took it to Edinburgh, so I'm very comfortable with it.

“I've got a wide demographic, which I'm delighted with. I've got Radio 4 listeners, younger people, minority groups. Everyone gets a bit of something.”

The 36-year-old is probably best known for her double act with Mel Giedroyc. Like many comedy performers before them, such as Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, their working partnership was forged when they were students at Cambridge University and members of the Footlights comedy troupe.

“I always loved Eric Morecambe. He was incredibly warm. That's why I love Mel - she's got a warmth to her. So I guess that makes me Ernie Wise,” she says.

They started out submitting jokes for topical BBC Radio 4 comedy shows.

“There were open submissions then. We would write them, send them in and then listen to the show and see if they'd been used. We'd get paid £17 a joke,” she says.

They then became writers for French and Saunders, before landing their own show on Channel 4, Light Lunch, which was followed by a teatime version, Late Lunch.

Perkins has also appeared on a host of game and current affairs shows including Have I Got News For You, Room 101, Celebrity Weakest Link, Question Time, Newsnight, Win, Lose or Draw, RI:SE, Celebrity Masterchef, It's Been A Bad Week, The News Quiz, Just a Minute, The 99p Challenge, Ready Steady Cook and Never Mind The Full Stops.

Although she currently isn't working with Mel, there's not been any kind of 'creative differences'-fuelled split.

“I think that in TV you do peak and trough - it's a natural process really. People ask why we split up and we didn't - we're still friends, we still speak to each other. We've changed as people, we've got lots of commitments.

“And if there's a double-act needed they always use Ant and Dec,” she deadpans.

She says that in the panel-show environment it can be quite hard to make your voice heard.

“I'm not very good on those shows. It's quite a competitive environment. There's some great ones. Have I got News For You is like revising for an exam. Paul Merton is great. He always supports you and listens to what you are saying. But sometimes on those sorts of shows I go shy and clam up, which doesn't work on TV.

“I find I like doing things live, whatever I'm doing. I'm a lot more flat when it's pre-recorded. When it's live I have to get it right first time. It's probably where I feel most comfortable. I find ad-libbing very freeing. Doing stand-up is probably where I feel most comfortable.

“It's a nice feeling making someone laugh, however cheesy that sounds.”

She's also had a brush with reality TV. In 2002 she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother - the latest series of which is currently airing on Channel 4.

“I wasn't very happy at that time. I was feeling very sad about lots of things. And I thought it would cheer me up. I was a very different human being and it was a very weird, sterile environment,” she says.

She particularly gelled with Take That's Mark Owen and DJ Goldie in the house.

“Mark really deserves his [re-found] success,” she says. “I think Karma is working its way. He's a thoroughly decent human being. He's very sensitive and very caring. We looked after each other and we're quite similar in many ways. We're quite shy people. I made some good connections with people.”

But despite not really enjoying the experience of being inside the house, she's an avid fan. “I love watching it, it's a fantastic programme - I'll be sitting down to watch it,” she says.

Sue Perkins - The Disappointing Second Show is at Norwich Arts Centre on January 25 (box office 01603 660352) and King's Lynn Arts Centre on January 26 (01553 764864).