MJederwick has just finished a photoshoot in a studio in southwest London, and she rushes to say hello, apologizing that she has to change before we can speak, because she’s wearing ridiculous clothes. So it explodes in me [heart] New York T-shirt, then back in her own clothes: Dungaree.
She has always given the impression of a rare lack of vanity, one who sees her appearance as just another gadget in a clown’s toolbox, like juggling balls. And that’s partly true, she says, but only up to a point. “a judge [Perkins, her long-term comic partner] And I’ve always said, when it comes down to it, we’ll do what has to be done.” We’re talking about Botox, fillers, that kind of thing.” I’m 54, and she’s 52, she’s weirdly perfect. I keep saying, “Did you go behind my back?” We always said to each other: If we do it, we will do it together. And we will go to Armenia by cutting Latvia.”
I suggest they can sell it as a format: Mel and Sue go to Latvia and come back with new teeth and different faces. “Maybe we should swap faces to confuse people?” suggest. But back to the main point. “I keep thinking: ‘If you go and do anything without telling me, I’ll cross with her. It’s almost as if it’s sending a mafia-comedian signal through the pages of the Guardian: together, or not at all, at least in terms of simple aesthetic treatments.
We’re not here to talk about the 35-year-old comedy duo ever, but the unforgivable, chaotic panel show on Dave that is about to enter its third season. On it, Giedroyc is paired up with Lou Sanders (“Twenty Years Younger. Actually, I don’t know how old she is, she told me once but I’m a little deaf”), and they invited a panel of three comedians to reveal the worst things they’ve ever done. Then some normal people come along and admit to random bad deeds.
It’s wildly scattered, the ties are outdated and the puns are done so badly that they should join unions. The new season is so funny, at one point I was screaming laughter at a story told by comedian Joel Dummett, which involved his mattress, bed base, and penis, and he even seemed pretty surprised to tell it.
“A lot of times, someone might spill something we didn’t know they were going to spill,” she says. “But Joel… he plays the masked singer, he really is Mr. ITV, Saturday night. He is not Mr. One in the morning.” This is kind of the USP of Unforgivable: It takes nice, working people, even TV people by day and turns them into Mr. or Mrs. one in the morning. “When you have three people, they start competing with each other, and that’s when it gets really fun,” she says. “Especially with the comics. They don’t want to outdo them.”
Giedroyc concludes that “unforgivable is a naughty show”. “It’s just a massive midlife crisis, and I’m basically saying, ‘I want to go back to when I felt naughty, which was in the ’90s. I want to be 25 again, or 23.”
In fact, I remember that. Although I didn’t know her in the rowdy years, I did hard work for a few straight years in the Edinburgh place where she and Perkins perfected the standing routine. They had met in 1988, both in Cambridge, doing Footlight, but by this time they had left “with really poor grades. Really weak. Low 2:2. Soo too; people assume she must have been #1 but she You didn’t. We weren’t trained to do anything. What do you do with a French and Italian language degree?”
Mel “had no intelligence to go to clown school” (even though clown was her passion) and tried and failed to get into drama school, a combination of not preparing properly for the test and not being pretty enough. She says this quite obliquely, recalling a day at Bristol Old Vic, when “all the other girls had some kind of long curls, like Helena Bonham Carter. And that’s something that really changed.”
Finally, I wrote to Perkins, who she usually calls “the perks,” a message of high failure and purposelessness, one that Perkins still has. She simply says, ‘Dear Susan, would you like to do double duty? “So that’s what we’ve been doing for seven years.” She describes their deceptive style as utterly offbeat material, on the hooves they were still practically writing as they performed it, often for a single audience. It didn’t look like that from the outside. They seemed almost unique for being able to draw a crowd and had an air of seriousness towards them, as if they were making a living out of this. They were the kind of people other performers referred to, like: “There’s Mel and Sue – Mel smiled at me that day.”
She attributes any success to luck, opportunity and the journalist “who wanted to do an article about a double act really struggling on the sidelines. Then all of a sudden, we had sell-offs because all the Times readers showed up.”
Beneath that mist of self-deprecation, there is a fleeting streak of an absolutely strong determination to be there on stage, showing off. As a child, raised in Leatherhead with a Polish father and an English mother (her father was an engineer and, in his second class, medieval Latvian), her pattern was that she would try to play in school, not get her part,” and I would say: “Maybe I can Writing a small introduction? “And I’d write something way too long, and I end up with a bit too big. Such a brag.”
Grains like this, which Perkins is also famous for in spades, didn’t exactly put them on a fast track. By 1997, after years of standing up, earning money by cleaning, and working in the bar at Jungleurs (at the time, it was an incredibly original and lively comedy club), Giedroyc was defeated. “I remember it vividly, and I go to Perks’s gaff, and I sit on the bed and just say, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I don’t have money. You’re doing it. We owe, we borrowed from our siblings, and our agent had to lend us a large sum. I was desperate. “.
That was when the call came for Light Lunch, a sparkling daytime show on Channel 4, filled with random interviews, sandwich reviews, and, in a harbinger of things to come, a cake, which they initially rejected. We were like: Sorry, oops, daytime show? We’re sophisticated comedians in Edinburgh.” It’s so cool to think of it now, that a major broadcaster would dedicate a daily hour of television to two anonymous comedies, and Channel 4 also thought, at first, a two-week contract. But soon it was for the show Committed followers, not in that ironic, stone-faced way of appearing like Neighbors and Teletubbies. They were students, nursing mothers, and inmates. I got a lot of letters from Gwynte’s remand center.”
It’s hard to get to the true position of Mel and Sue as a partnership. Certainly there is something about them, when they meet, that is more than the sum of their parts: energy, sure, but also notes about surrealism and unpredictability. But this long career step had no effect in making them competitive or resentful, Giedroyc says. “You have to do things, especially as you get older, separately. Otherwise, I imagine it would get incredibly claustrophobic. I don’t know how Ant and Dec do it. Full respect, they are amazing.”
And again, things were different when I started. If acting was sexist in the sense that only beautiful women could do it, the comedy was even worse: It wasn’t really strange to read 1,000 words of a man asking, “Why can’t women be funny?” When the comedians were invited to take part in panel shows, they were treated with a kind of gentle but quietly angry sympathy, like your companion had to bring his wife to the boys’ night at the pub, because there was a rat in the house.
Giedroyc says, “The Perks and I have always had that safe haven with each other, which I think helped us, and I think French and Saunders would say the same. It doesn’t matter what the holes outside your haven say, because you both have each other. But I remember doing With tortured things in the ’90s like Never Mind the Buzzcocks, as it was back then [now one of the captains is Daisy May Cooper]And they go out and get annoyed. Just thinking that was one of the worst things I’ve ever been through.” Giedroyc is especially proud of one episode in this unforgivable season where all five participants were women, “They’re all fun, and I didn’t even plan on it. It almost made me cry.” I wonder if this is the first time this has happened on TV?
One of the double stops was when Giedroyc had children – two daughters, born in 2002 and 2004, with director Ben Morris. Aside from the joys of motherhood and all of that, this was mainly influenced by the family’s near bankruptcy and their loss of their home, a rich-to-rags experience she drew on in her first novel, Best Things, published last year. When the opportunity to introduce Bake Off came up on the show in 2010, she was still weak and did so primarily for the money, and the opportunity to work with Perks again. They didn’t fall in love with the idea right away. “The cake is too backward, isn’t it?” She says, speculatively. I know what you mean. Pick Off has always had a steady heart and an aesthetic vacation.
Filming the first season didn’t completely ease their reservations, although they loved Mary Berry from the start. I remember calling Perks saying, ‘Don’t worry, my friend—no one will ever see this. Because we were really scared. We were thinking, ‘Well, this is the end of our career.’ This was the most amazing, hardest, and most boring thing we’ve ever done. Who wants to look at donuts? “If you think that sounds unusually frank for Showbiz, it’s probably because the pair left the show a bit before they made their choice, under circumstances not as often as they would have liked. It obviously went well for some time.” Just mad. No one could have predicted that it would explode this way – surely we couldn’t. What a joy to have this crazy thing happen to you in your forties. It just doesn’t happen to two old birds.”
After seven series, they got a wind of something afoot but didn’t know until it was publicly announced that the production company, Love Productions, had sold the show to Channel 4. “I was getting messages from the C4 boss saying, ‘We hope you’re on board. I think it took us less than 20 seconds to know we weren’t going to follow through. We felt the show had been sponsored by the BBC. And indeed, the show makers were going “See ya” and going for the money. And that didn’t get along with us.” They never thought it would crash and burn without them, because they were just “supports.” In the end, there will always be more bakers and other cakes.
Giedroyc would like to roll another dice again at a stand-up show with Perkins, but he has questions about whether they’ll one day sit down and write it. She is writing a novel, alongside her first novel, with two recurring characters, and hopes to eventually turn into the Leatherhead trilogy. She enjoys being not a “smart young woman” anymore, saying that “it’s actually a relief when people aren’t that interested.” She’s moderately afraid of cancellation, but not in the Laurence Fox/GB News “You Can’t Say Anything Anymore” news, any more than by her children. “Honestly I walk on eggshells.” (It’s hard to relate. My kid called me a racist that day when I said I’d prefer boxers to Spaniards.) It’s just as it began, everything drives without a plan, the way I think comedians probably should be, if they want to be funny.
Mel Giedwick: An unforgettable return to Dave on September 20