Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Funny girl Sue’s cooking up a spectacular

She co-presents one of the biggest shows on TV and was one of the stars of

She co-presents one of the biggest shows on TV and was one of the stars of last year’s Henley Literary Festival. But as she prepares to embark on a month-long UK tour that will take her to the Reading Hexagon on Tuesday, September 20, SUE PERKINS reveals that writing her memoir, Spectacles, was just the starter



IT’S a good time to look back on my life so far. I fully intend to live to the age of 92, so this is half-time. Essentially this tour — Live! in Spectacles — is handing out the orange segments.

Writing a memoir begins a process that doesn’t necessarily end with publication. You begin to think about family life and stories and relationships, and those are ongoing.

Once the book was published, I thought, “There is so much more still to say without necessarily writing another book. Why not animate the book with a live tour?”



It’s like a companion volume, I guess. A big, technicolour puke of thoughts. Perhaps I should put that on the poster…

I love performing live. I really enjoy playing with an audience. At book events I do Q&As, and it’s often then that the madness starts. It often feels like an anarchic version of Question Time.

Interacting with the audience enriches me. Performing live challenges you to be more engaged. And the great thing is, each venue is completely different.

What I have done lately has been TV-based, so I haven’t had the same feedback as I get live, and that’s what I love. I adore the raw surprise of someone asking a question you would never have expected. I love the spontaneity of it.

I don’t encourage hecklers, but sometimes a heckler is the funniest person in the room — why not embrace that? The audience is a big pool of fun you can swim around in. But remember — no petting.

I will be giving each ticket-holder a copy of Spectacles. Why? It gives me the opportunity to meet the whole audience one by one afterwards during the signings.

A gig is a two-way street. It’s not about me broadcasting. It’s not, “This is what I’ve got to say about this.” It’s as much about how people respond to the material.

My memoir is a story of family and childhood, and everyone has had one of those. Mine is not the definitive version of childhood, but it’s a great way to start a conversation.

I love it when someone says, “It’s weird. I lived next to an electricity substation for 20 years as well.” Or, “We had a cat that dragged our turkey across the room at Christmas and we had to eat boiled eggs for our lunch instead.”

The book is a recorded history of my life so far, but the tour brings extra stuff to it. The audience adds so much on top of that. It’s important to have that double act thing going on with them.

What subjects will I be covering in the show? Births, deaths, lemon drizzle and getting fondled by a Cambodian hermit.

I’ll talk a lot about the catastrophising that went on in my family. There was always a sense that something awful, that imminent doom, was around the corner. It came from my mum — she’s a worrier. Everything was a potential trip to A&E.

I will also be showing some slides. Lots of slides. There is only one picture of me in the book and I have this horrific haircut in it.

People say, “Surely that was just one bad haircut day.” But I’m afraid I have 150 slides of myself at different ages, all with the same haircut.

My mum had someone round to cut my hair who, it transpired, had only done dog grooming before. So I had a low Dougal-style fringe that was perfectly straight. It swayed like a trimmed, bearded collie. A bowl for all seasons. Perhaps that should be the title of the second volume...

Fans sometimes stop me in the street. Often they’ll want to ask about the weird things I’ve eaten. I’ve eaten everything. There’s nothing I haven’t eaten. I’ve eaten peacock, rat, squirrel, widgeon, teal, snipe, snake, moose and yak. Bear Grylls, eat your heart out! In fact, he probably has eaten his heart out…

The fans always want to know what Mary Berry is like. Well, Bez is the best. End of. She’s the nation’s sweetheart. I love her — so much so, I’ve been trying to get her to adopt me for the last seven years.

Why has The Great British Bake Off proved so popular? I think the chemistry between the four of us — Mary, Paul, Mel and I — works so well. We’re all big kids at heart. We’re all very playful. We don’t approach it as a job. We approach it as a day out at a country fair.

But the real reason why the show is so successful is the 12 people who come to bake every year. Although we four have received a lot of attention, I really do believe that the bakers are where the magic is.

A sense of humour is vital, of course. Life is boring without the punctuation of punchlines. If you laugh at a joke, it’s because someone has put something you already know in a way you had never thought of before.

You’ve always been aware of that idea, but it’s the expression of that idea that catches you. The other person encapsulates it or puts a new twist on it. It illuminates and cheers in one fell swoop.

Without humour, what’s the point? Life would simply be one long argument with a man from the BT helpdesk.



Sue Perkins Live! in Spectacles is at the Hexagon, Reading, on Tuesday, September 20, at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £26.50 and the show is recommended for ages 14 and upwards. Each ticket entitles the holder to a copy of Sue’s book Spectacles (RRP £7.99) to be collected on the night. To book, call the Hexagon box office on 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com. For a full list of tour dates, visit www.sueperkinslive.com



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