I set myself the insane task of getting close to a real-life Anchorwoman. And got rather more than I bargained for — on set at Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. It was an extremely, um, interesting morning…
“As I shadow Reid for the morning – right down to the 3.45am start and a generous application of makeup – I find myself thinking: in her shoes, sitting next to Morgan, what would you do? How distracted would you be by dark thoughts about his salary? How would you hold your own? How would you avoid coming across as “the little woman”?
For the past year, I have been writing a standup show inspired by Angela Rippon, who became the UK’s first woman to hold a position as regular long-term newsreader on a national news programme in 1975. More than 40 years on, we have had dozens of anchorwomen on breakfast television and national news. Women are more physically present on our screens than they were and yet, as the published salaries of the BBC’s talent proved last week, they are often paid far less than their male counterparts.”
“I came across an interview with a neuroscientist recently whose daughter was asked: “What does your father do?” She said: “He replies to emails.” He was gutted. I know how he feels. When my son was asked at the age of five what I do for a living, he replied: “She goes on her computer.” I’m a writer and a comedian, but as far as my kids are concerned, I’m a professional technology user who gets paid to ignore them.
Maybe I’m an extreme case because I work from home, so there is no delineation between home and office life for me or for my three children, aged six, ten and thirteen. Does the six-year-old think I spend too much time on devices?
“Probably, yeah. On your phone and computer.””
Well done me.
My new show is coming to Edinburgh this summer – very excited. It’s dedicated to all the women newsreaders I grew up with. I was obsessed with them and inspired by them: Jan Leeming, Angela Rippon, Sue Lawley, Selina Scott, Moira Stuart. If only the news could be as easy to understand as it was then. Ten minutes of Angela and you’d be done for the day. Much better than being on Twitter 24/7. I’m at Stand 5 at 5pm every day (except 14th) from 3rd to 26th August. Tickets here.
Pic: Billie Scheepers for Sunday Times Style
A second sold-out run at the Fringe in Stand 4. Reviews:
Thanks so much to everyone who came to the show. It ended up being a lot more about Brexit than I had intended… Because I didn’t feel that you can talk about being middle class anymore without talking about the effect of the EU referendum, which has split the middle class right down the, er, middle. A lot of the show was rewritten and reworked through July. This new focus led to some “interesting reactions” (euphemism) in the room on some nights as audiences were frequently split between Remain and Leave themselves, especially amongst those who were fans of The Good Life. (Not saying that Margo and Jerry would definitely have voted Leave but…) I would never get anyone to out themselves as to how they’d voted in the room but it’s always fairly obvious who’s laughing at what. All that was fascinating and not something that will happen at any other Fringe, I imagine. So I kind of felt privileged to witness it. Although it was often also extremely odd.
On the other hand, there were always young people in who had no idea what The Good Life was (which I find wonderful — these are the people who come to a show called Be More Margo without having a clue who Margo is — I love these people). And there were always non-Brits who also had no idea about (a) The Good Life and (b) what we think of as the definition of “middle class”, Americans especially. The whole show was designed to examine how we define the middle class and took Margo as a starting point so I don’t think too many foreign types went home completely confused. Just mildly confused. Except for one Danish woman, a Professor of Economics, who admitted to being cheerfully clueless throughout but seemed to be able to enjoy life in spite (or perhaps because) of this. This must be the Danish way and a very nice way it is too.
Mark Lawson wrote about the effect of Brexit on shows here and gave Margo a mention. Meanwhile I wrote in the Sunday Times about losing weight partly because I was sick of making fat jokes about myself and in the Financial Times about whether it matters what you look like on stage (answer: yes, for good or bad — although whatever you look like you can use it to your advantage. Or I’m telling myself that as I have eaten loads of chocolate biscuits to get over Edinburgh withdrawal).
Twenty four hours to go! I arrive in Edinburgh tomorrow. On BBC Radio 2 with Fearne Cotton and Martin Kemp this weekend, I gave some tips for the Fringe based on my Edinburgh traditions: people who I make a point of going to see every year. I’ll post some more tips soon, once I’m up there. Everyone I’m linking to here I would recommend to anyone — but I particularly recommend if you’re going up to Edinburgh for the first time and/or you don’t have much time. There’s a mix of the traditional/quintessential Fringe and the new/surprising. For the full experience, you also need to throw in something you get randomly flyered for and don’t really want to go to.
Lucy Porter — Consequences — a new Edinburgh venue and a brand new show: always witty, inspiring, though-provoking and the best kind of silly.
Jo Caulfield — Pretending to Care — The first show I saw when I first came to Edinburgh as a punter in 2009 was Jo Caulfield at The Stand and I have never forgotten it. It was a work-in-progress that year and she was reading stuff she had written that day off a clipboard, the first time I had seen anyone do that — it was raw and fresh and brilliant. Always sharp and original.
Tom Allen — Indeed — I can’t go and see Tom Allen too much because he makes me laugh in a painful way. He has beautifully crafted material and wonderfully caustic observations but it’s his delivery that really kills me.
Austentatious: An Improvised Novel — Just the best long-form improv. Six performers in Austen period costume dramatise a novel, the title of which is suggested by the audience. I must have seen them about 10 times now and I can 100% promise that every single show is different, every moment is improvised and every performance is guaranteed excellent. This is a Fringe must, especially if you haven’t seen improv before (or if you “hate” improv — it will change your mind).
If you are chomping at the bit and want to book many things at once (yes, do this!) then on R2 I also mentioned Lauren Pattison (Katherine Ryan tour support), Laurence Owen (new Tim Minchin) and Lolly Adefope (brilliant sketch work). But I have a million more recommends (well, maybe not that many — although there are over 3,000 shows) coming soon. Or message me on Twitter @vivgroskop telling me what kind of thing you like and I will suggest stuff.
Thrilled to be on talking about Be More Margo with Alistair McGowan (one of my all-time favourites), Evelyn Glennie (the most inspirational woman imaginable), Matthew Herbert (wonderfully innovate and eccentric soundscape creator), Phil Gayle (news hero!) and Clive Anderson (presenter hero!). I just about managed to keep it together despite getting a bit weepy during the Scottish folk singing from Karine Polwart and the plinky-plonky Vietnamese music from Hanoi Masters. Listen again here.
My 13-year-old self would have been thrilled to be sitting next to Martin Kemp OF SPANDAU BALLET FAME. My 43-year-old self was also pretty embarrassing. Fearne Cotton and Martin Kemp are sitting in for Graham Norton this summer on the Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2. Much talk about Edinburgh, why people do stand-up comedy (a very good question), avocados, The Kids From Fame (they played High Fidelity for me!) and, less gratifying, golf. That was mostly Martin. That is what he does now. Not GOLD. But GOLF. Well, we all have to age somehow.
I think this is the favourite interview question I have ever had. Interviewer: “You are very brave bringing a show about Britishness and being middle class to Edinburgh. Because there is a lot of hatred towards the English. Are you not worried?” Me: “No. I am extremely English and therefore extremely self-loathing. We can bond in hatred. It’s the perfect match.” Bring it on!
(Pic on title page: Matt Crockett.)
What is it about Waitrose? Writing in The Pool about Waitrose and that news that proximity to the branch of the most middle class grocery store in the universe can add up to £40,00 to the value of your home. Not being in such a position (I’m not in walking distance of the hallowed portals), perhaps I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder… Margo would have been OK in Surbiton. I think maybe they have three branches.
In Wow 24/7. A crybaby Remainiac writes… This is a bit of a million dollar question. (Or in the case of Edinburgh economics, which are weighted against your average stand-up, a minus 47p question.) Can Brexit be funny? Seeing as many comics feel as if they have no choice but to talk about it (including me — I have been working on a show about Britishness and class for six months — how could I not, even if it has meant reworking the entire show?), it’s not even a question. It had better be funny. Or else.