Sara Pascoe on stand-up comedy, loving Happy Valley and motherhood
The comedian and presenter sat down for the Radio Times Podcast to chat about motherhood, loving procedural dramas and panicking watching Mock the Week after being on it.
In the series, Pascoe travels the world to meet people doing rare crafts and jobs that are rapidly becoming lost skills and in season 2, the fun continues in locations such as Greece and Denmark.
Throughout her career, the multi award-winning comedian has appeared on countless television and hilarious panel shows including 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown for Channel 4, QI, Taskmaster and Mock the Week, to name a few.
In the podcast, Pascoe explains how appearing on some shows can mean there's a certain level of panic involved in watching them now, as well as navigating the "mess" involved in parenthood and life as stand-up comedian.
You can read what she had to say below, or listen to the full episode on your chosen podcast provider by clicking here.
What’s the view from your sofa?
So much mess… I don’t want to make parenthood sound unattractive, but it’s like Sisyphus with the rock up a mountain, except it’s dried banana, toys and everyone’s rubbish. You’re looking at it thinking, “I’ve been tidying since 6am and there’s still Lego everywhere.”
After tidying up, what TV programmes do you like to watch?
I love procedurals, most recently, Happy Valley. There’s always a danger when you love a show that they won’t do what you want them to in the final series, but it was perfect – suspenseful and truthful. Would I Lie to You? is the only show I’ve been on that I still love watching.
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Can’t you enjoy shows you’ve been on?
I loved Mock the Week but then I went on the show and afterwards the tune started to make me nervous. I’d think “Oh my God, do I have my notes? What am I going to say about Boris Johnson? Calm down! You haven’t been on that show in six years.” I panic like someone’s going to ask me my opinion about a politician I haven’t heard of.
Does everyone in comedy know each other from doing gigs and panel shows?
I started doing stand-up at a time when there were suddenly all these panel shows and places to do comedy. It felt like a very generous time. I remember doing a gig with Josh Widdicombe and Brett Goldstein, and Stewart Lee was headlining. Stewart said, “When did this start happening? All the comedians standing at the back, clapping each other and laughing?” It hadn’t occurred to us to be bitchy. What had preceded us was a very competitive circuit with very little reward for very few people. They had to be the best on the bill. My generation felt gentler.
Stand-up requires you to bare all. Is it difficult to hear people’s opinions?
As human beings, we’re all inconsistent. Something can be true at one point in your life or career, but not true later on. When I did Out of Her Mind [the BBC2 sitcom in 2020], I was at a stage of my life where I’d got my head around the fact that I was infertile and I really leant into that in the show.
Then a year later, I had a baby [via IVF]. People who felt close to my narrative said, “Who are you, then?” And it was like, “Sorry, people are really complex!” When I was infertile, I was really defensive and now I’m a mummy, I do mum jokes. I’m an over-sharer – I’m comfortable with it, and with the discussion that comes after.
Do you find it difficult to turn work down when it’s offered?
The advantage of having some money in the bank is that you don’t have to take a job to pay next month’s rent. But the fear is – if I don’t say “Yes” to a job now, what if they don’t ask me again? I did QI when the baby was five weeks old. My agent had said, “Don’t you want a bit more time? Because you’re swollen, mad and leaky.” I was afraid that if I missed it, they wouldn’t ask me next year.
In your show Last Woman on Earth, you investigate jobs that are fast disappearing. What’s causing this?
Climate change is massive, young people needing more opportunities, which means leaving what looks like an idyllic place to go to cities. This show is a way of learning about a country – when you look at jobs you’re learning about the economy, the culture, the history and what could happen in the future.
What were your series highs and lows?
I often felt very lucky to be there. Sometimes I felt unlucky. I had to tattoo someone, which was terrifying; I couldn’t stop shaking. I had to dance in a square – dancing publicly is really out of my comfort zone. The thing I love is meeting people. I always think, “Oh, they make roofs out of seaweed? That sounds boring.” And then I go and have the best time of my life with amazing people who are passionate about what they do. They’re so skilled and generous with teaching me.
Last Woman on Earth with Sara Pascoe continues airing on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer on Sunday 16th April at 9pm.