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Laughing through life's setbacks

Funnywoman Sue Perkins comes to Newcastle next week. Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr meets up with her.

Funnywoman Sue Perkins comes to Newcastle next week. Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr meets up with her.

Sue Perkins recoils when she recalls the bill for her stand-up show at this year's Edinburgh Festival.

It read "Sue Perkins: Disappointing Second Show".

"I thought I was being funny and clever choosing that title for it, but the way it read, it looked like I had been given a bad review," she says.

"I stuck with it, though, and I did good business. And so I've kept the title."

The Disappointing Second Show heads for Newcastle next week, when Sue makes an appearance at Northern Stage.

"Doing Edinburgh is great as it helps you tweak your show. But because my diary is so hectic I can only do selected dates at the moment and I will be touring proper in the new year. There's good and bad in that. In one respect it means you are not run ragged travelling the country day in day out, but on the other hand it is good to do back-to-back dates as it keeps your adrenaline up."

Sue claims disappointment is her middle name. But she wants people to laugh at it, dealing with the many ways life has fallen short and let her down.

Sadness, disease and rejection, plus special appearances from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Microsoft Paper Clip and a 98-year-old homophobic grandmother all form part of the act.

"I do take a lot from real-life experiences," says Sue. "So a lot of what is in there has actually happened to me, though I do change the facts somewhat!"

Sue, of course, started her career as one half of double act Mel and Sue. Together they jumped and shouted and gurned through countless hours of television, notably Light Lunch and Late Lunch. They were nominated for several awards, and won none.

As a solo performer, she presented three series of the Sky film show Movie Babylon and two series of Good Evening Rockall on BBC Three. She is the host of the Sony Award-winning 99p Challenge, with Armando Iannucci and Simon Pegg, and appears regularly on BBC radio shows Just A Minute, the Mark Radcliffe Show and It's Been a Bad Week.

"I only started doing the solo stand-up 18 months ago so I am still learning a lot from it," she admits. "It is different in many respects from sharing a stage with Mel but I think the lessons I learn from this helps our double act, which we still do.

"My first outing last year, Spectacle Wearer of the Year, was very much a learning curve for me on how to interact with the audience more, and I feel a lot more confident now."

She has fond memories of Newcastle, having recently recorded a Just A Minute in the city. But it's a gig at the Tyne Theatre several years ago with Mel which she remembers best.

"There was a gaggle of middle-aged women in the front row, guffawing and being a right laugh," she remembers.

"One of their phones went off and it was a neighbour to say they had seen the babysitter for one of the women's children wandering off to the pub with her boyfriend.

"This was all happening live and she went out to see what was happening. She came back in to say relatives were going to check on the child and she sent heavies around the pub!

"It helped keep the show going for two hours!

"I absolutely love Newcastle and have stayed there many times, so I'm chuffed I'm coming up as part of this mini tour. Let's just hope the babysitters behave - that said, it could help fill the show!"

NSue Perkins: The Disappointing Second Show is at Northern Stage, Newcastle, on November 15. Ticket details on (0191) 230 5151.

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