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Changes: Sara Pascoe

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Annie [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to changes. It's Annie here and today I am so excited to be speaking with one of the UK's leading stand up comedians and best selling author, Sara Pascoe. Sara has a brilliantly clever and unique way of looking at life's absurdities and turning them into comedy gold. You'll have seen her on many of the UK's most popular comedy panel shows, such as QI and Taskmaster, and she's also host of the BBC hit TV show The Great British Sewing Bee. Sara has written three books, her first two, Animal and the Sunday Times bestseller Sex, Money, Power both fearlessly tackle issues of feminism, sexuality and societal norms, blending personal anecdotes and social commentary with her signature humour. Then last year, Sara published her debut novel, Weirdo, which is out on paperback now and was described by Marian Keyes, previous guest on Changes, as 'intense, also brilliant, funny and forensically astute'. Testament to how good it is, I was stood outside the studio before this, trying to finish it because I'm glued to it, but we will talk about this in the episode. Sara also hosts a podcast, Sara and Cariad Weirdos Book Club, with her friend Cariad Lloyd, which is such a gloriously warm and inviting podcast to any book lovers. It is the opposite of snobby. It is just a gorgeous, gorgeous, listen. 

Annie [00:01:24] Sara, welcome. 

Sara [00:01:26] Thank you so much for having me. 

Annie [00:01:27] It's so lovely to have you here. Thank you. I appreciate your time because your time is very, very precious. At the moment. 

Sara [00:01:33] It's very precious. But also it's such a relief not to be at home. My seven month old has started eating solid foods, and what that means is there is just, like, puree sprayed everywhere. And it doesn't matter how many times you wipe things. You know, I'm just constantly wiping surfaces! So the fact that I get back and I've had an hour off from that is really nice. 

Annie [00:01:59] You are someone whose career, as we've just heard, traverses different things. You know, you write comedy, you also write novels, you perform in stand ups. You're one of those people who's able to be quick witted on TV shows. How do you describe yourself at a party? If someone goes, so what do you do? Sara? 

Sara [00:02:16] Well, if they've asked because they don't know, I will say schoolteacher. Because it's not worth the conversation, right? Trying to persuade someone you don't know that you're successful. It's actually really painful. And it leaves you thinking...why do I? What is wrong with my ego that I need them to know? I sort of know Jemmy Carr *laughs*

Annie [00:02:36] Yes. *laughs*

Sara [00:02:37] So I, I much prefer the under- like if someone genuine is asking like, oh, what kind of thing do you do? And that's so hard at party anyway, people shouldn't ask that of each other? If it comes up... 

Annie [00:02:45] -No, it's a horrible question. 

Sara [00:02:45] You know, my passion is this...or, yeah I'm interested in this at the moment. That's so different from what do you do for money? *mocking tone* What do you do for money then? 

Annie [00:02:52] Yeah! 

Sara [00:02:53] So I can sort of peg you, or something. It doesn't really ever start an interesting conversation. And comedy is one of those things where if you tell a stranger, I do comedy, they're either gonna tell you they don't like comedy, which is fine! I didn't like it before I did it. Which I really understand. Or they will say a comedian like Bernard Manning  *laughs* or something with them being like he's changed a lot actually, since his day - yeah, more's the pity. Yeah, kind of thing. *Annie laughs* I'm tryna think no one's ever gone. Ooh wow, have you seen the new dadada special? It really sort of moves the form on. Yeah, yeah. 

Annie [00:03:30] So if someone was into comedy and said, oh, I really love comedy, what kind of comedian are you? What would you say? 

Sara [00:03:38] It took me a really long time to know the answer because. And I don't know if this is just. I don't want to seem arrogant. My instinct altogether, "ah just a shit one!" *laughs*. I just go on about myself, can't beleive it's my job! Um, I realise there's a word, it's confessional. Confessional comics talk about their own lives, and I sort of, at least give the appearance of no holds barred, but, something like there's a phrase, no holds barred, anything goes, here's my insides, you know, regurgitating up and sort of making themselves the butt of the joke. 

Annie [00:04:11] Right? Okay. 

Sara [00:04:12] Yeah. 

Annie [00:04:14] *Pauses* How are you with change? And what does that word mean to you? For you?

Sara [00:04:19] I think change is exhilarating, but I really dread it before it's happening. So an example I would use is, just before going on holiday, I would probably cry. Or if I have a job abroad actually, which I guess is like a holiday or a big job is about to start. I'll be excited, excited, looking forward to it, planning, dreading it. Stop it. I don't want it to happen. And then once it is happening, the glee of it's happening. *Excitedly* I don't have to be fearful anymore! It's already happening! I'm coping with it! And that kind of thing.  So, I don't think change is easy. I think *reflective pause* as a creature, I think human beings are, cautious and rightly so and change means unknown. Changing back means failure. Or sort of going backwards. So it's a very. It can be very raw and profound experience. So obviously it's incredibly important. And I, you know, when you actually, it's a novel thing actually, I don't really know anyone like this, but when you read characters in novels who have lust for adventure and no ties and just take Lovers in Venice, I think maybe that's why we want to read about people who live their lives that way because the rest of us just try and create as much security as possible to trick ourselves. 

Annie [00:05:32] Kind of like adventure porn? 

Sara [00:05:33] Adventure porn. And then in our own lives, we might. *laughs* I was gonna say, we might dye two streaks at the front of our head like it was the 90s. *laughs*

Annie [00:05:42] Put a tinge of pink in our auburn hair dye. 

Sara [00:05:44] Yes. Or, you know what? That's what the festivals are in the summer. 

Annie [00:05:46] Oh my gosh. Wearing glitter on the face. 

Sara [00:05:48] Glitter bit of glitter on the face. Got a bum bag?  Ooh, you're dangerous! That kind of thing we do to trick ourselves that we're wild. 

Annie [00:05:57] That's kind of what this whole podcast is, adventure porn. It's just learning about other people's changes and how they've how they've navigated them and kind of trying to become closer to that ourselves. Let's get into your first change, then your your biggest childhood change please Sara. Can you remember what you said? 

Sara [00:06:13] Well I can't remember what I said because it was really tempting to so say my parents divorce. But when I thought about it, it wasn't the huge kind of change that you think. It's just where you expect. 

Annie [00:06:24] Okay. 

Sara [00:06:24] I think for some people, your parents are not living in the same house, or saying we don't love each other anymore is a massive thing, but it wasn't for us. It was just sort of quite simple relief. So that change I've chosen is becoming a vegetarian, because I think it was I *contemplates* if I could use a literary reference, which is quite pretentious. 

Annie [00:06:44] Please do!

Sara [00:06:45] This is my like my Proustian Madeleine moment. 

Annie [00:06:48] Okay. 

Sara [00:06:48] Because it happened from realising that the universe was bigger than me. We went on a trip, a school trip, when I was seven to Hainault Forest and they have a little farm there, a children's farm, and kids can go on school trips there, which is what we did. And they, you know, showed us around the animals and taught us how to do certain things. And there was a calf. So she was, or he. Exactly at my eye height and cows have really massive brown eyes and. I don't think I was stroking them or anything, but we were looking at each other's eyes and I realised there was a being. The cows were people *laughs*

Annie [00:07:25] Yeah

Sara [00:07:25] ...And obviously not. But I realised that they were. 

Annie [00:07:26] -they were sentient 

Sara [00:07:28] Sentient yes! You know there was a person having their life as a cow. 

Annie [00:07:31] Yeah. 

Sara [00:07:32] I didn't *stutters* I'm using the wrong words. But anyway, that made me realise. And it was, it was just so huge, like, oh my gosh, you know, I'm not all of the world. My inner life isn't the only one we are all having inner lives, even animals. 

Annie [00:07:45] Yeah. 

Sara [00:07:45] And I went home. And this was quite a profound moment for me. And my dad explained to me that that's where hamburgers came from. Which is true. He wasn't being cruel. He was being factual. And, that meant that an instant thing happened, which meant that I realised, number one, I had been eating sentient beings, but also that I didn't want to have a damaging life. 

Annie [00:08:10] Yeah. 

Sara [00:08:10] And it's a very, very difficult thing... 

Annie [00:08:11] -As in to hurt other things?

Sara [00:08:12] Yes, yes. To sort of minimise the amount of hurt. 

Annie [00:08:15] Yeah. 

Sara [00:08:16] That I would cause just by being alive. So I think it was really instrumental to all of the other kind of things that came after that, in terms of wanting or trying to be good...or the least bad. 

Annie [00:08:28] That's so interesting. So not only did you realise that you weren't alone in your head, there was other peoples with souls and thoughts, and creatures. But then you also had an intention from that, which was...

Sara [00:08:40] -Yeah. 

Annie [00:08:40] To not hurt, to not harm. 

Sara [00:08:42] Because if you don't think of other people's inner lives, even if those people are animals. Then it's very easy to not to, to disregard that they have inner lives and wants that might conflict with yours. So you might want to have a hamburger, but they might not want to be eaten. 

Annie [00:08:58] Yeah. I mean, it's so true. As a vegetarian, I don't know. Are you still a vegetarian? 

Sara [00:09:02] Yes. 

Annie [00:09:03] As a vegetarian who was brought up in a vegetarian family because my big sister decided she was going to be vegetarian at the age of nine, and my mother was like, well, I'm not cooking two things, so we're all vegetarian now. So we all became vegetarian. 

Sara [00:09:16] That's so great, because in Essex that would have been, you're not a vegetarian because we're not vegitarian. 

Annie [00:09:19] *Laughs* Because I can't have a sausage

Sara [00:09:19] *Laughs* Yeah, that's a Findus crispy pancake. If you want to pull the ham out, then you can. 

Annie [00:09:25] *Laughs* Yeah. But there's a threshold, I think, that you cross in terms of how you see things as a vegetarian. It's empathy basically. And like when you walk past a butchers and they have, like, skinned pigs strung up in a window, to me that's a horror film. Whereas to anyone else that's just, that's just dinner. And it's, it's interesting. Is it like when you get into, like, this idea that creatures are sentient, they have emotions. That's when it gets very deep.

Sara [00:09:49] Even if they didn't, even if you said, look, hang on, there's absolutely nothing going on in the brain. We've scanned them. All they can do is feel pain. I actually think that's worse. To have I mean, human beings obviously can have all kinds of pain, but we're so lucky we have these brains that have memories and narratives and put things in context and might have, you know, religious stories, all these different things we can do to try to make sense of pain. So if you said, okay, animals have nothing, but they still have nerve endings, that's even worse. 

Annie [00:10:15] Yeah. 

Sara [00:10:16] That's actually even more miserable. 

Annie [00:10:17] Yeah, yeah. So as a parent, how are you feeding your kids, meat or not? 

Sara [00:10:22] Yeah. 

Annie [00:10:23] You are? 

Sara [00:10:23] Yes, I am. So partly. And this was never my plan. I've- uh, my partner, I've downgraded him as boyfriend since we've had children. He was my husband. But now...

Annie [00:10:33] Now, he's your partner

Annie [00:10:34] I don't want him to feel too comfortable.

Annie [00:10:35] It feels more like colleagues at this point anyway *laughs*

Sara [00:10:38] Yeah *laughs*.We're work colleagues working around two young children and, he's, Greek Australian who really loves meat and doesn't really think about it very much. His love language would be to spend seven hours cooking someone some lamb. 

Annie [00:10:51] Over a barbecue or something...

Sara [00:10:53]  Yeah. Barbecue or in the oven. 

Annie [00:10:54] Yeah. 

Sara [00:10:55] His labour of love would is an animal I have prepared for you and we haven't had huge conversations about it. And he's never been insensitive and I have never tried to. You know, I really think we all have the same information in the world and we've just made our decisions. 

Annie [00:11:10] Yeah. 

Sara [00:11:10] And then having children, uh so the nursery Theodore gets made, I guess proper meat, things like sausages and stuff. And I have it said to them, they're not, they're not to feed him meat. And, with the baby sachets, a lot of them, you know, have chicken in them and this kind of stuff. And I just think it should be a personal choice for them, because what I wouldn't want to happen is that I inflict something on them or, and then they decide to rebel against it. 

Annie [00:11:39] But let me tell you something, Sara Pascoe *laughs*. 

Sara [00:11:42] Yes *laughs*. 

Annie [00:11:43] My child, is nine, and he was not allowed to have me all his life. And now, yeah, he will eat nothing but meat. He is a complete carnivore. He won't even eat a vegetarian sausage because it's not *gravelly mocking tone* real meat. So that exact thing has happened to me!

Sara [00:11:57] Yeah, I so that's the thing I want, I want my children, number one you always want food in them. We just want protein in them. 

Annie [00:12:01] Sure. 

Sara [00:12:02] And all of that stuff at the beginning. And then I just want them to learn about animals and make their own decisions, while also knowing that some people choose not to have it. Some people choose to have it sometimes, you know, vegetarian sausages are really great. 

Annie [00:12:15] Bangin, Denny. 

Sara [00:12:16] Yeah. 

Annie [00:12:16] That's not an ad. But do sponsor me because I think you're lovely. They're very salty. So little Sara. So we have a lovely insight into you there being very sensitive, a deep thinker as a young girl, how would you describe yourself as a girl? What were you like in a room? 

Sara [00:12:39] *Inhales* I had, probably the trajectory that's true of lots of children where I was really, really, really confident up to secondary school. So, at junior school, the joke about me was that I got dressed in the dark because I liked wearing lots of bright colours and layering clothes that don't go together. And I really *contemplates* I think I really...It wasn't even that I liked being looked at. I didn't care that that was not what I was existing for. My mum was a teenager when she had me, and, my dad is a jazz musician, so we had a very untraditional upbringing in that, that they didn't know what they were doing. And there wasn't there weren't rules and expectations. So I felt very free. 

Annie [00:13:21] Was there a point when you realised that they didn't know what they were doing? 

Sara [00:13:24] Oh, reflecting on it now in therapy. 

Annie [00:13:26] Okay. Yeah. *they laugh together*

Sara [00:13:28] Light bulb!

Annie [00:13:29] *As though speaking to Sara's parents* Oh, you were blagging it. Okay! Great

Sara [00:13:31] Yeah. My mum had left home at 14, so she didn't even know that there was stuff she was supposed to be doing. 

Annie [00:13:39] Yeah, really? 

Sara [00:13:40] Other than, you know, is everyone-I don't even know what that minimum is? Is the rent paid? Yes. Yes, yes, kind of, the the really important things. I remember feeling very free. I remember feeling very happy. I really liked reading. And this is all going to sound like, really "God the 80s", but, just playing outside. I don't remember the world being a dangerous place, just, you know, that's where snails were, and stones and ponds and newts and we lived on a banjo, which meant we couldn't get run over. Do you know what that is? 

Annie [00:14:16] No. I've never heard of that word. Beyond an instrument. 

Sara [00:14:19] Yes. You've got the road, and then a banjo is like a cul de sac, but it's cemented, which means that the kids can play on their own and go into each other's gardens and stuff. 

Annie [00:14:26] So cars aren't able to- 

Sara [00:14:28] Yeah! So you're never going to get run over. And we weren't really big into watching television, but this is probably back when there was three channels anyway. So I think I had a very fun time. And then like lots of people lost all of my confidence at sort of early teen years. My work life has been trying to find that childhood freedom again, even though, you know, you never be quite as *exhales* you just know too much. You know too much. Be truly. 

Annie [00:14:53] Yeah. 

Sara [00:14:54] Not care if anyone's looking at you and get dressed for yourself, but at least knowing that that does exist and that that state of childhood is probably, that's the right way to be. 

Annie [00:15:05] Totally, it's pure. 

Sara [00:15:06] Yeah. 

Annie [00:15:07] There is something I've found in the last two years specifically I'm 45, that I've really come full circle a lot to doing, wanting to do things that I did as a kid, like doing hobbies, I've taken up playing football again, I've joined a choir, I've started learning Irish, which I had to learn in school. But all these things that make me, closer to my childhood version of me. Why is that I wonder, do we do that? 

Sara [00:15:34] Ahh I mean, do those things make you feel quite calm? What do you feel? Do you feel connected to something when you're doing them. 

Annie [00:15:39] Definitely. It feels like coming home. There's a peacefulness to the familiarity of it. *Sara quietly agrees* maybe there's comfort in the familiar?

Sara [00:15:47] But I also I'm really interested I'm interested in what they call the flow state, which is when you're doing something and you're only thinking about that thing. 

Annie [00:15:55] Yeah. 

Sara [00:15:55] So that's what you call like, that connection to that presence is what we're all lacking and really chasing. And when you manage to find it in things, you go, why don't I do colouring in? That is one of the things that's wonderful about hanging around with kids is running for running sake, kicking a ball, hanging off something. Thinking, can I climb that? 

Annie [00:16:15] *Laughs* Yeah. 

Sara [00:16:15] And just colouring in going - Why don't I just do colouring in!?

Annie [00:16:18] Yeah. It's the best. Yeah. 

[00:16:19] *musical interlude*

Annie [00:16:29] Before I talk about the book I want to talk about the book club because as I said it's such a lovely podcast. I heard the episode with Annie Ernaux and, you talk... You were talking to Cariad, and you said, where I feel very lucky with my dad is that he has changed and learnt how to change. And I was interested in that because your dad's a jazz musician? 

Sara [00:16:50] Yeah. 

Annie [00:16:51] And he left when you were. 

Sara [00:16:53] Around seven actually. 

Annie [00:16:55] Right. 

Sara [00:16:56] Um but they did. I mean, it was messy. They got back together again. I think after he left, they got pregnant with my sister. 

Annie [00:17:01] Oh. No way. Yeah. Okay. 

Sara [00:17:04] So, so it wasn't as sort of a clean sweep, but around seven years old. Yeah.

Annie [00:17:08] Yeah. And, has he always been around in your life? 

Annie [00:17:12] Well, he lives in Australia now, so he moved there when I was 16. 

Annie [00:17:15] *coughs* Excuse me. 

Sara [00:17:16] Yeah, but before that, he spent time in America. He would go away for months at a time to places like Boston because of jazz *sighs*. 

Annie [00:17:24] *Laughs* I wish you could see the disdain in which Sara expressed that word. 

Sara [00:17:27]  Even saying the word jazz feels like you should have a beret on, hasn't it? And smoking a cigarette because of *mocks* "jazz", like...Um...Yeah...

Annie [00:17:36] Do you not like jazz? 

Sara [00:17:37] Oh, it's I, it's far stronger than dislike *laughs*

Annie [00:17:40] Okay. 

Sara [00:17:42] I, I honestly and obviously it's all tied up to my dad because my dad used to forget to take us to school coz he was practising the saxophone. So that's an instrument I've heard some people like the sound of but I just cannot bear it Annie - Anyway! My dad was very unhappy as a early 20s person and he and my mum had children, which is, even if you're very happy, a very difficult thing to do, a time consuming thing to do. And I think it must be especially hard if you are very young and you are desperate to dedicate your life to your passion. My dad did dedicate his life to his passion and he didn't want ever to be famous. He just wanted to be good and under his own, qualifications of what it is to be good. My dad still practices the saxophone for like eight hours a day in terms of like, flow state and where he's happy and what he wants to be doing. Oh, and there's something, again, reflecting on it so many decades later that's very, very inspirational about that. I'm thinking of that as an influence as a child that obviously I didn't value it at all until more recently. And it means that now he's a happy person who lived his life. Not that it's over, but has lived his life in the way that he wanted to and the gratitude I have, number one, that they were young parents, so they're relatively young now in their 60s, but also that they're still alive, whereas lots of people don't get to have this third act with their parents, you might get to imagine it or have conversations in your mind, but we are actually getting this much, less fraught, less emotional, less, cataclysmic rouse this mature new kind of intimacy you're getting to know people are listening to people. We rehash old stuff. You're very lucky if life is very long, because that's what it feels like now. 

Annie [00:19:32] Yeah. 

Sara [00:19:33] I'm 43. We're talking like something happened 35 years ago. So when you talk about it, it feels like we're getting it is it's a third act of going through all the information and everyone's narratives are very different but we can listen to each other's and, and my, my dad's, I wouldn't say he's like, he doesn't like love Ann Rand, I know you're not allowed to say that about anyone. 

Annie [00:19:56] He doesn't like love? Sorry?

Sara [00:19:57] Ann Rand? you know?

Annie [00:19:58] Oh, Ayn Rand! I'm sorry. 

Sara [00:19:59] Yes. No, I don't know how to pronounce it. 

Annie [00:20:00] Neither, do I? 

Annie [00:20:01] Okay. Great! Okay. Well, we've said it all the ways now. Yes. Everyone's going to understand.

Sara [00:20:05] Yes. The idea that you can't make other people happy until you're happy yourself. Yeah. That kind of individualist philosophy I now think is quite brave and probably quite wise, as long as you're not recklessly disrespectful to other people's individualism. I think advocating for yourself and saying, I'm going to make you miserable if I stay. That's what I mean about the dad changing thing. 

Annie [00:20:30] Mhm...and, and would you  apply that also to being able to walk away from a marriage? Like as a child?

Sara [00:20:36] Yes. One of the great things about having adult relationships is, you know, leaving them when they don't serve, when everyone's unhappy. 

Annie [00:20:42] Yeah. 

Sara [00:20:43] And, and I hope that it's getting better in society in general that people know that it's not a failed relationships. It's really a massive success to go. I love myself, and I actually care about you so much that I don't want to make either of us miserable anymore. 

Annie [00:20:56] Yeah. 

[00:20:56] *musical interlude*

Annie [00:21:02] Okay. Weirdo. Yeah. Of which I am 86% of the way through. And I'm just absolutely loving. And I was loathed to ask this question because it fucking does my head and when I'm asked but you can answer it honestly. Sophie, the main character, she has a dad who lives in Australia. She has a mom who is- has got an alcohol problem and she has a little sister, and she has got a very kind of interesting way of existing in the world. There's a kind of sense of remove she describes really beautifully in the book. How much or how little of Sophie comes from you?

Sara [00:21:37] So I really thought nothing came from me when I was writing it, and when I first, when the hardback came out and I first started doing interviews, I loved having this, separation of going, It's fiction. So, you know, my stand ups about me and my non-fiction obviously talked about my, my self, but, this is and then they would go something like, you say. Hm? The dad character lives in Australia, like your dad. And I'm like, oh yeah, oh yeah. Yeah. Okay. Or they go like, but you worked on the buses as a tour guide, like the character Sophie. *To self* Oh I guess I did yeah *laughs* and then I realised that unfortunately, your brain is just full of shelves where you've stored memories, experiences, information and writing your first novel those shelves go, oh great! And it's just all stocked there. And there was a novelist quoted as saying, everyone's first novel is very autobiographical, and you just get it out of your system. And that made me feel better because I thought, okay, maybe that's just what happens, because I don't know if you found this with your writing, but it's stubbornness. Some things just say, that's the character, or that feels true to you. The book's set in Essex, some of Essex's the most depressing places in the world. And that's because I was so depressed there as a teenager. And I guess so when I think of a sad, sad woman. Yeah, that's where she is. 

Annie [00:22:54] Yeah.

Sara [00:22:55] She's driving along the A13! *laughs*. 

Annie [00:22:56] But I love that. I mean, it's something that I notice as well in terms of doing the promo for books and having a remove, like this book is now at its paperback stage, which means you've had nearly a year of having it out there and talking about it. I really only realise my motivations kind of, way after writing the book, I didn't go, I want to write a book now because of this. And I, you know, not with the first one. I just fucking feverishly wrote it because I had to

Sara [00:23:23] Well, I did a plan because I had to do a plan when I pitched it, and it just deviated so much. Right. And I almost felt like I was in trouble. But I was like, it's not my fault. It's the characters. Like they keep going, oh, no, I don't fancy that person. Yeah, I want to be with this person who I'm going to do this or...I couldn't have had a sort of a strap line. 

Annie [00:23:41] Right. 

Sara [00:23:41] -Of like what I was trying to say because it just it just it just conglomerated into something else. 

Annie [00:23:46] Yeah, but isn't that such a buzz when it does? And when you're kind of just going with it?

Sara [00:23:50] That, for me is the thing that really links back to childhood, as if that if you sat down with coloured pencils at 8 or 9 to write a story, you start off with, like the man goes over there and then it's like, and then what is there? 

Annie [00:24:02] Okay. Yeah. 

Sara [00:24:03] He's just found this! You don't think I'm going to write a book about a man who finds a magic hat under a tree.

Annie [00:24:07] Yeah. 

Sara [00:24:08]  Until you see it! Is this a hat here?! *laughs* What happens when I put it on? Yeah. And. Yes. Absolutely. I really like it. And it and it is, it does feel pretentious to talk about, not like this, but I don't know if you had to do, like, pitch events for your publisher where everyone gets up and sort of talks about their book for three minutes?

Annie [00:24:25] Right. I didn't do that, no.

Sara [00:24:27] With my non-fiction. I went to Faber, had this beautiful sort of spring event in a church, and all the booksellers are there and everyone has three minutes and a woman one up on stage a novelist and she went, *mocking posh accent* the first thing that came to me was an image, *inhales* and there was a girl just standing, just standing in, the dock of a court. And I thought, why is she there? 

Annie [00:24:51] *Laughing hysterically*

Sara [00:24:52] And obviously I'm trying not to laugh. And then I've  just become that person going, I've just had this image of a girl in a pub, so I and someone and someone walked in and she knows him and he doesn't remember her. And it's about her having to serve drinks, going, why doesn't he remember me? And it was that feeling. People are asking questions you can't answer. What is it like to write a book? I don't know, all I say to people is like, oh, if you can write an email a day and everyone can, you can write a book, because you're just writing an email worth of words. 

Annie [00:25:18] Yes, that's a nice way of putting it!

Sara [00:25:20]  -Because you want to break it down to people that it's not magic, it's not pretension. It's a little bit of graft and trusting yourself and things like that. But people want to go, where do ideas come from? You're like, *groaning noise* this is brain surgery!!

Annie [00:25:32] Can I ask you about about Sophie, then the narrator herself? So, there's a line. There's so much that I wanted to read out. I'm just going to read at this little bit. Yeah. So this is Sophie kind of describing how she moves through the world. In a sense of she has a mechanism. You can tell me. Where she doesn't allow herself to be really, in a moment. Would that be right in saying?

Sara [00:25:55] Yeah, I think she -because she's narrating it as it goes on, or she's observing it as it goes on, or she's considering how it could be observed, were she being filmed? 

Annie [00:26:04] Yeah, yeah yeah, yeah. So she says, "this is the problem with telling yourself things aren't real all the time. If you're always reminding yourself that you might be a brain in a jar or starring in a manipulated TV program, then yes, that's a good coping mechanism. It helps when things are hard. But times like now that I want to be occurring, don't touch me. I want to experience this properly rough and sensory and absorbed into all of my pores. But I'm a kite floating behind it. It's as unreal as everything else. I've undermined all of life, dug so many holes underneath it that it's collapsed completely". I thought that was a fucking mind blowing paragraph. Like I said, this sense of detachment from the here and now, is that something that you have felt like? It feels like you understand that very completely?

Sara [00:26:51] I'm sure you've had this with career stuff. In the book, I make it much more this about a boy than work. But for me, what happens are, you can work for a really, really long time with an idea in mind or an actual goal in mind, and then have that goal and be sort of telling yourself it's happening. Have you had that sort of detachment? With that stuff? 

Annie [00:27:11] Yeah.

Sara [00:27:12] So it's like um, I'll use an example of Mock The Week, so Mock The Week I'd watched it on TV before I was a comedian and I thought Russell Howard was very funny and Frankie Boyle was very funny. And then when you become a comedian, it's one of those shows that it gets people to know who you are, not just who you are, but who you are as a comic. It's a sort of an advert for your comedy. There's a little bit where you go up to the microphone and also the thing with Mock the Week is always that it's really hard. That's the hard one. That's the people, one that people do once and they just can't do it. So if you're sort of telling yourself, I can do this, I think I could. Which is lots of new comics are going, I think I could handle it. I think I could, you know, clapback at Dara. I feel like I could keep up with it. And, so you sort of get closer and closer and you get to a point where maybe you're at a level where you could be one of the new people on Mock the Week. But then smash cut to you're sitting on a chair on Mock The Week, and they start playing the theme tune and you go, what?! What is happening?! I'm inside the television! I'm inside the television! 

Annie [00:28:15] *Laughs* 

Sara [00:28:15] Looking at it *stutters* and it's like. And then that for me, I mean, look, Sophie has a different reaction to it. But  that for me makes me go *slowly* I am in an asylum. I have, I talked about it in my last stand up show that I was in an asylum, sort of talking to the wall because my life couldn't be real. Yeah. How could it be? How can that make sense that you're at one point, a teenager watching  Russell Howard on Mock The Week thinking, I'll be really good on that programme. I've got loads of opinions. And then just like dadada oh, you just wished it and it happened! And then suddenly, the theme tune is happening and you're having to not say to everyone, I think I'm having a great time. 

Annie [00:28:51] *Laughs* Is there a sense that in allowing yourself to really believe it? What's the danger there?

Sara [00:28:57] It's just, it's just that's why Sophie had a different narrative to mine. My narrative was that, I wasn't I wasn't popular at school, and I told myself that I would prove everyone wrong one day, and I didn't know from doing what. I just I just had this deep belief that everyone one day people would see me on television. And then when it happened, it felt like a kind of madness. 

Annie [00:29:16] Yeah. 

Sara [00:29:17] Like, how can you wish something at 14? And then it happened and I wanted to I wanted to explore this other life with someone else, someone having that exact same feeling but it doesn't happen. 

Annie [00:29:27] Okay. 

Sara [00:29:27] And the sort of the dissatisfaction of going, but I feel special, but I don't know what for. And because there's this sort of, there's this arrogance within it because it's not like, oh, I'm really, really good at the violin. I'll probably end up playing the violin. If you're sort of talentless, you still think everyone should watch you doing stuff, which is how I felt or how I was. 

Annie [00:29:48] But it doesn't feel like it came from a place of arrogance. It felt like it came from a place of, I don't know what the word is...

Sara [00:29:55] It was sort of arrogance. 

Annie [00:29:57] Self defence, no?

Sara [00:29:57] Self defence. 

Annie [00:29:58] Or Kind of, wanting something for yourself that wasn't happening in the moment. Like it's reactive. That's a reactive- 

Sara [00:30:04] Yes. 

Annie [00:30:05] -Wish 

Sara [00:30:05] Yes it was, it's reactive. And actually that was something that more recently I've had to work on because the idea of proving people wrong could be very, very powerful. Like it makes you work that little bit hard to do that little bit extra push yourself out there a bit more because that's the only way you'll get the payoff, but also it comes from a really negative place of people don't like me, I need people, to prove people wrong. I'm not worth anything unless I have this thing and actually if you didn't have this thing, do you still feel self-worth? 

Annie [00:30:31] Yes, yes.

Sara [00:30:32] With with bad gigs one of the questions people always ask comedians, is, what's your worst gig? and it really is like, why do you think that would be fun to talk about? Because they think you're going to tell a funny story about a heckle. So you just have to make one up. But, I've gone through such a big journey, so makes me sound like a terrible comic where if I have had, for whatever reason, a not great gig. I just just- letting myself be like, so you weren't very funny. It wasn't like because you didn't try or you didn't turn up or you hadn't done your prep, 'cos I've always done those things. It doesn't mean you're, like, not worthy of love. But there's a stage in your career, especially with comedy, with comedians. It's like, if you're not funny, it's like it scolds you. 

Annie [00:31:11] It's so wrapped up in your own sense of identity and sense of self. 

Sara [00:31:13] Because it's the only thing. 

Annie [00:31:15] But it is you. You're not putting on any sort of airs or you're not putting on a mask. You are going out there as Sara. 

Sara [00:31:21] But I mean, the fact that it's funny because someone might go it didn't make me laugh, but it's very interesting and you go ughh! It's not supposed to be interesting. It has to be funny or it doesn't exist. That's the point of comedy. It has to do this one thing. If it fails at that, it is all failed. 

Annie [00:31:35] How does it feel when you're on stage in the flow state? 

Sara [00:31:38] Well, talking about Russell Howard, 'cos I mentioned earlier, I did the charity kick was very early and I had been going less than a year, and he was telling someone else that- because this gig would have been by far the biggest gig I'd ever done, maybe 700 people or something that felt at that time like Wembley Stadium. And he was saying, oh, it's really great because gigs this size don't change my heartbeat anymore. Like when I hear someone say my name, I go on and I'm the same person who's standing over here. And I never, ever forgot that because I knew that's what I was working towards. 

Annie [00:32:06] Yeah.

Sara [00:32:07] And that's what happens on tour shows. And then this really odd thing has happened to me since having children where now I never get the click of showbusiness anymore and I don't know if it'll ever come back. I used to have a thing where, you know, a spike of adrenaline, something would happen, I'd walk out on stage and it all felt like, how was I ever nervous of this? I can cope with everything. And now I walk out and I feel like a lady. Like a lady that's been plucked from the audience, I don't have any- whatever used to fears and pop and go bang. Now it's oh, what would you say? Like the drag version of me with the mask version. 

Annie [00:32:41] Yeah, yeah. 

Sara [00:32:41] Now it's not now it's the lady. 

Annie [00:32:44] So you, it's you are completely exposed. 

Sara [00:32:46] Yes, yes. 

Annie [00:32:47] Fully you. 

Sara [00:32:47] Fully me. 

Annie [00:32:48] Yeah. There's no. 

Sara [00:32:50] Which is probably in some ways really healthy and positive. 

Annie [00:32:53] Oh my god this is so relatable. 

Sara [00:32:54] Is it? Because I don't know if the skin grows back. 

Annie [00:32:57] I like I remember being it was actually when I was, it was when I was pregnant with my second kid. So I was already a mum and I was playing Warehouse Project In Manchester, New Year's Eve and I was going on after Rudimental and it was 3 a.m..

Sara [00:33:09] Yeah. 

Annie [00:33:10] *Clears Throat* It gives me the fear even just thinking about myself in that situation. 

Sara [00:33:14] How pregnant were you? 

Annie [00:33:14] I don't know, maybe like 4 or 5 months. 

Sara [00:33:15] Yeah. 

Annie [00:33:16] And Locksmith, the guy from Rudimental had his top off and had a bottle of vodka in his hand and was all like *wooing sounds*

Sara [00:33:24] This is my worst nightmare! *laughs*

Annie [00:33:26] I was stood on the stage just like I've never felt more alien. 

Sara [00:33:30] Yeah. 

Annie [00:33:31] In this, in this scenario and I've never felt more exposed for my real- because I wasn't drinking, obviously. And I was like, totally sober and I was knackered and it was like, whoa, this is , this is hard in a whole new way. 

Sara [00:33:47] Yeah. And it's really odd to be in the life you built for yourself, that you chose. And also the reason you're doing those things, you know, with a young child and pregnant is because you want them. 

Annie [00:33:58] Yes. 

Sara [00:33:58] And then it's so odd to to suddenly and there not to be a switch. 

[00:34:01] *musical Interlude*

Annie [00:34:11] Let's get to adult change. 

Sara [00:34:13] Yes. 

Annie [00:34:14] Because-

Sara [00:34:14] Yes. 

Annie [00:34:14] It's you talking about comedy. 

Sara [00:34:16] Yeah, yeah. Getting into comedy. Is everything right? So it's therapy, you know, self-acceptance not only, like, made my life it. I mean, it's not quite an exaggeration, although it is hyperbolic, but it saved my life because it gave my life so much purpose. And it gave me a purpose where it was all about myself. My Stand-Up is about me. My job is about me. But there's it's a two way street where whatever's happening, it's like a form of diary gets processed into the work, and what's going on with the work gets processed back into my life. And I've met the most amazing people. I've laughed so much like they're. That's literally the point, is that I was so addicted to gigging straight away at the beginning, because other things I try to do, like acting and singing, are just aren't fair. You don't get to work very much, and no one will ever pay you to do those things. And there are lots of very, very talented people in the world. So I'm not saying I was, but there are lots of very, very talented people who are working other jobs and, you know, waiting for opportunities where Stand-Up, you can just go out and get five minutes every single night, which was just then so compulsive, which that means you are just watching other people who are passionate about the same thing as you, who or who have things to say, some of it insane. But maybe it goes back to that, you know, the consciousness of other people's selves. Literally what you get is everyone in the room, rather than just wondering what they are talking about at that table or what they're doing over there, they literally come up and tell you, I'm worried about Palestine *laughs*.They get up and they do stuff!

Annie [00:35:48] Or in your case I think theatre is diabolical! *laughs* 

Sara [00:35:50] Yes, exactly! So you get up and you get to share. And other people, if they connect with it, they laugh. The laughter is. You know, things aren't really that bad or it will be okay. Or isn't it ridiculous how powerless we are? And it just felt so exciting and so different to watching TV. Obviously TV is amazing, but this part that which switches off you, you are not important. You don't need the TV, doesn't need you. They already made it. 

Annie [00:36:15] Yeah. 

Sara [00:36:15] Whereas the personal side is absolutely desperate for every single person in the room. And if even one person like answers their phone or talks to their friend or goes to the toilet that is felt as a loss. Like this, this little, these rooms above and below pubs. And I'd never I'd never found a way to really like go out and socialise and then so stand up was it. It was all of it. And then what you have is those people that you think are brilliant on stage, you stay and have a drink with them afterwards. So then the social life of stand up, *deep inhale* it's just it's just been magical and I just have no idea. Another question you get asked by journalists is they go um, what would you have done if you hadn't found this? And it's just such a sad question for society. *Laughs*. 

Annie [00:36:54] Yeah 

Sara [00:36:55] Because for me, it's like, I wouldn't have my best friends. I wouldn't have had. And, and comedy is great because there are extremes, but they don't really matter. Yeah. Like, yeah, you do home and cry because you've had this like competition gig to silence. But it's all part of failing and getting back on it. If you fail loads and that's really healthy. 

Annie [00:37:16] I think that must be so good for you. 

Sara [00:37:17] It's so good for you. 

Annie [00:37:17] And it's so, tangible the fail. 

Sara [00:37:20] Oh, and the other thing. 

Annie [00:37:21] *laughs* It's so indisputable. 

Sara [00:37:23] Oh, yeah. Oh, absolutely. There's no kidding yourself, I can listen back on the...*laughs*

Annie [00:37:26] I think there was a couple of  people laughing. *laughing*

Sara [00:37:28] Yeah. One woman smiled. You just can't hear it on the recording. *jokingly*. Musicians, you know, they write this music and they spend a long time doing it and they play it over and over again for the rest of their careers. Whereas comedians, you have to write new stuff. If people have heard it for whatever reason. You know, previous tour, it's been on TV, you have to write new stuff, which means that you are always new. You're always back at the beginning. 

Annie [00:37:45] Love that!

Sara [00:37:45] Which means that you're never standing at the side of stage, no matter what size of gigs, small or massive, filmed or not thinking it doesn't matter. You just can't phone it in as a job. 

Annie [00:37:58] Yeah. 

Sara [00:37:59] And that feels really great to go. Oh, I've got a job. Which, I mean, it wouldn't matter if I went back to only ever playing to 30 people. I would still want to do really well. It would be really important that they went away going. That's a shame, that's a shame her career's gone so backwards. but she was really good. 

Annie [00:38:15] *Laughs* Yeah, yeah, yeah. How have you changed in terms of your approach to writing comedy or to being on stage just to comedy in general, to being a comedian? Since you started out? Because comedy has changed too. 

Sara [00:38:27] Comedy has changed really, really positively depending on who you speak to. I think comedy has managed to weather serious financial cost of living crisis in this country because new people are finding Stand-Up comedy all the time, and they're finding some comedy because in increasing the diversity of representation, it's just got a lot less boring. 

Annie [00:38:48] Yeah. 

Sara [00:38:49] And people can find people like them to watch and go and laugh, and that's so huge. And *pauses* I'm trying to think, I mean, in some ways it's more sophisticated, but not really. I mean, there's still lots of very infantile comedy going on, so it's not like it's all suddenly high brow or something. I think there's less of an audience member sitting in the audience going, I know what comedy is. It is a middle aged man from the Midlands slagging off his mother in law. There's much more of an expectation of, I don't know what or who is going to come on next and how they're going to do this. 

Annie [00:39:21] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, that's so exciting. 

Sara [00:39:23] It's so exciting. And and the fact that it only works live is, you know, you have to be in the room. Yes, I know that there are specials and it's on TV, but it's not like being in a room. 

Annie [00:39:32] Yeah. And what about you? How have you changed since, since you started doing comedy? 

Sara [00:39:38] Well, everyone's much, much worse at the beginning. So like anyone, I've got lots of things I've talked about that were reductive or I'm ashamed of or I'm glad weren't on the internet. Then, but those kind of things, when you just don't have the tools or you think you think you've thought through something properly, and then time and age makes you realise you just don't know. I used to be very,  sometimes I used to make some really horrible comments about mums actually, and I think it's defensive and prickly and I really regret that actually. When I first started out, I would sometimes gig with people who had more, much more, exposure than me and wonder why they cared so much. And I now understand that if you think people have come because they think you're going to be good and you're about to be pretty ropey. 

Annie [00:40:19] Yeah. 

Sara [00:40:20] It doesn't feel like a good feeling. 

Annie [00:40:22] Yeah. 

Sara [00:40:22] Feeling that they might go, oh yeah, I came up to see that person and they were just reading from a pad.

Annie [00:40:27] Right. Yeah. 

Sara [00:40:28] About how tired they were *both laugh*. It's difficult not to get into your head about that response of what do you owe them if they've left the house to come see you? The essential things are still there. It's it's like my diary. And whatever. What's happened in my life has always been different enough for me to get another show out of it. 

Annie [00:40:46] And you've got about three tours out the last few years I can imagine - having a two month old and a seven month old.

Sara [00:40:50] Yes. and so there were all these stages beforehand, you know. So it's not like. I mean, if I had another child, which I won't, but if I did, I wouldn't be like- I can't do tour about it! *laughs* No one cares about kid number three! 

Annie [00:41:02] Yeah. We're done now! *laughs*

Sara [00:41:04] Is this just a tour, baby? *laughs*

Annie [00:41:06] Yeah, yeah. Listen, thank you so much. 

Sara [00:41:09] Thank you so much. 

Annie [00:41:09] I really appreciate you being here. And, I'm going to let you go so you can get home. 

Sara [00:41:13] Thank you. 

Annie [00:41:13] And have some time before your child wakes up! 

Sara [00:41:14] *laughs* Thank You. 

[00:41:14] *musical interlude*

Annie [00:41:19] Thank you for listening to changes. Do please rate and subscribe to the podcast, it means the world. Share it around too with your friends and fam. Let us know what you thought of the episode on Instagram. You can find me there @AnnieMacManus or we have an email address That is changes pod all one word at Get in touch. Let us know what you think of the episodes. Anything you want to say at all. We just love to hear from you. We will be back on Monday. Changes is produced by Louise Mason with assistant production from Anna DeWolfe Evans, through DIN productions. See you next week!