Gráinne Maguire is an Irish stand-up comedian, comedy writer and actor living in London. She’s performed stand-up comedy for years as well as writing for numerous BBC Radio shows and Standard Issue. She’s been described as a “Natural performer with deep reserves of excitable energy. Can employ understatement with the dry mastery of a Father Ted script” by Chortle and “Extremely Funny” by The Times Online. I interviewed her recently, here is that interview…
I saw your gig at the Drygate Brewery in Glasgow recently. I loved your dating advice for men; “Just text her back, we have surprisingly low standards”. What are your favourite topics to talk about on stage?
I love surprising people and saying something that’s slightly shocking or that they’re not expecting someone like me to say. I feel like when any comedian walks out on stage, the audience has perceptions on the sort of person you are and what you’re going to say. That’s what I think is SO exciting about stand-up, stand-up is so different to any other genre – you can say anything (and deal with the consequences) but it’s that excitement. I think it’s really refreshing being really blunt and honest, it’s really exciting.
That follows on to the next question about surprising the audience. You’ve got a very good routine about talking to your mum about abortion with a excellent ending (2:43 in video below). Have you ever been heckled during that routine?
Sometimes people really love that routine, but other times it just KILLS the room. I’ll be half way through it like ‘Yep, this has just killed the room’. I did it Brighton and they were like ‘We eh… we hate you’. What I sometimes get (which is worse than a heckle as with a heckle, you can react to it) is when people hear the word “abortion”, they gasp. And I’m always thinking I’m not joking about abortion, this is a ridiculous, silly routine and it’s not about being dismissive about people’s views on abortion. I’m just joking about me deliberately trying to shock my mam as much as possible. People hear certain words and their brain just shuts down and their arms start folding. That pisses me off, I think now I don’t like you lot. If someone heckles you, you can heckle back and you know, you’re interacting. When people hear certain words, it’s a horrible thing, they can just go ‘Ugh, now we hate you’. If you’re a woman, you’re not given enough trust or freedom to joke about certain things. If a male comedian can make jokes about raping their dead granny and people would trust him, he’s a comedian. If you’re a woman and you try and tackle something, I’ve heard it so many times with other female comedians, people won’t laugh, they’ll go “Ooooh”. I’m just like stop making that noise!
Yeah that’s crazy. Do comperes ever pronounce your name wrong?
I have been introduced as Grainy Maguire, Granny Maguire and even Ronald MacGyver! One time someone came up to me after a gig and said ‘Oh Groggle, I really loved your set. I’d really love to see you again, do you have gig listings anywhere?’ I said ‘You can go to my website (grawn-yeah) GrainneMaguire.com‘. She looked at me like ‘…Groggle?’, no ‘Grainne’, she looked at really angrily and was like ‘How the hell am I supposed to spell that?’ then she just walked off! MCs approach me really sheepishly and be like ‘Erm…’ and I’m so used to it I’ll be like ‘Grawn-yeah’ and I’ll write it down. They are so embarassed but I’m so used to it that it doesn’t bother me. Like ‘Whatever word comes out of your mouth, I’ll know I’m on next, don’t worry about it’.
Katie and I were both doing an improv class that Paul Foxcroft was running and me and Katie got into a big, long, detailed conversation in the pub afterwards about Kate Middleton’s hair. And we both realised we were both obsessed with Kate Middleton’s hair and wardrobe. I’m a total republican, Katie (bless her) is like a monarchist with a small m. There’s a twinkle in her eye, you know? Paul is more full on republican. I just love the mixture of high and low culture. We don’t live in a world were you read James Joyce’s Ulysses and listen to Classic FM OR you listen to One Direction and read the Daily Mail, you know? It’s possible to read books and kind of like looking at pictures of Cheryl Cole – I just love that. I think it’s fun so it’s a really fun podcast to do and Katie is such a wonderful producer. It’s a self-knowing bit of silliness. We want it to be a guilty pleasure, it doesn’t take itself seriously but it’s not dopey. We’ve got loads of listeners in America who start listening to it and we got emails saying ‘You’re not being respectful enough. You shouldn’t call her Kate, you should call her Catherine’ It’s a tongue and cheek podcast.
Yeah you introduced yourself as Anastasia in the most recent episode. When I first heard about it, I was like “A podcast about the royal family? Eh…” and about a month later, I downloaded the first episode and really enjoyed it! You appeared on Comedy Central UK’s brilliant Alternative Comedy Experience TV show. What was that like?
To be asked to do it was unbelievable, all the acts on it were really lovely and Stewart Lee is the NICEST man. He’s so genuine, supportive and passionate about comedy. He’s the real deal, such a nice guy, he’s lovely. He was so encouraging, doing comedy, you know, it’s hard. It’s not like, you do a year then you go up to the next pay band and you get a better desk in your office, you know? It’s hard. When someone like Stewart Lee goes “Good work!” and “I like what you do”, it’s just lovely and really exciting. It’s such a weird, insecure business where somebody can think you’re brilliant and somebody can think you’re awful – it’s so subjective. So when somebody like Stewart Lee gives you a little pat on the shoulder that you’re not crazy, you know, that you’re in the right profession, it makes you think ‘Everything’s gonna be okay’, ‘I’m not deluding myself’, ‘I’ll keep giving this a go’ haha.
Yeah I’ve watched that series like three times now and you were very funny in it. Are you attending the Ed Fringe this year?
NO haha. I’ve been going up there in one shape or form for nine years in a row, it’s so emotionally and creatively exhausting so I just think it would be nice to just do something else. So I’m doing a clown course and I’m going on holiday for the first time in so long, to Venice!
Very nice! I guess if you aren’t going to the Fringe, you might as well go to Venice. I went last year, it’s so beautiful, you’ll love it. Question from your friend and stand-up comedian Lou Standers; “Are you really Irish or is it just a gimmick?”
Look, there was a lot of fuss around being Irish in the ’90s, you know, there was a lot of comedians doing well out of it. I commissioned the character and then it just stuck – I’m like Donnie Brasco. My poor family in Oxford haven’t seen me in years.
Haha, nice. You’re a Labour supporter and a big fan of Ed Miliband. How did you feel about Miliband resigning after the General Election defeat?
I cried. Actually cried, sobbed, I was so upset. I was working on an election show that night and it was so glamorous and so exciting and then they were like ‘Oh, the exit polls are in’. I was sitting there and it was just like being dumped, the same stunned feeling of ‘Oh my god, is this happening?’ I was working on the election show but I didn’t have to stay that late, but I was like ‘I can’t be alone’ so I ended staying in the studio until 6am. Went home, slept for a few hours then woke up and saw that Ed resigned. I bundled to my friend’s house and sat there stunned. What was so sweet that so many people texted me just going ‘Are you okay?’ haha. It was just devastating. It’s like in Community, they throw a dice and it’s like what would happen in all these different timelines. There’s this one timeline, the darkest timeline, where all the worst things happen and genuinely I was like ‘We’re in the darkest timeline. Labour has lost, Tories have a majority’. What annoyed me the most was that there were so many smug Blairites who were like ‘Ed is shit’, ‘Ed is the worst thing to happen to the Labour party’ and I was just like ‘Oh god, they were all right!’. He wasn’t perfect, it was a difficult position and I miss him so much.
I really like that joke you’ve got where you say Ed looks like David Miliband reflected in the back of a spoon. You’ve worked quite a lot in BBC Radio shows. What’s been the most fun show you’ve been involved in?
The most fun show I’ve been involved in was a sitcom that I co-wrote with my friend London Hughes called 28 Dates Later. She wrote the first script and then she said ‘Oh I want you to audition for the character. She’s this loser, really pathetic, never has a boyfriend and she’s just clueless’. I was like ok, and then she said “…And I based it on you!”. She kept saying ‘You’d be perfect for it!” I went in and did the audition for it. I said to my friends afterwards this is bittersweet; it’s exciting but she keeps saying she based this character on me. The embarrassing thing was, afterwards, people kept coming up to me going ‘You’re so perfect for that part!”. That was so much fun, I helped script edit it a little bit and then we recorded it, and then we wrote a second script so that was brilliant.
Cool! Your Cheryl Cole autobiography article in Standard issue about her texting Ashley and taking her medicine is hilarious; do you do a lot of writing?
If I was more disciplined, I would. I write for BBC Radio 4 and I do stand-up and then I was quite busy with the elections. I love well written prose and I love writing. Especially pop culture, like Cheryl Cole and Shane Richie – stuff like that. I really love it. In an ideal world, I’d like to write more. Cheryl Cole’s book is so funny. I could’ve written like three times what’s in that article, I had shrink it down. I’d love to do a stage show of just someone acting it out. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read in my life – it’s full of jewels. She’s our sweetheart.
I feel very conflicted about Kirstie Allsopp for various reasons. One, I feel like the figures we have in our culture that we take the piss out of, always tend to be women; Kirstie Allsopp, Katie Price, Kerry Katona etc. So it feels like another woman slagging off another woman, you know? I feel a bit bad about that. Two, I get the feeling that if I met Kirstie Allsopp, I’d really like her haha. We’d get on really well, I bet she’d be a laugh. But so many of the things she says, they’re such established ideas that we have in our culture and it reveals so much about her outlook. The fact that she was like ‘Oh, if I had a daughter, she’d just buy a house’. For her to say that says so much about her and all her friends and how she’s got no idea of the options open to most people. It just drives me up the wall because it’s people like that who are in control of the government, you know? It’s that attitude. I did this debate once with local MPs and some comedians, we were talking about private education. I was saying I think it’s disgusting and private education should be banned. One of the candidate MPs said ‘Look, a lot of working class families should just save up so their child can go to a private school. Maybe they won’t go on holidays that year and instead, they’ll send their child to a private school’. And it’s like who goes on a holiday that costs like £50,000?! It’s not working class people are like like ‘Well, we’re not giving up our holiday this year!’ – like Kirstie Allsopp, it’s that sort of lack of awareness. It drives me up the wall.
There’s this interview with Caroline Flack and the headline was ‘I just forgot to start a family’. To start a family, you have to;
1. Be in a loving, committed and stable relationship
2. Be financially secure enough
3. Be at a stage in your career where it won’t totally destroy it
Nobody is like ‘Oh, I just forgot to achieve all those things before the age of 35’. There’s so much pressure on women. Nobody has ever consciously decided between having kids or having a career, that’s never been a discussion that any human being has had. In this sort of weird Daily Mail version of the world, there’s lots of selfish career women who are like ‘I want to go out drinking cocktails every night, be a high flyer and hate love and you know, emotional intimacy. Oh no, now I’m 40 and miserable.’ – that has never happened to anybody. So that’s what that routine is taking the piss out of, rather than just talking the piss out of Kirstie Allsopp herself, who, like I said, we’d get on really well haha.
Nice, that was a much better answer than I was expecting for a kinda shitty question about Kirstie Allsopp, thanks!