Next week is the final of The Great British Bake Off. Who is your favourite contestant?
Come on. Use your nouse! If I were to tell you who’s my favourite I would be ritually baked into an enormous pork pie and shipped off to Lithuania, never to be heard from again…
A highlight from this series?
Mary’s bomber jackets.
There is huge on-screen chemistry between you and Sue. What makes you such a great comedy double act?
It’s work in progress. The love we have for each other is real.
You met Sue at Cambridge. Tell us how it all began?
I saw Sue do a standup gig and thought “Hmmm this girl has promise.” I was a whole year older than her! I went up to her and said “Hello. My name’s Melanie. Would you like to form a double act with me?” It was literally that inane.
Can you remember any awkward moments from University?
It’s all a bit of a fog really. I do remember Sue helping me out of a particularly unseemly alliance whereby I was wearing a swimsuit and being chatted up by a really disreputable guy who was doing comedy. I owe her for that big time. Don’t ask about the swimsuit. It was 1988. Acid House. Second summer of love. Things had gone a bit awry.
Many well-known comedians hail from Oxbridge (Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr). Is the comedy scene elitist?
There are comedy scenes from loads of different places, often universities. Manchester – Steve Coogan, Caroline Aherne, John Thomson. Bristol – David Walliams, Simon Pegg, Matt Lucas. I’m proud that I went to Cambridge – the reason I applied there was because of its comedy, nothing to do with my course I’m afraid. Sue and I were two of very very few women doing comedy at Cambridge at the time, so yes it pretty male-dominated. So it was elitist in that way rather than being posh.
Memories from Freshers/university?
Not much. A LOT of laughs and some lifelong friends without whom the world would be hugely dull.
Was it hard to be an aspiring female comedian at university?
I think there are loads more girls doing comedy these days at uni. Or that’s what my nieces and nephews tell me. I hope so. Maybe they’re just telling me that to make me feel better. It never felt too hard when I was at uni because Sue and I always had each other. Double acts are the best in that respect. You are your own security force.
My nephew read English at York a couple of years ago and LOVED IT!
Any regrets about university?
I wish I’d worked harder. I’d love to do my Italian degree again now and work really hard at it and actually read all of those amazing books.
You wrote about Monty Python in your finals. Tell us more.
Yes.The paper was “the History of the Italian Language” —don’t ASK ME WHY I chose that paper—I literally hadn’t attended any lectures or tutorials whatsoever. The question was something along the lines of “How did the Visigoth invasion of Northern Italy in the 9th century affect its vulgar tongue” … I MEAN WTF? I decided to write about the Pythons instead. I spent a merry hour filling sixteen sides of paper with what I thought was a pretty tight thesis. I got 17% for that paper. Shocking. Actually, looking back on it, HOW THE HELL DID I GET 17%!?
You graduated with a 2:2. Should students get involved with societies or study, study, study?
Nobody and I mean NOBODY ever asked me what degree I got at university. People study too hard these days. It worries me. I hope there are still some wild cards, sparks, fools and boundary-pushers out there.
Comforting advice for Southerners venturing into the scary North for university?
My nephew read English at York a couple of years ago and LOVED it! Just have a sensible pair of shoes when it gets chilly. Not these bloody thin plimsoll things/jelly shoes/Roman sandals that the youth seem to sport these days. Lace ups. Thick-soled. Come on.
What should students bake to bring to Freshers to break that awkward ice?
Some special brownies. That always did the trick in my day.
PS. Sue got a 2:2 too. HA HA HA.