CO­ME­DIAN ALI­SON SPIT­TLE

Ali­son Spit­tle is a stand-up co­me­dian who has now writ­ten and stars in her own sit­com, and she has some very sim­ple ad­vice for peo­ple who want to fur­ther their own suc­cess...

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - EDITOR'S LETTER - IN­TER­VIEW PA­TRICE HAR­RING­TON PHO­TO­GRAPHS MICHAEL CH­ESTER

Ahead of her new six-part RTÉ com­edy se­ries Nowhere Fast, West­meath co­me­dian Ali­son Spit­tle is ‘try­ing to med­i­tate to take some of the pres­sure off’. When she does stand-up ‘if any­thing goes wrong it’s in my power to change it. I don’t have the power when I’m do­ing tele­vi­sion and it’s hard to be at peace with that’.

Then there’s her fear of what peo­ple might tweet about it be­cause sadly Ali­son, 28, is no stranger to vile trolling.

So she uses The Headspace App ‘and you lie back and you hear this English lad just telling you to imag­ine clouds. And you’re like, “Okay!”

‘It’s an odd sit­u­a­tion I got my­self into,’ she adds, of her ris­ing pro­file as a comic, panel show guest and, now, sit­com star. ‘I def­i­nitely burned out last year, I worked really hard. Some­times I worked so hard I couldn’t stop my­self phys­i­cally from cry­ing but I didn’t feel that sad. I was just pan­ick­ing loads. And I want to pre­vent that,’ she ex­plains. ‘It’s about be­ing an adult and eat­ing well and all that jazz. It’s like floss­ing your teeth. Med­i­ta­tion is like floss­ing; I’m glad I got to that anal­ogy be­fore you!’

In per­son Ali­son is tiny, smi­ley, warm and po­lite – and, of course, very funny. She ar­rives in the ho­tel in the kind of quirky clothes you might ex­pect, in­clud­ing a T-shirt with kit­tens on the front and vivid or­ange sweater.

Apart from med­i­tat­ing, she has had coun­selling both in re­cent years and when her par­ents split up when she was 15.

‘I didn’t take to that very well,’ she ad­mits, of the sep­a­ra­tion, when her fa­ther re­turned to Eng­land. ‘And I sup­pose when par­ents get di­vorced they pay more at­ten­tion to their chil­dren’s men­tal health, so they were keep­ing on top of it. My school were very good be­cause they or­gan­ised a psy­chother­a­pist.

‘I’d be telling my friend I was miss­ing dou­ble Ger­man, “I’m just go­ing off to see the coun­sel­lor!” and there wasn’t a bother.’

Ali­son of­fers that she was never made to feel dif­fer­ent – be­cause she felt dif­fer­ent any­way. ‘I think it’s be­cause I was known as a bit mad any­way when I was a young one be­cause I used to wear mad clothes. I grew up on a coun­cil es­tate and I used to go around lis­ten­ing to Mor­ris­sey and I liked rap too. I was a fat kid in a big hippy dress run­ning around hav­ing a great time.’

She in­cludes a tour of that coun­cil es­tate in her hi­lar­i­ous Repub­lic of Telly sketch, Ali­son Spit­tle’s Guide to the Mid­lands. Her sit­com sees her re­turn­ing to the fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory of West­meath. Nowhere Fast tells the story of ra­dio pro­ducer An­gela, played by Ali­son, who loses her job in Dublin af­ter ac­ci­den­tally li­belling some­one live on air (spoiler alert: you may never look at peat bri­quettes the same way). She re­turns home to ➤

➤ live with her younger sis­ter, her mother and her mother’s new part­ner and tries to start over. The in­spi­ra­tion came when she re­mem­bered how a lec­turer in her Ra­dio Pro­duc­tion course in Bal­lyfer­mot would re­gale the class with sto­ries of peo­ple who ‘never worked in me­dia again’.

Her best friends are played by Moone Boy ac­tress Clare Mon­nelly and Pondling ac­tress Genevieve Hulme Bea­man.

‘When they au­di­tioned it just felt right. They were so kind and gen­er­ous to me. I’m writ­ing it, I’m un­der a lot of pres­sure as well and I had a lot of self- doubt about do­ing act­ing be­cause I’m not a trained ac­tor. Genevieve would cook a roast chicken and Clare would give me a lift to Genevieve’s house and then on the Sun­day we’d go through all the lines and I’d be talk­ing to them about “What emo­tion am I sup­posed to con­vey here?” even though I wrote the thing. They were so pa­tient and so lovely.’

Her mother, played by Red Rock ac­tress Cathy Bel­ton, keeps ex­press­ing her fear that An­gela will kill her­self.

‘God love her, Mam didn’t know what to do when I was a teenager lis­ten­ing to Mor­ris­sey, de­pressed, and she was so wor­ried all the time. And she’s got noth­ing but love as well. When you’re a teenager you don’t ap­pre­ci­ate that. So it’s a bit of a p***-take but a homage. Ev­ery­thing I do about my mother comes from a place of love.’

The pro­duc­ers are Dead­pan Pic­tures, the same peo­ple be­hind Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope. Has Ali­son met Ste­fanie Preiss­ner?

‘We met very briefly about three months ago. When I was meet­ing her first I was very scared be­cause I’d heard so much about her. You know if some­one goes, “I’ve this friend, she’s ex­actly like you…” She’s like a twin in a way, so I was afraid. She’s writ­ing, she’s act­ing, she’s in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful and she’s very am­bi­tious and I’m very am­bi­tious too. She was very nice, but I don’t know her, do you know?’

Mil­len­ni­als are of­ten re­ferred to as snowflakes for be­ing lazy­bones with a sense of en­ti­tle­ment, but nei­ther woman is afraid to work hard and push for what they want.

Ali­son started her ca­reer as an iRa­dio in­tern where she met Bernard O’Shea and Keith Walsh, who now work on 2FM’s Break­fast Repub­lic with Jen­nifer Zam­par­elli.

‘Bernard is really great, I’ve a lot of time for him. He gave me my first stand-up gig in Port­laoise. I didn’t really care about stand-up be­fore, I didn’t watch it or any­thing. I went up and did seven min­utes on my granny.’

Ali­son had such an adren­a­line rush when the gig went well that she has been ‘chas­ing it ever since’. She met co­me­dian Si­mon Mul­hol­land on the cir­cuit five years ago, they be­gan dat­ing and now live to­gether in Dublin’s Smith­field. But mar­riage isn’t on the cards be­cause ‘it doesn’t seem that craic to spend 12 hours of your life wav­ing at peo­ple and con­stantly en­ter­tain­ing your fam­ily… No, I don’t want to do it’.

But, she adds: ‘I love liv­ing to­gether, I love com­mit­ment’. Co-writ­ing the sit­com with Si­mon was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion from their every­day con­ver­sa­tions.

‘All we do in our spare time any­way is talk about com­edy. We love the struc­ture of jokes. We’re all the time mak­ing each other laugh. We’ll watch stand-up com­edy and then we’ll do our home­work and write on that sub­ject and try and make each other laugh. So writ­ing the TV show with him was great. He’s so clever and he’s so lovely and he’s so kind. We never row or any­thing like that which is mad. I sicken my­self. It’s hard not to gush about him.’

She jokes that liv­ing to­gether is ‘ac­tu­ally grand be­cause I’ve been liv­ing in box rooms since I was a kid so I was never used to per­sonal space any­way’. The el­dest of four girls, Ali­son was born in Har­row, North-West Lon­don, where she lived un­til the age of nine, be­fore the fam­ily moved to Bal­ly­more.

‘It was full of white peo­ple - that was weird. When I grew up in Lon­don I was the only white girl in my class.’

Her fa­ther re­mar­ried three years ago, her mother re­mar­ried this year.

‘ Their part­ners are lovely. Their part­ners are per­fect for them as well. My par­ents loved each other but they were just two per­son­al­i­ties that didn’t...’ she trails off.

‘I’m an adult now. When you’re 15 you don’t see it. When you’re 28, you’re in a five-year re­la­tion­ship, you know how dif­fi­cult it is just to make it work month to month and fair play to them for not feck­ing me up that much by

di­vorc­ing. I think I was a bit fecked up be­fore they di­vorced. It’s like when you’re in a car crash and they dis­cover some­thing else is wrong with you.

‘It was never over them,’ she says, of the low feel­ings she had as a teenager. ‘ They were adult and ma­ture about it and I love their part­ners. I’m lucky.’

She hasn’t al­ways felt so lucky. Two years ago Ali­son wrote a vi­ral blog post for Head­stuff about street ha­rass­ment, in which she told of be­ing called a ‘fat b****’ and joke-propo­si­tioned by laugh­ing groups of young lads.

Now she says it hap­pens less be­cause she feels more con­fi­dent in her­self. ‘I think it’s the way you carry your­self,’ she muses.

It prob­a­bly helps that her dress size does not pre­oc­cupy Ali­son’s thoughts as much as it used to.

‘I al­ways felt when I was young that my life would be so much bet­ter if I lost weight. I used to think, “If I lost three stone then I’d be hap­pier”. And that’s not true. I lost a lot of weight when I was young and I wasn’t any hap­pier.’

The thought of di­et­ing again now is ‘very hard be­cause you’ve got a boyfriend and you just don’t care. Be­cause some­one loves you un­con­di­tion­ally any­way. And I’m good at do­ing com­edy. So I’m good at my job and I’ve got a boyfriend who loves me. I’m not one of these fat peo­ple that says, “I’m proud!” Like, I’m grand,’ she clar­i­fies.

‘It would be more con­ve­nient if I could get a bet­ter range of clothes in the high street and there’s only one way to sort that out and that’s to lose weight. But I’m just not a***d at the mo­ment. And it feels like a state­ment but I’m not try­ing to say any­thing.’

In fact she won­ders whether not tack­ling her weight made her fo­cus more on her writ­ing and com­edy.

‘I al­ways had a chip on my shoul­der. I felt I would get more op­por­tu­ni­ties if I lost weight and I was go­ing, “Your life would be so much eas­ier if you just lost weight.” But then it just made me work hard at other as­pects, like writ­ing and mak­ing my own roles. I’ve writ­ten my own sit­com, do you know what I mean?’ she says, de­fi­antly.

‘I’m go­ing to the gym now and stuff and it’s be­cause I feel lethar­gic. I want to be health­ier. It’s the same with the mind; now I do med­i­ta­tion and I do a bit of ex­er­cise. And it’s grand.’

Ali­son is tour­ing her new stand-up show Wor­rier Princess which she brings to Dublin’s Vicar Street in Jan­uary. She sup­ported Catas­tro­phe star Rob De­laney in the same venue last year.

‘He’s su­per-lovely and he’s got hairy arms. I love hairy arms, it’s al­most like a sleeve...’

Her first show in Vicar Street came about when she asked to be in­cluded on the bill at the Voda­fone Com­edy Fes­ti­val.

‘It was one of those things where I made a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion, “I’m go­ing to ask for stuff I’m not ready for”. So I emailed Aiken [Pro­mo­tions] and said, “I think I should be in your fes­ti­val!” And they said, “Okay!” And I did it and I loved it. If I’ve got ad­vice for any­one, ask for stuff you’re not ready for and learn and you’ll be grand. The other thing as well is when I worked in ra­dio I worked very hard but I’d never ask for any­thing. I thought, “If you work hard, they’ll see it. They’ll pick you.” That does not hap­pen,’ she says, firmly. ‘You’ve to work hard and tell peo­ple you want stuff as well. That’s just the way I go about it. If you work hard, you owe your­self the chance to make it hap­pen.’

Along with that new­found air of con­fi­dence that keeps street ha­rassers away, Ali­son has fi­nally al­lowed her nascent am­bi­tion to blos­som.

‘When I was in col­lege I kept not think­ing about the fu­ture be­cause my self- es­teem was so low that I didn’t think it was fair for me to have am­bi­tion – so weird,’ she sighs, shak­ing her head. ‘Any time I thought about what I wanted in life an­other thought would come in and think, “Who do you think you are?” Now I just ac­cept that I want things in life and I’ll try my hard­est to get them.’

She agrees that she must be grow­ing a thicker skin and is not as trou­bled any­more by couch crit­ics on so­cial me­dia either.

‘ Twit­ter is good, they’ve got a good net now where they catch all the bad Tweets. I don’t seem to get as many as I did be­fore. I think there’s a new al­go­rithm. Some­times I get, “You have four replies”, but you can only see one. And maybe that one might be some­thing nice.’

NOWHERE FAST starts on RTE2 this Mon­day at 9.30pm

“MY SELF-ES­TEEM WAS SO LOW IN COL­LEGE THAT I DIDN’T THINK IT WAS FAIR FOR ME TO HAVE AM­BI­TION – SO WEIRD”

Ali­son on stage and, in­set right, in her new sit­com Nowhere Fast

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