Cleanliness is next to, er, Godliness

Face Time: Kerry Godliman
Face Time: Kerry Godliman
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With her stand-up show, Face Time, set to drop by at Preston’s 53 Degrees in late March, MALCOLM WYATT spoke to actor and comic Kerry Godliman about juggling domestic goddess duties with a busy working life as a performer

There’s no doubting that Kerry Godliman is going places, a steadily-increasing public profile over the last couple of years getting her recognised in her own right now.

She might not quite be a household name yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

And the fact that she has to fit her career around her role as a working mum will endear many of us to her all the more – not least as it plays such a key part in her material.

You’ll probably know Kerry. Even if you don’t think you do, after a few years as a jobbing actor alongside her stand-up shows.

Seek out her IMDb profile for starters, and play ‘jobbing actor bingo’ as you tick off all the TV favourites on her CV – starting with appearances on The Bill, Casualty, Doctors, Holby City …

“I have done quite a few. I’ve never done EastEnders or any of the big soaps, mind.”

Do all those shows count as medical first-aid qualifications?

“Yeah. I feel like I’m in the Brownies with all the badges up my arm. And I’ve certainly got my medical and police-based drama badges.

“But it’s just the equivalent of being a circuit comic. In the old days, actors worked in rep and these TV shows are the same, really – it’s regular cyclical work for jobbing actors.”

I’ll carry on with that CV. Her other TV credits include Extras, Miranda and slots on Live at the Apollo and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow.

Furthermore, she’s just shot a second series of Ricky Gervais’ Channel 4 series Derek, and has her own BBC Radio 4 show, Kerry’s List.

I’m guessing this didn’t all happen overnight though.

“I’ve been on the circuit for more than 10 years, and left drama school in 1997. I’ve been doing all this a while, But don’t ask my age, because it’s not relevant at all.”

Kerry, a Babycham Funny Women competition finalist, trained at the Rose Bruford College in her native London, and has since been in numerous theatre productions too.

She’s performed regularly on the UK comedy circuit, despite time at home with her young children in recent years.

And while Derek will be back on our screens in May, she’s going back out on the road again, with a new show.

“Doing a tour is a bit different to my usual routine, and I’ve only really done one before.”

She seems to be all over the place at the moment, and only the other night I saw her on Live at the Apollo, then sought her out on the BBC iPlayer for Kerry’s List.

“By the nature of the TV appearances and my radio show being repeated, it’s just good timing, really. It looks like I’m super-busy, but both of those were quite a long time ago.”

The televised stand-up slots and radio show paint a vivid portrayal of her domestic life as a mum of two, and that’s her husband, Ben Abell, in Kerry’s List. So is that chaotic view of her a bit too close to home?

“I think any working parent in any career feels that. If you’re working and you’ve got young kids it can be full on.

“But the nature of my job means I can mould my time around family life.

“If I’m gigging, it’s in the evening so they’re asleep and my husband is around, and might even allow me a lie-in the next morning.

“Occasionally it can all get a bit too much, and I suppose Kerry’s List captures that. Although that is exaggerated for comic effect.”

I’m guessing those aren’t really your and Ben’s children in the radio show?

“Oh no, they’re not my children. It would have been a nightmare doing it with my kids.”

Can it all get a bit too personal sometimes?

“Maybe, but I try not to censor anything. You try it out on stage then gauge the response. I don’t think I say anything too personal on stage.

“Actually, there aren’t that many working mums on the circuit, other than Bridget Christie (also involved with Kerry’s List) and Shappi Khorsandi. So if you’re talking about something like that, it’s not being talked about that much on stage.

“When I first started talking about my life on stage, I was worried it might be too domestic, a bit twee, or safe.

“It’s not like young boys talking about their sexual exploits, it’s not rock’n’roll and I’m not talking drug-addled anecdotes about staying up until four in the morning.

“I was worried people wouldn’t want to hear about that, but then realised people having the equivalent of my life want their lives represented, and comedy should be a broad church.”

Like Kerry in the series, are you a serial lister? “Yes. At moments of heightened stress when I’ve too many things to do, it works if you write it all down and feel that sensation of moving through it, ticking it off. It feels achievable.

“I also find lists inherently funny, especially comics’ set-lists. They use just bullet points, and I always think they’re hilarious to look at, with no meaning or sense to anyone but that comedian. And they’re always incongruous.”

There was a time when lists were done to death after the success of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary and Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch and High Fidelity.

“High Fidelity was one of my favourite books and films. You can boil a list right down to things you need to get done, like a bucket list, and some use it as a dating strategy, like favourite films and records.

“If someone comes up with things you can’t bear, you might think, ‘well, this relationship’s not going anywhere’.

“I do like lists. In this world of too much information, they can boil it all down to a more digestible size.”

The winning items on Kerry’s live list include her love-hate relationships with online buying, not least being asked to submit reviews of mundane purchased items.

“Yes. I’m slightly obsessed with that. Reviews of washing machines, and that. I find it all so banal. I get irritated that you’re pestered to write reviews for every single transaction you make. It’s just absurd.”

So what’s Face Time about?

“I just want to get out there, meet my audience and see who wants to see me, spending a little face-to-face time doing that through live performance. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been around the country.”

Kerry’s domestic situation and acting have cut down her time on the stand-up circuit, although she has played a lot of big festivals.

“A lot of comics are exclusively that, but I don’t have a set pattern of work.”

Where does she see herself five years down the line – a stand-up comic, actor or writer?

“I’d love to still be able to do all of it. I’m quite lucky I can afford to have quite an eclectic CV. Sometimes you can do too much of one thing.

“A few years ago I couldn’t have predicted I’d be on Derek, have my own radio show or be doing Live at the Apollo. So I don’t really know what to pre-empt about the next five years.

“Somebody approached the production company for Kerry’s List about turning it into an animation. I’d really love that, if we could somehow make that work.

“I see it quite visually and like the idea of animation being involved.

“For me, it would be like the film Amelie mixed with Charlie and Lola, spinning off into weird little visual segues.”

Now you have all these celeb mates, can you pick up the phone and talk to a few when you’re not working?

“No. I feel like my comedy life and being a mum life are quite different. They don’t really have much overlap.

“The only person I chat to where there is an overlap is Bridget Christie.

“She has kids the same age as mine, and our lives are not enormously dissimilar.”

Kerry plays Preston’s 53 Degrees on Saturday, March 22, with tickets priced £12.50

For more information at http://www.53degrees.net/