It’s a faintly strange experience when a person you’re researching pops up on the TV in the background. Obviously I’m not so romantic as to suggest the planets had aligned, or it was kismet, but it was faintly satisfying to see Sara Pascoe smash it on Pointless Celebrities. Along with fellow comic Josh Widdicombe, a colleague for two seasons on TV’s Stand Up For The Week, she demonstrated a range of facile knowledge. So naturally one of the first things to come up, when I talk to her a week later, is this recent triumphant appearance on Saturday tea-time TV. Although it becomes evident her competitors weren’t anywhere in the same league as her. “In the dressing room a lot of them had done the show before, but still didn’t know the rules,” she tells me.
The truth is Pascoe is something of a reader, and the more varied the subject matter, the better. Her stand-up shows consistently provide opportunity to break down complex issues into amusing, easy-to-understand pieces. The source for her material comes from a vociferous appetite for information, and seems she’s absorbed plenty of pointless facts by osmosis. Poor Su Pollard and the less famous one from Birds of a Feather, they never stood a chance on that game show.
Pulling apart the world around her, then reassembling the pieces in different order, is a signature of Pascoe shows. Previous themes have focussed on women’s roles in the media and Nietzschean philosophy. Gathering together as much human awareness as possible for one person, she’s offering perspectives on the world, popping in an occasional personal anxiety to keep it all relevant.
Right now Pascoe is up in Edinburgh for festival duties, with a new show exploring how the past affects relationships. Apparently personal history, parent relationships and the evolution of pair bonding, all affect how we behave around one another. She’s casting an eye over history’s epic romances, tips to make a relationship last and why people are so desperate to find a life partner in a show as intellectually stimulating as it is humour-packed.
Her love of books might stem from the heavy workload incurred by reading English at Sussex University, a course she got onto without previously seeing the campus. The area still occupies a special place in her heart. “Brighton’s such a wonderful place to hang around…“ Even though she’s moved on, Pascoe still enjoys visiting and as a vegan the City offers a superior range of eatery options.
She’s also something of a triple threat, now comedy has been joined by acting and writing in her repertoire. Coming soon is Pascoe’s appearance on Crackanory – an adult version of the kid’s TV show – which features comedians, actors and a mix of live action and animation. A while back you probably saw her pop up on political satire The Thick Of It, or playing a member of the Perfect Curve team on 2012’s Olympic parody Twenty Twelve. This latter show offering an irreverent dissembling of a buzz-word obsessed PR agency, faced with a career-defining campaign. Despite some exacting demands placed upon the cast by writer and director John Morton, she feels it was an incredible experience. “I really love Jessica Hines, so I was excited to work with her.”
Recently she’s been busying herself writing a book. This non-fiction volume pulls together personal experiences and just a few of the interesting theories she’s read. By her own admission this auto-didactic process offers an easy way to understand how she herself feels about things. But Pascoe says there’s no prerequisite to make the audience understand her world view. “I don’t think it’s as egotistical as that. It’s more about enjoying writing. Because I read so much, maybe I can condense it down for someone who can’t read two non-fiction books in a week, so I can just get down the interesting things for them.”
Sara Pascoe creates a thoughtful comedy environment, where evolutionary theory sits comfortably beside the gags. There may be no desperation for easy laughs, but this is so much more than a dry lecture in socio-sexual anthropology. It’s simply an animated and charming trip inside a mind that’s always asking: “Why?”
Sara Pascoe vs. History comes to Brighton Dome’s Studio Theatre on Fri 24 Oct, as part of Brighton Comedy Festival.