■ The Comedian and TV presenter, 50, on starring in a Stephen Sondheim musical, her retro radio show and the magic of Eurovision
What can people expect from your radio show?
It’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a job, mainly because of my colleague Andy Bush. We chew the cud and play some cracking tunes from the 1980s and ’90s.
What are your favourites?
I’m keen on the synth end of things — I’m a huge Human League fan. I adore them. I had the honour of interviewing Phil Oakey — what a delightful man. I like a bit of Gary Numan and Joy Division too.
What’s Company and how are rehearsals going?
It’s a Stephen Sondheim musical — he’s the godfather of musicals. He’s 88. He wrote the lyrics to West Side Story aged 27. You mention his name and people tremble. Anyway, he’s coming over to look at us soon — and I’m untrained in singing, acting and choreography, so I’ve got a long way to go.
How is your West End version different?
This is the first time ever the main character, Bobby, will be played by a woman. She’s single, thinking about settling down and her friends give her advice in song-and-dance form.
Was the plan always to go into acting via comedy?
Sue [Perkins] and I were just trundling along. Then, seven years in, we were incredibly overdrawn and owed money to relatives. We said to each other, ‘We’re going to have to let this go, it’s not tenable.’ Then we got the call to do the Light Lunch audition. We said, ‘Sorry, we’re cool, cutting-edge Edinburgh Festival comedians, do you think we’re going to audition for a daytime show?’ and our agent said, ‘F***ing shut up and do it.’ And we got the gig. Unbelievable. And the rest is mediocrity.
Were you looking at other career options?
At that point I was waitressing — I’m a very good waitress and it pains me these days to see standards have really dropped since the ’90s. It pisses me off if a waitress doesn’t even make eye contact. First rule of waitressing? Eye contact. Then you multitask: look at the person, write down the order and go to the kitchen. So I was thinking of stepping up the waitressing and bar work and maybe becoming a manageress. We were completely untrained in anything and left university with s***e degrees. We were lucky — we had the breaks when we needed them but also fallow patches.
Do you watch Bake Off and do you hear from Paul Hollywood?
We text each other but I haven’t been able to watch Bake Off yet. We moved house and haven’t been able to set up our aerial to watch TV. We’ve attached a tennis ball to the aerial wire and have been trying to lob it over the house so the aerial goes in the right place. When our lob is strong enough I’ll be able to watch Bake Off. You have to watch it on the night. There’s no point watching it on catch-up. It’s a live experience.
Is that the same as Eurovision?
Yes. There’s no point watching the World Cup final the next day, is there? I couldn’t do the semi-final shows this year but I was very honoured to be asked to read out the UK voting results. I did it in a tiny studio in Ruislip with a cameraman and sound guy, and had to pretend I was sitting in front of the Millennium Wheel. It was a real laugh.
What’s the appeal?
I love the whole thing — it’s a ridiculous escapist party. It’s like the World Cup but with contouring and sequins.
Will we ever see anyone come higher than 24th again?
We’ll do well when people in Europe like us — so it could be a few hundred years. Several cataclysmic things will have to happen and the whole world order will have to change before we can win but we’re still going to try. Every year I’m optimistic and think we’re going to get on the left-hand side of the results board.
Isn’t it sad we just want to avoid coming in the bottom quarter?
SuRie, who is a goddess and dealt with all that crap of the stage invasion live while singing that song… I thought surely that would earn us some points. But no, we were still down near the bottom. It’s weird, when you’re there and in the Eurovision bubble, people are lovely to us as the UK delegation and there’s good vibes but there’s something about it — you do feel we are a strange outpost. We’re just not in the middle of Europe. We’re miles away. I’m an absolute European. I’m the daughter of a Polish immigrant who came to this country in 1947 with nothing — I believe in Europe.
What lessons has your career in showbiz taught you?
That I wish I’d trained at something. But I thought the other day I could open a school for waitresses. I’m not dissing waitresses — there are some fabulous waitresses out there — but there are some that need a lot of work and I’m the person to take them on.
Mel Giedroyc is on Magic Radio every Saturday from 1pm to 3pm, magic.co.uk