Miranda Hart is the lady who has made us all feel a little better about those social gaffes that befall us.
The Devon-born comedienne has tapped into a rich comedic vein with her sitcom Miranda, based on her semi-autobiographial writings originally for radio, where the most promising of outings and events can go strangely askew, despite - or perhaps because of - the best of all intentions.
Miranda Hart asks, Is It Just Me? in her new book. She thinks not...
On the eve of her book which asks Is It Just Me? - full of anecdotes, episodes and little bits of advice to comfort the most awkward and disaster-prone of readers - Miranda reveals to HuffPost UK the most embarrassing things to happen to her, why we shouldn't worry too much when social disasters befall us, and reminds us that her on-screen character is but a comic creation...
What prompted you to write the book?
I liked the concept of talking to my 18-year-old self and telling her how life had treated us. This came from a night when I had just hosted Have I Got News For You for the first time and on the way back I drove past a pub theatre where I started trying out comedy and I suddenly thought 'If that younger me could have known that 15 years later I would be driving past having hosted such an iconic programme, well she probably would have fainted!'
WATCH Miranda In Action Below...
So it felt like a funny and interesting way of being reflective. But really the book is a series of comedic takes on various subjects and I suppose there were some subjects like Beauty, Motherhood, Christmas, Holidays, that I wanted to have the chance to write my attitudes to, and reveal some embarrassing moments about, in the hope it isn't just me.
"They" say that humour = pain + 6 months to get the anecdote right. Does humour have to involve pain? If not, what?
Writing humour certainly involves pain. A sitcom is 6 months of writing pain! Although I didn't have pain writing the book - it was much more freeing than the sitcom. But in terms of a comedic story or joke coming from pain I would say, not always, but a lot of the time yes, pain being very relative of course. The embarrassment of a situation can, once you are over it, be the funniest time in your life. And I suppose a lot of my comedy comes from painful moments or experiences in life and you just flip them on their head.
You want comedic themes to be recogniseable life truths that we all battle with and with that comes the healing properties of comedy. I try in my sitcom to end stories on a celebratory note and there are ways of making joy funny, but ultimately it is easier to get laughs from an awkward set up. As for taking 6 months to get the anecdote right, that speaks to me in terms of how surprsingly long it can take to hone a comedy story. There are so many different twists and turns you can take and often just changing two words around in a sentence when telling a joke can make something funny when it wasn't. So honing a full story or just a joke does take a long time.
You trade in social embarrassment, but why do these, on paper, tiny things - dropping a spoon in the blancmange, skirt tucked in knickers - continue to mortify us so much, when they really do happen to everyone?
I wanted to call the book Is It Just Me? firstly because I wanted to check it wasn't! But mainly because I knew deep down it wasn't and we all come a cropper in life. We just cover it up in different ways. Some people manage to cover it up with confidence, sometimes arrogance, others humour and cheek, and others remain shy and avoid. And I think we've probably been through all those different ways in various points in our life until we decide where to land and what's really us.
I think the reason we remain mortified is because as adults we have a sense that we really should be able to 'do life' and not get into excruciating situations. And in the moment of something going horribly wrong we really do think it's just us. And we realise a month, a week, a year later it is worth it when you get a great dinner party conversation from it!
What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you?
Well by reading the book you'll get many many embarrassing situations revealed. Shall I leave it that and be a real tease?! No, that's mean. Ok, one thing that isn't in the book that's a classic that I am sure isn't just me. I texted the person I fancied, thinking it was a friend that I was telling, that I really fancied him and couldn't stop dreaming about him. It was in the days when you couldn't see whether your text message had been sent. I remember ringing my friend saying 'did you get my text' and then when she hadn't feeling hot and sick and sweaty thinking 'he's got that text'. I was late 20's but I felt 12. And then the seeing him afterwards. That was hideous. I pretended it was a joke. It was very very clear it wasn't, mainly from the amount of sweat on my upper lip area. Just me that sweats there - awful?
Since making your name with 'Miranda' and her various faux-pas, has this made you Teflon-plated when stepping out of the front door? Somehow alleviated the fear of it all, or in fact made it worse?
I am pleased to say that as I get older I get less and less like the sitcom Miranda. She is really a clown character, a heightened version of the 20-something me. So people realise she isn't me - friends certainly. But it does mean that if I do trip up in the street - there are always those dodgy pavement cracks - then I do get more embarrassed because I think people will think 'that's that woman on the telly, how mortifying, she is like that in real life, the poor poor woman'!
And what's been the succour to all of this?
For me, comedy. Watching it and writing it.
What would your one bit of wisdom and advice be for anyone fearing to head out in to society, for fear of making an arse of themselves? What should they always remember?
They should remember it isn't just them. And if they don't believe me - read my book!
But one embarrassing moment, which I fear might just be me, was on a train. I went to the toilet, thought I had locked the door, and as I pulled down my trousers to sit on the 'throne' the train did one of those big lurches and I fell through the door (which I hadn't shut properly) and landed in front of the buffet queue - pantless. AWKWARD.
Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 11 October (£20). Watch her in action below...
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