meIn a very important sense, motherhood is an exercise in risk mitigation: you are the cautious and obedient protector of the most vulnerable in society. But what if you’re also a born thrill seeker who lives for off-kilter fun? So what?
In Jackpot, his new standup show, Isy Suttie explores precisely this contradiction. As a teenager growing up in the quaint Derbyshire spa town of Matlock, her life revolved around the pursuit of excitement: some of her weirdest escapades included touring multiple house parties in a single night with her Ouija board and jumping of a 30-foot bridge for a bet of €1. Now her life has all the hallmarks of measured domesticity. She has a seven-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son with his partner, fellow comedian Elis James, and yet “the element of me that wants to take risks” remains, he explains over a flat white in a south London cafe . shop that is full of mothers conscientiously attending to babies in strollers.
It is something that still attracts this 43-year-old woman. In Jackpot, he recounts the time he encouraged his kids to explore a disturbingly creepy campsite in the woods near his house (they were terrified) and how, when they were gone, he got involved in a minor nuclear power plant intrusion with a partner. from friends of mom yoga (police got involved).
Jackpot is Suttie’s return to stand-up after a very long break: he hasn’t toured in a decade. Instead, she has been busy writing books (in 2016 she published a memoryThe Actual One, and last year, a novel called jane is trying), podcasting and acting; Her resume includes recurring roles on Shamelesssocial work sitcom by Man Down and Jo Brand Damned. But it’s like Dobby, the on-and-off girlfriend of peep showMark Corrigan, a relatable loser geek, remains the most beloved. Nerd, vivacious, friendly and witty, Dobby is one of the most distinctive female roles in the history of British television comedy. As a teenager, Suttie says, she used to “dream” of playing Sally Phillips’ giggly receptionist in I’m Alan Partridge; in terms of a sitcom character, she would say that she ended up being better.
However, as good as Dobby was, the role ended up derailing Suttie’s career. In drama school she had harbored ambitions to become a serious actress and/or musician. “Tom, my college boyfriend and I used to stay up all night saying, ‘I’m going to be in a Mike Leigh movie, then I’m going to be in a Ken Loach movie, then I’m going on tour with Théâtre de Complicité.’ .’ She didn’t talk about, ‘I’m going to do theater in education for a year and then I’m going to be turned down for an ad,’” she recalls, with a glowing appreciation of her own ridiculousness.
However, after graduating with no job, he discovered the London stand-up scene and soon found himself performing musical comedy on the gay club circuit. Her material included a song about Geri Halliwell’s dog, a lullaby for Katie Price, and another about a man who sticks his penis in a deep fryer. “The chorus was: ‘Hey, come on love, what’s the matter with you / Haven’t you ever seen sausages in batter?’ With a northern accent,” says Suttie, trying and failing to keep a straight face.
As much as their camp, celebrity-focused material coincided with the gay scene, it was also a “true baptism of fire.” He struggled to win over the public and soon migrated to the conventional stand-up circuit. There, she prospered. In 2007, a review of Chortle of her first solo Edinburgh show, a one-woman romantic comedy musical set in a Matlock supermarket entitled Love Lost in the British Retail Industry, hailed her as a “modern Victoria Wood”. The following year she made her debut on Peep Show; she knew she had gotten the audition thanks to the ASMR-related “tingling” sensation she experienced after her.
On the set of her first series on the show, she was “really scared all the time. She was aware of how good she was and was very quiet and shy.” Off set, she discovered that Dobby had supercharged her stand-up career, not always for the better. She was promoted to the top of the bills and gigs were advertised on her Peep Show credentials. “I got in my head a little bit and said, ‘Why are there people here? Are you here to see Dobby? What are you waiting for?’” She worried that the public would assume it was her first foray into stand-up. Her stress was exacerbated by the fact that she believed her Edinburgh show that year was not up to the task, as she felt pressure to do something fringe despite being a rising comedian. “It can feel like a really long Edinburgh where you have to put on a show every day and you’re not happy about it,” she says.
His new job clearly isn’t born out of the same sense as Fomo: Suttie wasn’t planning on going back to standup when he came up with the Jackpot concept. It taps into a cultural ethos very different from the irreverent, Heat magazine-adjacent spirit of the late 2000s. Jackpot is part of a wave of comedy that hilariously reflects on the ways in which motherhood and identity intersect (see also: the work of standups Ali Wong Y Jessica Fosterbooks by comedians Lucy Beaumont and Ellie Taylor and sitcoms Homeland Y better things). It’s a theme that is also found in Suttie’s next television project, The baby, which tackles the subject of motherhood in a marginally more disturbing way. The horror-comedy follows Natasha (Michelle de Swarte), a blissfully childless 30-something who gradually loses all of her friends to parenthood and is targeted by a homicidal baby: the child clings to a new “mother” every year. time he kills his previous caretaker (and many others along the way).
Suttie plays Rita, Natasha’s newly pregnant best friend, another dropout, and filming the show took her back to her pre-kids days. “I really related a lot to the character of Michelle feeling friendless when everyone around you starts having kids,” she says. “My first book was about that, really. In a way, you lose your friends when they have kids if you don’t, because it’s so boring to hear someone talk about their baby and be worried, and not have a proper conversation with you.”
The Baby is laugh-out-loud fun but also genuinely unsettling; a scene based on the field literally gave me nightmares. Best of all, it’s packed with subtle and searingly evocative allegories of specific hell: the boredom, the lack of sleep, the mania, the overwhelming sense of responsibility, which is caring for a very young child. One of the cleverest elements of the early episodes is the way Natasha becomes a martyr: she doesn’t let anyone else take care of the baby lest she kill them, a clear parallel to the exhausting instinct many new mothers have to control it. all.
It’s something Suttie can relate to. “I remember not letting anyone else wash [her daughter] Beti’s bottles”, he says. “You are so out of control of so many elements, like when they sleep, that you strive to control what you can.”
In fact, Suttie’s attempts to do it all after the birth of her daughter in 2014 had a dramatic effect: She developed a condition called migraine-associated vertigo, in part due to the stress she was dealing with. “I did the book tour, I did a lot of filming, I was away all the time and I spent a lot of time with her. She wasn’t sleeping much. Both Elis and I would be filming and we would meet at a gas station and trade Beti for another car. At the end it was like, ‘One of us has to back up a little bit.’” Suttie ended up taking three months off work, even though she, being a “perfectionist and workaholic”, she didn’t particularly want to do it. During those months she realized that not working was “not right for me, but she shouldn’t be working so much. So it was a case of: what do I really want to do?
The answer seems to be a bit of everything. After our interview, he left Suttie in the cafeteria decked out in baby garlands; she stays to catch up on her reading in preparation for the new Penguin book podcast series she hosts. It’s just one component of a life that requires writing, acting, parenting, stand-up comedy, podcasting, and of course the occasional foray into a haunted camp or nuclear power plant. It may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but Suttie has clearly figured out how to hit her own personal jackpot.