The day Ricky Gervais tried to take over my TV show: Doon Mackichan isn’t one for false


The day Ricky Gervais tried to take over my TV show: Doon Mackichan isn’t one for false compliments as she opens up about other performers in her memoir

Memoir

My Lady Parts by Doon Mackichan (Canongate £16.99, 256pp)

David Baddiel is ‘a Cambridge-educated, entitled man-child’. Ricky Gervais ‘landed from Planet Ego and tried to get us to go along with his plan for our show’. Theatre director Max Stafford-Clark held an audition in a hotel bedroom and ‘there was a whiff of Weinstein about the whole set-up’.

Show business memoirs are usually complimentary about other performers or, at least, they refrain from being negative about them but Doon Mackichan isn’t one for false compliments.

By any standard, she is a very successful actor. She’s starred in several classic comedy shows including The Day Today, Toast Of London and the double-Emmy winning Smack The Pony, which she co-wrote. 

She’s done numerous straight roles and won acclaim for her performances on stage. 

But she’s angry and the short book she describes as ‘a selection of stories, front and backstage, of a life so far spanning forty years in the business’ explains why. Many of the chapters contain accounts of casual sexism and she is in no mood to gloss over them.

Award winner: Doon Mackichan on Smack The Pony

Award winner: Doon Mackichan on Smack The Pony

An awful experience at school in Surrey when she was eight seems to still haunt her. She was summoned to a circle of boys in the playground and told to lift up her skirt and pull her pants down.

She complied but felt a sense of burning humiliation. Her mother complained to the school and the boys were made to apologise but Mackichan was the one tainted by the incident, thereafter never invited to play with her peers. ‘So many women have experienced so much worse than this,’ she writes. ‘It just steals a little bit of the light in your soul.’

By the time she had finished studying drama at Manchester University, she was nicknamed ‘Millie Tant’ after the satirical militant feminist character in the Viz comic. She goes on protest marches, vandalises posters and writes furious letters to the Advertising Standards Authority.

And once her career starts, her views on sexism are confirmed by many of those she works with. Baddiel ruins her first ever radio recording with his rudeness. When developing the second series of the hit sketch show Smack The Pony with her co-stars Fiona Allen and Sally Philips, Gervais shows up uninvited at the rehearsal room and starts trying to take over. There are several creepy auditions.

She is still angry now. One late chapter describes how, a couple of years ago, at the age of 57, she pitched up outside a theatre at 6am and spray-painted ‘STOLEN’ across the posters advertising its new musical because she believes two women writers who worked on it have been badly treated.

Show business memoirs are usually complimentary about other performers or, at least, they refrain from being negative about them but Doon Mackichan isn¿t one for false compliments

Show business memoirs are usually complimentary about other performers or, at least, they refrain from being negative about them but Doon Mackichan isn¿t one for false compliments

Show business memoirs are usually complimentary about other performers or, at least, they refrain from being negative about them but Doon Mackichan (pictured left) isn’t one for false compliments

Also, anyone who thinks acting is a cushy number will be disabused of the notion by this book. When her son is seriously ill and neither she nor her then husband — also an actor — can work, they are so hard-up that they are dependent on hand-outs from friends.

Starring in a prestigious David Mamet play with John Malkovich, her expenses exceed her fee. Playing the Wicked Queen in a pantomime, she has to wear a huge velvet gown ‘heavy with the sweat of a thousand Anita Dobsons’. It can’t be washed and is simply sprayed with vodka around the armpits after every show — the glamour!

Mackichan’s book might have benefited from a stricter edit — there’s some repetition — and I would have liked it to be a little more detailed but it’s a real page-turner; raw, urgent and entertaining.



Read More

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More