“I Struggled To Keep a Straight-Face” OTB Talks to ‘Mount Pleasant’ Star Diane Morgan
“Some of my lines are just so ridiculous that it’s hard to keep a straight face at times,” says comedian Diane Morgan of her role in Mount Pleasant, which has just returned for its second series (but this time on Sky Living folks). “They had to cut so much, but it was great fun to film, especially working with Ainsley Howard.”
We start off chatting about the new series and its long-awaited return, but almost immediately our conversation turns to other matters, like stand-up comedy and – bizarrely – Diane’s old job packing worming tablets.
“It was awful,” she says. “We weren’t aloud to speak or sit down. I actually do something on this in my stand-up and I think people think I’m making it up.”
As a Bolton native, Mount Pleasant isn’t Diane’s first Northern-based sitcom. Earlier in her career (after the job packing worming medication, which she was sacked from) she landed a part in Peter Kay’s acclaimed comedy Phoenix Nights.
“I played the wife of a brewery owner,” she tells me. “Peter Kay is sort of a friend of a friend. He knew that I’d just finished drama school, and basically said that he didn’t know any actresses, which is kind of how I got the part. It was another few years before I plucked up the courage to do stand-up.”
So how was the transition from acting and stand-up comedy?
“Not as bad as I was expecting. But then I think everybody has bad experiences eventually. Probably my worst was at a drag racing event in a tent.” She laughs. “It was probably my tenth gig, and it was raining so hard on the tent that you couldn’t hear me at all. I ended up getting slow-clapped off. It was awful.”
Even years later, I’m told, stand-up comedy doesn’t get any easier, especially when you’re up against competitive comics on Mock the Week.
“I’ve done it a couple of times and it’s not a massively fun experience.” Diane laughs. “It records for about two and half hours and a lot of the other comics bring a
whole ring-binder of jokes that they try and get in, so it’s competitive and very male dominated.”
This brings us onto the subject of female comedians and Diane explains to me why stand-up isn’t always a particularly appealing career choice for a lot of women.
“Well, you have to traipse around the country late at night and be shouted at by drunks,” she says. “So it’s not always a lot of fun.”
In part, this is why Diane started collaborating with comedian Joe Wilkinson (Him & Her). Together, they perform as ‘Two Episodes of Mash’, a deadpan comedy duo, who (in Joe’s words) perform sketches that just “peter out”.
“Neither of us really like double acts that try too hard to be likable,” she explains. “I think we tend to like people who just don’t seem to care.”
After several successful performances at the Edinburgh festival, the collaboration has resulted in a BBC radio series and appearances on BBC Three’s Live at the Electric.
I mention Diane’s Edinburgh festival performances and our conversation steers towards the controversy surrounding this year’s festival after several comedians told rape jokes.
“We both had too much on to go this year, but I would have liked to have gone,” she says. “I actually don’t mind comedians talking about anything, as long as it’s funny. I suppose it’s really about context as well. But if somebody is genuinely funny, I think they can get away with almost anything they want.”