Thursday, June 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Interview with Sara Pascoe

Credit: Isabelle
Credit: Isabelle

I recently caught up with inspiring comedian, actor and writer Sarah Pascoe about life on tour and her new book ‘Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body’.

DP: When writing, do you have particular writing rituals such as special places, outfits or foods that inspire you to write?

SP: Coffee is the most important ingredient for me- whenever i have tried to cut out caffeine i start to sleep a lot better, but i never really wake up properly and can’t get any work done! Having a nice tidy house, neatening all my papers into piles can sometimes help too. But i also really like writing in busy noisy places like cafes and trains- it focuses me somehow.

DP:As a psychology student I have really noticed psychological research, theories and evolutionary biology in your writing, how did you develop these interests?

SP: Well i was reading around these areas for personal enjoyment first- i really, genuinely wanted to understand people better- i did a psychology A -level (because a clever teacher told me it would help with acting!) and since then have always been interested in the new popular science publications and areas of study. Then when I started planning the book i had about a year to pull the thing together, so knew i would have to read as much as possible and try to fit in as much interesting information that i thought everyone should know about-not just the science boffins!

DP: Your work is beautifully autobiographical and you mention in animal that your editors recommended that you revealed less about topics such as self-harm. How did it feel to be told this and why was it important for you to keep it in?

SP: I understood why. I know that once information is ‘out there’ you can’t deny it, or take it back. So it was good to have a serious think ‘will i want to acknowledge this in 20 years?’ But with everything in the book- whether it be sex or abortion or self-hatred stuff- i am not ashamed. I am fallible and trying to be better and actually writing about those topics lead to a healthy self-acceptance of myself.

DP:You make a lot of observations about the sanitation of women in the media such as advertisements using non-hairy legs for razors and blue liquid in tampon adverts is there anything in the media that you think is pushing against this?

SP: Oh yes, women themselves. In particular on social media and blogs but also in real life. There is an abundance of switched on, cynical women calling ‘bullshit’ on the tidal wave of crap we are being sold. We know things are changing because there are now adverts for period pants in New York, American Apparel sold a T-shirt of a menstruating Vulva, there was an advert in the UK which used red fluid for the first time. And the way we talk, what we talk about- and i hope that younger women grow up even freer and braver.

DP:You write about body image in young women and how it has been fetishized and misunderstood in our history. If you ran an education campaign for girls where would you start?

SP: It would start with questions. It would have to involve lesson plans in schools, with 11 and 12 year olds. I would ask how they felt about food, and looking in the mirror, and what they felt they had to offer the world. I would ask questions in small groups about how it feels to be looked at, what success and failure feel like. What they want to achieve. And then in each classroom we would make huge boards full of aims and ambitions. I would try to separate the superficial from the meaningful, to explore how insecurity prevents happiness. And then workshop and brainstorm how to help each-other- how to support their fellow girls. How to be gentle with each-other and create a language with which to destroy the forces that undermine us.

DP:Your work involves touring – what is your strategy for staying grounded and surviving traveling around?

SP: I love planning my dinner for after the show. That is my treat. If i am in a town that has deliveroo i will get a Wagammama (they are very good for vegans) to my hotel room and i feel like Kanye.

DP:You are on twitter and that can invite a lot of trolls but instead of focusing on them, I was wondering what has been your highlight of using twitter?

SP: I actually stopped reading my @ messages a while ago which is such a shame because it means I miss out on all the nice people, or look like i am ignoring people who ask questions. I am not strong enough not to be upset by negative comments, i’m too sensitive and desperate to be liked by everyone. But i do like twitter for the sharing of articles that i would never have found otherwise. It is sometimes really great for sharing information.

DP:Your boyfriend John and best friend are both also comedians, have you always surrounded yourself with laughter or were you morose when you were younger?

SP: Oh yes I was so morose. I think laughter can come from a sad place you know- or recognizing the ridiculousness in everything. But also i am much happier now than as a young woman, and i wish i had known how much better things can get when I was at school. I was truly miserable then. And that’s why i feel so strongly that we as a society must support our young people better.

DP:What is currently inspiring you in terms of subjects for future writing projects or shows?

SP: Empathy. Why some things/animals/people/events affect us and others don’t. As humans we are capable of such incredible generosity but also extreme cruelties and i don’t just mean as a species but as individuals. I think its fascinating how tribal we are. How we all want to be ‘good’ but define that in different and contradictory ways.