8 Jun 2018

Catherine Tate: yes, we are bovvered!

From Nine To Noon, 10:07 am on 8 June 2018

English comedian and actor Catherine Tate is bringing her live show to New Zealand later this year.

Her BBC sketch comedy The Catherine Tate Show was a huge success, with 6.4 million people drawing up a chair for her 2007 Christmas special episode.

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Catherine Tate and Nan. Photo: Matt Crockett

Since then, Tate has massively expanded her performing repertoire to include American television(the US version of The Office), Shakespeare (a London stage production of Much Ado About Nothing) and cult science fiction (as Donna Noble, the assistant to David Tennant's Doctor Who).

Tate started out as a stage actor before cutting her teeth on the stand-up circuit.

She tells Kathryn Ryan live performance is her foremost love.

“This is not anything you can phone in! You can’t just not mentally be there one night. You start out and the momentum takes you forward, it has to take you forward. But, of course, doing it in front of a live audience, that just feeds you. It’s just like we’re all in it together and I absolutely love it.

“Live performing is my absolute favourite thing to do, and this is for me is the best thing I’ve done.”

After mixed success as a working actor, Tate took matters into her own hands and started doing her own material as a stand-up.

The experience was at the same time terrifying and galvanising.

“I started going down The Comedy Store [in London] when I was a teenager, watching these great people come up and I always wanted to do stand-up but I was always too scared.”

It was that same fear which eventually drove her to do it, she says.

“It’s a personality thing, I’m a thrill-seeker, I don’t like to be bored.”

Tate says she eventually became too comfortable with stand-up and began writing the sketches that would become The Catherine Tate Show.

“If you’re too relaxed your mind isn’t sharp enough. You’re too relaxed on stage, it’s too comfortable and that’s when I stopped doing it. 'Oh no, this doesn’t scare me anymore.' and that’s when I went in to doing sketches which was a step up because oh my God, I don’t know if I can write sketches."

Catherine Tate as Donna Noble in Dr Who.

Catherine Tate as Donna Noble in Dr Who. Photo: Supplied

“I think you always have to be teetering on the edge of insurmountable to achieve something because otherwise you’re just in your comfort zone and there’s no edge to it.”

Tate says her characters come from nowhere and everywhere but some, like gobby, sullen schoolgirl Lauren Cooper, can be wilfully misinterpreted.

“When the show first came out she was kind of being used a bit like the way in Little Britain Matt Lucas’ character Vicky Pollard was. We were being used as poster girls for broken Britain; ‘Oh, chavs are everywhere’.

“I wanted to make sure I never swore as this character – she was smart, she knew French, she knows Shakespeare, she can recite off sonnets.”

The difficult kid at school is often the brightest, Tate says.

“You’ve got to have some kind of wit about you to be able to do that kind of stuff as a kid.”

The outrageous character of Nan is a type that walks among us all over the world, Tate says.

“She’s unedited, unfiltered. What I’ve always done with Nan, she’s actually very inclusive. Yes, she’ll say something to someone one minute, but at the end of the day, there’s always a common enemy.

“She lives in a part of London that’s completely integrated, completely multi-cultural, so the idea that she’s racist or something, that is so, so not right. She’ll say the wrong thing, but it’s not coming from a racist point of view.”

A character like Nan can be a kind of circuit-breaker, Tate says.

"We are in a hypersensitive place at the moment. In many ways, there’s a lot to be hypersensitive about but we have to be careful we don’t all go crazy and forget how to laugh.

“Humour is a great leveller and a great disarmer, as well.”