How We Met: Mel Giedroyc And Sue Perkins

Mel Giedroyc (left) and Sue Perkins are the duo who present Channel 4's Late Lunch. Mel, 30, is from Surrey. She studied modern languages at Cambridge. A fan of Wimbledon FC, she lives alone in West London. Sue, 29, also studied at Cambridge, graduating in 1990 with a degree in English Literature. After failing to forge a career as an advertising copywriter, she formed a comedy team with Mel. They made their debut with The Naked Lunch, after which they took their show Planet Pussycat to the Edinburgh ...

SUE PERKINS: Mel likes to think of herself as a Svengali figure. She witnessed my abortive birth into comedy, and hung around like an impresario, trying to be a big fish in the tiny Cambridge pond in 1988. There is a vague memory of someone in Day-Glo clothes, bleach-blonde hair and fake tan, which in retrospect must have been Mel. I don't know anyone else who would go around looking like that.

I remember meeting her properly three weeks later, on her birthday, in a club. Club is too posh a title - in a pit with wall-to-wall smoked glass and cork tiles on the ceiling, a smell of dead rodents. She was totally off her face: flecks of vomit around her mouth, doing really bad early house dancing, flailing arms knocking everyone over. She called me Barbara, Sheila, Debbie, didn't have a clue who I was.

That kick-started a series of evenings when I would go out and watch Mel get drunk. You would be able to work out where Mel was by following her stomach contents, the piles of puke. She would fall asleep while everyone around her cleared up. She doesn't really drink now, she's lost the tolerance. We hung out a lot, donkeyed around.

It was only after we left university that I realised I wasn't going to have a responsible job. When I was young I wanted to be an ophthalmic surgeon, then a teacher or a great writer. I wanted to be the female Dostoyevsky until I realised that I wasn't very talented. In the midst of the failure of my writing career, Mel wrote me a formal letter, which I've still got: "Dear Sue, I have been thinking" - this was after she'd been rejected by every drama school - "would you like to come and form a double act with me? Love Melanie."

So we started writing dreadful puns. I've still got them all, I'm really anal like that. This was New Year 1992, and then we started doing Radio 4's Weekending. You used to get pounds 8 for one line, so I would write these enormous great diatribes. I wrote a three-parter once, absolutely terrible, but they put it on and we got about pounds 150. I don't think any money I earned subsequently ever felt as good. At the time that was huge.

We stuck it out. There were times when it was really difficult to know where your rent cheque was coming from. In the end I said, "I'm going to have to teach, do something normal, get a regular wage." We had been educated, and it seemed pointless just pissing our life away. It's very hard to know when it's time to stop dreaming.

But in the end we carried on. We instinctively make sure that we don't get down at the same time. Recently Mel was down, saying she had to get out, saying she couldn't stand the people, the drugs, the bullshit. And then it was me saying it was all awful, but we try to buoy each other up.

What I most like about her is also what drives me to distraction: her unquenchable friendliness. She has the capacity at 4am to be utterly lovely. I try, but have a wave of woollies and tiredness. I will always look bad next to Mel. She's a very kind and generous person.

We're very compatible, and understand what upsets each other, and compensate for it. It's like a marriage actually, except obviously without that stuff - although the tabloids seem to think that goes on as well. We have an instinctive sense of when the other is bored, or being patronised or ignored. We're very sensitive to the balance of the act, and know the sacrifices we've made - Mel having to play up to being the ditzy one, when she's actually an incredibly erudite, intelligent person. Whereas with me, I have to be harsher, more ironic and sardonic, than I normally am; I do have a genuinely optimistic and calm side. You have to play up to those characteristics, because otherwise it's bland.

She's got terrible bowel problems, that annoys me. Her bowels are so vocal and mobile. Her feet frighten me - when she takes off her shoes I can't bear to look, they're so wide they're like the devil's feet. And I can tell when she's being insincere: "great", she'll say, with this hollowness underneath. I wish I could do that, put on that mask.

We have had one argument, when I was supposed to have tea with her parents three years ago. She pulled a face, and the implication of me being stupid set me off. We're not really inclined to argue. But I am more critical than she is. I'm a perfectionist, and in television everything has to be done with such speed, and it's botched. I hate that.

I wouldn't do this job unless we were mates. It didn't start as a calculated move to bring two women together to fill a gap in the market. The friendship is more important than work; I couldn't go on tour and not talk to someone.

MEL GIEDROYC: I remember meeting Sue. I think she thinks that we didn't actually speak then, but I remember saying something to her. Maybe she just ignored me, she probably did. Basically, it was 1988, the second summer of love. I had just come back from a studenty beach holiday, and I was wearing some fairly lame rave gear. Tragically, a bandana and a whistle were involved.

It was a gig, one of those comedy evenings called a "smoker". They were usually predominantly male, and that night there was a dreadful guy who came up on stage to do a gag about confusing Pyrex with Durex, all about going out with this hot dish. There was a slightly tumbleweed atmosphere in that cellar - beer, carpets, smoke.

Suddenly out of nowhere came this mad, six-stone pixie figure. She leapt on to the stage, and it was Perks. She looked like an alarmed rooster, her hair a cockscomb. She had three fags on the go, and obviously had no material. She just grabbed the mike and did this ramble for 15 minutes, and brought the house down. I went up to her and said something very cheesey like, "Hello Sue, welcome to the bosom of comedy." She was very skinny, so I spent the next three years buying food for her.

We got on extremely well. We did some very lame gigs performing sketches with two guys, and Sue would compere. But because she was a year younger than me we never knew each other well until after college. We both got very shit degrees, and I failed to get into every drama school, so I gave her a ring and said, "Do you want to write stuff for Weekending?"

We started writing there once a week. You'd go into a room with 40 other people, just for the warmth and free BBC coffee. The rest, as they say, is mediocrity.

There is never a dull moment. She's fantastic company. Over the last 10 years, we've probably averaged 12 hours a day in each other's company. We're very good mates as well as working together. We live about a 20- minute bus ride apart. It's probably just as well we don't live together, because we would never get anything done. It would all disintegrate into total chaos. It takes a lot to boot us up the arse.

Sue is the most unfailingly kind person. She's like Don Corleone with her friends, which I must say can at times be trying: she will always get the truth out of you, you can't hide anything. She's incredibly loyal to her mates. She would drop anything - except a date with Jon Snow - for her friends.

And she's bloody hilarious. The crippling puns, the ludicrous humour. We have quite different personalities in some ways, but there's a lot we have in common: we come from close families and have similar principles. We agree work isn't the be-all and end-all. We wouldn't work together if we weren't friends, what would be the point?

Usually, we might meet up at one o'clock, and talk for three hours, absolute ramble and rubbish, and then probably do about half an hour's work. I have a different way of going about things: Perks will say exactly what's on her mind, everything is out there. I'm a little more seven veils-ish, I don't give a lot away. Maybe I'm more reserved, until I have half a shandy inside me.

She does do this annoying thing with her nails. There's this clicky noise, then chewing, analysing it, then back to picking. That really bugs me. And I do sometimes have to wait for her. I'm actually very anal - even though she's the Virgo and I'm the Gemini, I always know where everything is. With Perks, trying to leave a room takes half an hour:

We've only ever had one slight altercation. She was late for something, and when I'm pissed off I get really over- jolly. I said, "Lovely to see you," turned away and pulled a face. She caught the end of it and we rowed. I couldn't hack it if we normally argued. It's the nature of what we do: we need to be able to rely on each other. It comes across if there's a nasty edge between people.

We spend weekends together, go on holiday together. We have a lot of mates in common. Sue's a very good cook, so she'll cook or we'll go and see a film. I would like to think I still go out clubbing, but I'm 30 now, so my clubbing days might be behind me.

We'll be in touch in 50 years' time. I like to see us as washed-up old hams in a home for the terminally ham, talking about the old days. I'll probably have an orange wig, and Sue will be pushing me around in a bathchair. I can't imagine life without her, we'll always be mates. Cut to five years' time ...

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game