How we met: Ruby Wax and Ed Bye

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The Independent Culture
Ed Bye, 37, began his career as a floor assistant at the BBC and later became a television producer and director. He met Ruby Wax five years ago when directing her in Girls On Top. Ruby Wax, 38, was born in America, and came to Britain in 1974 to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. She has since become a successful writer and performer in television comedy: her shows include Don't Miss Wax and Wax on Wheels. The third series of The Full Wax begins next week. Ed Bye and Ruby Wax are married and have two children, Max, who is 4, and Madeleine, aged 2.

ED BYE: I first met Ruby in 1988 at Dawn French's house to discuss work. I was going to direct Girls on Top, with Ruby, Dawn and Jennifer Saunders. Of course I'd seen Ruby on TV before, but actually I didn't fancy her. She looked at me from behind those tinted glasses with an expression of huge suspicion. I gave her a lift home and I remember her saying, 'I need a lot of direction.' I didn't really know what she meant, so I just said 'Yes' very politely.

I was nervous at the time we met and desperately trying to bullshit my way into sounding like an impressive director. I had heard Ruby was quite spiky and wouldn't suffer fools easily, that sort of thing, and that worried me because I thought I was a fool. 'Oh God, oh God,' I thought, I'm going to get into terrible trouble, it'll be the end of my career.

The first show was relatively successful but I got a vibe that Ruby wasn't terribly impressed with me as a director, so any kind of relationship was such a long shot that there wouldn't have been a hope in hell. Joan Greenwood had joined the cast. I was working with these four fearsome women who could easily have destroyed me if they wanted.

Ruby, Dawn and Jennifer mucked about all the time, it was quite daunting. Joan Greenwood was lovely but completely bonkers. I had a suspicion Ruby was trying to get me slung off the show for being incompetent and inadequate. And then our second show was more successful and she came up to me afterwards and said, 'You directed that really well. You know how to do this, don't you?' with surprise on her face.

Then Ruby's clothes started to change. She started padding her bra and looking sexy. She was more friendly. I didn't want to think that she fancied me. The worst thing I could possibly have done was to say, 'Hey] So, Ruby, you fancy me,' and then find she was getting dressed up for someone else. Or just as bad, imagine if we started a relationship and she went off the idea and we had the rest of the series to do. It would have been an absolute nightmare; I'd have had to shoot myself.

Then we started to travel up to Nottingham to do the shows, and it did seem strange that she kept volunteering to go on the train with me and Joan when she could have driven up. So it slowly dawned on me. She would very valiantly stay up in the bar after most people had gone to bed, listening to my dull stories about funny things that happened to me which weren't funny at all.

I wasn't going out with anyone else, I was free and frolicking. But I was very worried about it, I kept thinking 'Why does she like me - she's a substantial writer and comedienne, what have I got?' She was famous and I was just starting out. I didn't have an enormous amount of confidence.

At the end of the series there was a party and of course alcohol is a great barrier-breaker and we realised we were going to start a relationship. That night she was very funny - she always is, and that's partly what attracts me to her. I'm very lucky because fascination with people usually wears off after the initial groping and running around, but with Ruby there's still a mountain of joy, and that initial thing hasn't really worn off.

It's difficult to say who made the first move - we just sort of merged. The first romantic moment, the kiss, was in the corridor of the hotel in Nottingham, the name of which eludes me, although I remember the night, which we spent together, distinctly. We've been together ever since.

I think Ruby mentioned marriage first. We were eating spaghetti in Italy at the time and I thought, 'OK, fine, it seems like a good idea.' We got married in a registry office in Richmond, in Paradise Road, which is nearer to hell than paradise.

There are highs and lows in our relationship - there are bound to be - but there is never a dull moment. Life with Ruby is very entertaining. I respect her more than I would anyone else, which keeps us going at all times.

Ruby's very bad at long-term planning so she didn't think of the consequences of having children - that it would totally upheave your life. We decided to keep working - it seemed dumb to give everything up - so we have a nanny. Both kids were made in heaven, they sleep through the night and always have.

We laugh a lot: we scream with laughter most of the time. Humour is the essence of our life together. The only thing I find irritating is that in her working life she has a desire to control everything; she can't let it go. And also she has a complete inability to communicate exactly what she means until it's too late and then she says, 'Oh that's what you meant, why didn't you say so?'

The public persona of Ruby is comedy, a joke, an exaggeration. It's not the same off screen. The private Ruby is a gentler, milder woman. of course. Otherwise I'd be dead.

RUBY WAX: We were working on Girls on Top and Ed was directing. I didn't think he was interested in me. It was Joan Greenwood who said 'Eddy loves you,' and I said 'Get out of here, Joan.' She said 'Oh no, you must go out with Eddy,' so as a favour to Joan I started to get interested.

Ed thinks I tried to get him off the show. I tried to get him not even on the show, because he was nothing. I didn't know what he'd done. But then he did two shows and he was good.

I didn't have the hots for him until the end of the shoot. At first I just used to show up in the kind of horrible, hideous T-shirts that you sleep in. But then I started getting really dressed up and I'd wear a padded bra and full make-up. As I got more and more interested I'd come to work in full gowns and high heels and everyone was staring at me. But Ed still didn't appear to notice.

I used to go up to Nottingham on the train with Eddy and Joan. Dawn refused to go because she thought Joan was too eccentric. I asked Eddy to have dinner with me once and he said no. That was OK because I didn't have one of those serious crushes on him, I was just interested. It wasn't desperate.

The first kiss was very cool. It was always very cool, which is what's good about it because when I get too hysterical it ends up a disaster - you have high expectations. It was romantic in a way, but not the way Cosmopolitan paints things. It was more like being with your really great friend except you happen to have sex.

The first night we spent together, Dawn was waiting up all night to see if we had sex: she was pacing the corridor. I had to report to her at 5 o'clock in the morning. He said 'Are you telling Dawn?' I said no. Then I walked out the door and crawled commando-style down the hallway until I got to Dawn's room and we were hysterical.

Then we went back to London and he pretty much moved in. I was single at the time. I can't remember when we got married. I always was going to get married. I liked the idea, but it wasn't a big romantic thing. I can't remember who asked who.

There was this guy at the time who was really rich and I could have made a play. In some ways I wanted a rich man, but they usually dump you faster - they can call the shots. Ed has a cute body and also I married him for his parents, because they are like your fantasy of English Christmas and I came from Tennessee Williams country. So when I met them I thought I want in here - real Aga, the mother cooking and hand-made Christmas tree things - it's what every American girl fantasises about.

He's funny, that's really important. We make each other laugh. Some people, just about everything they do is funny; that's how he is, there's something comic about him. People say we're a very good double act in a sitcommy sort of way, but we're not schmaltzy. We go out a lot and have very famous dinner parties. I'll throw something huge, a peculiar combination of 20 people.

I'd love to row but he doesn't have it in him. I'd like to really scream but he doesn't have a neurotic bone in his body so I have to go and yell at petrol station attendants and people who fix my car and I give them hell. They wonder why and I say it's because I can't get it at home. He won't let me be angry - he sings the theme tune to Psycho and then I start laughing. This is the calmest human being. If I wasn't with him I'd be crazy. I've been with other neurotics and you just blow each other off the face of the earth. He knows more than me, and he's so talented as a director. I had very domineering parents and I'm probably domineering. Ed is the opposite.

Am I in love? I don't know what these things mean, I probably am but not in that sick-making adolescent way. Sure he's in love with me, I ask him all the time.

(Photograph omitted)

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