My Secret Life: Nina Conti, ventriloquist

'I didn't talk to my teddy till I was 30'

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The Independent Online

My parents were… actors. It was all about actors coming over for dinner, and playing cards in camper vans on film sets.

The household I grew up in… was in Kilburn and then Hampstead as a teenager. It was quite free and easy, quite a big house. I was always allowed to stay up late. I was an only child and they were keen to include me. I didn't start talking to my teddies till I was 30…

When I was a child I wanted to be… I always said I wanted to be scientist, but I didn't really have the staying power. I also wanted to be an actress – this video exists of me singing in a sequined boob tube, doing one of my dad's plays in assembly.

If I could change one thing about myself… This whole deconstructive thing, self-awareness. It's part of my job as a voice for the Monkey [Conti's puppet] but it's self-indulgent, boring – all that doubt is absolutely moronic.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… philosophy. I'm not really, it's been years! But I got a first in it.

You may not know it but I'm no good at… karaoke. Wouldn't even go near it. I have a phobia of public singing – probably because of that assembly.

At night I dream of… I had a terrible dream when I was pregnant; I dreamt the baby had a ventriloquial mouth, but there was no hand hole, I had to flick the mouth down to get words out.

My favourite item of clothing… I like my squishy, red, high-heeled Vivienne Westwood jelly shoes. They make you seem like you're much more of a go-er.

It's not fashionable but I like… I don't like anything really, apart from those red shoes.

I drive/ride… a disgusting pile of nappies and crumbs, with a sticky steering wheel. It used to be a Volvo.

My house is… narrow. You have to stand too close to people when they come over; it makes me want to kick the walls down.

Movie heaven… Toronto Film Festival. Back-to-back documentaries, morning till night – from hideous things to the most inspiring.

The last album I bought… Some really nasty-sounding nursery rhymes. I had gone mental with "Incy Wincy Spider" and "The Wheels on the Bus". Now I've got another 40…

My greatest regret… That I didn't start ventriloquism younger.

My secret crush… Louis Theroux.

My real-life villains… I think they're all in my head.

The last time I cried… When I cut the tip of my finger off. It was more of a howl.

What's the point? That's the silliest question to worry about – we're arbitrary beings with no sense of point whatsoever. The thing to do is to laugh at it.

My life in six words… You'll have to ask the monkey.

A life in brief

Nina Conti was born in London in 1974; her father is the actor Tom Conti. She studied philosophy, before working as an actress, including for the RSC in 2000. Inspired by Ken Campbell, she learnt ventriloquism and took her show to Edinburgh in 2002. She won a BBC New Comedy award the same year. Conti's documentary, Her Master's Voice, won an audience award at South by Southwest festival and recently aired on BBC4. Nina Conti: Dolly Mixtures is at the Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh, 1 to 27 August

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