The Conversation: Daisy Donovan, TV presenter


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The Independent Online

You've been around the world appearing on crazy TV shows for a new Channel 4 series. You must have seen some sights.

In Brazil, they had a daytime live murder show. The scheduling was interesting. I was watching the previous show, which was cartoons for the kids, and then you hear live murder is coming up. There was footage of a boy who'd been killed, and his body was just covered with a piece of cardboard. It was so demeaning and shocking. I thought it was an aberration, but the host said it happens daily.

And then in the middle, they segue into selling slimming capsules.

In the first break it was Lipo-Max, then the second one they wheeled on some mopeds.

In case you want to conduct your own drive-by shooting?

In case you need it for your burglary. I haven't seen a live sales advert since the Fifties; it felt like watching Mad Men. It was really surreal.

So far, so crazy. Tell us about TV in Egypt.

There's a prank show hosted by a very famous guy called Ramez – think Ricky Gervais in Egypt – and they put a celebrity in a coach on a very notorious kidnap road. Masked men kill the driver and take the celebrity – that is the prank. It's the number one show during Ramadan.

After the uprisings and revolution, are they desensitised to violence?

Ramez said it was a kind of gallows humour. By laughing about it, it seems less frightening.

I suppose some of our shows might seem shocking to other countries. Embarrassing Bodies would be an absolute no-go in the Arab world.

Embarrassing Ankles, maybe.

Talking of shocking, on The 11 O'Clock Show you asked Denis Healy if he'd given Margaret Thatcher a pearl necklace.

So juvenile, but so fun. Only one politician ever walked out on me – it was John Redwood. I can't believe I said those things. I met my husband Dan [Mazer, the screenwriter] on the show, and we were all as ridiculous as each other.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais were on it too. They are so rich.

They walk on diamonds.

Does Sacha drink lemonade flavoured with the tears of an otter?

They've done amazingly well. Dan and Sacha work together on everything so that's lucky for me. Non-stop discussion on various obscene jokes.

Is it just one big laugh round your house?

We are great friends, and we really find each other funny – though many don't find us funny. We didn't suddenly grow up and change the way we were when we had kids – I feared we might have to talk about piano and Mozart. I feared I'd be the woman who understands what Kumon is.

I went to school with children who had weekend Kumon lessons in maths.

And were they brilliant?

Yes, but it raises the bar for all the other children.

I don't like the game being raised for anybody, I like a low bar.

Have you seen the logo? It's a child's unhappy face.

That's a reason not to change; that's a reason to still make ridiculous jokes about William Hague taking Tony Blair from behind.

'The Greatest Shows On Earth' airs on Mondays at 10pm on Channel 4


Daisy Donovan is a presenter, actress and writer. She's chiefly renowned for her appearances on The 11 O'Clock Show, and lives with her husband and two children in west London