Not long ago I was lucky enough to see Sue Perkins at the King’s Theatre during the Glasgow Comedy Festival. Before that, though, I read her autobiography, Spectacles. I picked it up because, although I’ve never really watched the Bake Off, I’m a fan of her from other TV things, like Supersizers and the odd documentary.
If you missed out on Perkins’ comedy tour earlier this year, I recommend the book. A lot of the set I saw in Glasgow came from the same stories (apart from a section at the end when she took questions from the audience). If anything, for me, the book told the stories even better. There’s more time for detail, and stories are given the opportunity to be more than just funny when you’re not seeing a comedy set. Some of the stories made me cry, and not always with laughter.
While the book definitely carries Perkins’ humour, I think it’s these real-life moments that stand out. She writes about her relationships, family illnesses, and her dogs. She doesn’t shy away from her mistakes, instead taking the opportunity to apologise for them, in text, the apology there to be seen by anyone and everyone. The human side is still funny, sometimes heart-breaking and exactly why you might want to read an autobiography in the first place.
There is stuff about Bake Off, of course, and it’s fascinating to read about the early days, when disagreements about the pressure being put on the contestants saw Mel and Sue walking off and, when they returned, Sue “loudly swearing or libelling major corporations whenever a contestant broke down in tears” to ensure that these embarrassing moments never made it on screen. There’s something very admirable, and rather creative, about that kind of thing and it almost made me want to go back and watch the old seasons of the show.
But Perkins has done more than just bake off, and we get to hear about her start and Footlights, early attempts at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the first TV appearances and other things she’s been involved with. And now I’m looking forward to seeing where she ends up next.