It's weird trying to imagine yourself as a ‘comedy character’... | Mae Martin on her new Channel 4 and Netflix show, Feel Good © C4

It's weird trying to imagine yourself as a ‘comedy character’...

Mae Martin on her new Channel 4 and Netflix show, Feel Good

What was the genesis of Feel Good - how did you and Joe Hampson come together to write this story?

Channel 4 approached me about writing a scripted pilot off the back of a stand-up show I did about addictive behaviour. Joe was the natural choice as co-writer because he has a brilliant and rare brain and we spend all our time together anyway.  We filmed a pilot, which nobody will ever see, but ultimately got the greenlight from both C4 and Netflix. 

How autobiographical is the show?

The show is sort of a patchwork of real and fictional experiences. There's truth there but it's all been dialled up and every bit of drama has been distilled from it. 

Love is universal, luckily, but also in general I've found that whenever I've been the most specific in my stand-up, revealing some weird neurosis or quirk I'm ashamed of, that's what people relate to the most. Specificity is key!

How did it feel to portray a comedian called ‘Mae Martin’? How was playing a version of yourself doing stand-up?

It's very weird trying to imagine yourself as a ‘comedy character’. I found it a lot easier writing the other characters, so it was very helpful having Joe who could remind me what is funny about the way I conduct myself, if that makes sense. I just detached and tried to imagine ‘Mae’ the character as a separate and very manic entity but with all my same problems.

We made sure that we had an unusual amount of rehearsal time mainly so that Charlotte [Ritchie, who plays her partner] and I had enough time to get comfortable. The whole series rested on that relationship feeling real and natural. We found lots of funny things in rehearsal and laughed a lot so when we came to filming we really knew the dynamic of those characters.

Lisa Kudrow plays your mum. How did this happen?

I'm still in shock. It's crazy, right? She read the scripts and watched some stand-up of mine and was very supportive. Joe and I are still on Cloud Nine about it

You Lisa Kudrow to Blackpool - how did she take to the Las Vegas of the north?

I wish we'd had some time to hit the casinos of Blackpool. We didn't have much to offer her, just some stale digestive biscuits but luckily, she loved digestive biscuits and now orders them to LA.

How was it spending your birthday filming with Lisa Kudrow?

I had a hard time not grinning from ear-to-ear the entire day, which is not helpful in a scene where you're meant to be very upset. 

How authentic is the show’s depiction of the stand-up world?

It’s similar to the club circuit I was doing when I first moved to the UK about ten years ago. I think it has evolved since then. But it's quite a male environment and full of both real friendships and some element of threat. I love the comedy world and really grew up in green rooms, so I wanted to show the positives and negatives. 

What do you hope the audeince take from the show, and what it says about addiction?

Most people can relate to the idea of doing something compulsively despite knowing that it's not good for us. That's very human; reaching for a glass of wine; our phones; a bad relationship; a shopping spree when we need to be soothed. So, I hope in relating to that people can then relate to addicts and pull them closer rather than pushing them away. 

How important is the concept of gender fluidity? 

Mae's gender identity is just another thing she's trying to wrap her head around, hopefully not in a way that's too heavy, but that reflects my own experience.

How important is queer representation to you?

If you never, or rarely, see your experience depicted in art or pop culture then you can begin to feel isolated or separate; othered. So, representation is super important. I hope that people of all demographics see how, regardless of labels or identity, we all struggle with trying to find and hold on to intimacy – it’s very universal.

Has there been anything that surprised you about people's reactions to the show?

One thing that's been interesting is lots of the journalists I've spoken to have said ‘there's TONS of sex in this show…' when really there isn't! 

It's much, much, more tame than, say, Fleabag, Sex Education or Girls, so it's interesting that it's stood out to people and just shows how rare it still is to see queer sex scenes.

Do you feel the comedy landscape has changed over the last decade for the better?

I think comedy is thriving at the moment and it's very exciting. There are so many styles and voices and there's space for everyone and a real appetite for it.

• Feel Good starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday March 18 at 10pm.

Published: 10 Mar 2020

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