'It’s insane the way people don’t trust women to host shows' | Lou Sanders on her role in Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable © UKTV

'It’s insane the way people don’t trust women to host shows'

Lou Sanders on her role in Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable

The forthcoming Dave programme Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable, comedian Lou Sanders takes the role of sidekick, helping out as guests share their embarrassing or shameful stories. Here she talks about the show, her compulsion to be frank - and the age-old issue of women being under-represented on comedy panel shows…

What’s your role in the show? 

I’m Mel’s sidekick or, as I like to say, co-host, or as Mel likes to say, the PA. I’ll come up with celebrity facts of other people who’ve done bad things, or maybe what legislation might be around that. I guess I’m also there to make guests feel safe to confess things because I'll often say things at the start. 

And Mel is so warm and cheeky and funny and she is the perfect host for the tone of this show. She’s like a big sister who won’t judge you. She’s perfect

What sort of confessions do you make? 

I dropped a cat out of a window once when I was seven and I told that story in one of the episodes. But I wasn’t a psychopath, I was just really little and I was told cats have nine lives so I was putting that to the test. 

It’s all in context, which isn't very fashionable at the moment, is it?  We’re in an era where we judge people on a headline, and it’s all about quick stories, but we’re not doing that. 

Some of the stories are quite sweet and tame. Some of them are, you know, awful! But hopefully the audience has got the wherewithal to think, ‘We’ve all done bad things’. It's how we learn about boundaries and what feels good (popping the cat out the window didn't FEEL good, and the good news is I've never done it since). 

I did a whole stand-up show about shame and about how we live in a world that’s quick to condemn and sees things in black and white…  but that's not real life. 

So when I do say things, I’m trying to say, ‘You know, we all have a past’. There doesn’t seem to be any accounting for pasts or growth any more. 

And I think a show like this is important because it's saying we can have a laugh at our defects, to not white-wash your past and to go, "Wow, did you do that too?" it  brings us all together.  

Did any of the guests surprise you? 

Yes, sometimes on shows people present a more sanitised version on themselves so it's refreshing that here they get the chance to say outrageous things and hopefully no one will judge them cos it's not who they are rather it's a thing they did. 

Desiree Burch had some very interesting stories from when she was a teenager. And she was a dominatrix – there’s no shame in that at all, obviously, but I didn’t know that about her. So things come out and you see other sides to people. 

Did you enjoy the confessions from the audience? 

Oh my God, that was so great. Some of the stories are hilarious. I’d better not tell you any of their stories as it’s a bit of a spoiler but I will tell you a very funny moment….

So the member of the audience goes in a confession booth and Mel flicks this sort of massive extending microphone under their nose which is very Covid-friendly but we didn't do it for that - we just did it cos it looks ludicrous. 

And this woman absolutely freaks out and no one knows why and she then just shouts: ‘I have a phobia of foam?’ I guess she didn't know microphones were foam-ended. Anyhow we all lost it, and then thought to check on her but she was fine. 

How sinful are you in real life? 

Nowadays, not so much. I do worry that I’ve used up all my good stories because I don’t seem to do anything very sinful any more. Actually I have just remembered something very sinful I did the other day but let's not commit that to print… 

I still do stupid things and cause damage, I’m sure, but as you get older you want to do bad things less. Your conscience keeps improving I think. I do believe in karma, but I still shop from Amazon and use Apple products.

Did you enjoy making confessions on the show and getting them off your chest?

 No, because I think my parents are going to watch! The producers said I had to do one story per week and I said, ‘Do they have to be true?’ and they said ‘yeah’. So I thought ‘Oh no, not only am I going to be burning through stories, I’m going to sound like an absolute arsehole’. I’m not going to ban my parents from watching it, though. They’re just going to have to get on board with what they’ve raised. 

Are you a forgiving person or do you bear grudges? 

I am too forgiving. I think forgiveness is good but I let go of grudges quite quickly and I think you do need a little bit of bitterness inside you to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again or let that person do the same thing to you. I think I can be a little bit dumb in that way. 

Do people confess their sins to you in real life? 

Yeah, I think I'm really good with secrets. If you tell me something, it will definitely go no further, as long as you tell me definitively that it is a secret. I’m no good at being secretive about my own things though. I tell everyone everything and then I think, ‘That was stupid’. I need to stop doing that. I want to be mysterious. 

I love how boys are quite silent on stuff. When my friend was pregnant, I was bursting to tell my male flatmate because we're all mutual friends. And I couldn't because I thought it was a secret. But it turned out the boy had known a week before me and I had no idea. Men just keep it all in. It probably didn’t even occur to him to tell me.

 It’s nice to have two female presenters. Was that part of the appeal for you? 

There’s hardly any comedy shows with two women. It’s insane the way people don’t trust women to host shows and if they do, they think they have to 'anchor' them with men. 

Women are over half the population. What do you think will happen if we host a comedy show together, we’ll have high heels stuck in our wombs? It’s ridiculous.

 Women are funny; they’re really funny. Not all of them obviously - some are absolute twats of course - that's just maths. But I'm so bored of the same old formulaic comedy with the same tired old guard of men, and the producers say 'yeah people like this’. Of course they do! It’s all you have been feeding them for years. Let them sample some other flavours - not to take over but to blend baby!

It's so patronising but they don't even know they're being sexist, it's so ingrained. 

Someone was talking to me about some male hosts of a certain panel show recently and saying how brilliant they are and I was like, ‘Yes they are brilliant because they’ve been given the chance to fail upwards over years and years, the benefit of the doubt, lots of opportunities to grow. Women are so rarely given that chance especially to host - its like they can drop in on the man's playground not create their own. 

It's so common on a comedy show, they will have eight male comics and two women who aren't comedians. Then people say women aren't funny. Yeah, you're looking at a chef and a newsreader there, mate. 

I've heard producers say: 'We don't need a woman; we have a gay man and a man who has a disability'. What? Sorry let me just jump down from this soap box. 

So yes, my point is, UKTV take risks and they grow talent and no other channel is putting two women on a comedy show and I’m delighted to be part of that.

* Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable starts at 10pm on February 2 on Dave with guests Graham Norton, Desiree Burch and Alex Brooker. Click here for an interview with Mel.

Published: 20 Jan 2021

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