Written by Hazel Davis

Arts

Suttie call

In Isy Suttie’s new memoir she plays pool with soldiers, sprints naked into the Celtic Sea and downs Sambuca on a rope swing. Trying – and failing – to remain in her 20s was an exhausting time, she tells Hazel Davis.

Isy Suttie photo by Idil Sukan.

Isy Suttie photo by Idil Sukan.

We started off New Year’s Eve with yet another roast – in the same way people always cook too much spaghetti, we seemingly never cooked quite enough chicken – and then we went on a massive walk with Mark’s dog. I haven’t mentioned the dog yet because I am really scared of dogs. I don’t think there was some terrible childhood incident which led to this, I think it’s bloody common sense, because dogs have teeth, no moral code and an indiscriminate appetite for destruction: toilet rolls, armchairs, humans, they don’t give a shit. Even little dogs, which are more like animated teddy bears, make me nervous.

Yet people are so affectionate with their dogs. If I was hugging a mate and she suddenly did a really loud bark in my ear – guess what? I would jump and let go. If I was kissing a bloke and he said, “Oh by the way, I’ve just been licking my arms and my bum,” I’d be incredibly impressed that he could lick his own bum so that would override my disgust but when a dog licks his own bum, that’s not an achievement! That’s like us moving a vase or closing a briefcase. When a dog refrains from licking its own bum, that’s something.
Extract from The Actual One by Isy Suttie (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

“The period this book covers is long enough ago that everyone was too hammered to remember if they were there or not.”

Standard Issue: Did you consider leaving anything out of The Actual One, or is there something you left out that you really didn’t want to?

Isy Suttie: There were too many stories about sick. When I got the notes back on the first draft, the editor was like, “There are at least two too many stories involving sick.” So I had to take some out but if I feel like an audience can handle it, I do an ‘uncensored’ section at the end of the show. No audience has been able to handle it yet.

In terms of writing about other people, I was careful to make sure I gave a balanced view of them and acknowledged that if I was writing about a past relationship, nothing was anyone’s ‘fault’ – human beings are just a bit flawed.

Is there anything you now regret leaving in?

No. I put my conscience through the mill multiple times.

Did your mum REALLY log in as you on internet dating sites?

Yes, and it was all quite funny and jokey but when she started doing it when I wasn’t there it got slightly more creepy. If you received a message on a dating site, your first thought wouldn’t be, “Could this possibly be from their mum?”

Do you think there’s a gap in the media for the portrayal of hedonistic and carefree young people who are also nice and unpretentious (it’s usually one or the other)?

I’m always interested in watching or reading (and, I guess, producing) stuff which embraces the fact that we are all very complex, that we might seem to be one thing but, left alone with the right person, reveal ourselves to be the exact opposite in some way that isn’t immediately obvious.

I watched a new show called Crashing on E4 the other day about people living in an unoccupied building and it was so great because all of the characters are flawed in different ways but also lovable and complicated. People are complicated, and it’s seeing into the cracks between those complications that makes me excited.

You’ve chosen a specific period in your life to write about; does that mean we can look forward to more books about other periods, Stephen Fry-style?

Possibly. I need to have a think about the next book. The problem is I want to write about meeting my partner and having a baby in an honest way but that also involves writing about people who are very much present in my life now, whereas the period this book covers is long enough ago that everyone was too hammered to remember if they were there or not.

When were you happiest?

I feel more content than I used to now but also a bit more anxious, probably due to that contentment. So: probably when I was three.

Now you’re a writer, standup, actor and singer, which of these things makes you smile the most?

The variety! I love springing from thing to thing and I never get bored.

Who are your artistic inspirations?

I love Frank Zappa, Björk, Jake Thackray, Steve Coogan, Julia Davis, so many comics. The people I love most are the ones who go with their instincts and work hard.

Do you ever get bored with hearing the words, “Isy Suttie… aka…“?

Aka Munchkin Soldier Number 3 in the 1988 Matlock Ballet School production of The Wizard of Oz? Not really, because if it makes people come and see me live who didn’t know I did standup that’s good and I’m honoured to have been involved in such a great show. You can’t affect what people see you as, you can only just do the work that makes you excited and challenged.

The book is sort of about you finding Mr Right. You found him though, right? Did you really know immediately he was the one? HOW??? (We’re asking for a friend.)

Ha! Yes I have. I just felt so relaxed with him and he was so kind. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. Kindness was top of my list. It’s a very underrated quality.

The Actual One book coverHow much do you think you’ve changed since the period documented in the book?

I think I’ve become more confident and a bit less spontaneous on a night out.

Do you think you will ever leave London and move back north?

Maybe, I do miss Matlock.

How famous are you in Matlock? Do you get recognised in the street? Do they hang bunting out?

They mainly celebrate my appearance as the Munchkin Soldier. They all dress up as the Wizard of Oz and we drink absinthe and swing on the bunting. Then I remember I’ve got a baby now and get down from the bunting.

You can buy The Actual One here

Isy is currently on a book tour.

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Written by Hazel Davis

Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".