Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins on bad shows, entering the era of invisibility and having each other’s backs

Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins on bad shows, entering the era of invisibility and having each other’s backs
Georgia Humphreys catches up with one of TV’s most perfect pairings.

Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins are full of apologies when we start our Zoom interview.

They are running 20 minutes late because they have “just been rambling”, admits London-born Perkins.

But if there is one double act you are willing to forgive, it is these two, because chatting to them is non-stop fun.

Having met while studying at Cambridge University, the comedians have toured together (as duo Mel and Sue), presented together (The Great British Bake Off), and acted together (the reason we are talking is the return of Sky Comedy, Hitmen).

And it is clear that they make each other laugh in a way that only best friends can.

“I will literally start rocking, and it is just wordless hysteria,” Perkins, 52, says of spending time with her partner in crime.

And it is laughing “like drains when things go wrong” that has got them through their worst moments in their career, follows Surrey-born Giedroyc, 53, recalling a gig they did in Leighton Buzzard in 1996.

“That was a particularly bad one where they had to open the back door of the theatre to let us out after the gig so that we wouldn’t meet any of the audience,” confides the TV personality, who also hosts Dave series, Mel Giedroyc: Unforgiveable.

“We ran to the train station!” exclaims Perkins, chuckling.

Mel and Sue have been working together for decades (PA)

“It was an hour show and we did it in 37 minutes because there was no laughter, and we sped up because we realised that this was a situation that could turn very unpleasant.“ We never ever laugh about things that have gone well, because it’s smug,” continues the star, who has also fronted documentaries such as Japan With Sue Perkins.

“You laugh because of the terrible jokes, the reactions to terrible jokes, people that just hated us, the interminable travelling, terrible hotels, god awful food, bowel upsets…

“We’ve done the miles, we’ve gigged for years, and that’s where really the connective tissue of our friendship is.”

Hitmen: Reloaded – Sue Perkins as Fran and Mel Giedroyc as Jamie (Sky UK Limited/Alison Painter/PA)

What has been a success for this affable pair is Hitmen now back for a second series, which was created and written by Joe Parham and Joe Markham, and sees Giedroyc and Perkins play friends Fran and Jamie, who also work together as assassins.

When the creators originally penned the script for Hitmen, it was written with the idea of two guys in the main roles.

So, the project has been very collaborative, because “obviously you don’t just transplant that world into the world of two middle-aged women,” Perkins points out.

And this series, female voices were brought into the writing team, including comedian Jessica Knappett.

The duo agree the dynamic between the two leading female characters feels poignant when it comes to the usual stories aired on our screens.

Sue and Mel in Hitmen: Reloaded (Sky UK Limited/Alison Painter/PA) WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ TV Hitmen.

“There are lots of creeping rarities in the show,” says Perkins. “Although there are a lot of women in the action genre now, they’re young women and it is action, it is Marvel, rather than comedy.

“When you hit a certain age, from your 40s onwards, you do feel you’re entering the era of invisibility, and what’s fantastic about this show is it’s the very opposite of that. This is a gun-toting, unapologetic, sweary mess.

“It is two unresolved people who really love each other, and that is another thing you do not see – you do not see deep platonic love. You see it in buddy movies, you see it with guys; you do not see that trope too much in women.”

“I really like the idea that there are two characters in their early 50s making this type of show. It just fills me with joy,” echoes Giedroyc.

“Yes, because we’re not playing the mothers, the crones,” Perkins pipes up again. “We don’t have kids, we still have this very childlike way, we have not evolved in any way from school, particularly. But we are doing this incredibly mature, violent, dangerous job.”

Throughout our chat, there are many signs of just how much of a team Giedroyc and Perkins are.

They finish each other’s sentences, they ask each other’s opinions after they have voiced a thought, and they use nicknames (Giedroyc is ‘Melly’, Perkins is ‘Perks’). And, discussing their careers, they agree that they have worked best together when people have trusted them.

“When the reins are on too tightly, I, for one, just behave badly, and I feel challenged,” admits Perkins. “It is horrid. And we’ve both had that experience.”

“Also, you’re in your early 50s… Of course, you totally respect the writers, the producer, director, but there is part of you that says, ‘I am a grown-up. I have been doing this for 30 years. I am going to listen, of course, I’m totally open to everything, but I sort of know a bit about what I’m doing now’,” quips Giedroyc.

Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins clown around in central London. during the launch of Funny Women – an evening of stand-up comedy – which took place in 2002 in aid of breast cancer charities (PA)

But, Perkins muses, it is very hard to say “no” as a woman, because you are aware it “creates a ripple”.

“I really hope for women coming up now, that the word ‘no’ can be heard as much as ‘yes’.

“Because I always think, apart from the fact that I love her, part of the reason I love working with Mel is suddenly my department doubles; we have each other.

“Separately, I am my own department and there’s no one to champion me.

“The crew has the crew, the director has the whole of production, but you’re on your own and you are aware if you say no, it has this massive effect.

“And I am very, very glad that I have the best person in the world, when I work with Mel, to be in my department, because we have each other’s backs, absolutely.”

All episodes of Hitmen: Reloaded will be available from Wednesday, September 29 on Sky Comedy and streaming service NOW.