Songs of comedian Vicky Arlidge strike a chord with fed up mums
- Credit: Archant
Most forty-somethings nursing a mid-life crisis get it out of their system with an inappropriately tight dress and a night out with the girls. But piano teacher Vicky Arlidge’s rebellion led to her becoming a stand-up comedian.
It was after a particularly frustrating summer “going a bit nuts” looking after her two young children that she wrote a comic song Mum Can You Wipe My Bum?
A clip of her performing it online earned thousands of hits and made her think she could forge a career out of writing musical comedy.
Last year, the 43-year-old took a one-hour routine to Edinburgh and was nominated for the Funny Women Awards best show.
This year, she plays Glastonbury and performs a new show in the Scottish capital.
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“I never in a million years dreamed that I would take up stand-up comedy in my 40s but I wrote this song about the things kids ask you endlessly all day long, put it on YouTube and got thousands of hits and messages from Hong Kong to Australia.
“I guess motherhood is the same all over the world and it struck a chord.
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“I hadn’t performed for ages because I had stopped to have kids. I was getting fed up with endlessly teaching and it got to the stage where ‘I either do this till the end of my days or take a risk and what’s the worst that can happen? You get booed off stage.’
“So get on the beast and keep riding it.”
Arlidge, who cites Tim Minchin and Victoria Wood as inspirations, started going to open mic nights and says it was “petrifying” getting up in front of a comedy audience having previously only played music concerts.
“It still is. Every time I go on stage, I am nervous. The first night went really well. It was a raucous late-night club with every other performer doing dirty jokes and I got up with Mum Can You Wipe My Bum but it went down surprisingly well.”
She admits her comedy can be “quite niche” and that she goes down best with a “middle-aged audience of parents” who get the joke.
But of late she has broadened her material to include gags about dirty secrets, man flu and imagining what One Direction’s lyrics might sound like when they’re 40.
“My audiences are 75 per cent women who come with a gaggle of girlfriends – but you learn that you can’t please everyone all the time.
“Performing comic songs, you have to get the laughs with the timing and rhyming. Often a joke that works well when you speak it, falls flat when you make it rhyme and set it to music – or the punchline breaks the rhythm.
“I study how other people do it and try things out to work out what I did wrong and keep tweaking things to get more laughs.”
Arlidge grew up in Church Row, Hampstead, and attended Camden School for Girls and New End Primary, where an inspirational teacher got her and her sister into music at the age of five.
She now lives in St Albans with her children aged six and eight and, when she’s not playing Glastonbury, also writes music for TV and film.
“Edinburgh was an amazing experience with 43,000 performances in three weeks. Being nominated for an award (she came second and won a bottle of sparkling Blue Nun) was important. Comedy is a really hard environment for women to survive in. It’s still very sexist and hard for women to do well but Edinburgh is important for the exposure – to get yourself seen by the right people who might be able to take you to the next step.”