A regular on the Bristol stand-up scene since 2015, Louise Leigh is coming to a stage near you, as soon as she’s de-loused her kids (again).
If you’ve not seen her already, she’s known for well-observed material about the dark side of parenting and navigating the choppy seas of middle age.
We spoke to Louise about what her daily routine is really like, and here it is:
A Day in the Life : Louise Leigh
4am. I spend the time just before dawn creeping around my neighbour’s garden in my nightie with a frog in a basket, pursued by a disappointed cat.
My cat brings me a frog every morning. I take it back to the neighbour’s pond every morning. I think it might be the same frog every morning – it has this world-weary look about it.
Official wake up time is 6.20am: Empty dishwasher, feed cats, bring cup of tea to child 1 and Poor Husband, give Child 1 breakfast, have breakfast, wake up child 2, shower, dress, pack bag for work, shout at child 1 that he better be close to being ready for school.
7.30 – leave for work. Time to write some comedy. It mostly looks like shouting at other drivers. If I have a gig that night, I run through my set – it’s a 20 minute drive so I can get through a ten minute set twice or a 20 minute once, or a 5 minute set… oh you do the maths.
I work for a charity, which means that like many people who work for charities, I do about 3 jobs in the time it takes to do half a job, for about a quarter of the money.
10.37 – My tummy tells me it is lunchtime. I start to think about the delicious melt-in-the-mouth chocolate experience that is the Cadbury’s Twirl. I don’t have a Twirl.
12.01 – I open my lunch. My Poor Husband has packed me a salad and home-made bread. It is delicious, but it doesn’t have any Twirls in it. I eat it at my desk.
3.15 (or 4.15 on Wednesdays and Thursdays) I run away from my desk, leaving a whole load of crap lying on it and 17 windows open on the computer.
Twenty minutes in the car – time to practise my set or do some writing – it mostly looks like I’m shouting at other drivers. I am shouting at other drivers.
- 3.45pm I meet the kids at the house, we have a cup of tea and toast and chat. Topics include: how they have had a brilliant idea for a computer game where everyone is from a different element, and the one from the Science element has science powers using chemicals, and the one from the earth element can make roots entangle its enemies and the one who is a girl uses magical powers. Also, why Tyler at school is a dick. Nobody mentions any kind of fancy dress requirement for school in the next 24 hours.
It’s about 4.15. I have a gig tonight, out of town. I have told the comedian to whom I’m giving a lift that they MUST be at my house by 6.30 at the latest.
In the intervening 2 hours 15 minutes, I will do the following:
Take Child 1 to violin lesson, take Child 2 to Breakdance, nip to the shops for something I forgot from the supermarket, pick up Child 1 from violin, take down a washing, pick up shoes, hang up a washing, make a beautiful home-cooked meal (usually mince), pick up Child 2 from Breakdance, turn around half way from Breakdance because friend of Child 2 has forgotten his hoodie, feed cats, referee a fight between children, referee a fight between cats, pick up shoes, anxiously text Poor Husband to check he knows I have a gig and will be home on time, give directions to comedians who are trying to find my house, pick up shoes shout at children to do music practice/homework/pick up shoes, turn off the TV in a rage, turn off the Xbox in a rage, shove guitar into hand of Child 2, wash up my cooking things, pick up shoes, lay table, help with algebra, pick up shoes, remember about last week’s packed lunch still festering in Child 2’s school bag….
6.28 – I empty Child 2’s school bag. There’s a mouldy lunch bag and a note to say it’s Anglo Saxon day tomorrow and he is to recite Beowolf in Anglo Saxon dress at 2.30pm. It too late for an Amazon costume, so I have to destroy a wedding gift (bedspread) and Do Sewing to make a rough cloak. This is UNACCEPTABLE to child 2 who did not want to go as a peasant, but as a warrior king with golden helmet and read his bit of Beowolf from an antiqued piece of paper dyed in tea and “smoked” at the edges with a candle.
6.36 – Comedian arrives, flustered because my house is hard to find. I serve myself something with mince and scream “SIT IN THE CORNER DO NOT SPEAK!” to poor comedian. I eat my mince in red-faced silence and 2 seconds flat.
6.38 – Poor Husband comes home to find the kids running around the table roaring and screaming, ignoring their mince, me smearing makeup (and the grease from the mince) on my face in the front hall in my coat, comedian in corner rocking, wet laundry that I have taken out but not yet hung up, a half-made Anglo Saxon costume, a piece of paper in a bath of tea on the kitchen table and shoes all over the hall.
6.39 – High five Poor Husband – Tag Parenting. Time to transform into a comedian, which happens in the car.
If I’m on my own, I can practise my set, or occasionally write odd little songs, or just rant about the Patriarchy. If I’m with a comedian, it’s amazing what Deep and Meaningful Conversations you have in the car in the dark.
Most of the comedians are young men and I feel like a first cousin once removed to them. If you don’t know what that is, think about your mum’s cousin: she’s a bit younger than your mum, and you feel like you can talk about stuff with her and she won’t judge you. She will occasionally dispense wisdom, which might be nonsense but feels comforting.
7.49 – Arrive at the gig. I have a rule that I will only gig within a 70-minute radius of my house on a week night. I am very often the Lone Vagina on the bill. Luckily, I have a very male family, so it doesn’t bother me enormously on a day-to-day level, although the cumulative effect is wearying.
At the gig: Comedians seem to be almost universally lovely, and there is a real sense of backstage camaraderie, which I think would surprise the audiences. Most of the chat revolves around sharing war stories about the worst gigs we’ve done. It’s encouraging to hear someone who’s been on the telly (once) describe that time they died horrifically in Bovey Tracey, when you’re about to go on stage in Bovey Tracey and die horrifically.
8.00 – the gig starts. I bloody love laughing and so spending the evenings listening to talented people making people laugh is brilliant for me. I have a pretty low bar in terms of humour and a huge dirty laugh, so I’m a good audience member, provided I’m not listening to someone do 10 minutes of misogyny and chat about their frenulum.
8.45ish – I’m about to go on stage. My phone pings. It tells me to go to bed and then asks me “What went well today?” I am seriously regretting downloading that sleep/gratitude app.
8.50-9pm I’m on stage for 10 minutes. It’s the most fun if it goes well: like surfing, but you get to decide where the waves are. Let’s draw a veil over if it doesn’t go well.
10.30/45 – back in the car. I will usually drive other comedians to their doors. On the way home from their house, I’ll listen back to the gig to hear if it went well, or I added something interesting to a joke, or did a bit badly.
11.55- Home. An “antiqued” scroll of Beowolf and a golden paper helmet are drying on the radiator, the washing up is done, the cats look up sleepily, the laundry is hung up, there are no shoes on the floor. I switch off the kids’ reading lights. They look like perfect angels, but the real angel is Poor Husband, who is asleep, dribbling on his iPad while Nordic types go endlessly a-murderin’ on Netflix. He mumbles “howdidgo?” If I brush my teeth on the loo and leave my makeup on, I’ll be in bed by midnight.