Kerry Godliman is one of Britain’s most versatile performers, starring in Bad Move, Derek and After-Life, along with appearances on Live at the Apollo and numerous comedic panel shows including Mock the Week, 8 out of 10 Cats and Taskmaster. You’ll also see her in the brand new, four part-series Adult Material, which will be hitting Channel 4 later this year.
When she’s not treading the boards, Kerry likes to relax with a spot of aggressive allotmenteering. She kindly takes time out from her busy schedule to tell us all about boshing weeds, prepping for gigs, and the joy of a National Trust cake.
Unfortunately the ‘Bosh’ tour mentioned below has since been postponed due to COVID-19, so keep checking her website for further details.
Is gardening something you were bought up with, or have you grown into it?
Well I had no interest in it. My mum and dad always did gardening, but I wasn’t that bothered. So yeah, it has come to me at this chapter of life.
You have an allotment now….
Yes I have. I share it and I have to be honest with you, my friend Claire does most of it. She’s very passionate about it. She has two in fact and it is much more her thing, but I was the one that got it. I put my name on the list and my name came up and I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to do it on my own so I asked her if she wanted to share it which was a canny move because she’s done most of the heavy lifting really. I had to wait four years, which is pretty average for London.
Thinking back to the time when you appeared on Taskmaster (the Channel 4 game show fronted by comedic colossus Greg Davies) you had a very much direct, no-nonsense way of tackling the tasks. Is that your approach to gardening too?
Actually, it is. There’s a bit on Taskmaster which references this*. The way I garden is not very tranquil. I can get quite aggressive with slugs and weeds. I don’t go into a reverie of meditation. I’m quite robust.
A lot of people use gardens as their restful, therapeutic place….
I do too. But that’s how I rest.
Do you find the allotment a good place to work on material?
You kind of percolate all the time. When I was younger, I felt that you had to sit down and write in the kind of traditional way, but now I tend to percolate quite a lot and tend to get on with other things. So gardening is quite good for that – it’s one of those flow activities where you are half-thinking about what you are doing but half-thinking about other stuff.
How long did the current tour take to write?
Well, it’s not really a locked down thing. It’s been evolving, bits and routines have been floating about in pads or in offshoots of other bits. It’s really really hard to define or explain, but it’s been evolving for about two years, like tiny little bits have been bubbling up, and they start to develop a theme. At some point – usually when your agent kicks you up the arse and says “I need a title because I’m booking this in” – you go, right, all these things that have been flying about in my brain for two years now, I need to lock them down and pull them together and do a little bit of homework. You then scribble them down and stick them on post-it notes and then arrange them in a way so there is some form of narrative. I mean, it’s a contrivance because it’s not really a narrative – you are just finding a way to kind of hang the disparate bits together.
How do you prepare for going on stage?
I’m a drama school trained actor so I know that the sensible answer is that I should do a vocal warmup and stretch out but I know that comics just don’t do that. And I have occasionally lost my voice on tour. When I’ve spoken to actor friends they go “Why didn’t you warm up?”, because if you were doing a play you would warm up, but stand-ups are just too rock and roll for that and they think it’s really edgy to not bother getting themselves mentally ready. I suppose I just try and have a bit of quiet where I can just map the route of the show over in your head. I also like to reflect on all the people that have come actually, that has become a nice ritual, where you go “wow, I’m just really grateful that all these people came.” And it’s a way of diffusing nerves, because if you get caught up in nerves, it’s a downward spiral, so you have to nip it in the bud.
Your tour involves lots of dates…
It’s long but it’s broken up, so I’ve got like a week in London, so that’s one stretch of it, and then I’ve got a week in the Highlands, so I’m going to the Outer Hebrides, so that’s a bit of a random addition. It’ll be amazing, and basically it’s an excuse to go somewhere I would never have otherwise gone. A couple of other people have been there – Alan Carr has done it and Suzi Ruffell has done it. Tom Allen also. I’ve heard so much about it from other people and I’ve gone “I really want to do that”, so it’s kind of like a treat for me really.
It sounds like your allotment will be a bit of a state by the time you get back.
Nah, my mate’s all over that. I do love going away, and that isn’t really conducive to being a devoted gardener. My dad’s always saying that to me. “You can’t have long holidays Kerry if you are a true gardener.” But I cheat, I’m a terrible cheat. I get other people to come and do it.
What kind of things will you be growing this year?
I’ve already got my seeds in. I think I’m going to grow more flowers this year as opposed to just edibles. I just want to get the colour in the garden – I want to make it as colourful as I can get it. But edibles, I’m just going to do easy things like chard and courgettes and beans. Things that I can just keep eating through the season rather than have just one harvest.
Is your allotment all neat and regimental?
No, I really like that kind of Alys Fowler-y permaculture kind of system. Make it all look a bit higgledy piggledy. So growing sweet peas through beans, that kind of thing. I like it when people create sort of lounge sitting areas up there (at the allotment) and in the summer you can have a BBQ up there and all that. That to me is one of the upsides of having it. It’s social and somewhere to go. In London, it’s just so hard to get that sense of country and nature and you really have to find it where you can get it. I’m naturally quite urban, and I think I would go quite bonkers in the countryside, so I found a compromise by having an allotment.
Is there a good community on your allotment, or are things a bit competitive?
Claire (the woman who I share it with) says it can get a bit competitive. I just don’t engage with it. I just reserve my competitive nature for my area of work. I can’t be arsed to get competitive about a carrot.
Listening back to your appearance on the superb ‘Off Menu’ podcast, you mentioned your allotment and the joy you get from visiting the Gardening Museum. Ed (Gamble) and James (Acaster) rudely took the piss out of you for this, didn’t they?
Yes they did. They are young, silly boys.
Do you get to visit many gardens?
Yes I do. I went to Down House the other week. I was planning to go to Charleston next week but worried the weather will rain that off. I go to Kew regularly – my mum’s a member, and it’s great for accessibility there. You can hire a mobile and get around really easily. National Trust ones are always lovely, and are a great way to break up a journey.
National Trust Gardens have nice tea shops…
Ooh I do love a National Trust cake. That’s what I mean though… when James and Ed took the piss out of me for going to the Gardening Museum**, they’ve just got no idea what I’m talking about. I think they thought I was just making it up.
I read on Wikipedia*** that you did a voiceover for a program about saving old pubs. Is this a subject close to your heart?
Oh yeah, no that was just a voiceover job. I also did something for GCSE Bitesize maths. I don’t even have GCSE maths so there’s an indication just how disconnected you can be from a voiceover job.
But you do like pubs though, right?
You know, I don’t mind them but I have gone off them as I’ve gotten older because I’m not drinking so much any more. We went to a pub in Barnes last Sunday and the rugby was on, I don’t eat meat and it was all roast dinners and I wasn’t drinking. What are these places for if you don’t like meat and you are not drinking and you don’t like rugby? I’m not passionate about pubs any more. I used to be when I was young… I used to live in them.
And finally, after a hard day’s graft – allotment or stage, what is your go-to drink?
I would have either a beer or a red wine.
Any particular beer?
I think I’d quite like a lager actually. Or just an ale. A nice cold drink. There’s something about a beer that makes you feel like you are on holiday. And then red wine is a nice wintery drink to make you feel a bit cosy.
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For gig info and booking details, visit
* Kerry’s blunt, ruthlessly efficient approach on Taskmaster helped coin the name of her current tour. BOSH!
** Kerry chose the chocolate pudding from the Garden Museum cafe as her favourite dessert. Unfortunately a quick look on their website reveals that this dessert no longer exists. The Buttermilk panna cotta, poached rhubarb and shortbread sounds nice though.
*** Only the most thorough pre-interview research for us…