Random 8

Zoe Lyons

Zoe Lyons

One random comedian, eight random questions; it's the ultimate test of funny person and fate.

This week the zinger-laden Zoe Lyons joins us, before a couple of shows for the Best in Comedy clubnight, in Spalding (September 9th, with Tez Ilyas, Paul McCaffrey, etc) and Witham (November 4th, with Glenn Moore, Ray Badran). Those BIC events "are really fun to play," says the Brighton-based comic. "There are some brilliant independent gigs out there."

Lyons finished her Bald Ambition tour in May, "so the rest of this year will be back to the drawing board to build up new material." But one outlet for that material is no more, as she recently closed her own long-standing Brighton night.

"I had run Bent Double at Komedia for the last 18 years so it has been a good run and I have loved hosting the show," she says. "I will book in special one-offs but the last regular show was a very emotional one and, yes, a tear was shed.

"I decided that the time was right to bring it to an end as I don't gig as much as I used to and so booking the shows was getting a bit harder for me. I'm not so in tune with who is who on the circuit, and the last thing I wanted was for the show to ever feel stale or out of touch. It's good to end on a high."

And begin on one. Zoe Lyons, your Random 8 await.

Who is - or was - your most interesting relative?

I never met my mum's father because he died when she was quite young. I really wish I had because he sounded like a real character. He would apparently take her out for a lunch of oysters and Guinness when she was quite little (you could do that in the 50s I guess). He saved a boy from drowning once and he was the first policeman in Lancashire to ride a motorbike. By the time he died he only had one leg.

What's the most regrettable thing you've ever bought?

Two second-hand sports cars. They were a lot of fun to drive but financially it was a poor choice and it was a definite cry for help. There is a part of me now that is almost proud of how cliched a midlife crisis decision it was. They played havoc with my hips though. The driving position is so low that they were a bugger to get out of. In the end they cost me a fortune in physiotherapy so they had to go.

Zoe Lyons

Which historical figure should get more attention?

Joseph Bazalgette, the civil engineer behind the building of the London sewer system. It helped to rid the city of cholera and also clean up the Thames. I often think of him when I'm on the bog, thank God for people like Bazalgette who take on the less glamourous engineering jobs so that the world is a slightly less shitty place.

I have a weird fascination with infrastructure. We all moan about things not working but the level of maths, intellect and computation to make anything work is amazing. I can't hang a picture properly so anyone who can engineer an entire sewage system is a bloody legend.

What's the oddest thing you've ever eaten?

Without doubt that would be rat! I was a contestant on the first ever series of Survivor back in 2001 and we had to fend for ourselves on an island off Borneo. The place was literally crawling with rats. They would climb all over us at night, so they were really easy to catch and cook on a fire. Not a meal I was ever in a hurry to repeat. I think the best way I can describe the flavour is intensely gamey.

Ever met a particularly great or awful famous person?

I worked in a restaurant near Farringdon before I started doing stand-up. We used to get a lot of famous people coming in all the time. Lucian Freud was a regular and I served him many times. I always felt like I was in the presence of someone of real importance. He was probably the greatest living artist at the time.

He would come in splattered with paint and always paid in cash from a massive roll of fifty pound notes. He dropped a load of cash once as he was leaving the bar and another waiter handed it back to him. It must have been about two grand rolled up. He took back the cash and said to the waiter "thank you dear boy, that might come in handy."

QI. Zoe Lyons

What's the very best thing you ever saw?

I am a scuba diver and this year I got to see a big school of hammerhead sharks in Mexico, and it was the most incredible thing I have and will ever see. I had a little cry in my mask. They were happy tears.

I am so lucky to have seen some of the things I have seen underwater. The beauty blows my mind. I have a few things left on my diving bucket list. At the top of the list is a sunfish, or Mola Mola to give it its proper name. I'm off to Indonesia on a dive trip at the end of the year so fingers crossed one will grace me with its appearance.

Is there a book/movie/album that changed your life?

George Orwell's 1984. I read it in 1984 at the age of 13 and it changed my worldview for ever. And boy, was he on to something. The book was written in 1948 but he was bang on about the direction of travel politically and socially.

Which unsung town deserves more attention?

Applecross in the Highlands. It is the most beautiful place and pretty tricky to get to, but I have eaten the best Langoustines in the world there. Also, it has a micro climate so the weather is not bad either.

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