Gail Porter following footsteps of comedy idols Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard with new career in stand up
Gail Porter has found a new calling in life: “to make people smile and laugh”. And she intends to do that by turning her struggles with homelessness, alopecia and mental health into material for a brand new stand-up routine.
The Scottish TV presenter, 52, admits she is anxious, but a “good anxious” to show people what she is made of when she takes to the stage at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms from August 2-28.
Speaking to the Standard, she said: “I’ve done little stand-up bits before, it’s usually like a charity event. I’ve done wee gigs in Glasgow and in Edinburgh, but nothing major and this is my own show! I’m still getting over the fact that I’ve managed to pull it off, to have one.
“I just hope on the first night that first laugh - if I can get it - then I can keep going. I’m just a tiny bit anxious, but it’s a good anxious, it’s a nervous anxious.”
Citing comedy greats such as Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard as her inspirations, she says she’s into “observational stuff”.
“When they go off on a tangent and come back again you just think ‘what’s happening?’ We don’t know, but it’s funny. It’s not going to be super structured, well, I’ve been told that I’ve got to structure it, but I never really do what I’m told.”
Someone who unashamedly wears their heart on their sleeve, she vows nothing will be off limits, including her time going from a children’s TV presenter to becoming a lad’s mag favourite with her naked image beamed onto the Houses of Parliament.
The 60-minute show will also touch on her being sectioned, diagnosed as bipolar and forced to sleep rough for six months.
She said: “Every single one of us has been through stuff; you don’t know what that person walking down the street has gone through, you don’t know what your neighbour has gone through unless people open up and talk about it.
“We’ve all got our little stories and we all deal with it in different ways and my way now is to try and be funny and do as much as possible to make people smile and laugh.”
Another way that Porter likes to give back is through charity work.
She has recently partnered with Virgin Media O2 and digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, to help raise awareness of a National Databank set up to help people in need to access free mobile data.
1,000 national databank hubs have been set up throughout the UK, helping people in need to get online and to stay connected with up to 220 hours of internet browsing per month, as well as free texts and calls.
“You need communication, that’s extremely important, you need data obviously to sort your life out, but you also get extremely lonely when you’re in a different place, or you’ve not got a secure background.
“I very much doubt I would have been homeless for six months if I had this sort of data. It would have an absolute game-changer.”
Recalling how night time had been the hardest while homeless, she said: “You get seriously lonely and then I think I can’t even phone anyone to just say can I have a hug – a virtual hug.
“I’m not a daft person and if I had data then I would have been on it all the time thinking ok, this is free, I can contact this person, that person, can I get a shelter, someone to help me, do I get money from anybody, can I get a job, anything.”
Another thing it might have allowed her to do is communicate more about how she was feeling. Porter became seriously depressed while homeless, but for the longest time kept how she was feeling to herself.
“I thought I’m not going to tell anybody because this is embarrassing, and everyone’s going to judge me and it’s going to be awful and I don’t want other people to feel bad.
“When I did finally open up, I realise everyone is there and people care about each other and they are there to take you for a tea or a coffee or go for a walk around the park.
“Now, I’m lucky enough to have a roof over my head, I’ve got a little rescue cat and I’ve got a wonderful daughter.”
To find out more about the National Databank,visit www.o2.co.uk/national-databank