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Mel Giedroyc: ‘I thought, oh my god, what if my mum could hear me doing all this rudery?’

A panel show on Dave being more progressive and inclusive than the UK Parliament? Now that really is Unforgivable says Mel Giedroyc.

In episode two of Unforgivable, there is the lovely but vanishingly rare sight of a comic taking part in a panel show with their young baby asleep on their knee. Katherine Ryan’s appearance, alongside – or, more accurately, beneath – her newborn baby might just be a TV first.  

And embarrassingly for the country’s politicians, it shows that Dave – the most anarchic, daft, frivolous of all the TV channels – is now more inclusive and progressive than the UK Parliament.  

Let’s just ponder that for a minute. Stella Creasy MP was recently told that she cannot sit in the House of Commons with her baby. Yet a comedian can take their child into a studio to record a televised confessional in which Mel Giedroyc and hosting assistant Lou Sanders run the rule over the despicable behaviours of a panel of comedians and celebrities. 

“It is utterly ridiculous. We’re living in mediaeval times in so many different ways,” says Giedroyc, when she joins The Big Issue for a Zoom interview. 

“In some ways, I feel like we’re really moving forward. You see John [Whaite] and Johannes [Radebe] and Rose [Ayling-Ellis]  and Giovanni [Pernice] dancing together on Strictly and think, ‘that’s what makes this country really good news, actually’. But then you remember: No babies in the House of Commons, no breastfeeding… for god’s sake, what are we doing?” 

Luckily, Dave’s latest hit panel show is showing the way. 

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“The baby was brilliant,” recalls Giedroyc. “The recording took almost three hours, but they lay there totally happily with Katherine. It was really moving. 

“I did feel bad about all the effing and jeffing in front of the baby. I was slightly worried. Then I thought, ‘oh my god, what if my mum could hear me doing all this rudery?’ But then I remembered she can’t watch it, because she doesn’t know how to get Dave, so it’s fine.” 

Comedian Katherine Ryan brought her young baby to the filming of Unforgivable Photo: UKTV/ELLIS O’BRIEN

The riotous panel show, which returns for its second series in February, is not the natural home of former Great British Bake Off presenter and recent Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special runner-up Giedroyc. There is an abundance of swearing amid the sharing of gross-out stories.  

“It’s not normally my scene at all,” says Giedroyc. “But it’s the most fun. I don’t know if it is to do with getting to the age of 50 or having done Bake Off for seven years, but I love doing something so polar opposite with a bit of swearing and sauce and a lot of rudery. 

“Dave for me is the most rock and roll I’m ever going to get. Dave is ‘edge’ in my world.  

“I feel so happy and honoured to be embraced as part of the Dave family, so when I’m on the show, I probably dropped my Ts a bit, I’ll go a little bit street, a little bit edge.  

“You saw me on the Strictly Christmas show? We did a street dance. So I like to think the badges are fully on – street dancer, street talker… street walker? Not yet. But that may happen if all the work dries up.” 

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On Unforgivable, each panellist details their most embarrassing, awful, unforgivable acts. The formula is a winner – funny people telling funny stories and making funny confessions. Like the best parties, nights in the pub or, erm, work events. 

“David Baddiel, who I adore, was a guest on the first series,” she says. “It was so sweet. At the end of the recording, he said how much he enjoyed it, I thanked him for coming on, and then he said: ‘Yeah, it’s really nice to be on a show where you can do long-format storytelling’. 

“That’s quite precise of him. But that’s exactly what it is, you know? Human beings love to sit around a fire together and blather on and tell stories. That’s what we do, isn’t it? That’s what makes us human.” 

Giedroyc joins in, making her own confessions – one involving what she did in a jiffy bag would have seen her evicted from the Bake Off tent quick sharp – even though she doesn’t have to. But Giedroyc explains it is in her DNA as a comic. 

“You do just come up with all the weird things that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily do in normal life,” she says. “It’s all about getting that laugh, catching that moment. You know, it’s brilliant. For comedians, that’s the addiction of it.” 

We consider, apropos of nothing and no one in particular, whether there is a point in a politician’s career when their cumulative indiscretions and rule breaking and inability to tell the truth finally becomes unforgivable. Giedroyc admits she has thought about taking her panel show into Parliament. 

“I sometimes think we should do a version of Unforgivable for politicians,” says Giedroyc.  

“The thing is, though, with the comics you get the real sense that they are telling the truth. Because this is this how comedy works. You tell the truth because 99.9 per cent of the time, truth is funnier than fiction.  

“But if we did it in the House of Commons, we’d get some awful whitewashed bullcrap.” 

Mel Giedroyc: Unbelievable begins on Dave on February 8

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