Nina Conti: “I was afraid of fainting or throwing up”


So monkey that Idea here is that we write this article together.

i will be fat Is that okay, Nina?


Good, because I don’t want it to look like a play.

We have to focus on five moments that shaped my career, Monkey.

What a Wankathon.

And my first would be…

1. Mama’s puppet theater in the attic

My mother built a puppet theater.

You never told me it runs in the family.

We pulled strips of newspaper through a sticky, floury mixture to make figures with lumpy heads. There was a prince with a mustache. He was easily confused and spoke with a thick Russian accent. “Where are the fairies? And who is the witch?’ he’d say bang his face on everything and make me laugh.

And this is where I thought Dad was the influence. I thought I was Greek like his character in Shirley Valentine.

No, monkey. If anything, you’re Scottish like my grandfather. Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Mum put everything into the performance, although her arms would have hurt if she squatted down.

How I wish.

2 The Rejection

I worked with Ken Campbell. A headstrong underlord of British theater known for seekers of psychedelic enhancement, classical stagecraft and counterculture.


He performed a 24-hour play – that’s 22 hours too long – to wake up our lizard brains to do more “real” performances. He noticed I was trying to be pretty and boring and leaden, so he sent me to have some false teeth done. They interrupted my face in a way that freed me. I went from a cautious, confident performance to crunching those crunches and getting my tits out. It was my first mask and therefore a great liberation.

False teeth and sleep deprivation – a winning combination.

3. As you like it / the RSC

I was thrilled to be part of the celebrated Royal Shakespeare Company.

But you quickly turned into a naughty, ungrateful, hungover wench…

Well, it was tough standing in the background in a corset holding an embroidery pad I could never sew and pretending to be interested in what the talking parts were saying.

This was a reverse catalyst to do something completely different.

Nina Conti

4 video diaries for the kitchen

At Ken’s behest, I tried ventriloquism, and suddenly I felt like I was doing something that fit my thinking pattern.

You don’t think in monologue, you waver. And you can hide in the shadow of contradiction instead of having a single educated opinion.

I started making ventriloquism videos at home on my digicam.

They usually ended with me dry banging an inanimate object, usually a beer glass.

I made a fat pile of VHS tapes and sent them out to all sorts of people that I’m embarrassed to remember.

Bill Bailey was confused, though Arthur Smith was encouraging.

5. Banana Cabaret

Arthur Smith drew my attention to a new act night at his local pub in Balham. It ran as a competition judged by the audience.

You just had a joke you found on the internet: “Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? Because he was dead.” That wouldn’t last the five-minute set.

“The monkey that hobbles the beer glass is good,” Arthur assured. “Do that.” It was scary standing in a pub. You may not be listening. You might boo.

You looked at me in the bag and made me mouth, ‘Don’t worry Nina, I’ve got it.’

I needed validation; I was the only girl to start with.


They didn’t talk to me, they had been doing it for a long time, they didn’t know that it was my first performance. I was nervous about fainting or throwing up. My hands were shaking.

In me.

When I went to the microphone, my blood was pumping too hard. And as I pulled you out of my pocket, there was a commotion in the crowd.

Uh-oh, it’s a girl with her teddy: this is going to be shit.

But the internet joke paid off and I heard laughter. I was so relieved that I wasn’t the only one who found you funny.

By the time I started poking the beer glass, your hand had stopped shaking and gave me a confident nudge.

I remember thinking; We made it monkey, we’re safe. I might even be okay in life.

And when the voices came in, my humping won the night.

And £20 in cash.

Great Nina.

Thanks buddy.

Don’t mention it, bitch.

To see Nina live this March visit


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