It’s got to be a bit frustrating to have essentially your entire professional career linked to another person. I mean, the Shermans had it worse; they were brothers, after all, and having a fight where they ended on poor terms didn’t let them get away from one another in the public mind. But Sue Perkins has been paired with Mel Giedroyc so long and so consistently that Stephen Fry once accidentally called her Mel on an episode of QI. Understandably, Sue was put out. (She’s one of those people it’s impossible to think of by last name, at least for me.) They’re not partners, either, despite an unspoken assumption from a lot of people.
Unlike many of the better-known British comedians, Sue grew up working class in London. She’s not from one of those families that can trace its descent centuries and may well have lots of people you’ve heard of in the line. She did not go to a school that had its own tailor, the way Fry did. However, she did go to Cambridge, and she was in the Footlights. Which was of course where she met Mel. This was a few years before David Mitchell, Robert Webb, and Olivia Colman worked together there, to give you an idea of how much we all owe the Footlights.
Unlike many Americans, I did not encounter her first as I watched British people bake. I first saw her on QI. She’s one of my favourite type of guests on the show, in fact; she’s reasonably intelligent and is happy to learn more. She’s funny without being cruel about it unless cruelty is merited. (Don’t touch her if she doesn’t want to be touched, Gyles Brandreth.) She’s willing to go along with whatever weirdness is merited. She hasn’t been on the show in the Sandi era, and I can’t help wondering if there’s a reason for that.
Because most Americans do know Sue best from watching British people bake. Likewise Sandi. I wonder if there’s some conflict there. It’s hard not to think of Sandi as Sue’s direct replacement, for various reasons. I love watching her seasons of what my partner and I refer to as “baking,” though. (For the curious, Pillsbury holds the trademark to “bake-off” in the United States, meaning that the British name of The Great British Bake-Off couldn’t be used in the US for legal reasons.) Sure, she failed to talk Iain out of throwing away his baked Alaska. And she elbowed Howard’s muffin. Still, I’d quite like to have her in the kitchen with me while I baked, giving me help when I needed a spare pair of hands and keeping me company by talking about silly things when that was helpful.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Sue act. She has, but only just barely. She’s done a few things, but mostly, she’s just around, being funny. She’s done a lot of panel shows, but even Mel and Sue was a chat show, not sketch comedy or similar. She’s Big Fat Quizzed, and she’s Dictionary Cornered, and she’s even Masked Sung. She’s enormously funny, and she seems smart and kind. She says that the fact that she’s a lesbian is only about the forty-seventh most interesting thing about her, and I’ve no doubt that she’s correct in that. Honestly, that she was outed on TV is more interesting inasmuch as it’s part of a longer conversation about privacy rights. Still, I miss her on QI and on Baking and just generally miss seeing her regularly.