Being Quirky Helped Comedian Diane Morgan Land ‘Cunk On Earth’ - Plush Ink Being Quirky Helped Comedian Diane Morgan Land ‘Cunk On Earth’ - Plush Ink

Being Quirky Helped Comedian Diane Morgan Land ‘Cunk on Earth’

I was always bored in class. Growing up in Bolton, England, I went to a rough school, where we had terrible teachers.

I didn’t listen when it came to subjects like math. I had to take the exam four times and failed each time. The school even got patient teachers for me, but no one could explain math or numbers to me. For some reason, only stories stuck in my head. The creative side of my brain was alive and top-heavy while the logical and analytical side felt like it had rotted away.

In Bolton, my family lived in a small three-bedroom house. There was plenty of room at home for me and my brother, Stephen, who is six years older. But that’s only because I was very small and thin.

My dad, Peter, was a physiotherapist. He practiced at home, and there were often lots of screams coming from his office. My mum, Eirwen, worried more about my future than my dad because he had actors in the family.

Humor was prized at home. Dad would sit me down in front of the TV and say, “Watch this. It’s really funny.” If I said something funny, he’d say, “Oh, that’s really good.”

At age 10, I started acting in grade school, where I was cast as Sleeping Beauty. I was painfully shy and quiet, so the teacher had to remind me to speak loudly on performance night.

One of my few lines was “Yes.” When I married the prince, I said yes. Except during the play, I shouted it. The audience roared. Going forward, I got laughs in all my school plays.

The response encouraged me to be creative. In my bedroom, I had two cassette tape recorders—one to record funny little stories I wrote and another to play sound effects I had taped off library records.

If I wrote about someone falling off a ledge, I’d click on the scream effect and then carry on with the story. When done, I ran downstairs and played the finished tapes for my parents.

From 15 on, I wanted to be a comedy actor. I put all my eggs in that one basket and pushed on. I aimed for drama school, but it took me three years to get in. I was so full of fear and anxiety that I’d ruin my auditions. I wanted it too badly.

In those three years, I worked many appalling jobs. Then I auditioned at East 15 Acting School in Loughton. I chose to read the nurse from “Romeo and Juliet.”

The teacher said, “The nurse is usually a fat lady. You aren’t fat.” I said, “She doesn’t have to be freaking fat, now does she?” Everyone gasped that I had talked back.

He paused. Then he said, “No, no she doesn’t.” He wrote something on his page, and I was in. That’s when I realized I should have been rude from the start.

In acting school, I was intimidated at first. There were so many people from posh backgrounds who had butlers and things like that. But I settled in and completely lost my anxiety and shyness. I did this by telling myself that if I felt uncomfortable, I could leave. That put me at ease. I also pretended to be someone other than the anxious person I had been, which was easy since no one knew the old me.

At East 15, I learned a lot about voice and things, and did a lot of improv, which I loved. But after the three-year program, I couldn’t get acting work for two years. Not even auditions.

I worked in telesales to pay my bills. When people irritated by my calls said things like, “I got out of the bath to answer this phone,” I’d reply, “Well, at least you didn’t slip and crack your head open.” That usually broke the ice.

My boss said I should try stand-up. I didn’t want to, but 30 was approaching fast so I started. I went over well, but I never stopped feeling ill each time. I continued for the next 10 years.

About five years in, I started getting regular work on British TV and landed the Philomena Cunk character on Charlie Brooker’s “Weekly Wipe” comedy show.

My portrayal of Cunk as a well-meaning but ill-informed interviewer was so successful, it led to a series of Cunk spinoffs.

Today, my partner, BBC comedy producer Ben Caudell, and I live in a two-bedroom house in London’s Bloomsbury district. We have huge windows that let in lots of light and keep us from getting depressed.

Before my dad died three years ago, I knew he was proud of me. He just wasn’t demonstrative. My mum is proud, too, quietly. Since Philomena is sort of who I am anyway, they were puzzled why people enjoy me as much as they do.

Morgan on Cunk

Home joy? Ben and I live close to everything, yet the area is quiet in the evenings and on weekends.

“Cunk on Earth”? As Philomena Cunk, I narrate the history of civilization and ask posh experts funny questions with a straight face.

Reaction? They took me seriously at first, but now the cat’s out of the bag and they play along.

A fave Cunk line? “School was far easier in Shakespeare’s day because you didn’t have to study Shakespeare.”

TV? I no longer watch much comedy, except “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” If Larry David stops making those, I don’t know what I’ll do.

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