Tragi-comedy Ladybaby is the brainchild of writer Kirstie Swain, following odd couple Suzie and Kate. The recently reunited mother and daughter are chalk and cheese, but can they help each other become happier? We spoke to Kirstie Swain about Ladybaby, odd couples, and how not to be too “issuey” when addressing heavy subjects…
Funny Women: Tell us about your new BBC Three show Ladybaby.
Kirstie Swain: It’s a comedy about a thirtysomething woman-child, unexpectedly reunited with the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was a teenager. When Suzie got pregnant aged 15, everyone told her that having a baby would fuck her life up. It does, just 21 years later than she thought it would and not in the way she thought. We have an amazing cast who I still can’t believe said yes to me, including: Amy Manson, Mirren Mack, Ford Kiernan, Phyllis Logan, Hanna Stanbridge, Richard Gadd, Samual Anderson and Grant O’Rourke – most of whom are Scottish and all of whom are brilliant.
FW: I love the ‘odd couple’ nature of Kate and Suzie, what inspired their characters and story?
KS: When you’re a teenager everyone tells you not to have a baby, but as soon as you turn thirty, people ask you if you want a baby and do you have a baby and why don’t you have a baby?! Everyone has an opinion on your womb and how full it is or isn’t. It just made me think, if I’d had a baby I was a teenager I wouldn’t have to worry about having one / or not having one / or if I’d even be able to have one, in my thirties. What if you could effectively “bank a baby” for the future? You have one in your teens but you don’t let it ruin your life like everyone tells you it’s going to, and then save it for your thirties when everyone tells you it’s the best thing you’ll ever do and why didn’t you do it sooner? What would that relationship look like? I wanted to write a rom-com about that. Then I succumbed to societal pressure and had a baby so now I’ve got loads of material about that so it’s become a bit of a vehicle for exploring all the different versions of motherhood.
FW: You don’t shy away from difficult or heavy themes, such as mental health (Channel 4’s Pure) or teen pregnancy and adoption in Ladybaby, how do you find the comedy in these subjects?
KS: When I try and be serious I feel like I’m just being really earnest, which ends up undermining the thing I’m trying to be serious about. The funnier I can be, the more sincere I think I am. I also think comedy is a great tool of stealth. You can sneak issues in there without being “issuey.” I’m sure this analogy has been done before, but with comedy you can kind of Trojan horse an issue into people’s minds…. If the joke is the Trojan horse and the issue is the army inside it, you can just wheel it in there, do it, then leave but you’ve left more than a laugh behind, you’ve left people thinking. And a giant wooden horse filled with Greek people.
FW: Your show was announced alongside a raft of female-led projects on BBC Three, do you think this is a signal of a female-led future in TV?
KS: I don’t even think it needs to be female-led, female-accompanied would do me. As long as they’re not accompanying as some sort of silent trophy wife who just stands there laughing at everyone else’s jokes. They need to be an equal partner who does the jokes.
FW: And lastly, who are your favourite funny women?
KS: My sisters are funny and my favourites. Rhona is like what would happen if Jim Carey (the Ace Ventura years) was a thirtysomething vegan with 11 huskies living in Spain. Amy is master of the one-liner. Sometimes I write down things she says and use it as dialogue in things. Last time I was drunk I told her I’d give her £50 every time I did that but I’m regretting it because she says a lot of funny stuff.
Ladybaby is available on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer from Tuesday 24th August and airs on BBC Scotland on Friday 27th August at 10.30pm.