THE BIG INTERVIEW WITH HARRIET KEMSLEY
1. Harriet, could you tell us a little bit about your diagnosis (age) and how you found out you had it?
Hey so I got diagnosed last year after quite a few people suggested that I might have it! My husband Bobby bought me a book on it as a little hint and I read it on holiday and cried because I related to it so much and then I got diagnosed a few months later.
2. How did you feel when you found out? Did you always feel a bit different?
It was weird being diagnosed but it felt nice because it felt like I could stop blaming myself for all the silly mistakes I make – finally I had an excuse!
3. What is on your own personal catalogue of traits?
So I’m very clumsy! Always knocking things over and covered in bruises. I also say the wrong thing, lose everything – last month I dropped my phone in a canal! And I am terrible with organisation and directions and the like and I make the same mistakes over and over and over again.
4. What jobs did you do before stand-up? Best? Worst?
I’ve done many jobs. The least suited one to me was probably waitress – I once spilt soup all over a customer – not just on her lap but completely over her head. She was understandably quite angry. Best is defintely stand up.
5. Why stand-up? How did you get into it – what was your first big break and your career highlight so far (Slutty Joan?)
I loved doing my show Slutty Joan this year. It was quite challenging as it’s very personal but the reaction was amazing. I also loved making our series Bobby & Harriet get Married but that was quite stressful as we started writing and filming it only 6 weeks before we actually got married!
6. Does dyspraxia affect your career at all?
I think I can find it hard to concentrate sometimes when there are distractions while I’m on stage – but I’m not sure how much this is dyspraxia and how much is normal. I also worry a lot about saying the wrong thing or getting confused. Also for a long time I struggled to know where to look, I once did a whole show to an air conditioning unit.
7. How do you remember jokes and routines? Any tips your could pass on?
I write the key bit of every joke down and then try and learn them in threes. I dont know why it being a three helps!
8. Dyspraxics seem to be a creative bunch. Is creativity something you love? Does dyspraxia help you come up with new ideas and lines?
Yes my last show was actually about being dyspraxic. It gets me into lots of embarassing situations that are perfect for comedy.
9. You’ve just got married. How’s married life? Is Bobby used to your traits? Any funny stories
Bobby is very understanding. I used to get quite annoyed with myself after breaking things and he sweetly started what he calls ‘the breakages fund’ which means that every year I’m going to break some things but thats fine because it just comes out of the ‘breakages fund!’
10. We’ve seen your Woman News youtube episodes. Dyspraxia seems to be really under-diagnosed in females.
Was your dyspraxia ever obvious to others or was it a struggle to get assessed? How important is that children and adults get the support they deserve?
I think women maybe try and hide it and learn tricks to try and seem more together, its definitely an important thing to help kids and adults who are struggling. Although sometimes I do wonder if being diagnosed late was good for me in an odd way as it meant I got used to failing at things and just kept going anyway, that definitely helped in the early days of stand up.
11. Any advice to someone who has just discovered they have been dyspraxic their whole life?
It’s quite overwhelming at first as I thought oh maybe if I’d been diagnosed when I was younger it would have meant I could have done better at school or not struggled quite so much, but its also made you the person you are!
12. Are you positive about the condition. What positive qualities do you think its given you?
I think it gives you a good sense of humour as you get used to laughing at all the embarrassing moments…also compassion as whatever someone else has done you’ve probably done something stupider!
13. How was being on TV? There are many dyspraxics who were so proud of you when you spoke about the condition on 8 of of 10 Cats Does Countdown. How do we raise awareness so more people know what it is? Will we be seeing you on TV more often?
Oh that’s really nice, I was worried people might think I was making it seem trivial but I find that making fun and laughing at it really helps me.
14. Why do you think there’s so little awareness?
I don’t know! My brother got diagnosed with dyslexia when he was young – they get all the attention!
15. We are loving your podcast about things that make you cry. Have you always been emotional?
Is there something cathartic about letting people into your world?Oh yes definitely, I used to think I had to try and pretend to be perfect but I’ve found the more honest I am the better I feel.
16. Dyspraxia can often lead dyspraxics to being anxious or having low self esteem. Do you suffer from stage fright and how does it feel when you get big laughs at the gig?
I’ve had lots of problems with anxiety and low self esteem, that horrible negative voice that you get used to when you are someone who is not very together. Comedy has helped with that so much though as when people laugh at something it means they’re recognising your thoguht and you feel less alone.
17. Where can we see you next and how can we keep in touch with you on social media?
My podcast Why is Harriet Crying is on ITunes and I will be doing my show Slutty Joan around the place next year and I am all over social media @harrietkemsley.