One of the worst feelings is someone asking you what your strengths are, even thinking about the sort of self-promotion that is required for job interviews or social gatherings where you know few people is pretty fear-inducing. Both situations are icky, but job interviews perhaps provide the most pressurised situation for this, as well as getting people to like you, you need their respect.
I don’t find that task easy. To be honest, if there’s a quality that I most admire in people it’s their ability to make fun of themselves, winning people over with humour and demonstrating a disregard for how others may perceive them. It’s not necessarily the quickest route to making friends and definitely not employers, but there’ undeniably something charming about someone who isn’t precious about how they come across. Sure, perhaps they are the biggest performers of all, providing a skit for entertainment, but it’s still preferable to other social crutches.
The tricky thing is to make a fool of yourself and still retain people’s respect. There aren’t many who can do that but the few that can are formidable. Perhaps one of the greatest is Kathy Burke.
It was late last year, listening to her episode on Desert Island Discs from 2010, that she came back to my attention. I’d forgotten how funny she is.
As a teen, I’d loved Kevin and Perry Go Large, I must have seen that film more that twenty times. I really love it. I got a thrill out of watching Burke be as gross as Harry Enfield, and funnier. Starting off performing sketches on various shows like French and Saunders and Harry Enfield’s Television Programme, Burke was then considered a ‘serious’ actor when she appeared as Valerie in Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth, for which she won Best Actress at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Subsequently, she turned her back on acting, opting to prioritise theatre directing which she claimed to be more creatively stimulating.
She’s a staple of British culture and has her name attached to enduring films, but it’s her lack of pomposity and honesty in interviews which, for me, is her strongest charm.
Her unpolished, no bollocks, utterly laid bare approach is something I greatly admire. I look up to women like Burke, and her contemporaries like Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Miriam Margolyes and am so uttly thankful that they not only exist, but are cherished in the public eye.