Why did you start doing stand-up?
I really wanted to be an actor, but I wasn’t very good at acting. I auditioned for drama school for years and never got in. I tried stand-up as an experiment, just as a way to get stage time. The second I did, I realized that was exactly what I had to do. I wanted to play as myself, rather than get lost and play as someone else.

Who did you look up to when you started?
I hadn’t really watched stand-up before doing it, so I didn’t know about comedy. Once I started doing stand-up, the people I loved were Josie Long, Bridget Christie, Stewart Lee, and then my peers like James Acaster and Josh Widdicombe.

Can you remember a concert so bad, it’s now funny?
I did stand-up for Hugh Grant’s birthday about seven years ago. They had me booked as a ride on him and wanted me to do feminist stand-up to ruin his birthday. It worked well, I survived and my career is going well. But at the time I had to interrupt the party of people I recognized and do stand-up to Hugh Grant. I must have done half an hour. It was so long. I remember there was David Baddiel, whom I had never met, as well as Max Mosley and Charlotte Church. It was pretty A-list.

Your current show is called Success Story. What can the public expect?
Name-dropping, personal stories and anecdotes – that’s what I always do. I try not to share too much because I’m a mom now and aware that my material will exist on the internet when my son is in school, has a job, and is an adult. Nothing too serious, but I’m talking about conceiving during IVF. There’s also a lot of stuff about the 90s. I didn’t know I had become a nostalgic comedian.

“I hate being asked if I’m a woman. I don’t have a funny or interesting answer anymore’…Sara Pascoe. Photography: Rachel Sherlock

Best rowdy?
Hecklers are generally not very good at their job. They are usually drunk and insult you or misunderstand what you said. It’s never that this very erudite man from Dundee absolutely saw what I was trying to do and helped me out with hilarious consequences.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
I’ve had a lot of former comedians say to me, “You shouldn’t do this kind of comedy, you should do it like this, you should have a male writer.” Those kinds of things are the worst. As a woman, you are often told not to talk about sex because the public is not comfortable with it. I was told not to wear skirts on stage. That was before Katherine Ryan and Andi Osho, very glamorous people, proved that it was possible: you can be hysterical and wear a pretty dress.

Comedy bugbears?
I hate being asked if I’m a woman. But it’s more because I don’t have a funny or interesting answer anymore. I think the discussion has really evolved. As a middle-class, well-paid white woman at my level, I’m no longer qualified to talk about being a woman in comedy.

You have written two books on topics around sexuality, power and the female body. OWhat role has feminism played in your career?
When I started doing stand-up, I didn’t consider myself a feminist, but when I started stand-up, I was called a feminist comedienne. At that time, I was looking at my routines and talking about going on the bus, being at Tesco, wearing a bra, and then I was like, ‘Oh, that’s just because I’m a woman who talks about these things.” It’s a really visible part of yourself that you don’t think you express, but the fact that you’re there means you are. I’m never a person on a bus, I’m a woman on a bus and because of that I became hyper aware of it and started writing more and thinking about it a lot more.

I didn’t really identify as a woman that strongly until I started doing stand-up and people kept telling me I was a woman. I really felt like a person, until I was a minority in a job where I went to concerts and people were like, “Oh, it’s nice to have a woman on the bill.” What a weird greeting when you walk into a room, when you just think you’re a person.

Where do you stand on the feminist label that is still given to you?
My Wikipedia says “feminist vegan” and it’s often my intro on talk shows. The reason I find it difficult is that I don’t have jokes about these things because they’re not things I necessarily joke about. Whereas if they just said ‘she’s a little girl from Essex’ I would feel safe that we are in an area we are joking about.

I have this concern that being a feminist is going to turn some people off my comedy – which isn’t harassing, which isn’t hateful – and actually the problem is a misunderstanding of what feminism is. It’s weird because it’s like someone said “That person is not racist” in their biography. In fact, most people believe that the sexes are equal, so why do you need a capital F at the beginning? Why is it a descriptive term?

What’s it like to be an Essex little girl in comedy?
It’s fantastic because people expect very little from you, there are a lot of stereotypes out there to be broken, and also you have a lot of fun. We are a brilliant laugh.

What is the important lesson you learned as a stand-up?
That you’re only as good as your last gig. There’s something wonderful about it because you always start over. You write the best jokes of your life, you put on the best show, and you have to start over. You can never say “Wait guys, I did this two years ago, let’s all laugh again.”

What is the best advice you have received?
My father is a jazz musician who lives in Australia. I told him that after university I was going to do a PGCE because I had to pass a CAP to be able to pay my rent. He said, “Don’t do a teaching degree. Make it work or starve. He basically said that if you have a backup plan, it’s much less likely that you can do what you want to do. I didn’t think that was necessarily good advice at the time, and my mom hated it.