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In our studio off a pretty, light-scattered courtyard in South London, we invited comedic duo Ellie Gibson and Helen Thorn, aka The Scummy Mummies, round for a cup of tea. With infectious laughter and warmer-than-warm personalities, we hear about their celebrated podcast, now in its 10th year, and their experiences of parenting and Christmas. And jokes, of course. Cracking ones (theirs). Cracker ones (ours).
Helen: We’re actually celebrating our 10 year anniversary. We met at a fairly terrible stand-up comedy gig in a shipping container under a flyover in Deptford. Most of the audience were other comedians, and there were a couple of Spanish people who had got lost. And it was so cold that everyone had to sit on boxes with blankets over their knees. So, very glamourous beginnings.
Ellie: It was quite rare to meet another mum on the open mic circuit. We discovered that we lived 5 minutes apart.
Helen: And that our boys were born 11 days apart by the same midwife.
Ellie (with a smile): It’s really a friendship of convenience.
Helen: It was Ellie’s idea. There weren’t many podcasts out there at the time in general, but about parenting was very rare.
Ellie: I was looking for a podcast because I had just become a mum and wanted to hear someone talking about this experience. I did find some, but they were all quite earnest. All ‘what car seat should you buy’ and people talking very seriously about muslin squares and nappy brands. And I didn’t really want that. I wanted someone a bit more like me, being funny and honest about the truth of parenting, and about how, as much as we love our children, it is very hard and sometimes boring.
Helen: Almost immediately we started getting messages from people saying ‘thank you for saying this’, and ‘I thought I was the only one feeling this way.’
Ellie: We were part of the early wave of what gets called ‘honest parenting.’
“Going around the country in a van, with my best mate. Performing and going for a curry afterwards. Those are some of the best days of my life.”
Ellie: Depends by who. Before you have children you have certain ideas about how you’ll be as a mother, but you don’t really know until you become one.
Helen: We have a bit in our show where we say to the audience ‘give us a shout if you are the kind of mum you thought you were going to be’, and never in the history of our show has anyone raised their hand and said yes.
I always wanted to be a mum. I became a mum at 29, which is quite young these days. I raced to be there. I remember a sense of overwhelm when I had my daughter, going ‘I need to be the best woman I can be.’ I’ve learnt a lot about my kids, but also about myself, in the process of being a parent. I’m not very neat or tidy. I’m quite lazy.
Ellie (laughing): You didn’t need to become a mum to realise that.
For me being a parent is the best thing I’ve ever done, it gives me the most joy (and boredom and misery… but also more joy). All the clichés people say are true. And I ended up having this whole career after having a baby, which was not something I thought would happen.
Ellie: Going to Everest base camp, and breaking the world record for the highest comedy gig. That was really fun
Helen: If you listen to the back catalogue of the podcast you can hear our friendship developing. Since we’ve known each other, Ellie and I have gone through the worst periods of our lives. I got divorced, and Ellie had a very poorly boy. We know we can get through. We’ve got each other’s back.
Helen: Chaotic, joyful, excessive.
Ellie: Dawn, lunch, nap. I should really invite Nigella. To do the cooking.
Helen: And she likes a glass of fizz.