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I TALK TO London Hughes

This week sees the launch of BBC One’s latest Saturday night show, Ready or Not and I recently caught up with one of its hosts London Hughes to talk about the new show as well as Celebs Go Dating and her hopes for the future.

From the supermarket to the seaside, Blackpool Tower to Birmingham city centre, Ready or Not brings a hilarious twist to the traditional gameshow. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, a crack team of quiz show hosts will be ready to surprise unsuspecting members of the public with their crazy games.

Paddy McGuinness provides the voiceover for the show and London Hughes is one of a number of hosts. When London appeared on the most recent series of Celebs Go Dating many were left questioning who she was, not realising that she’s spent almost a decade working hard on building a name for herself and 2018 seems to be her year as she returns to our screens this week on primetime BBC One no less!

How did you first start in comedy?

I was at Kingston University studying Television Studies and I was working at TGI Fridays and auditioning for every single show under the sun. I nearly got on Big Brother! I auditioned 4 times… back when it was classy, when Davina did it! (Laughs)

The dream was to be on TV and get into TV. I’d always wanted to but I just didn’t know how to do it. I had no idea that comedy was the answer to be honest.

I got sacked from TGI Fridays because I was late and we had a new boss who was like “One strike and you’re out”. He was horrible, but thank God he sacked me because I got sacked on the Saturday and that Sunday I got invited to a comedy show.

That comedy show was every Sunday and I could never go because I was working so I went and that was the first time I’ve ever seen stand-up ever! I literally looked at these comedians like “WOW. This is amazing! I could do this.”

Not because I wanted it as a career or anything, it was just because the way they made people laugh reminded me of how I make people laugh all the time. I thought if I actually applied myself, I might be able to do a set. So I wrote some material, performed it at my University talent show and invited the comedians along that I’d met at the comedy show. I didn’t expect them to come, but they did and I smashed my set and the next thing you know, I’m a comedian!

As a fan of your work, what I love about your style of comedy is that it seems like it comes naturally to you…

Aw thanks babes. Yes, apparently. They were like “You’re amazing! You need to come and do exactly what you did here at the comedy show next Sunday. So I went from working in TGI Fridays, getting the sack and then performing my first ever stand-up in front of a sellout crowd in a number of days.

I realised that I could do this, then people started offering to pay me, then I entered the Funny Women competition and won it and after that I got an agent who asked me what I wanted to be and I said I wanted to be on TV and the rest is history!

You found your feet working in kids TV didn’t you?

Yes and I’m actually one of the few people who have managed to mix kids and adult… not as in porn (laughs)… quite easily. I’ve never had a problem. Sometimes adults bring their kids to my Edinburgh show, but apart from that, I’ve never really had a problem.

How would you best describe Ready or Not?

It’s a prank show meets a game show and it’s proper fun. It’s just surprising the public in the best way possible. At first they’re shocked because they’ve been pranked, but off the back of it they can win money!

What’s your role in the series?

I host one of the games and my game is all about adrenaline. I’m at the Olympic Stadium and I just surprise people who are hanging out there by asking them if they want a free lunch. If they say yes, they get the free lunch, but before they have to do a death-defying quiz ride.

So I ask them a question at the top of the slide and there are multiple answers and they have to answer them whilst going down the slide and for every answer they get right they with £10. So every part that I do in the show is people answering questions whilst doing crazy high-octane things. It was insane but it was a lot of fun.

How do you think you would cope if you were a contestant?

Terrible! I couldn’t even do it if you didn’t ask me the question! I was too scared to go down that slide, I’m telling you that as a fact. I refused to go down it. I was like, there is no way, NO WAY!

I respect myself way to much to hurtle myself through life like that. So I applaud anyone who has the guts to do it, let alone the fact that they can win money.

Did anyone refuse to take part? What sort of reactions did you get?

No one! They all did it. I thought I’d have at least one or two people who would be like “Nah, this is not for me!” but everyone was fully up for it. I was so happy!

I had a few people recognise me as well which was weird. So I was stood there pretending to sell sandwiches and they were like “Aren’t you…?” and I was like “No, no, I’m not her. Not at all. Would you like a free lunch?”.

Do you have any favourite moments?

Oh my God I died! There’s a woman who goes down the slide and I cannot remember her name but she was the loveliest woman and a bit on the larger slide and she got stuck! (Laughs)

I’m just corpsing, I literally cannot and I’m with her friend and the director’s going “So London, ask her friend a question. Ask her how she feels.” and I literally cannot do it because I’m crying with laughter.

The staff had to go up the slide and help her. I WAS DYING. But she was lovely and she didn’t want to do it in the first place because she was saying “I’m going to get stuck!” and I was like “Of course you’re not going to get stuck!” and then she got stuck. It was just hilarious.

I don’t even know if that’s made it into the final cut but I really hope it is.

Will you be watching the show on Saturday when it goes out and looking at the online reaction?

One hundred and fifty thousand percent I’ll be watching it. Literally. I cannot wait! I’m hoping that people are going to love it as much as I do. It’s a really fun show.

I really hope that everybody warms to it, I want it to trend on Twitter, I want people to think that Saturday nights are back because I know that Saturday TV has gone a bit weird with people wondering what the next hit show is going to be and people aren’t watching as much TV as they used to with their families like the good old days.

So hopefully Ready or Not will bring all the family together and they’ll love it. I’m glad that after Celebs Go Dating I’ve got another show so that people don’t think I’m just this girl that appeared on reality TV and doesn’t do anything!

Speaking of Celebs Go Dating would you say that show was a real turning point in your career? And were you worried about doing it?

100 percent and I wasn’t worried one bit because I knew the reaction I would get. I kept saying to my agent, I would kill reality TV. I genuinely feel so at home with reality TV, being in front of the camera and people filming my life. I don’t get embarrassed easily.

I’m a confident person and I’m full of energy but no one really took a chance on me until Celebs Go Dating, but as soon as they did, I knew I would be fine. I just knew within myself that I would enjoy the experience and I really did. I’m so happy I did it!

Twitter went wild for you throughout the series from what I could see…

Yeah! I wasn’t expecting that reaction to be honest. I was shocked at that. I know people would think I was funny, or annoying but I didn’t realise how much of an impact I would have.

Women have been messaging me telling me how I’m inspiring them to have confidence when talking to guys, asking me for tips, wanting to be my best friend and asking me for daily confidence boosts.

Speaking of Twitter, last weekend I saw that you handed out £200 to three different young women who were each on the minimum wage. Why did you decide to do that?

I don’t even know why I did it! I had no idea that minimum wage is £7.50 and that’s if you’re over 25. I was just in shock. When I was working in TGI Fridays, it was £5.65 and it’s been 10 years so I just assumed that it would be at least £10/11 by now. So when I tweeted about not knowing what minimum wage was, someone tweeted me telling me it was £7.50 and I was like “What?!”

I’m so lucky that I haven’t had to live that life since I was 19. Even when I was 19 I was still going to Uni so it wasn’t that bad. There are so many people out there right now trying to make £7.50 an hour work. That is ridiculous. I wouldn’t leave my house for that money.

This information had changed my mindset on the world. It was a reality check and I thought, you know what, I’m in a position that I can help and I just couldn’t tweet anything else without being like “Look, does anyone need money?”.

I just felt so bad, my followers, people that have supported my career are on such little money, I was just in shock. I didn’t mean to give away £600 but so many people messaged me that I couldn’t say no! I just wanted to help everyone.

What’s next for you?

The dream is to be a household name in comedy. I’m going to say goodbye to kids TV and start focussing on comedy and entertainment. I feel like there are so many guys in comedy and entertainment in this country and I don’t feel like women are very well represented. Especially black women.

When I did Extreme Hair Wars, I was the first black woman in about 30 years hosting her own solo primetime show which is ridiculous. I feel like there’s a massive gap that I clearly need to fill and I want to work my hardest to become a household name so when you think of Lenny Henry you also think of London Hughes!

I’ve just been signed in the US which is amazing and I’m going back out there in May because I feel like a lot of my friends have gone over there and it seems to have worked out really well for them. Especially black actors and I love acting as well and I’ve already had so many meetings about having my own show, I’ve had lots of crazy auditions and I’ve sat down in front of execs of channels that I wouldn’t even dream being able to meet at this stage.

People out there are calling me the British Tiffany Haddish so I don’t really want to throw that away. I want to make the most of any opportunities that come my way. It’s really about who will bite first. If it’s the UK that want to give me my own show then I’ll stay, if it’s America, then I’ll go! I feel like in America talent talks. If you’re talented they’ll give you a shot where as over here, talent doesn’t talk as much.

Especially off the back of Celebs Go Dating, people think I’m this comedian that has come out of nowhere but I’ve been doing this since I was 19 years-old and I’m 29 this year. I’ve been this awesome forever. It’s just that people aren’t letting me shine. People don’t realise how awesome I am which is fine because I don’t mind working for it but I just feel like if I was a white guy I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

I just go where I’m want and Brits are wanted in America, especially black Brits so why the hell not!

Any more live gigs?

Yeah! 100 percent. I’m going to have to because everyone’s asking me when they’re going to see me live. I did an Edinburgh show last year and as soon as I came back from Edinburgh I’ve been filming Ready or Not, Celebs Go Dating and Extreme Hair Wars and it’s only now that I’ve got time to work on my live stuff.

Ready or Not starts Saturday 31st March at 6pm on BBC One

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