Isy Suttie picks all the most glamorous locations for her comedy; the IT department at JLB Credit in Peep Show, a restaurant kitchen in new BBC sitcom Whites – and a supermarket in Matlock for her debut solo show, Love Lost In The British Retail Industry.
“I used to work in a supermarket – the one in Matlock that it’s set in,” says Isy, best known as Dobby, the latest objection of affection for Mark (David Mitchell) in Channel 4 comedy Peep Show.
“I wanted to set it in a supermarket ’cos I think it’s quite an artificial setting, like a hospital, lots of luminous lights and it’s not a place where you’d expect to fall in love, so I like that.”
Premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2007, Love Lost is a musical love story based around Carl and Lisa, who both work in the supermarket.
“There are four characters and I play them all,” says Isy. “It’s basically the only four accents I can do!”
Born in Hull but raised in Matlock, Isy (short for Isobel) is an accomplished musician, who as a teenager won a Daily Telegraph Young Jazz award for composition.
So how come she ended up in comedy alongside the likes of Mitchell and Webb and Alan Davies?
“I don’t know if I thought about how I wanted to end up, but I knew I wanted to play music in some capacity for a living – and act,” says Isy, 32.
“I’ve been writing [music] since I was ten or 11, and that’s something that’s always come quite naturally to me; I did try and do serious music for a while, but I just wasn’t good enough, I think, at writing ‘folky’ songs – or whatever category I would have fitted into if my lyrics didn’t have a comedy bent.
“I think my voice weirdly sounds best when I’m doing comedy stuff ’cos I’m not thinking about singing, I’m thinking about the laughs.
“When I was doing the serious stuff I used to think ‘how long am I holding this note on for? Am I sounding right?’ The path was a bit windy, but it happened quite naturally.”
With around 10-14 songs or parts of a song, Love Lost In The British Retail Industry sees Isy not only play all four parts and do the first half stand-up routine, she also plays all the music.
“It’s just a guitar now; I did have piano in it at some point, but then I realised I couldn’t play piano!” she laughs.
“I said to myself ‘Why am I doing this?’ I can play to Grade 4, but there’s a difference between sitting there and playing and actually being on stage and having to sing and look at the audience – so it’s just the guitar now.”
For the next few months, the bubbly comedian will be hard to avoid; as well as the UK tour – which takes in both The Electric Cinema (as part of the Birmingham Comedy Festival) and Glee Club – Isy can be seen as a waitress in BBC2’s new sitcom Whites alongside Alan Davies, as well as reprising her role of Dobby in Series 7 of Peep Show, which hits the screen in November.
“I’m sworn to total secrecy, but I think it’s a really good series, as good as ever,” she says.
“I’m really fond of Dobby, big time; I love reading through the scripts so I see what they’ve put in that I have to do... I really love playing Dobby; she’s like I would be if I cared a bit less about what people thought.
“I love doing Peep Show so much and I loved doing Whites and they’re such different shows; Whites is really quite naturalistic in a way... I’ve gone from doing a scene with another actor [in Whites] to where [in Peep Show] you’re doing a scene once with the people and then again straight down the barrel of the camera.
“It’s got easier as the series have gone on, but definitely the first year it feels kind of wrong to look down the camera because you’re taught not to do that, but I’ve got used to it now.”
So does she find herself stopped in the street by Peep Show followers?
“Yeah I’ve got a bit more used to it now, but at first it was mental,” says Isy.
“I sometimes get a message on You Space, like one from a guy asking me to take a picture of my hands in gloves and then underwater; at first I was like ‘oh my god, this is mad’ but now I’m a little bit more used to it.”
* Isy Suttie plays The Electric Cinema on October 6 and with Dan Antopolski at The Glee Club on October 14.