British comedian Miranda Hart comes clean about the love of her life

by Michele Hewitson / 11 January, 2017

Illustration/Weef

If we needed more proof that ­English dog owners are dotty about their animals, now we have it: Miranda Hart, the British ­comedian, actor and dotty dog owner, has written a book about her dog. It is called Peggy & Me. It is quite dotty and very sweet.

Peggy is a shih tzu-bichon frise cross. The two were introduced in 2007. It was, on Miranda’s part, love at first sight. “I call them a Shitty Frise but I believe the technical term is: Oh my gosh they’re so small and fluffy look look just look at its little snuffly-wuffly-ness tiny paddy paws-ees teeny kissy-facey fluffy-wuffy snuggle-y with its itsy-bitsy shiny little nose-y noo.”

But there was a smally-wally problem. “Peggy was originally called Eunice. A true abomination of a dog name if there ever was one. I’m sure that for the right person – perhaps an imperious octogenarian piano teacher in a starched governess dress, wielding an ivory-topped cane – Eunice is a most becoming name.”

So Eunice became Peggy and, you might suppose, she and Miranda lived happily, together, ever after. Chapter 3 is titled “Reality Check”. It begins: “THERE IS POO ALL OVER MY FLAT … !! I repeat – there is poo all over my flat.” And so, poo-ily on.

Peggy is given a right of reply. “The carpet was already the colour of poo … What I did on her carpet IMPROVED it.” Miranda, writes Peggy (who has, amazingly, contributed a good many sections of the book) has many skills, including balancing cupcakes on her head, but “an interior designer she is not”.

Miranda’s other skills include flirting with just about anyone, including Prince Harry and, on a recent Graham Norton show, Sam Neill. She once got the hots for a hot vet and, overcome with so much hotness, attempted to remove her jumper. Somehow she managed to remove not just the jumper but what she was wearing under the jumper and found herself standing in her bra, in a hot vet’s ­consulting room.

Her other great talent lies in doing impersonations involving tinned frankfurters. She and Peggy are partial to scoffing tinned frankfurters.

She may be a bit eccentric. She does come from a long line of English toffs. I don’t know whether any of them were named Eunice.

Hart and Miranda cast members.

Talking to Miranda

I have a bone to pick with you about ladies named Eunice. You changed Eunice’s name to Peggy and were really rather rude about Eunices. My grandmother’s name was Eunice.

Have you had angry letters from ladies named Eunice?

Ah, now, let me defend myself here! I said that, for the right lovely kind of lady, Eunice was a good name, but I didn’t deem it right for a tiny, cute, fluffy little puppy. When I did my book launch at the London Palladium, there was a funny moment when someone had asked me about Peggy’s name and I said she was originally called Eunice (because her siblings were Gladys, Mavis, Boris and Elvis) and then the next person to ask a question said her mother was called Eunice. It got the biggest laugh of the night. Maybe I will now cause a comeback for the name.

A Eunice would not fill up your flat with poo. A Peggy might. Actually, a Peggy did. Just saying. The actual question is, are you now contrite about having put a puppy called Eunice through the trauma of being renamed Peggy?

Peggy is completely in agreement that it suits her better than Eunice did. They share similarities in that they are names that could belong to mature ladies, but Peggy is slightly sillier and jollier for a puppy, don’t you think? Not that I am saying your grandmother is not silly and jolly. I think the hole I am digging is getting rather large now so I will stop talking.

Now that you’re a famous celebrity person, do you still eat tinned frankfurters?

You might be pleased to hear that I have stopped eating frankfurters. Not because of any fame, because I don’t let that stop me doing anything eccentric I might want to do, but because I don’t think they are the healthiest of foods. However, I am partial to a hot dog when going to see a movie. So let’s say I have the occasional treat frankfurter.

Now that you’re a famous celebrity person, do you still do the impressions involving tinned frankfurters, in particular the platypus one, which involves sticking two tinned frankfurters up your nose?

No, but only because I can’t have frankfurters in the house, otherwise me and Peggy would eat them all. That was a classic writing diversion thing – instead, I dance around my kitchen to Dolly Parton.

Do you enjoy being a famous celebrity person?

Honestly, I don’t see myself as a famous person or a celebrity. I have a few friends who regularly remind me that I am and that perhaps I should own it a bit more. But I think if you go about thinking of yourself as famous then it skews life for the worse. I am just a person doing a job and a side of that happens to be ­recognition. It’s lovely when people come up to you in the street and wave and say, “Thanks for making me laugh,” or ­something. But deeper scrutiny I am not a huge fan of. The biggest perk is meeting other people, I would say. I still remain a fan of TV and film despite being in them.

Have you looked yourself up in Burke’s Peerage? Is Peggy in there too?

I haven’t. Am I in it? Would Peggy be the first dog to be in Burke’s Peerage. That would be funny. She thinks herself very smart and aristocratic (even though she has just been sick on my carpet), so she would like that.

Do you google yourself? What’s the weirdest untrue thing you’ve read about yourself?

I do occasionally google myself, yes. Because I am intrigued what gets made into stories and what doesn’t and I like to check that nothing dodgy is being written that I need to tell my family isn’t true. Recently I read that I was doing a movie with Reese Witherspoon. Not that weird, but I got excited and rang my agent and said, “Am I doing a movie with Reese?”, and he had to explain the phone hadn’t rung for a while. I think they were ­probably thinking about Miranda Kerr – we always get told we look alike. Always.

And the weirdest true thing?

That I live with a dog called Peggy that used to be called Eunice who I have ­written a book about.

Other than the frankfurter tricks and the celebratory poo dances, how revealing do you think the book is about you?

Well, it’s all true. But I have of course chosen lighter stories, comic stories, and not given you entirely the real me. There are a few bits where I go deeper, like ­finding writing and the success of Miranda quite lonely, which was why Peggy became such an ally, so it’s ­revealing to a certain extent. But more the comic me still, I suppose.

Are you frightened of letting people know you deeply?

The opposite. I tend to overshare. I hate small talk so I tend to go deep and want to know how people really tick, rather than all the superficial boring stuff.

How, by the way, does one “accidentally” flirt with Prince Harry?

Ha! Well, I was just chatting to him and I realised what I was saying sounded a bit flirty because I was telling him I had made a joke about how we should get ­married. It all got very awkward. But he was delightful and charming about it and we laughed. Watch this space: perhaps we will get married.

Are you any good at flirting, accidentally, or otherwise?

I love a good flirt. I think I am probably always flirting to one degree or another. Not like in a nasty, pervy, teasing way! But just back to hating small talk and wanting to have more fun conversations.

Did that flirting-with-the-hot-vet story really happen?

I will let you in on a secret – there were two stories in the book that were very slightly exaggerated. And that was one of them. I am afraid it did all happen, but when you write it in a comic memoir it always gets a little heightened. I think my obsession with him wasn’t quite as acute, and I don’t think I mentioned Venice. Then again – oh, golly, I think I did. Nope, I reckon it was all true and I am just hoping it wasn’t!

Getting “a bit flirtatious” with Sam Neill on The Graham Norton Show.

Do things just sort of happen to you? Embarrassing things?

They seemed to have done in my life with Peggy, but generally no. I think I just find the comedy in things rather than being a ridiculously clumsy person in real life.

Are you more or less self-conscious about embarrassing things now that you’re a really famous celebrity person?

It definitely makes it a bit more ­embarrassing if you do trip up, literally or metaphorically, in public when you are well known. Especially when you have become known for a clumsy comic character with your own name. You are constantly trying to make out you are not like your on-screen character. So I always get embarrassed if I knock in to something or trip up in the street.

Did you accidentally flirt with our lovely Sam Neill on The Graham Norton Show? He’s very nice, isn’t he?

I have always liked Sam Neill. He is a fantastic actor and has a very kind, approachable demeanour. It was a real pleasure to meet him on The Graham Norton Show. And he didn’t let me down – lovely man. I think I ended up getting a bit flirtatious with excitement, yes – knowing me.

Will you really bring Miranda back if he agrees to be in it?

I would be blooming tempted, yes. ­Obviously, now Miranda is married, sadly he couldn’t play her love interest, which would be a nice day at work. But I have been thinking who he could play. Watch this space.

Is Miranda coming back?

As I say, watch this space. I am mulling over the notion.

Is there going to be a Miranda film?

Because the show was filmed in front of a studio audience, it’s always hard to transfer those types of sitcoms to the world of film. It’s a really fun idea, but I wonder whether I should stick to its natural genre. I don’t know. More mulling for me.

Do you know why people love her so much?

I never feel like it’s for me to say, really. But as I became aware of her appeal as the series went on, I made sure she was always exploring everyday problems that could be relatable. So I think there was a mix – people liked her because she was admitting life wasn’t easy and even the simplest things baffled her, as well as the fact that she made people laugh and it, I hope, gave people some big laughs and escapism for half an hour.

What’s the difference between Miranda and you?

I always say that onscreen, Miranda is more like the twentysomething me. ­Finding life and herself all a bit scary and awkward. I am a bit more serious and quiet at times and I am more confident in myself. I envy her relationship with Gary, though – true soulmates.

As Chummy Noakes in Call the Midwife.

Talking to Peggy

Don’t you agree with me that it was a terrible thing to do, and traumatic, to have your name changed from posh Eunice to common Peggy?

Tee hee, you can’t seem to let this one go, can you?! I agree that I could have pulled Eunice off because I am very sophisticated, but because my lovely lady owner prefers Peggy then I prefer it.

Have you read the book?

There’s no point, as I know the bits I wrote are probably the only really interesting and funny bits. Miranda is great as a dog owner, but I am not sure how good she is as an entertainer – she’s a bit naff for my tastes.

Do you feel your privacy has been invaded?

No, I feel that the world needed to know all about me. I mean, I am so cute and fluffy and pretty and funny – and humble, of course.

Are you a celebrity now?

More people pat me and sometimes – I have no idea who they are – call my name, so I think I am becoming famous.

Who is the bigger celebrity: you or Miranda?

Miranda – she’s 6ft 1 and massive. I’m tiny. Tee hee hee.

Who enjoys celebrity more – you or Miranda?

I think it suits me better. I enjoy prancing down the street showing off. Miranda’s more shy and awkward.

Has being famous gone to her head?

Not in the slightest. Oh, she really is the best owner in the whole wide world, I promise you that. I love her so, so much.

Did you accidentally flirt with Sam Neill by going into his dressing room on The Graham Norton Show?

I just say it how I see it, and I see myself as more of a star than Sam, so if anyone was flirting with anyone, he was with me. He just smelt rather nice, so I went to have a sniff.

Is Miranda’s interior decorating so awful?

It was. Oh boy, I cannot begin to describe. But her taste has got better as she has got older. Phew! We moved house recently and I like her new design. It’s homely and colourful and not too posh, so I can lie anywhere I like.

It is often said that animal owners come to look like their pets. Has Miranda come to look like you? Or you her?

I very much hope not, for both our sakes. My looks are unique. I am a unique beauty. I just say it how I see it.

What do you think of her tinned frankfurter trick involving a platypus impression?

MORTIFYING! What is she – eight?!

This article was first published in the December 24, 2016 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.

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