Comedian Mae Martin on her greatest fear and loving Bette Midler

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Helen Bownass
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Five Minute Philosopher is a weekly series in which Stylist gets profound with people we love. From her thoughts on the meaning of life to her greatest fear, what will comedian Mae Martin make of our existential questions?

What is the meaning of life?

I once had a PE teacher who said, confidently, that the meaning of life is to “work hard and play hard”. I admired her certainty but I think it might be something to do with love, or nachos.

What is the difference between right and wrong?

A nagging guilty feeling in your gut. You’ve just got to listen out for the feeling. Do I sound like Yoko Ono? I love Yoko Ono.

Where is your happy place?

Being on stage at the Soho Theatre is hard to beat.

Nature or nurture?

A combination of both. How can I tell if I was born hating coconut or developed a hatred of coconut because my father distrusted it as an ingredient?

Is it more important to be liked or respected?

Interpersonally? Liked. Professionally? Respected. Ideally? WORSHIPPED. No just kidding – “loved” is ideal, isn’t it?

If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be?

If you bite and chew the peel of a banana, then eat the fruit of the banana itself, you will find that it tastes like a tomato. I swear. I invented this, or at least made the discovery, as a teenager. Is there some value in it? Can I monetise it in some way?

Who or what is your greatest love?

Bette Midler was my first love, and the intensity of those feelings remain.

When did you last lie?

In that last question.

Does the supernatural exist?

My dad claims he saw my brother astrally project as a baby, and I have no reason to doubt him. Who’s to say that ghosts are “beyond nature”? What if they exist but they’re just part of nature? I’m spooking myself.

Are you fatalistic?

Weirdly, I’ve always known I’m going to die from being bitten by a black widow spider hiding in a bunch of bananas. So, I don’t touch bunches of bananas. Wait what was the question? I stubbornly refuse to google the definition of “fatalistic” so I hope I’m not way off the mark.

What is your greatest fear?

Aquatic dinosaurs, big things that live in the sea and have survived for millennia. I think we should fill in the Mariana Trench so we can all sleep at night.

Animals or babies?

Christ, a goat – give me a goat every day of the week. A little dumb goat hopping around. Heaven.

What talent do you yearn for?

Close up card magic would be great. I want party tricks so that I can win friendship without having to rely on my personality, which can be hit or miss depending on context.

Do you like to be complimented?

Very much indeed, thank you. I collect each one and store them all in a small box near my kidneys, between the bottomless pit of emotional hunger and the massive barrel of insults I’ve internalised from YouTube comments under videos of my comedy.

Do you have a high pain threshold?

I must, because I have many (stupid) tattoos including the word “oatmeal” and a Beatles song called I Dig A Pony. Later in life I may test my pain threshold with laser removal.

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What book do you recommend most to others?

Some friends need self-help books. Some need Crime And Punishment by Dostoyevsky. Some need to just put down their phone for a second and have a nap.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

That people fall in and out of love.

What food sums up happiness?

Lucky Charms. That milk after you’ve finished the cereal, man. Wow. Real alchemy.

Some of Mae’s friends could do with reading Crime and Punishment.

What have you never understood?

Why the song Roxanne is popular.

What is the one thing you want to know before you die?

I really want to be around for the discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

Are you scared of dying or what happens when you die?

People who say they don’t fear death just haven’t taken a minute to sit and think about death. It’s terrifying.

Quinoa or Quavers?

I used to nanny a kid whose behaviour could only be affected and controlled by bribing him with Quavers, so I am aware of their power. Quavers.

Comedians Of The World, featuring Mae Martin, is available to stream on Netflix 

Images: Murdo Macleod


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Helen Bownass

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