Mel and Sue: 'We both still just love messing around'
Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins are back on BBC One together for an all-singing, all-dancing Red Nose Day gig. They talk to Susan Griffin.
Hearts sank when Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins announced they wouldn't be returning to host The Great British Bake Off at its new home on Channel 4. Fortunately, for those looking to get their fix of the popular duo, they're back on BBC One, this time hosting Let's Sing And Dance For Comic Relief, a super-sized version of Let's Dance For Comic Relief, ahead of Red Nose Day on March 24.
"I've never discussed this before, but I am the rhythm of dance," quips Perkins, when asked why she wanted to host the show. "Rhythm moves through me like water. Sorry, curry moves through me like water. We just wanted to have fun."
Giedroyc chips in: "As Cyndi Lauper said, 'Girls ... ' Actually, no, we can't say girls any more, as I'm nearly 50 and you're close behind."
"I think, to be honest, it's pure joy with the show," adds Perkins (47). "There's no angle, there's no side, there's no end game other than to make money for a really good cause."
On Saturday night, in the first of three live heats, the public voted for Rickie Haywood Williams and Melvin Odoom, who performed a Will Smith medley, to win a place in the final, set to take place on March 25.
The judging panel - Jo Brand. Katherine Ryan and Frank Skinner - then picked Sara Pascoe to join them after a sing and dance-off with Matt Edmondson.
Over the coming two weeks, contestants, including The Chasers from The Chase, the cast of Casualty and Holby City, James and Ola Jordan, a super group of The One Show reporters, Alison Hammond, Sally Lindsay and Gogglebox legends Steph and Dom Parker, will take to the stage in front of a judging panel consisting of Miranda Hart, Claudia Winkleman, Jennifer Saunders and Julian Clary.
As for the hosts, they'd like nothing more than to see "Mary Berry busting out a Pitbull number", confesses Perkins.
"Helen Mirren doing Meatloaf would be good," adds Giedroyc (48), who has two children with her husband Ben Morris. "I'd enjoy that."
Both presenters "love dancing".
"In our youth, I don't want to be smug, but we could cut a bit of an old rug, couldn't we?" says Giedroyc, who met Perkins when they studied at Cambridge.
"I'd like to think we cut through the dance floor, but now with hindsight and being older, I realise people were just leaving the dance floor so that they weren't associated with us," muses Perkins, who's in a relationship with TV presenter Anna Richardson.
"At the time, you think, 'Wow! My moves are so stellar I'm creating space, my shapes are creating space'. People were trying to run away!"
"They thought we were insane," confirms Giedroyc, who prefers to embrace Eighties moves on the floor, while her co-host is "more Grime". Giedroyc can attest that Perkins' "popping is legendary".
Of course, this year it's not only about willing celebrities busting shapes, but showcasing their vocal talents, too.
It's perhaps no surprise to learn that Mel and Sue enjoy "singing together", and have been known to partake in a spot of karaoke on occasion.
"We used to go to a great Chinese restaurant in north London and they had a fantastic karaoke machine upstairs, and we'd just belt out the hits," recalls Perkins. "I did Midnight Train To Georgia, which gave most of the front row tinnitus, probably for life. It was very intense." Giedroyc's song of choice is Joan Jett's I Love Rock 'n' Roll, "because it's got a nice, low singing voice".
The pair can relate to the contestants' nerves, following their attempts on a celebrity edition of Stars In Their Eyes back in 2000. Sporting impressive bouffants, Giedroyc appeared as Elaine Paige, while Perkins portrayed Barbara Dickson with a rendition of I Know Him So Well.
"We couldn't look at each other when we were doing it and became too hysterical," remembers Perkins. "The choreography was us crossing this checker board, but as soon as I caught a whiff of Mel dressed as Elaine Paige, the bladder went quite significantly."
"We got into real trouble because the dress rehearsal, which was supposed to take about 20 minutes, took over an hour because we were laughing so much," says Giedroyc. "Everyone was really annoyed with us. We still came second to last."
Fortunately, they don't consider themselves competitive. "Not really, I don't think so. We're competitive when it comes to gags, because we both like to get in there and come up with a pun, or a punchline, but when it comes to singing and dancing, definitely not," says Giedroyc.
Asked how they'd describe their on-screen partnership, Perkins opts for "overrated", while Giedroyc prefers "shambolic and contractual". In truth, they were inseparable for most of their 20s and 30s, and can't believe their fortune at this point in their lives.
"The best thing is just hours and hours of messing about, basically," says Giedroyc.
- Let's Sing And Dance For Comic Relief, BBC One, today, 6.45pm