“I’ve always wanted to perform”

Ahead of her gig at Trinity Theatre on February 15, comedian Zoe Lyons sits down with SO Magazine’s Lilly Croucher for an exclusive interview to talk about her latest show Bald Ambition’. Here she reveals what life is like as a comedian, how she dealt with a ‘mid-life crisis’, and where her favourite venue in Tunbridge Wells is…


Hi Zoe, thank you for doing this interview with us. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and the type of comedy that you do?

Sure! I started doing stand-up comedy about 21 years ago but I am also a presenter. I had a quiz show, Lightning, on BBC2 for a while and I do a few bits on Radio 4.


How did you get into comedy?

I only stared when I was thirty as it took me a long time to have the courage to do it. I knew I always wanted to perform. When I left university, I went to drama school where I was always cast in the comedic roles and I loved stand-up comedy.

After school I started going to comedy clubs and eventually plucked up the courage to give it a go. My first gig was to around 10 to 15 people in a pub in North London and from that moment I said, “This is what I want to do.”


You’re kicking off the 2023 with your new tour Bald Ambition. What can we expect to hear?

This time the material is more personal because it is largely based on my difficult experience with the lockdowns. I know a lot of people went thought a lot of changes and we are still emerging from it now three years later.

During the pandemic, I hit 50 and I had what I like to call a ‘classic mid-life crisis’ where I lost most of my hair and went through a marital separation. I was essentially a middle-aged woman with a combover who went through a break-up at the same time, but my wife and I are back together now so there is a happy ending!

I lost my hair from alopecia due to the stress of everything happening. For a while I didn’t want to perform and I didn’t feel like me at all. But talking and laughing about it on stage helped me accept it and that’s what got me back out there and performing.


Could you tell us what it was like having alopecia?

I first had alopecia as a kid when I was 10 or 11 years old and it coincided with my parents splitting up and moving to Scotland. I continued to have small patches on and off throughout my life but they did eventually grow back. But, at the start of the pandemic it really went for it and I lost 80 per cent of my hair.

Doing what I do for a living, people look at me but I didn’t want anyone to look at me which I found really hard. I didn’t want to go on stage and I thought maybe this is it and I’d have to do something else. But by talking about it I took control of it and when you take control of something you take the sting out of it and I’m so glad I did. Three years since it started to fall out, it’s now starting to grow back and as weird as my hair looks now, I love it.


You are playing in Tunbridge Wells on the February 15, have you ever visited the town before?

Yes, I have many times, the town is very pretty and the countryside around Tunbridge Wells is stunning.

I did a lot of my first ever gigs outside of London in Tunbridge Wells. One of those gigs was at The Forum which I remember as this old Victorian public toilet that was turned into a music venue. So yes, I performed in a toilet in Tunbridge Wells during my early days.

I also did a gig last summer at The Sussex Arms and it went really well, with a packed basement full of people, it was a really lovely gig.

Most people you meet from Tunbridge Wells are quite posh and they get a bit uppity when you say it and they try to convince you that they’re not as they squeak away in their quilted gilet jackets!


Have you played at Trinity Theatre before?

I don’t think I have, but I am looking forward to going back and not playing a toilet!


You’re a regular face on panel shows and voice on the radio, what else can we expect from you this year?

I’ve got stuff coming out on BBC Radio 4 – Just a Minute and The News Quiz, which I appear on regularly. I am also doing an episode for Dave’s ‘World’s Most Dangerous Roads’ which comes out this month. That was great fun to film, I did that with Joe Wilkinson, a Brighton-based comedian, driving around Eastern Turkey in a truck.


Living in Glasgow, you once worked in a Jam-packing factory, what is your favourite flavour of jam?

Not strawberry and I hate lumpy jam, no one likes lumpy jam! I would say a well-produced, fine raspberry jam… with no lumps.


If you could do any type of TV show, what would you do?

I’d love to present a travel or nature show like David Attenborough. If I could combine a nature-comedy-travel show that would be great!


If you could have anybody on the bill for a show, who would you have?

I would absolutely have Joan Rivers; she was a marvel. Then Robin Williams who I had the privilege of seeing in a small club in London once testing some of his material. And then I would have some of my friends: Kerry Godliman, Jen Brister, Suzi Ruffell and Joe Wilkinson.


Any local comedians we should be keeping an eye out for?

If you’re into your one liners and puns, Mark Simmonds is brilliant. He is currently on tour and it’s great seeing him doing really well.


Zoe is playing at the Trinity Theatre on Wednesday, February 15 at 8pm.

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter