The interviewer and writer on being friends with Carrie Fisher, an unlikely president and the daughters following in her comedy footsteps
What was it like to watch your iconic interviews once more?
You get my reactions while I’m watching; I’m startled. It looked like I was having a great time. If it wasn’t me, I’d be jealous because, clearly, that was so much fun to hang out with people.
It was like the unpopular girl suddenly got access to all these really popular girls. Carrie Fisher and I became best friends. Staying overnight at her house, and her making me laugh and reading me bits of her book… what a joy.
Your most difficult interviewee?
Donald Trump! That was a car crash. Bad interviews still make good TV, but I think it’s appalling, and it’s what not to do. He threw me off his plane. I thought he was joking when he said he wanted to be the president.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your career?
I didn’t know it would be OK when you lose A job. I luckily reinvented, but it could be a tragedy if you hold on to something and they take it away from you, and you just keep telling people, “Oh, do you remember who I was?” and that’s your highlight. If you have one career, and it’s taken, find another.
You wrote A Mindfulness Guide For Survival. As a mental health advocate how worried are you about the pandemic’s impact?
We’re not even acknowledging the fallout of this. But then, it just happened, and we don’t even know if it’s over. I ran online meetings called Frazzled Cafe (where people can speak openly about the stresses of modern life) every night during lockdown; that’s how I got the idea for the book. I still do it once a week and, believe me, people are still pretty panicked.
How was your mental health at the height of your TV career?
I had depression, but I didn’t have it all the time. It was every three to five years. So, I’m lucky that I didn’t have a nine-to-five job because then you’d be fired. But I, luckily, wasn’t working when I was ill.
How has the industry changed?
My daughters (Marina and Madeleine Bye) are a comedy act and they’re out doing live shows all the time. They’re called Siblings, and my daughter (Madeleine) produces shows, and it’s a lot of women who are coming up. So, they’re having their shot now. Siblings is very French and Saunders; it’s not what I do.
But good luck – who knows who makes it? They’re in the last show of When Ruby Wax Met… watching me. It was Clive’s idea, the producer. He said: “Put your daughters in it, let’s see what they think”. They’re really funny.
When Ruby Wax Met… starts tonight on BBC2, 9pm
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