The VICE Interview: Philomena Cunk

"There are loads of things the government won't explain to us, like why are there no capital numbers?"

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08 May 2016, 11:01pm

This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into their psyche.

Broadcaster and filmmaker Philomena Cunk first came to prominence on Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe, where she provided incisive insight into current affairs. She summed up the US election better than any other pundit when she said of Donald Trump's campaign, "It's exciting watching the footage of his rallies thinking, 'This will be in a documentary in about 20 years time with ominous music underneath it, and here's me watching it live.'"

She then branched into filmmaking with her Moments of Wonder series exploring important issues such as feminism – "The suffragettes threw themselves under the king's racehorse to highlight how unfair it was that women didn't have a vote but horses did" – and architecture – "The National Theatre is designed to look so horrible that people are glad to be inside watching boring plays."

Now she's back in her first full-length TV show, Cunk on Shakespeare, an exploration of the Bard's greatest moments. Cunk will visit his birthplace, exploring the Globe, studying priceless artefacts, and interviewing "literally six different experts".

But before that she has to pass the intellectual rigour of The VICE Interview.

Shakespeare's flat

VICE: If you won the lottery tomorrow, would you carry on doing what you're doing, or change jobs, or stop working?
Philomena Cunk: There's no lottery on a Tuesday, so what you're suggesting is basically illegal.

How many people have been in love with you?
How would I know? That's a daft question. I'd have to go up to them all and ask. You try asking a bus full of people if they're in love with you. You'd get thrown off. I got thrown off once just for asking the driver if that was his real voice.

How many books have you read and finished in the past year? Don't lie.
I like short stories. I've read every one of Closer, which is this book you can get from WH Smiths with loads of little stories in it, like about Katie Price's daughter playing in horseshit or Jodie Marsh getting a new mouth. There's a new Closer every week, so I've probably read 100 in the last year. I'm a really big reader.

Who is the worst person on Twitter?
Nando's. Make me starving every time.

What conspiracy theory do you believe?
There isn't one specifically, but there are loads of things the government won't explain to us, like why are there no capital numbers? Why aren't there more songs about doctors? And, the big one: are rainbows real? My MP hasn't replied to any of my letters about that, so I reckon there must be something they're covering up.

When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
I had a dream where Brian Cox was attacking me with celery. Now I'm scared of celery. I have to cross the road when I go past Subway because I know it's in there.

Complete this sentence: The problem with young people today is...
... scooters.

What would be your last meal?
I had a banana about half an hour ago, so that was my last meal. But can you call a banana a meal? Or is it a snack? Is it "snacks are savoury and treats are sweet"? What's the rule? A banana doesn't feel much like a fucking treat. It's more like a job.

Would you have sex with a robot?
God, no. Imagine the noise. All that beeping. What if it started buffering in the middle? It'd put you off your stroke.

Do you think drugs can make you happy?
They can now, but they didn't used to. When I was young, medicines tasted awful. Now they're delicious. They've had to put these new lids on that you can't get off unless you get a man in.

Without Googling, explain how global warming basically works.
The more humans there are, the hotter the planet gets, like when there are too many people in your front room and you have to open a window. But the only way to open a window on planet Earth is to make a hole in the ozone layer. And that just makes it hotter, like when you're on holiday. And all the flies come in. It's very complicated. Which is why it's good that 3% of scientists are keeping an open mind that it might not be happening, because that would be a lot easier, to be honest.

One of Shakespeare's characters, Queen Elizabeth.

You are having a conversation with a family friend, and they say something unequivocally racist. What do you do?
Report them to the police. Or the coastguard, if we're at the seaside.

What have you done in your career that you are most proud of?
When we were filming in Stratford-and-Avon, where William Shakespeare's ghost lives, I helped an old lady out of a tree.

What's the latest you've stayed up?
I once stayed up 'til tomorrow as an experiment because I read somewhere that you can see the date change in the sky. But either it isn't true or it happened behind me in the sky, and not where I was looking.

Is university worth it?
The questions are too hard, and Jeremy Paxman is a bit shouty, and it's on at the same time as EastEnders, so no.

What have you done in your life that you most regret?
I got off the Megabus at the motorway services and went into the shop and they had limited edition cookies and cream Frijj, and I chose the chocolate one instead. And I haven't seen it since. I've literally never forgiven myself for that.

Cunk on Shakespeare airs Wednesday 11th May, 10pm, BBC Two

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