Actor, comedian and author Andi Osho. Photo Joseph Sinclair.
Actor Andi Osho graced our screens for the first time over a decade ago. Her fifteen-year career has seen her appear on some of the nation’s most loved shows, not least Holby City, EastEnders and Death In Paradise.
She is also a stand-up comedian, with three national tours under her belt and memorable appearances on Live at the Apollo, Mock The Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
Andi is not only an award-winning performer but an accomplished TV writer, too. Promoting her debut novel Asking For A Friend, which is out in February, she spoke with the Big Issue’s Jane Graham to pen her Letter To My Younger Self.
I was a bona fide geek at school, though I wouldn’t have thought that at the time. I didn’t feel like I fitted into the normal run of how everybody else was, so I found my tribe in the school choir. By the time I got to 16 I just couldn’t wait to leave school. I wanted to get to college, because I was just done with it, I just completely had enough.
My mum and I had quite a tense relationship. Age 16 was so different for her because she’d grown up in quite a strict environment [in Nigeria]. Her parents died when she was young, so she lived with an aunt and uncle who’d kind of fostered her long-term. They weren’t the greatest guardians, so I think that different experience for her made it difficult to deal with a 16-year-old who had been brought up basically British.
We went head-to-head over a few things, like me wanting to go to Bros concerts, things like that. I think looking back she was very gracious, because she could have turned that on us, ‘Do you know what I had to grow up with?’ But she never did, she just had this kind of knowing silence and let things play out.
I didn’t really notice as a 16-year-old that my mum has quite a cheeky sense of humour. It wasn’t until I got older and I was just sitting talking with her that I realised just how much of a mimic she was, always going into people’s voices from TV and making sarcastic asides. I was doing that from age 16 but it took me years to realise it came from my mother.
My being a performer didn’t really come to the fore until I was in my 30s. I think my mum had this fear, what are you gonna do if it doesn’t work out? She was really tense about it, and she was hurting, though she never really expressed it. Then when she started to see me regularly on TV I think she relaxed a little bit. If I could go back I’d tell my younger self to try to understand her better but the teenage me wouldn’t listen because she was very impatient, and she was thinking about herself. It’s not a good combination for listening to other people.
If you met me as a teenager you’d think, this person has too much energy for one human being. I was just a big massive ball of energy. Even probably into my 20s I had too much energy and I didn’t know what to do with it. So I put it into everything. I used to just run everywhere. I don’t even know when that stopped, I was incapable of just walking anywhere. And I just wanted to get into everything, and do extra-curricular stuff at school. I started a newsletter. I even tried to start a pyramid scheme, telling everyone we were all going to make loads of money, until I got pulled in by a teacher and had it explained how it actually worked. And I was like, oh, OK.
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I started as an actor and I got to a stage when I felt like things had stalled. So I looked at all these actresses that I really liked, and they all had all done stand-up or comedy sketches at some point in their career. That was really the motivation to me to say to myself, well look what they’ve got. I could create something like that for myself as well.
I remember doing a routine that I’d written for some people in my choir. It was mainly about our teacher, and our choir mistress, our school. And I’m not gonna lie, it went really well. So when I did it in adulthood, I felt very at home, just like that first time. I mean, it was still terrifying. I remember not even being able to speak at one point beforehand, I was so nervous. I didn’t tell my friends in case it was awful and no one laughed. But when I actually did it, it felt like, yeah, I could do this, I could give this a go.
My big moment was getting on Mock the Week. I had been kind of scrambling around the periphery, doing TV and plays, getting little breaks here and there. But the moment Mock the Week took a chance with me… it felt like that was the endorsement that other TV shows needed to take me seriously. It didn’t happen immediately but that’s when I started doing Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Stand Up for the Week, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow.
If I told the younger me she’s going to do stand-up one day she’d just think that was ridiculous. Doing great dramas, that was part of my ambition, but the stand-up was kind of left-field. And writing a book as well, that would surprise her. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was really young. I wrote lots of little stories at school then tried to write a book when I was maybe 11. And I realised, gosh, this is really hard. And I just abandoned it. I think a younger version of me would just be like, you started writing a book? And you finished it? Are you kidding?
Warning: Contains strong language and adult content
If I could go back I’d tell my younger self, when she got very angry with her brother and attacked him with a guitar – hey you, put the guitar down, go back to your room, and think about what you’ve done.
And once, because my mum wouldn’t let me go to a Bros concert, I kicked a hole in the sofa ’cause I was a little bit cross. This is what happened to all that energy, this is how it came out. I think looking back what I’d really love to say to my younger self is, the sooner you can get your relationship with money sorted out the better. As soon as you can afford it, get yourself into therapy. As soon as you can, start reading books about relationships.
If I could have one last conversation with anyone… my friend died about 10 years ago. Her birthday was late December and she would always have a little get-together at the end of the year. And because Christmas had just happened I was always a bit like, I want to go but I’m so tired after Christmas. She died just after her birthday. I think if I was to go back, it would just be to go to that one birthday she had before she died. She used to laugh all the time, though she didn’t have the same kind of sense of humour as me at all; she’d have been perfectly placed in a Carry On film.
We also liked to have really interesting conversations about how the world is and how the world works. She was a bizarre combination because she loved her innuendos but she would also have really profound things to say about the human existential experience. So it would be lovely to sit down with her again. A little bit of innuendo and existentialism would be good.
If I could go back to any time in my life it would be that moment before I stepped on stage for my first night at the Hammersmith Apollo. That was really cool. I remember the steam from the smoke machine rising as I got ready to walk on stage, like something out of Stars in their Eyes.
At that point your mind can’t go anywhere else. For me anyway, I cannot hold a single thought about anything else. I’m so, so present. I’m sure that night at the Apollo my heart was going mad but my mind just completely cleared. Because it had to, so I could go and do my job. And in that very quiet, special moment just before I went out, I kind of said to myself, blimey mate. You did it.
Andi Osho’s debut novel Asking For a Friend is out on February 4 (HarperCollins, £8.99)