The Story Of Miranda Hart

Time to read
5 minutes
Read so far

The Story Of Miranda Hart

May 09, 2017 - 19:56
Posted in:
0 reader reviews
Average: 2 (3 votes)
Rate this programme

Miranda Hart is the undisputed Queen of Comedy. Her self-titled sitcom was one of the biggest comedies of the 21st century, regularly pulling in audiences of over 10 million. And it’s easy to see why: it was effortlessly joyous, laugh-out-loud funny and gave the impression that Miranda was born to make us chortle. However, she was far from an overnight success.

Miranda Hart

By Matthew Gormley @MatthewPGormley

Miranda Hart is the undisputed Queen of Comedy. Her self-titled sitcom was one of the biggest comedies of the 21st century, regularly pulling in audiences of over 10 million. And it’s easy to see why: it was effortlessly joyous, laugh-out-loud funny and gave the impression that Miranda was born to make us chortle. However, she was far from an overnight success.

The multi award-winning comedian and actress was the latest subject of Channel 5’s, ‘The Story Of...’ series: sporadic specials profiling the lives and careers of some of the small screen’s shining stars. I tend to approach these kinds of things with caution, as some of them can appear somewhat amateurish. I’ve seen ‘This Is Your Life’ style reviews which look as though they’ve been cobbled together on PowerPoint by a work experience student, so you can’t help but question their accuracy and credibility. What was reassuring about this Miranda Hart biographical is that the talking heads were, in the main, genuine friends of the comedienne, many of whom have starred alongside her in her various projects.

Born to Captain David Hart Dyke - a commanding officer of HMS Coventry during the Falklands War - and Diana Margaret Luce, Miranda’s rather sophisticated background is no secret, although she’d perhaps prefer it to be. Fans of Miranda will know that she attended boarding school, as she has frequently made reference to her hoity-toity education in her sitcom and stand-up performances. After studying politics at University, she completed a postgraduate acting course at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in London. It was here where she honed her perfect ‘tumbling’ skills, the proper name for a comedy fall (let’s be honest, there’s nobody in the business who do it better), as well as invaluable training that would later lead to her landing a dramatic role in ‘Call The Midwife’.

I had no idea that, after graduating, Hart developed agoraphobia, which subsequently meant she didn’t leave her house for six months. It was during this time that she began writing comedy. Sadly, the funniest comedy often comes from the darkest of places. In various interview clips thrown into this retrospective, Miranda admits that, throughout her twenties, she was frequently frustrated and bitter at the prospect of never being able to realise her dreams of being a professional comedy character actress. She spent years at the Edinburgh Festival, a breeding ground for new comedy acts, where the best of the best often carve out their careers, performing both stand up material and character sketches. She immediately had an aura about her, and before long her drive and determination led to roles in sci-fi sitcom ‘Hyperdrive’ and Lee Mack’s ‘Not Going Out’.

I came across Miranda late. I immediately fell in love with her after seeing an episode of the second series of her superlative sitcom in 2010. Until then, I’d never heard of her, so it was a joy for me to be able to see older clips of her in other shows and I could evidently see the character of the larger-than-life bumbling eccentric that we know and love developing before my very eyes. As our very own Kevin O’Sullivan pointed out during the programme, even her role in ‘Hyperdrive’ – for which she earned her very first British Comedy Award nomination – with hindsight, was Miranda in a space suit, albeit a much more placid version. She spent years working to find herself, perfecting a persona, and boy did it pay off.

In a similar fashion to the late, great Victoria Wood, Hart picked up several of her co-stars along the way, developing not only close working relationships, but close friendships too. Sally Phillips, who may as well now be known as ‘bear with’ thanks to her role as Miranda’s annoyingly stuck up school friend on screen, recommended Hart for a role in ‘Smack The Pony’, whilst Tom Ellis first starred alongside Hart in the ITV sitcom ‘Monday Monday’, in which he also played her love interest. The scene in which Ellis’ character, Steven, is dragged to the dance floor and engulfed by Tall Karen (Miranda) is like watching the early stages of Miranda and Gary’s adorable friendship unfolding.

Hart would later cast both Phillips and Ellis in her sitcom, alongside Patricia Hodge and Sarah Hadland as her overbearing mother and bonkers best friend, Stevie. It was the inspired casting that helped make ‘Miranda’ such a gargantuan success. Of course, the show was really all about her, but the ensemble brought to life the characters that had Hart had created exactly as she imagined them.

Director Juliet May admitted that BBC bosses were confused when Hart expressed her desire to break the fourth wall, and talk directly to the camera, merging the traditional sitcom with stand-up and light entertainment. Little did they realise that it was this unusual element that would make the show such a resounding success, with us, the audience being pulled into the silly scenarios. For those thirty minutes, we were a part of her life, and we loved every second of it. Throughout the three series, we were rooting for the blossoming romance between the titular star and handsome chef Gary. Real-life Miranda never let anything dampen her determination to achieve her dream, so why should sitcom Miranda? She made the relationship between the bungling klutz and the dashing Prince Charming figure utterly believable.

The sitcom not only brought old-school humour back to mainstream television with a vengeance, but it made it cool again. In an age where swearing, sex and violence dominate the small screen, Miranda was deliberately old-fashioned and uncool, harking back to much simpler times. Miranda’s warmth burst straight through the screen and her love of slapstick and exceptional comic timing meant it appealed to people of all ages.

In 2014, Hart returned to her stand-up roots, bringing her sitcom persona to the stage with her 34-date national tour, ‘My, What I Call, Live Show’. It wasn’t about her standing there telling jokes - any comedian can do that. It was, yet again, about connecting with her audience and celebrating life’s silliest moments. It’s her niche and she’s unbelievably good at it, so why change the act? Let’s not forget the fact that she was the first female comic ever to do an arena tour, proving her unwavering popularity.

That same year also saw Hart head for Hollywood, starring alongside Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham in the uproarious action comedy ‘Spy’. She played a blinder as McCarthy’s partner in crime, the secret agent Nancy B. Artingstall, proving that, as far as comedy’s concerned, she can take on any role and make it the right one for her.

She’s also proven her worth as a serious actress with her role as the lovable nurse Chummy in ‘Call The Midwife’ for which she won critical acclaim and, not only made us laugh, but made us cry with her powerful and moving performances. This month, another dream comes true as she makes her West End debut, playing Miss Hannigan in ‘Annie’ at London’s Piccadilly Theatre. It’ll be the first time she’s played the baddie, but no doubt Miranda will bring her effervescent charm to the role and turn Miss Hannigan into a lovable villain.

With a mammoth nine gongs in her trophy cabinet, including four British Comedy Awards, Miranda Hart is one of the greatest comedy writers and actresses of her generation. Her side-splitting slapstick and wondrous word play have rightfully earned her a place in the comedy hall of fame.

The reason why she’s been absent from our screens for a lengthy spell is not entirely clear. The press have repeatedly cited a ‘mystery illness’ as the reason why she cancelled her return to ‘Call The Midwife’ last year. In the past, she’s spoken frankly about her confidence crises which have led to crippling bouts of anxiety. Only Miranda herself knows the real reason. Like many of the greats before her, she’s a fiercely private person. Even her hugely successful autobiographies are written in the guise of her sitcom persona. Whatever it is, her stint on the West End will see her bounce back and, I hope she’ll continue to make us laugh for years to come.

In the words of the great woman herself, she’s such fun.