What's Losing It all about?
It's about when we go through life, we don't have an instruction manual. So when you become a mother or father or teenager, you can sometimes feel like an outsider. And you need some sort of guide as to how to fit in… an instruction manual. A lot of people think "how do I become a successful businessman" or "how do I carry off a certain lifestyle?" We get samples in magazines but we don't actually know how to do it as people. So the show throws up questions and I give the answers which are hilarious but true. The show is a universal thing, so everyone in the audience will go "this is me".
Where did you get your ideas for this show?
For 10 years I've been trying to write serious comedy — comedy that is true. And I don't mean in an "aren't cats weird" way, I mean true on a deeper level but still humorous. And I couldn't figure out how to do it until Judith said we’d like to do a show live from the Priory. We thought if people who are mentally disturbed think it's funny and poignant, this will work. One afternoon I got the guy who runs the Priory to my house and by the evening we had a start date.
Live at the Priory is the predecessor of Losing It, right? How does this show differ from that one?
Now the show is completely different because now it isn't for an audience that has mental issues. It's for an audience of everyone you've ever met; it's not exclusive. Only because I had the slip, do I take you on the journey at the very end of going off a cliff.
What sort of a format does the show take?
It isn't stand-up and it isn't cabaret, we were trying to make a new form. The music is used as a sound track, as it is in a film. It provides the feeling under the words, which are my thoughts. At one point, I give my guide to love and marriage. I get a flip chart showing the brain to demonstrate how love is just a few hormones and then cold turkey — based on my study in neuroscience. Then I do my guide to marriage — which is called the Negotiated Deal — it's down to hard cash! If your husband makes £650,000 a year, you have no right to bitch… but if your husband is making below a certain amount of money you can let the kids and the house go to hell and if he gives you a hard time you can tell him to fuck off. I also give guides to getting old, being young, becoming wise… everything.
The musician Judith Owen also stars in this show, how did you and Judith come to work together?
I used to go out with her husband (Spinal Tap actor, Harry Shearer) and I mentioned that to her when we were on a plane together, when I first met her, and she had no idea. She knew we had been friends but didn’t know we had a relationship.We laugh a lot, it's hard not to laugh.
How do you blend the music and comedy in the show?
It's taken a long time to figure out... Judith plays a character in the show who ‘isn’t right’. But at one point in the show you realise she’s taking care of me, it’s a co-dependent relationship. In real life Judith happens to be a singer who is a genius. The music is every style — as my mood changes, her music changes. But, what a voice she has.
It sounds like a really fresh and new format. Was that a deliberate idea?
I've always wanted to reinvent, so I did that in TV. Then I couldn't think of anything after reality TV and that was me flummoxed. I thought "well, I have to reinvent something" so I reinvented myself and went to school and learned psychology and now I'm studying neuroscience. But then I thought "how am I going to reinvent that?" Well not reinvent it, it's already done, but where can I put it? So I do a lot of leadership facilitation workshops with big companies and organizations.
Is this why you started your masters? Because you wanted to inform your work with science?
In the very end of the show, I reveal I need to find out how my brain works in order to understand myself. That's the way the world is going now. I think everyone in the world is interested to know how the brain works.
How does it feel revisiting your own experiences of mental illness on stage?
It's very cathartic. It's like you're telling someone a secret and then it feels much better. Because if they think it's OK, then it's OK. And you get to tell everybody.
How does this new approach compare to your older work?
I'm not the person on TV. That's what everyone who has seen it says.That is not who I am. This is pretty close to me, except she still is a character because she is so in the moment and this person has moments that are insane.This show is a completely different voice for me. I don't think people will recognise one to the other.
What are you hoping to achieve with the show?
The very last idea I share in the show is if we could tell each other what is really going on, then people wouldn't be so frightened. Basically, that's the message. So, when I look at Hello! I want everybody in it dead. I just want them to die. I talk about the nature of envy and how there's no schadenfreude, there's just Freud and he's messed everything up. The worst thing is we lie to ourselves, so I'm saying "I'm not going to lie, it would be great if you didn't either.
The stress is that this isn't a show for mentally ill people or a lecture on depression. I never mention the word depression. It's about our own foibles and the truth about them without being embarrassed. But it's not po-faced, it's fun. It's the quantum leap from the Vagina Monologues. I'm not using the lower half of my body, I'm using the upper half. I'm using my brain rather than my vagina.
You're donating money from ticket sales to Comic Relief. How did that come about?
Yeah, a percentage is going to mental health for Comic Relief. It makes you feel like you're putting your money where your mouth is. With Comic Relief you can always trace what they're doing, so that makes me feel more secure. At least you know where the money is going. And, with mental illness, the numbers are going up. It's not something you can pretend doesn't exist, it now affects one in four people. How much higher do you want it to go? And it's primarily because nobody wants to talk about it.
You've met some really famous figures over the years, especially on the Ruby Wax Meets interview series. Who was the most interesting or fun?
The most brilliant were probably Tom Hanks or Jim Carrey. They're smart. But that has to end and you have to go on, otherwise you'll end. But I got what I wanted out of it and I moved on.
Would you ever revisit that sort of work or that series?
I couldn't, you just have to keep going on.
What else have you got in the pipeline?
I'll surely do a book, I have to finish my Masters — in a few months I'll know if I got into my university and I start in September. And then I'd like to take this show all over the world, it's so much fun. I'd rewrite it the whole time. It's a little like my Masters. I keep feeding it into my Masters.
Ruby Wax: Losing It? is at the Lowry on 1 June. For more details, please visit the show's website.