‘Individuals prefer it as a result of it’s the messy fact’: Lily Allen and Miquita Oliver on their hit podcast Miss Me?

‘Individuals prefer it as a result of it’s the messy fact’: Lily Allen and Miquita Oliver on their hit podcast Miss Me?

In a photographer’s studio in north London, sitting at a picket desk with mugs of tea, two mates are having a chat. They’ve mentioned meals and garments, however now they’re on to their precise friendship: the rationale why we’re right here.

“I believe earlier than this podcast,” says Miquita Oliver, “lots of people who had been conscious that Lily and me have a friendship can be basing it on photos of us leaving the Groucho pissed once we had been 23…” She seems to be at Lily Allen, who’s laughing fairly onerous.

“After we used to go away the Groucho,” says Allen, “there can be these paparazzi exterior… And Miquita would at all times seize a duplicate of the Night Commonplace, to attempt to make herself look extra studious!”

Oliver (additionally laughing): “Simply so you understand, I’ve been studying the paper, whereas all of them bought fucked up!”

Allen and Oliver backstage at V competition, 2006. {Photograph}: Jon Furniss/WireImage

Allen: “I’m going to get an image of you doing that and body it.”

“By no means,” says Oliver, “get any framed picture of us leaving the Groucho. Ever.”

Lily Allen, pop star and actor, and Miquita Oliver, TV presenter, should not 23 any extra. They’re 39 and 40, respectively, with a lot calmer evening lives than their Groucho years, although their mischief-making and mickey-taking attitudes stay. For proof, we’ve got their new twice-weekly podcast, Miss Me?. On paper, it’s not so completely different to different chum-pods on the market, that means it’s two well-known individuals, having a pleasant time, in entrance of mics. Initially, Miss Me?’s USP gave the impression to be that they dwell elsewhere, and their lives are at completely different phases – Allen lives in Brooklyn, New York, along with her husband, actor David Harbour, and her two daughters, Ethel and Marnie; Oliver lives alone in east London – however aside from that, there wasn’t a lot to differentiate it.

However Miss Me? is completely different, and the distinction is their friendship. Lily and Miquita have recognized one another all their lives. “We’re not simply Made in Chelsea mates,” says Oliver. “We’re extra like sisters,” says Allen.

The 2 girls grew up collectively in west London; their mums are actually shut; their households are intertwined. And it’s this relationship that lifts Miss Me? above all these different pods. It arrived prepared, assured, absolutely shaped, and it’s improved from there; because the Observer’s audio reviewer, I can say from expertise that that is uncommon. You would inform from the primary pay attention that it will be a success, and it’s (it’s usually within the Prime 10 of the podcast charts).

The way in which that Oliver and Allen discuss and set off one another will not be solely hilarious – they’re each naturally very humorous – but additionally intimate. Over the 13 weeks they’ve been making the present, they’ve advised hair-raising anecdotes and revealed emotional truths, merely to make one another snicker. They’ve wide-ranging pursuits: there’s lots about early 2000s fashion and foolish romcoms, however Oliver additionally not too long ago waxed lyrical about John Betjeman’s traditional suburban TV documentary Metro-land and Allen, having learn Jonathan Haidt’s The Anxious Technology, is attempting to cease her youngsters’s cell phone use. Nonetheless, as you would possibly count on, the tales that get essentially the most consideration are these after they’ve stepped on one another’s toes romantically: Oliver mentioned she’d snogged one in every of Allen’s boyfriends whereas Allen was in one other room; Allen admitted to sleeping with a pop star that Oliver had “claimed” as hers.

Generally the tales are extra severe, akin to when Allen mentioned the 2017 Finsbury Park mosque assault. When the perpetrator was caught by police, he had an inventory on him of names that included Jeremy Corbyn, Sadiq Khan and her: “It’s one of many causes I left this nation and moved to New York,” she says.

In one of many two weekly reveals, Hear Bitch!, listeners ask questions on a theme, and these have proved revelatory. Not solely are the questions glorious – a query on the present with a “sabotage” theme resulted in Oliver confronting Allen about sleeping with “her” pop star – however they arrive from everywhere in the world (Spain, Argentina), in addition to the UK.

Oliver and Allen additionally get political, though, because the podcast is put out by BBC Sounds, that is fastidiously edited: a current episode had them dancing round their opinions of the candidates for the UK’s common election, and, in an early present, Allen’s feedback concerning the Met Gala had been edited. “I used to be speaking about reproductive rights, and Roe v Wade,” she tells me, “and I mentioned that, on the Met Gala, there have been sufficient individuals in that room to have actually moved the needle about that, and the authorized division was like, ‘That seems like a name to motion’, and it needed to be edited out.”

She thinks. “I nonetheless don’t perceive the rules.”

Lily Allen along with her father, Keith, and brother Alfie, 1994. {Photograph}: Rex Options

“No, however I don’t assume it’s our job to dissect them,” says Oliver. “It will be ridiculous for us to not discuss vital shit that’s happening that we care about.”

I say I’m stunned their podcast is on the BBC, due to their outspokenness, they usually say they shopped it about, and the BBC was the one platform that allow them do what they needed. “They’re actually supportive,” says Oliver.

Anyhow, their chats aren’t unique or excluding, which is superb as a result of they’ve led privileged lives. Not by way of cash – their households had been typically skint – however as a result of they’ve grown up round inventive individuals and had entry to inventive adventures that almost all of us may solely dream of. Allen’s mum is the movie producer Alison Owen, and her dad the actor Keith Allen (they cut up up when Lily was 4). Oliver’s mum is singer turned TV chef and presenter Andi Oliver, whose greatest buddy is Neneh Cherry. Such connections imply that, on the podcast, Oliver will casually point out that Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady’s drag persona) was the primary individual to ever do her make-up, or Allen will chat about being mates with Elton John, after which feeling resentful when he stopped getting in contact. By some means, as a result of their tales are trustworthy, with themselves because the punchline, they make every thing relatable.

Miquita Oliver along with her mom, the singer turned TV chef and presenter Andi Oliver, 2023. {Photograph}: Courtesy of Iona Company

They’ve been advised, lots, that their present is nostalgic, which I don’t fairly perceive. “I don’t assume it’s essentially nostalgic of a sure time,” says Allen. “The language and the dialogue that we’ve got with one another reminds individuals of their relationships with their greatest mates, perhaps after they had been younger. It’s nostalgic of that.”

“It’s additionally nostalgic as a result of individuals used to see me on TV after they had been youthful,” says Oliver, “in a formative time of their lives. Normally hungover.”

She’s referring to the years she introduced Saturday morning TV on Channel 4. Oliver was solely 16 when she, alongside Simon Amstell, began interviewing pop stars on the brilliantly sarky but celebratory music present Popworld. She retains a extra journalistic edge than Allen and regards broadcasting as a service, particularly weekend TV: “Once I do Sunday Brunch, I’m like, I’m waking up the nation!” Her manufacturing instincts are robust: “Miss Me? has bought to be the reality. In any other case, what’s the fucking level? That’s why individuals prefer it, as a result of it’s simply the reality. And the reality is messy.”

Broadcasting doesn’t come fairly so simply to Allen, who might be cautious and self-critical (“I thought of Miss Me? the identical factor that I at all times assume, which is individuals are going to hate it”). Prior to now, she’s been burnt by the press. From the second she broke via as a pop star, aged 21, with Smile attending to No 1, she’s been a relentless focus for the tabloids, with paparazzi following her each transfer in her 20s. I idly point out that, at a earlier interview, she had two telephones, and she or he says that was due to hacking. For a number of years, she’d get what she assumed had been prank calls from youngsters, however realised, after some time, that they had been from journalists. They might name repeatedly till she dropped the decision, as a result of then her telephone would go to voicemail they usually may get into her messages. (Oliver: “Oh my God, I didn’t know that!”)

Miquita Oliver and Simon Amstell on Popworld. The pair hosted the C4 music present collectively from 2001 to 2006. {Photograph}: Channel 4

Even now, Allen will get lots of undesirable press consideration: tales from the podcast go straight on to the Each day Mail on-line. Simply earlier than the present launched, she made a wry remark in a Radio Instances interview about her youngsters wrecking her pop profession that was splashed everywhere in the papers, and it freaked her out. Not solely as a result of she felt uncovered, however as a result of the quote, and subsequently her vulnerability, had come about due to Miss Me?. “If I’m out of the blue Each day Mail fodder once more, I don’t need to really feel such as you’re part of that,” she says to Oliver.

However, truly, because the present began, she’s change into extra relaxed (you’ll be able to hear this because the podcast has gone on), as a result of Miss Me? permits her to be herself, with out journalistic mediation: “With this present, individuals might be like, ‘Oh, grasp on, she wasn’t attention-seeking. That is truly how she is as a human being. I can see it and listen to it within the present.’”

They’re each protecting of Miss Me?’s format, which is: they need to be elsewhere and see one another on FaceTime, so it’s actually like they’re catching up; they resolve on the matters they’ll discuss; and no friends. Allen: “I don’t need to need to spend my life, once I’m socialising, pondering, ‘Would this individual be good on the podcast?’” Although simply the opposite day they broke their rule and did a particular interview episode with Billie Eilish. Eilish, 22, has a superb new album, Hit Me Laborious and Gentle, and her individuals bought in contact to see if she might be a visitor. Initially reluctant – “that’s not what we’re about!” – they thought of it and mentioned sure (clearly). They each beloved Eilish, who was as trustworthy as they’re, talking on the present about how onerous it has been for her, as a younger well-known individual, to seek out and maintain on to actual mates.

Allen performing with Olivia Rodrigo on the O2, London, final month. {Photograph}: Nicky J Sims/Getty Pictures for Dwell Nation

“I felt actually protecting about her, it was so bizarre,” says Allen. “As a result of Oliver’s background is probing pop stars. And my job is being the pop star, and I’m additionally a mom. Billie is nearer to my youngsters’ age than she is to mine. So Miquita would say, ‘What do you imply by that?’ to Billie, and I used to be like, ‘She doesn’t imply something. She does not need to reply that query.’”

Although each Oliver and Allen are clearly having fun with Miss Me?, even 5 years in the past it will have been inconceivable for them to make. Partly, it’s as a result of Allen has moved to the US that it really works (“I wouldn’t have finished it if I used to be within the UK,” she says), but additionally, they’re each at the moment in a very good place, which is significant. Individually, they’ve labored onerous on their very own lives, and due to this their friendship has blossomed into one thing resilient and collaborative sufficient for a podcast.

Over time, they’ve had some robust instances. Oliver’s late 20s, after she stop T4, had been troublesome. She’d joined the present – a comedy/superstar youth programme – straight after Popworld, and beloved internet hosting with different proficient presenters, together with Alexa Chung, Nick Grimshaw, Steve Jones. However Jones left in 2010, and she or he felt the present was altering in a manner that she didn’t like – “Earlier than, even once we had been dressed up as crabs, there was an honesty about it, we had been trustworthy crabs” – so she handed in her discover. It was her choice, however she nonetheless felt fired, “or perhaps discarded”; she’d been an everyday Saturday TV presenter for 10 years. With out plans in place, she coasted, career-wise. After which, in 2012, she needed to declare chapter.

“It was months of letters that I used to be hiding, pretending they didn’t exist,” she remembers. “There was this bureau in my flat stuffed with letters saying: ‘It is advisable to pay your tax.’ After which the letters began saying ‘chapter’, and nonetheless I stored ignoring them.” She didn’t talk about the scenario with anybody, as a result of she was so scared and ashamed. Finally, the invoice bought to £170,000. To kind it out, she went to a giant glass workplace the place she was interviewed by HMRC officers – “they tear you aside” – and was advised that she had to surrender her two-bedroom flat and go and dwell along with her mum. “I had, like, a fiver, however I believed, OK, at the least I’m secure. It was attention-grabbing to understand that I didn’t want that a lot.”

She pauses. “I normally work fairly nicely after catastrophe. That’s normally my MO.”

Her newest comeback began round 5 years in the past, when she felt she was ingesting an excessive amount of and stop for six months (she drinks a little bit bit now). She began making some programmes along with her immensely charismatic and proficient mum, akin to BBC Two’s The Caribbean and Stirring It Up, an everyday friends-round-for-a-meal podcast. She additionally arrange a skipping college, Ropes, and has many different tasks within the pipeline. “I’m deliberate and strategic with work stuff, and Lily’s not likely,” she says. “This summer time, I’m taking a leaf out of her guide and simply going with the circulate… However there are reveals I need to produce, and I need to write stuff, and make TV reveals that I need to current.” She’s additionally attempting to manifest an appropriate boyfriend. She needs youngsters (she’s gathering constructive tales about older moms) and is imagining “an artist in south London” for herself. “Somebody who doesn’t like Instagram and wears good tracksuit bottoms.”

Allen’s troublesome instances have been nicely documented: they embrace the stillbirth of her son, George, in 2010, a divorce from Sam Cooper, the daddy of her two women (confirmed in 2018), and a terrifying encounter in 2015 with a long-term stalker who bought into her bed room and was solely scared away as a result of her then-boyfriend was there. She was accused of racism in 2013 as a result of her Laborious Out Right here video featured black dancers in fewer garments than her, mocked for passing out drunk at Notting Hill carnival, and slagged off for elevating points round refugees by going to a migrant camp in Calais. “I believe that voicing my opinions and views as a girl, it made me a lightning rod,” she says. “When girls demand to be heard – Meghan Markle is identical – you change into like a cartoon. And… I don’t know. Possibly I’ve bought a bizarre little punchable face.”

Styling by Helen Seamons. Styling assistants Sam Deaman and Jemima Plume. Hair: Marcia Lee at WSM utilizing Hair by Sam McKnight and Shade Wow. Make-up for Allen: Mata Marielle on the Wall Group utilizing Dior magnificence. Make-up for Oliver: Nat Minkie utilizing Chanel Magnificence. Oliver: earrings from By Pariah and costume by Marques Almedia. Allen: costume by Miu Miu. {Photograph}: Perou/The Observer

She moved to the US 4 years in the past, and married David Harbour in Las Vegas in September 2020. They dwell along with her daughters in a gorgeous home in Brooklyn. Her life within the US is calmer than her life was right here – partly as a result of she isn’t recognised, but additionally as a result of she’s been sober for 5 years.

“I’m a way more linked and current dad or mum, which is superb,” she says. “I bought a textual content from Ethel yesterday and she or he was very clear: these are the issues I’m feeling, I’m unhappy, I’m upset due to this. And I used to be, Oh my God, I’m successful at life! She’s naming her feelings and she or he’s asking me for assist. My relationship with my youngsters particularly is a lot better since I bought sober.”

The a part of sobriety she finds onerous is round creativity. “Medicine and alcohol had been superb at drowning out my interior critic,” she says. “While you take cocaine you assume your entire concepts are good and must be shared.” She’s been engaged on songs – “I’ve about 100 of them!” – however doesn’t really feel like they’re any good, so she’s referred to as time on that facet of her profession for some time. Subsequent summer time she is because of star in Hedda Gabler, in Bathtub, so she needs to take pleasure in this summer time along with her daughters.

“I can actually miss these excessive highs,” she says, “like I miss being on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury and speeding my tits off. I do know that I’ll by no means expertise that once more, and there’s a unhappiness that comes with that. However I’m degree. I’m not having actually horrible, lengthy durations of time of absolute despair.”

In order that they’re each in a very good place, and their relationship with one another is, too. This was not at all times the case. “By no means!” laughs Oliver. Allen: “The way in which that we behaved with one another in our late teenagers and early 20s, this era can be like: ‘Oh my God, that’s so poisonous!’” They’d be jealous of one another, they’d compete with one another, they’d argue and fall out for a number of months.

Now, they textual content one another and ask for forgiveness, or discuss it out within the second and attempt to perceive. “The present’s been good for us,” says Oliver. “As a result of we’ve got to have pure communication, which is nice for any relationship.”

I ponder if that communication is prolonged to their mums, each fabulous girls who can, we’ve got realized from the podcast, get on their daughters’ nerves.

“Lil and my mum can go Tupperware buying on vacation – which they did – for 2 hours,” says Oliver, “and are available again they usually’re in love with one another. That will drive me nuts. However me and Auntie Alison can discuss shit for hours… We’re each very conscious of how good our moms are. I like that my mum by no means stops. She by no means stops. We have now large plans, and she or he makes me really feel like I can do something. I like having a mom like that.”

Allen and Oliver making an exception to their ‘no friends’ rule on their Miss Me? podcast, with Billie Eilish. {Photograph}: Sarah Louise Bennett

Allen’s mum is at the moment in Brooklyn taking care of Ethel and Marnie, as a result of Allen is within the UK and Harbour is away working. “Our household actually wouldn’t work with out her stepping in like that,” says Allen. “She’s superb with the children.” She says she discovered it troublesome when she was youthful that her mum was much less current as a result of she labored so onerous, however that “she taught me that being keen about what you do is a present, however it takes onerous work and sacrifices need to be made. And she or he taught me the right way to make an impeccable roast dinner and spaghetti bolognese and trifle.”

Oliver is laughing once more. “You recognize that our mums need to do a podcast now?” she says.

Allen: “They assume they will do their very own…”

Oliver: “They need to name it The Corrections…”

Allen: “That’s what we imply. We are able to by no means get away…”

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