Christine Peake: from Manchester to Mrs Maisel

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Now British working single mum Christine Peake is winning over American audiences with a similar combination of glamorous looks, killer punchlines and reckless swagger. Her success on the US comedy circuit is just her latest metamorphosis, however.

Christine, who at 56 resembles a younger, hotter Kris Jenner, has reinvented herself three times since her teens. First by becoming a household name model, secondly, as a hugely successful Los Angeles-based PR, and now as a fast-talking, hard-hitting stand-up performing on bills with household names like Jeremy Piven and Tom Arnold.

The irrepressible Peake has the personality of a heat-seeking missile and happily swims against the PC tide.

“I’m sick of things being cancelled,” she tells me down the phone from her home in Santa Monica. “It’s a huge distraction and a waste of time. We can’t go backwards, we have to go forward.

“Gen Z are all about anxiety and virtue-signalling. It’s not unifying, it’s divisive. How can we move forward when human growth is being stalled by people trying to figure out what sex they are? Just be kind and move on! Everyone is apologising for s*** we didn’t do! I just tell it like it is.”

Born in Bury, Greater Manchester – the middle child of a working-class single mother-of-five – Christine cheerfully subverts cancel culture on stage.

“I opened up my shopping bag and cancelled black beans and white rice,” she says with a wry smile. “I said, ‘White rice? Black beans? You know that’s racist…’ I emphasise the ridiculousness of it all because that’s what English people do, at home when the going gets tough we turn to humour.

“No country in the world has humour like the English.

“One night I cancelled Snow White as a joke on stage clearly because of her clearly racist name and a few weeks later it was actually cancelled! The jokes write themselves.”

Grammar school-educated Christine planned to become a teacher until, aged 18, she read a newspaper article about the British modelling agent Yvonne Paul. “On a whim, I sent her a headshot. I got an immediate response asking me to meet her in London. Yvonne told me I was ‘like a young Joan Collins’ and sent me straight to an audition.

“As soon as I got home to Manchester I got the message, ‘You’ve got the job, come back’.”

Christine didn’t stop modelling for ten years, from 1985 to 1995 when she moved to LA. “I did glamour modelling, fashion modelling, I did TV. I appeared with Michael Barrymore; I did Whoops Apocalypse with Peter Cook – a crappy role but I adored him.

“I did loads of TV ads, I travelled extensively, I had a column in The Sun… It was wonderful but after ten years I wanted a change. I just got restless.”

She landed her first job by chance in the Whiskey Bar “I was in the bar drinking shots with a guy who turned out to an Oscar-winning director and who invited me to appear in the car advert he was shooting the next day… I walked straight into my first job, well drove I should say!”

She was asked to edit scripts by a friend, Oscar-winner Michael Cimino (of Deer Hunter fame), who introduced her to his potential investment partner on a movie, Jerry.

“We fell head-over-heels in love,” she says.

Sadly Jerry died in a road traffic accident when Christine was pregnant with their now adult son, Oliver. She still doesn’t date but is working on it.

“Judging by the recent MeToo claims I was too old in Hollywood at 17!”

Peake’s early life was tough. “Mum raised us kids, she did the best she could,” she says, “Dad was never really around. He was in road haulage and had a new lovely family.”

As a single mum herself, Peake decided to supplement the money she made from writing by taking on clients as a PR. Her PeakPRGroup became massively successful, producing events working with such stellar names as Will Smith, Alan Cumming, Sylvester Stallone and Matt Goss for Brits In LA – also a very supportive organisation in LA.

“I was always writing for newspapers here, I have written with the Santa Monica Observer for 18 years,” she says. “I was pitching and connecting people in my daily life. Some said I was a natural-born publicist – I prefer a second-hand car dealer with a grin.”

Her first client was Montana Avenue – an exclusive street with over a hundred businesses in stunning Santa Monica, a few minutes’ walk from the beach.

Christine’s comedy career began by chance in November 2020.

“Just as Covid was hitting, I did my first comedy show. My friend comedian/actress Eugenia Kuzmina – a very cool and generous person, – kept saying ‘You’re so naturally funny you should be on stage’.

“She kindly introduced me to comedian/producer Jimmy Shin” – one of the foremost hard-working show producers in LA.

“Eugenia told him, ‘She’s the funniest person I know’. So Jimmy took me under his wing, and since I organise events in my PR role, we produced a show together to benefit cancer research.

“I had two weeks to prepare! I opened the bill – I was physically sick with nerves. He was rightly concerned because it was a big sold-out show with a lot of people in, but I pulled myself together and said, ‘I’ve got this’.

“I don’t remember what I said on stage, I just went into the zone. But I remember I got a huge cheer at the end…but maybe that was because the audience was glad it was over?

“I did that show with Jeremy Piven and Kirk Fox, one of my favourite comedians, and I haven’t stopped since. “At that point with the pandemic, it felt like we had lost everything – the world was insane. I had nothing left to lose and so much to say.

“Comedian, and actress Jessica Winther was also producing shows. She kindly gave me a couple of spots and I started honing my craft. I wrote all my jokes, using my job as a publicist as a source for material. I also write for a newspaper out here, so I read for hours every day and I used the news also as the foundation.

“I was hooked and it took off from there – Jimmy was very supportive; he put me on a lot of his shows. I am eternally grateful.”

Peake uses her PR skills to promote the gigs, doing TV interviews, bringing in sponsors and media and adding a red carpet feel.

She gets mistaken for Kris Jenner but laughs it off saying, “Yeah, if she had a baby with Liza Minnelli.”

Christine also appears as the Royal correspondent on Fox News – she’s not a Prince Harry/Meghan fan – and Fox has “generously supported” her fundraising shows for veterans and nurses.

“Before long I produced a sold-out show in Las Vegas at the renowned Notoriety Live. The owner Ken Henderson is now a good friend. It was amazing! We had a great line-up, including Saturday Night Live star Darrell Hammond and Jeremy Piven.

“Naturally I booked Jimmy and Jessica first as they had been very generous to me and also Eugenia who was the first to tell me to do it seriously.
“I had been told to do stand up for years and eventually I just thought ‘Why not? What have I got to lose?’

“The world was a strange place with Covid and everything was being cancelled – I had a mix of anger and fear and turned it into laughter.

“The whole woke movement is ridiculous. I used that and went the opposite to it. I make fun of it all. Everyone was changing pronouns and being offended – I found that offensive!

“I went on stage and asked people their pronouns and introduced myself saying, ‘I identify as a [unprintable word]’.

“They were shocked but I didn’t care. I am more concerned with other serious issues in the world. I know I am very lucky and how unbelievably hard comedians work.

“Plus you have people like comedians Gary Robinson (who does sound) and Keida Mascaro (video) who also work hard behind the scenes to make us all look and sound good. I have worked on big shows at the ‘magic three’ biggest clubs in America – The Comedy Store, Laugh Factory and the Hollywood Improv.

“Amazing venues and crowds. I love performing in New York and Las Vegas also, and it was a great experience to do a mini tour in Chicago with Jessica, Eugenia and the hilarious Teri S.

“I’m sharing the stage with modern greats. Bill Burr is a huge star and it was great to share a stage with him, my son Oliver is a huge Burr fan too so I asked him to take a photo in the green room backstage – I was a cool Mum for a minute.

“One minute to be exact.”

Christine grew up in Bury a small market town in Greater Manchester.

“I loved tap dancing and performing as a child but we didn’t have much money for me to have the ability to go to a stage school and follow my dreams. So I worked jobs from being 12 years old and always had the idea to leave and go to London. I loved the entertainment world.

“I’ve always loved comedy from Charlie Chaplin, Tommy Cooper and Benny Hill to Greg Davies, Matt Berry, Ricky Gervais, Catherine Tate and obviously I was a huge fan of Absolutely Fabulous in the 90s.

“Britain is so lucky. We have the world’s greatest melting pot of comedians – I still watch reruns of British shows here. In American comedy, I don’t think there is anything better than Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David is one of a kind.

“I grew up loving shows like Fawlty Towers and Rising Damp – both of which would have been cancelled today! This cancelling craze is singlehandedly destroying comedy.

“Everyone is woke and yet it bores me to sleep, everyone is offended and I find it offensive, everyone is triggered it makes me want to shoot myself. It’s contagious.
“A large percentage of young people are on medication here too.

“As kids we were told to stop whining and put the kettle on! I literally died when I was five and my Mum said ‘it’s only a scratch!’

“My personal approach to comedy is how I feel in my life. I have little patience with the way things are evolving and by evolving I mean it’s all going to s***.”
“Darrell Hammond is a genius.

“Jay Mohr is so quick, like Robin Williams! Max Amini works a crowd like no other, Pete Holmes from Crashing is hilarious. Tom Arnold tells great Hollywood stories –, my favourite is about Hugh Grant and Madonna. Jimmy is such a Pro. Jamie Kennedy is my favourite, he is unique, brave, eccentric and a gentleman. He literally makes me cry with laughter.”

She also rates “fearless” female comic Jiaoying Summers. “I just did a show with her last week at the Hollywood Improv and her takedown of Meghan Markle was so brutally honest and unapologetic that I swear Meghan herself would have run back to the Palace begging them to take her back!!”

Christine jokes, “The best thing about comedy is the weight loss – nervously vomiting before shows has done wonders for my waistline.”

In reality, she has conquered her stage nerves by taking acting classes with leading casting director Matthew Barry, who discovered Ryan Gosling. “He is a great support system and attends my shows along with the other supportive students in class.

“I have made some solid friends and gig at least once a week, as I still do the day job. At the moment it’s a great hobby that took off with a life of its own.”

Would she write an autobiography? “I’ve started to write a book of essays. It’s been an interesting life so far…many different chapters.

“Many highs and lows but a sense of humour can see us through it all. Happiness is a choice I tell myself. We are all facing uncertain times with a recession, Covid and daily depressing news. You have to laugh or else you’ll cry, well that’s what I heard growing up! So I apply it!”

*Christine’s next show is on January 19 at the Hollywood Improv to roast fellow comedian Jiaoying Summers. Tickets at www.improv.com

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