Nicola Coughlan: On My Culture Radar
The Derry Girls actor on Hamilton, why Fleabag is award-worthy, and her unexpected friend Jonathan Van Ness
Nicola Coughlan: ‘I thought I was free-spirited in San Francisco with flowers in my hair and no shoes on, but my boss told me to cop on because there were syringes on the ground’
Current favourite book
I enjoy biographies. I’ve read Judi Dench’s and Helen Mirren’s, and most recently I read Abbi Jacobson’s book, I Might Regret This. She’s half of Broad City, and this book is about her solo road trip across America but it involves various musings on her life and relationships. It was interesting to read a book from someone my age and in the same industry.
Even though it’s a chain, I love Wahaca. I used to go there when I was auditioning in London and didn’t know many people, so the staff got used to me coming in. And as a Galway girl I can’t deny that I like a Supermacs on occasion. I’d have curry chips and a chicken wrap - what we used to get on Curry Chips Tuesday at secondary school.
People think this is my area and I must know all the good stand-ups, but I’m more in the acting field of both comedy and drama. That said, I went to New York in January and ended up seeing more comedy than usual. Catherine Cohen has a great night on at Alan Cumming’s place, Club Cumming. It takes me a lot to properly laugh out loud at stuff, but she was excellent. And I love Maeve Higgins, Aisling Bea and Felicity Ward too.
I’m a Hamilton obsessive, I’m lucky enough to have seen it three times, one time in New York. A friend of ours knew someone in that cast, so we got to go onstage, which was incredible. I also recently saw Cyprus Avenue by David Ireland, who coincidentally plays my dad in Derry Girls. I absolutely loved the play. It’s really dark and funny, it’s brilliantly balanced.
I’m a big fan of Rob Ryan who does delicate laser cuts, I have one of his pieces. And I like David Shrigley as well, who does cartoons. They’re childishly drawn, and they’re quite funny but they tell a story. He had an exhibition at the South Bank a couple of years ago, and he also did the ‘thumbs up’ sculpture on the fourth plinth on Trafalgar Square. There was something enjoyably absurdist and Mothy Python-esque about it.
When I was 19, moving to San Francisco was my first time living away from home, and it had such a gorgeous energy. There’s an awful homeless problem, which is hard to deal with, but it is a special place. I love the Haight-Ashbury area, which was the centre of the action the 60s. It has cool vintage stores and lots of lovely organic restaurants. But even the city centre is beautiful. I worked in a shop right by Union Square, and used to get carried away with myself and walk home barefoot. I thought I was free-spirited with flowers in my hair and no shoes on, but my boss told me to cop on because there were syringes on the ground.
Andrew Scott and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag were such a brilliant pairing. I saw Andrew in Sea Wall in The Old Vic in London, which was a one-man show. I was in a play at the Donmar Warehouse at the same time and there was only one day I could go and see it because it was finishing, so I had to do my matinée performance, jump on a Tube, run to see show, and get back again for the evening performance. It was so worth it though.
I listen to the Getting Curious podcast by Jonathan Van Ness, who’s from Queer Eye and unexpectedly became a friend of mine. It’s where he takes different topics and completely dissects them. He’s very intelligent, so you end up learning a lot. There’s also the Mystery Show, which only lasted a series but was so charming. It was done by Starlee Kine, and she talked about these unsolved mysteries that you couldn’t find on Google. It’s a shame it didn’t get more than one series, but I enjoyed it.
Social media profile
On Twitter, my friend Jack Rooke (@jackrooke) really makes me laugh. He’s a comedian and writer, and he’s brilliant at everything. I also like Mara Wilson (@MaraWilson) who played Matilda when she was little, and now she’s a really interesting character on Twitter.
I’m borderline obsessed with PEN15 on Hulu. It’s written by two women called Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, and they play 13-year-old versions of themselves with such sincerity it’s comical. Thirteen is that time when you’re still a child but you think you’re an adult, so it’s funny and touching. I loved Fleabag obviously. No one should bother going to award shows next year because that was perfect from start to finish. We’ve all talked about it and we know Phoebe Waller-Bridge is going to clean the board. We’re all cool with that, it was perfect.