The Scummy Mummies on parenting and podcasts

Comedy duo The Scummy Mummies host a fortnightly podcast for ‘less-than-perfect parents’, covering boobs, fannies and serious parenting issues like postpartum psychosis. We speak to one half, Helen Thorn, who gives us a lot of lols…

Helen Thorn, 37, is one-half of comedy duo The Scummy Mummies. They’ve been featured in The Guardian, the Telegraph and on Radio 4 and were described by Jane Garvey as “worryingly competent.” She’s right; they are.

Thorn has lives in Forest Hill with her husband and their two kids Matilda, seven, and Hugo, five. She’s originally from Australia but moved to the UK with her husband 10 years ago and hasn’t yet left.

Ellie Gibson – the other Scummy Mummy – 38, also lives in Forest Hill with her husband and two kids – Charlie, five and Joe, 18 months.

“Our sons were born 11 days apart by the same midwife. But we didn’t know each other then. We live round the corner from each other, went to the same cafés, but didn’t meet until we did a stand-up gig April 2013.

I used to do stand-up in Australia – from 2003-2006 – I did TV and all sorts. But I lost my confidence after having my first child. So getting back into it after my second child was hard. I remember sitting up in the night, breastfeeding and thinking: the thing I love most is stand-up.

It was on my first gig back that I met Ellie. And her first gig ever. We both felt it was the right point in our lives. It was a really horrible gig in Deptford in a shipping container to about 12 people. It was hilarious, a really good night.

SM dickheads

When I used to do stand-up it was all about 20-something blokes talking about their cocks – who wants to hear about that? At this gig in Deptford, Ellie and I did a five-minute set each about being mothers and how our marriages are fucked, boobs and fannies.

We both thought: I really like this woman. So we met a few weeks later, had some beers and stayed out till 1am laughing and chatting. It was a lovely bit of fate that brought us together. I’m married to my husband but Ellie and I call each other ‘the wives’ – we spend the day together, and the nights when we do gigs.

I can’t imagine returning to Australia. London’s an exciting place for comedy and to raise children – I love it here. No, I’m not in any hurry to return, despite the weather. I want the culture. Though it’s funny raising kids with a south London accent.

The Scummy Mummies Podcast

The podcast came out of an email from Ellie early one morning saying: I’ve got this idea; I think we should do a podcast. We used to make each other laugh. We’d be like: I gave the kids fish fingers three nights in a row and the other would say: I gave mine chicken nuggets off the floor.

Ellie is an award-winning technical journalist so knew how to do that side of things and I knew how to be rude so it was a perfect match. The podcast launched in July 2013 and we went straight to number 1 in the iTunes Kids and Family charts in the UK and Australia.

It also got into the top 20 in the general UK iTunes podcast charts – putting us ahead of The Archers Omnibus. Life goal achieved. And we got a fantastic review in Telegraph a few months later, recommending us as one of the top parenting podcasts.

So it had a great response; it was a really nice reception. And this year we were featured on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour – and were recommended as one of the top podcasts to listen to in 2016, along with Serial and Lena Dunham. Now it’s available in over 100 countries around the world. We very much value our three listeners in Azerbaijan.

We try to cover everything parenting so we’ve done postnatal psychosis, gay parenting, IVF, adoption, raising children with autism. We’ve had the midwife and blogger Clemmie Hooper, and other amazing people like Sali Hughes on truth and beauty, alongside other celebrities, authors and parenting experts (like Annabel Karmel – on nutrition and feeding families).

The Scummy Mummies with Zoe de Pass, of Dress like a Mum
The Scummy Mummies with Zoe de Pass, of Dress like a Mum

There are so many interesting people to interview. There are universal truths but people raise children in different ways, and have different experiences so we’ll never run out of material.

There are key topics like feeding your kids, your own self worth – that transition from not parent to parent. We just love the people we have on. We have lots of wine, have a laugh, eat loads of cheese.

I was excited to meet Kathy Lette, as she’s been a hero of mine since I was very young. And Glamour editor Jo Elvin – one of my career idols – but also some of the people who’ve gone through postnatal psychosis had an amazing impact on us.

Mei Fong the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist talked about the one-child policy in China. We’re always surprised when we meet people who are willing to come on. It’s reassuring that there’s that parenting brings us together.

On the wishlist for guests? Obviously Oprah. Dawn French. Hilary Clinton – if she’s free, you know – if she’s in the area. Caitlin Moran. Carrie Fisher. Angelina, she’d be alright. Anybody, really, we’re very welcoming.

Our podcasts are for ‘less-than-perfect parents’ – therefore, all parents. We think everyone’s a scummy mummy, whether they know it or not. It’s inherent that as a parent you’ll get covered in shit, have a child who’ll have a meltdown in the supermarket or do a crap at a party, you’ll get vomited on. It’s all part and parcel – there’s no perfection; it’s chaotic and messy but joyous and hilarious at the same time.

We adore being parents; being nutbags with our kids. We love dancing to gangnam in our pants, and being a parent is a great excuse to eat McDonald’s or handfuls of Haribo on a Friday night. We’re all about being kind to yourself – not setting yourself unrealistic standards and laughing at the hard bits.

On Instagram and the ‘Insta mums’

Well done for the filters and the editing. Well done to them. I could not achieve that – in real life or photographically. Ellie puts it better: just don’t go on Instagram. Don’t look at it and it won’t bother you. It’s sometimes troubling when everything is through that filter – if you’re feeling wobbly or not having a great time looking at those images can’t really affect you. But Instagram’s good for supporting each other, as well.

There was a great quote: “don’t compare your inside life to somebody’s outside life”. It’s true. On our Instagram there’s no consistency. I’ll post a photo of my husband leaving out wet towels, or my kid drawing another one doing a poo.

We’re not fashionistas but we like fashion – we love our catsuits – they show every lump, bump and postnatal thing. But we come on stage in them under bright lights and there’s something strong about it. Ironically, it’s meant to be a pisstake but we feel really good in them.

As soon as we make two and half pounds, we spend it on lycra; on more fabric that doesn’t breath under the hot lights.

SM gold full length

On motherhood

I fucking hate swimming lessons. They drive me fucking potty. Sometimes I’d prefer to poke myself in the eye with a Peppa Pig car than drive to the pool again. I’m an Australian girl so I have to teach them to swim. But there’s something about a small hot room and my son spontaneously pissing on my foot…

The other thing I hate about parenting is nits, obviously.

But I love the giggles and the cuddles. And our joint love of music. Also, bedtimes and reading a story – they are the joy of joys. And sharing a universal joke – I think: I’m a lucky, lucky woman.

What Ellie and I tended to do – when the boys were little – was we’d go to parks and rehearse our comedies while pushing them on the swings. Some of our shows go on for an hour and a half – so we write, direct, dress and stage them ourselves.

We did it around nap times, three-hour windows of nursery. That’s how we juggle it. And we have fairly patient husbands – who will let us have Sunday afternoons. And we’re very efficient; it’s no longer about hanging out smoking cigarettes. We’re really dedicated and love what we do.

The Scummy Mummies on tour

We’re very much looking forward to Camp Bestival – we’re doing a live show, as well as co-hosting the Secret Mummy’s Wine Club with Sara Cox. I love performing. I don’t get nervous now, it’s lovely having someone to say: it’s gonna be fine dude. We have little catchphrases to get us through it.

I used to do a one-hour solo show but this is so much more fun. And Ellie’s such a hoot. Usually we perform to a room full of mums who are on a night out and want to have a really good time. They want you to be funny.

The future…

We’re writing a book, it’s out on Mother’s Day next year. We’re keen to do TV, radio, we love writing comedy together. And obviously perform at Wembley. Ellie is an amazing friend and I feel very lucky to share the whole process with her. See how I said ‘process’? I don’t want to say ‘journey’ – it’s too X Factor.

The Scummy Mummies

Have you listened to any of The Scummy Mummies podcasts? Let us know you favourites in the comment section below…