DAISY MAY COOPER is a Country superstar who overcame setbacks, extreme poverty, and multiple sackings to become her own successful author. Cole Moreton hears her explain why she believes failure is the key to her success. 

Daisy May wears dress, Isabel Marant, mytheresa.com. Shoes, Maxine

Daisy May in Isabel Marant dress by mytheresa.com Shoes Maxine

 Daisy May Cooper’s mum keeps a dead parrot in the freezer. ‘We’ve had arguments about this, because she’s got fish fingers next to it that she will give my kids,’ says the writer, actor and comedian in her warm West Country accent. ‘She’s a massive hoarder, including her own dead animals. That’s just who she is.’

Her deadpan horror at her mum’s behaviour makes this feel like a scene from This Country, the bittersweet mockumentary Daisy May wrote and starred in with her brother Charlie, inspired by their struggles with poverty growing up in a Cotswolds village. Will Weston, a landscape gardener, married her near Cirencester and gave birth to Pip, three-year-old, and Jack, one year old. But the couple recently split up and Daisy May’s career is soaring in a way dead birds don’t, so Granny helps out with the kids. Five minutes from her home, she lives with Claude wrapped in gold tissue paper in cold storage.

‘It’s so mad,’ says Daisy May, chuckling. Claude is one of the weird confessions in her new memoir Don’t Laugh, It’ll Only Encourage Her. Daisy May, who recently starred in the film The Personal History of David Copperfield and was a Captain on the relaunched Never Mind the Buzzcocks, is highly sought after by This Country. However, the story is also about her 30 years ago, when she was in a poor school and struggled against poverty, despair, and extreme poverty.

With brother Charlie in TV series This Country

Charlie with brother in TV Series This Country

Paul, her father was the breadwinner of the home. However, he lost his sales job and was suddenly without any money. Her parents struggled to find work – Paul also suffered a heart attack during this time – and ultimately they had to sell their home. With the cash from the sale, her family could barely pay their rent and was close to losing their home. The family had no money and Christmas was celebrated by candlelight.

‘There was no plan B for me,’ says Daisy May. ‘It was all or nothing. I genuinely think I would be an addict if I hadn’t done this. I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever had. There’s nothing else I can do.’ Daisy May got the chop from Costa for scoffing pastries and was sacked from a department store for smashing the Lindt chocolate Santas so she could eat them as damaged goods. ‘I look back now and I think: “I could have got arrested for that.” It’s like when I put sleeping tablets in my parents’ tea so I could see my boyfriend. They could have been killed. These were all impulsive and mad decisions that I made. There was such a fine line between making it and going to prison.’ Sometimes the stories are heartbreaking, too. There’s the time Daisy May went for a job as a dancer in a club, only to discover too late that it was really for a stripper. Painfully aware that she didn’t look like the other girls in the room, she was desperate enough for cash to go through with it anyway, even snogging the pole. The DJ played the music. ‘Silence falls like snow. Deadly and cold.’

When you’re new to this industry, you’re vulnerable. People will profit 

She turns an awful, negative memory into something positive by writing it down. ‘I was going to take the story to my grave, then I went on a show with Romesh Ranganathan and it just spilled out.’ That clip has since been viewed 16 million times. ‘I thought: “It means something now. This is not just a bleak thing that happened to me.” Doing this book was like therapy.’

What would Daisy May say to Daisy, if she could have a conversation with her? ‘I’d say: “Just be a bit less of a slag.” Because some of the blokes were awful.’ Her boyfriends are covered in hilarious detail in the book, but the one man Daisy May won’t talk about is Will, who she met on Tinder in 2015. Their marriage was in 2019. They split early this year. When I ask about this she says she’s not ready to talk about ‘any of the marriage stuff’. It’s clearly very raw.

She talks in the book about her body confidence problems as a teenager. Have they disappeared by age 35? ‘Confidence remains an issue. I got myself hair extensions because I’ve always wanted ones that are properly done not just bought online. And I’ll have a spray tan. But I’m not vain.’

The next series she is working on will be about toxic friendships with Seline Hizli and her friend from real life, whom she met while at drama school. Skint Estate will follow, which is a TV series that’s based on Cash Carraway’s memoir. ‘That’s the problem with having been skint: you become a workaholic, because you’re so frightened of the work going away.’

It’s not so long ago that she was too broke to print off a script for an audition for Call the Midwife and had to go there in broken sandals wrapped up in gaffer tape because she couldn’t afford new shoes. There was also the Doc Martin disaster. After years of trying, Daisy May finally landed a part with four lines and travelled down to Cornwall in 2011 on the production company’s ticket; but she had no other cash at all and her mum was on the phone begging her to sort out yet another payday loan so the family wouldn’t be evicted from their home. It was supposed to be her biggest break. But, real life was hard. Daisy May cracked under pressure, and she fluffed the lines many times before being taken off-set on the edge. ‘It was seeing the expression on Martin Clunes’s face and thinking: “I’ve b***sed this up.”’

Daisy May wears dress, Isabel Marant, mytheresa.com. Shoes, Maxine

Daisy May in Isabel Marant dress by mytheresa.com Shoes Maxine 

However, there was one good thing. Daisy May got talking to fellow actor Jessica Ransom who told her she had been writing her own material – creating a character only she could play. Daisy May saw a way to move forward by writing her own story. ‘I didn’t know such a thing was possible.’

In the Cotswolds Daisy May and Charlie started to create and film sketches that were based on their characters. Their initial success was a great surprise to the people working in the industry. But then, years later, it became a frustrating experience. She doesn’t hold back in the book from naming those who treated them badly. But isn’t it dangerous to burn bridges like that? ‘No, because I want people to know there are those in this industry who will take advantage. When you’re new, you’re extremely vulnerable.’

I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever had. There’s nothing else I can do 

They worked together on a pilot for three-years, but they were eventually dropped by ITV as well as the production company that claimed their rights. Charlie took it very badly and his reaction scared her, she writes: ‘Mum and I remained on suicide watch for several days.’ Daisy May tells me she was on the edge herself. ‘I was desperate. It was just so awful to be so poor you don’t even feel human any more. You don’t have any choices and you don’t have any respect for yourself.’

The siblings were sleeping on the same broken mattress in their parents’ home in Cirencester. They’d been sacked from their jobs as night cleaners and their dad was still out of work, so there was no money at all in the house. Without anything left, she sent Shane Allen, the BBC’s director of comedy, a request for help. In just weeks, he was able negotiate the rights of his clients and ordered The Country’s first season.

The meanderings of Daisy May and Charlie’s characters – cousins Kerry and Kurtan – and the oddballs all around them are sad and funny, like The Office set in a little village. This Country won Baftas for the writing and for Daisy May and Charlie’s acting. What do the parents think about this? ‘They are proud. They’re amazing. They let us keep trying.’

Have they bought a home together? ‘I’m not at that stage yet. However, not worrying about money all day makes it seem like all the chains have been removed. I could go into Tesco now and buy whatever I want without waiting for the reduced items to be put out at five o’clock.’

She doesn’t feel completely secure with her new found fame. ‘Every day I wake up and think: “I am going to get cancelled today.” There is that fear that I’ll say the wrong thing and upset everyone.’ And you have to say there is a risk of that, given how freely and riotously Daisy May loves to talk. Her jokes seem to focus on her own self. ‘I’m very self-deprecating because if I take the p*** out of myself first, you can’t.’

There’s another reason for getting her dirty washing out in public with the book, though: to help others. ‘When we were desperate I’d read Peter Kay’s autobiography to see how he did it. I was fascinated with the bad stuff that happened, because it gave me hope.’

It would be great if her book did the same. ‘I hope there’s somebody out there who can say: “Well, I don’t feel as bad now, because I see Daisy Cooper is such a massive f*** up.”’ And with a roar of laughter she hurries off to the next thing, turning her trials into triumphs and finally living the life she dreamed of for so long.

 Daisy May’s memoir Don’t Laugh, It’ll Only Encourage Her is out now in hardback (Penguin Michael Joseph, price £20. To order a copy for £17 until 26 December, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.

Style: Sophie Dearden assisted by Stephanie Sofokleous. Matthew wade. Beth Alderson does the make-up. Picture editor: Stephanie Belingard. Location: Hilles House/ Pineapple Location