Interview: Zoe Lyons On Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins

Interview: Zoe Lyons On Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins

Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins continus on Sunday 1 October at 9pm on Channel 4. Taking part in the punishing jungle phase of SAS selection - one of the toughest environments faced by Special Forces operatives – are Former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock (44); Singers, Gareth Gates (38); Michelle Heaton (43) and Siva Kaneswaran (34); TV Personality, Danielle Lloyd (39); TV Presenter, Melinda Messenger (51); Ex-Premier League Footballer, Jermaine Pennant (40), Ex-Welsh Rugby International, Gareth Thomas (48), Reality TV Stars James “Arg” Argent (35), Montana Brown (27), Teddy Soares (28), Amber Turner (29), Comedian, Zoe Lyons (51), Actor, Kirsty-Leigh Porter (34), Great British Olympian, Perri Shakes-Drayton (34) and Paralympic Gold Medalist, Jon-Allan Butterworth MBE.


Below comedian Zoe Lyons talks about her SAS experience

Best known as a Stand-up Comedian, Game Shows Host and a regular Panellist on TV shows. One of the older recruits at 51, Zoe, an adrenaline junkie is fitter than she was at 30 and wants to discover what she is capable of physically and mentally. The idea of taking on the SAS course terrified her and she wanted to discover what she had within herself. Having alopecia on and off since the age of 11, losing her hair and her identity has made Zoe feel very vulnerable.

What made you sign up to the toughest show on telly?

Well, I'd watched it, and I wanted to see whether I could do it or not. I think it was just as basic as that, I really wanted to see whether I could do it or not. I'm in my fifties now, but I'm probably fitter than I've ever been and I thought, “I wonder if I've got what it takes just to keep going?" It was that just to test myself. I know it sounds really cliche, but it was just that, I've watched it and thought that it looks absolutely horrific and brutal and most people would go, “I'll leave it at that”. My brain went, “I wonder if you can do that?”

Did you know anybody that's done it that you call for advice?

I didn't know anybody personally. I had friends of friends who've done it and word on the street was, “it was horrific, that was awful”. Only a few people gave any sort of real detail just, "Oh, that's the worst thing I've ever done." You're like, "Oh, okay, that sounds interesting." I'm still going to give it a go. Because there's a bit in my brain that goes, "Well, how bad is bad? How bad is bad?" I've done gigs for three people, that's bad. I've done gigs in pubs where they haven't even turned off the fruit machine and the last thing that the owner has said before you get on stage is, “don't mention the murder”. So how bad is bad? When somebody goes, "Smell, that's disgusting." You're like, "Oh, all right."

What was your biggest fear or concern about taking on the course?

I suppose everybody, if they're honest, one of the fears that pops up, you don't want to be the first out. That's the thing, because you've paid for airport parking! It's always that thing of, “oh God, I hope I don't make a prat of myself in the first 10 minutes”. I'm very uncoordinated and cack-handed, despite enjoying my exercise, I am a danger to anybody around me. So I thought, God, I hope I don't just fall flat on my face in the first 30 seconds and have to leave. I did fall over and hurt myself within the first 30 seconds! I ripped my knee open! I looked down, my trouser was all split. I just didn't mention it and taped it up with some sellotape. So that was a big fear and then my thing has always been heights, because of my bad coordination I just can't function around heights. And I knew there'd be a lot of heights involved, so I was interested to see if I could get to that point of complete and utter terror and push through it.

What do you think your strength would be on the course?

I suppose mentally, it's not that I don't take things too seriously, but you have to have a lightness of touch with things. I volunteered to go in there, so mentally I cope with things through humour, obviously, that's what I've done my whole life, I've made a career out of that. So I knew I had that in my back pocket as well. I suppose the other thing I was worried about as well, because I had terrible alopecia at the time. My hair's grown back, so I've got a full head now. I hadn't exposed myself in that way on television, so I continued to work, but I'd worn wigs and I'd worn hats, and I knew in that environment it just wasn't going to be possible, I had to square that in my head before I went, I was like, this is going to happen, you're going to look odd, because my hair looked odd, I had sort of strangly bits. Are you all right with that? And I thought, well, yeah, if I can do this, then I can do anything. With all due respect, and there are some beautiful looking people on this series, but none of us were looking our best. And I thought, well, if you're going to do it anywhere, do it in an environment like that.

How did you feel when you got there and saw the rest of the lineup?

Well, you do find yourself looking along the line of people and seeing Perri going, “oh my God, she's incredible”. The first time I had to run behind Perri, I mean, I look like Forest Gump when I run, the limbs are everywhere, they're all over the place. We were made to sprint down this road and Perri was in front of me and she just took off, this beautiful human being, just striding down. I was like, “oh my God, that's amazing, look how she runs”. Then I have to go looking like a pug with asthma after her. So you do gauge everybody going, oh my god, they look so fit. Gareth Gates is built like a brick sh*t house. Then you've got units like Gareth Thomas and Jermaine Pennant. Massive, massive blokes.

What did you make of the DS?

I love those boys, honestly, they are incredible. I have total respect for them, complete and utter total respect for them. They're doing this show now, but their past life, the things that they have done and had to do for king and country, I suppose now, just incredible and I learned so much from them.

As a comic, were you worried about cracking jokes and getting punished?

They don't want that. Actually, do you know what? The first few days were so intimidating and terrifying, that the clown was very much put away for a while, put your clown shoes over there and don't annoy these guys. It is so immersive, it is so real and there's a man that far from your nose, staring at you in the eye with these beautiful blue eyes. I mean, I've got to say the best eyes I've ever seen, but everything is so alert and so terrifying. The clown shoes were truly put away for the first few days.

You must be used to hecklers, but how was it having them screaming at you?

It's a different level, it's very intimidating. It's really, really intimidating and I suppose a bit of me was thinking, “they take this seriously, so I have to take this seriously”. I was just very aware of being very respectful to them and what they do. So there was a time and the place for the humour to come out. I think when you're being screamed at in the face by them, let's say yes, that wasn't the time!

How did it feel tackling the trainasium?

Awful, that was my worst day. I hated that because it's not that I'm a scaredy-cat, I'm not, I just can't cope with the heights. I just cannot cope. I've never been frozen with fear before and I genuinely was frozen with fear, I couldn't let go. I couldn't let go of the thing I was holding onto and that is when I went, well, that's why you're here, because this is what you wanted to see if you could do. So there was a bit in my head going, well, now we're doing it. So you're in Vietnam, dangling above a patch of ground with two scaffold poles, this is why you wanted to do it, you idiot. At the very least, let go, let go and fall, at the very very least. I hated it, absolutely hated that. I knew that wasn't going to be my finest moment.

They also made you fight Jon, how was that?

That was horrible. I knew we'd have to do that at some point and I knew that wasn't going to be my strong point. I don't think I've ever been in a fight in my life. I thought if I can just get one swing in, I'll be happy, but I found that really challenging because it is violence and it's coming your way and emotionally, I found that quite tough. I'm competitive, but I'm also realistic as to my capabilities. And when I looked in Jon's eyes and I could see he was competitive, but also very assured of his capabilities, I knew I was going to get a pasting and it hurt. It really hurt. I think I broke a rib. I was yellow down this side for about a month.

What was it like being gassed?

I didn't have a problem with that! I actually quite enjoyed that. I know that sounds weird, but that was my favourite bit. Things like that don't faze me, because I go scuba diving. I've been in situations where breath has been short and I've learned not to panic. So that was why I was like, I can do this. So it honestly didn't bother me. I thought I've got enough breath, I won't die, I've just got to keep calm. My eyes sting a bit, but I remember clubs in the nineties, my eyes stung a bit then and I knew I'd be able to cope with that one. It honestly didn't faze me. If anything, it lulled me into a false sense of security thinking it was all going to be easy.

How bad were the beastings?

There was one in particular that we did where Billy made us crawl on our stomachs with our backpacks on, and I genuinely thought I was going to expire. I thought if it goes on for another second, I'm going to die. I think a lot of us were right on the edge of just going, do you know what, I'd rather do Antiques Roadshow. It was so hard, so hard. I was seconds away from going, I can’t do this anymore. Then you get to that point, and I find this when I'm doing my long runs, you go second to second. Lots of people when they're taking on challenges go day to day, whatever that is you're trying to do. So you're trying to lose weight, you're trying to drink less, you go day to day. But when things get really, really hard, you go second to second. You break it down to hours to hours and it's minute to minute. And then in a situation like that where you are gasping for breath and you are utterly exhausted, you just have to go second to second. You just go one more second, that's the only way I know to get myself through.

How would you sum up the experience?

It is completely unforgettable and it's like nothing else you can ever do. There's a bit of me that's thinks I’m incredible fortunate that I got to participate in the show because it does test you, and there's quite a bit of fun to be had if you don't mind losing a few toenails! But how lucky am I to have been able to take part in something like that and have a good long look at myself as a human being? I'm very fortunate and very grateful.

Interview/picture: C4



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