The Origin Story Of Claire Lim And Her Dark Well
Claire Lim is a Scottish presenter, writer and podcaster, who has been living and working in London for 20 years. But now seems to be jacking it all in to move to Los Angeles. You might know her from Screengrab, the BAFTA Scotland Award, Sky's Licence To Drive, Press X To Continue, hosting her own podcast, Real Imagined Futures or running big panels at MCM Comic Con. After I reported on her most recent Sandman panel at MCM London, we got chatting. This is the result. It was time for her origin story. But first, I got to learn about her favourite comics.
"Charles Burns' Black Hole, I really love that, I've always wanted to see that made into a film because it's very kind of Cronenberg-esque. Adrian Tomine, he's such a great illustrator and graphic novelist, I really connect to his stories very much. Craig Thompson is an amazing illustrator and writer, I like things that sort of press buttons and push the boundaries a little bit." We may return to Charles Burns. But where did this all begin?
1. The origin story of Claire Lim
"The earliest memory I have of really enjoying talking about pop culture was with my little brother, way back in the 90s, before podcasts or YouTube were a thing. We used to watch episodes of Red Dwarf and then get our cassette recorders out and record an after-show on cassette, like the nerds that we are. And we would reenact scenes, talk about our favourite quotes, and run down exactly what we enjoyed about the episodes. And then I had a music fanzine called Broken Violin for Idlewild. I love music that's my absolute first love. I still play the guitar and still release music sometimes, and then I started interviewing bands through this fanzine. I'm really interested in people's stories, I love that world, and I like weird creative people, and I just knew that was what I wanted to do. Then I got completely sidetracked because my parents told me that this wasn't really a proper job, so I went to get a proper job. I worked in the media for a while behind the scenes, and then eventually, a producer that I knew at BBC said to me, hey, do you want to help us create some new video content? We're starting The Social brought to you by BBC Scotland, and I said yes. And then things rolled on. I got creative with some of the content, and then my first celebrity interview was with Jeff Goldblum."
But it was a lot more than just Jeff. Claire tells me "I wrote for the Metro, Empire and SFX, so I've always been involved in this world. I just started to get to know people and then fell into it that way. If I go back to the band days, I was interviewing quite big bands back then, I interviewed Muse when they were younger because I'm a very old lady. so I interviewed them twenty-odd years ago, I interviewed obviously Idlewild, and lots of really huge bands that were coming up. I've always been in amongst creative people, I feel quite at home with people with weird brains who are creative and who are doing that kind of thing because I also love creating. I love making music and stuff, so I never really saw it as people that are on a screen or on a stage doing crazy things. Of course, I was nervous about Jeff Goldblum, because he's such an icon. When I got to talking to him, he was just a really strange, odd, nice guy. I've got friends that work in front of the camera, and there are actors/comedians/musicians, they're just weirdos like you and me. That's all they are."
I asked if, given her origins, she'd feel that way about any of the boys from the Dwarf? "Oh, I'm doing Wales Comic Con next week, and I think Chris Barrie, is going to be there, I might have to say hello – oh, and I met the woman that plays Holly, she was very lovely, very shy and sweet, but I'd love to meet the rest of them because that would be full circle." Does she still have her old tapes? "That's the question, oh my God, probably back home in Scotland, yeah probably back home, my mum's probably got a bunch. They're moving out soon and have a whole bunch of stuff that she wants me to go through, so I need to go up there… I'm the pioneer of podcasts."
2. Stepping out
So what has she been doing of late to celebrate? "I think this year what I was really kind of proud about doing was an American Comic Con, I was about to do The Walking Dead panel at Salt Lake Comic-Con, and everything in America is 10 times as big, and it's super shiny. I was standing with Ross Marquand, who is a friend, so we were just chatting, and it was good because it helped my nerves. I walked on last, and I looked out into the ballroom, it's 5,000 people. Americans are so loud, they are very, very enthusiastic, and I looked around, and I took it in. So Ross started speaking first, but I couldn't get on the chair because it was too high for me, because I've got little short legs, and was really struggling, and I said thank you for that segue because I couldn't get on this chair and I just looked out into the crowd. I never thought in a million years I would be doing it. It's an honour and a privilege to be able to sit on a stage and talk about things that are dorky and geek because I got so bullied for it when I was younger. I was the rotund sad kid that played the guitar and wrote sad girl songs about wanting a boyfriend and reading comics and drawing Spider-Man. I was like a very stereotypical geek, so to sit out there and to look at, that was amazing."
Any more adventures this year? "I was working with Intel, and they put us up in this huge Countryside mansion, and we filmed this thing called The Great PC Build-Off because the whole show is based on the Great British Bake Off, but you're building PCs. I was staying in this giant bedroom the size of my whole apartment because it's in a mansion. We went ghost hunting in the evening, just for fun, drunk ghost hunting with some of the people I knew there, and I did it on my birthday. I thought, this is so weird, what a weird job I have, so it takes me all over the world, it takes me to weird places, and I get to meet weird people. I do have a lot of Pinch Me moments, you'll see me looking at the crowd sometimes and smiling – it's me, kind of going "wow cool". I like to take it in a little bit what else things are happening, I never take anything for granted, I'm so grateful."
3. The United States Of Claire Lim
And how does America take to Claire Lim? "I get treated a little bit differently in America because of my accent, they go 'oh my God, you're so special' and they like shiny new special things, and I don't think there's that here. This accent doesn't really get me very many places, it is what it is, it's a Scottish accent, but over in America, they love it. 'Oh, you look different, your accent's different, wow that's really cool', and they're very fascinated by that working in California and L.A… I dress weirdly, and I I've never really felt like I'm the hot lady working in front of a camera in tight dresses and amazing hair extensions. There's nothing wrong with that, the men do it as well, but you're never gonna see fake tan on this face… I used to hide myself, and now I'm just gonna let my freak flag fly."
What projects is she wanting to take forward now? "I would love to have my own strange nerdy talk show, a show that really champions new talent. I'd love a talk show where it's semi-scripted, I have one on Twitch already called A Wee Chat, and we have an animated reindeer called Rudy who solves your problems. We've had really big guests on there with Ruth from Supernatural, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel from Murderville. Insomnia Games Festival gave me a chance and made it a live show which is incredible, and I can't say anything, but you might see it on other stages next year. I'd love there to be A Wee Chat 2023 tour. I am writing a lot as well. I had a parody dating show as well, I started doing stand-up this year… I've got so many friends in the industry, and they all say the same thing, that's where you exorcise all your demons. I certainly use the Twitch channel to kind of get all of that out. I'm working on a very personal project that draws a lot upon some of the things that have happened this year, things I've witnessed in my ridiculous journey as a presenter that I don't talk about on Twitch or talk about in interviews or talk about anywhere else. I'm at the very beginning point with that right now, so kind of fleshing out characters and trying not to make it so close to real life. I was looking at it the other day and thinking 'oh God, I'm really gonna have to change this because this person might get offended' so it's been very cathartic. I do want people to think about who they are, where they are, what relationships mean, the idea of being alone, of being together. Transient romance/transient friendship feelings and the effect that modern society and work and everything has on our psyches and our brains. How messed up we can be, and how that affects everything that we do. I like to go to the darkest point of my personality. As much as I'm a happy optimistic person you see on stage, I've got quite a dark well."
And we're back to Charles Burns' Black Hole are we not? Where does Claire see herself in ten years' time? "I would like to be not living in London, or maybe I will have lived in LA and come back here, but I would like to be content with where I'm going in my career. I don't like to say happy, I think happiness is always a really hard bar, I think content is good. I want to definitely have a chat show, whether it's live or on some channel or streaming service. I definitely want to be writing a few things and have at least a few of those things come out, I would also like to do more stand-up, so I'd like to actually maybe create some kind of show. Instead of just being a face on a stage or in front of a camera, I want to be completely creative and embody everything inside me, in my heart and mind, all the dark parts, all the light parts, and I want to try and put that into creative projects have them come to light. I do want to be able to bring people together, inspire people and help people. I really do feel like, for me helping people is really important."