NATALIE Hunt - the Walkley woman who makes a living dressing as a courgette and creating comedy shows using fruit and veg - puts her success down to a very simple secret.
“People like witnessing someone make an idiot of themselves,” says the 48-year-old. “And that’s what I do. If people aren’t laughing, what you essentially have is a middle aged woman losing the plot. Fortunately most of the time they do laugh.”
Natalie - or Madame Zucchini to use her nom-de-plume (or should that be nom-de-plum) - has been making people chuckle for six years.
Her creation - a half-woman, half-courgette who uses aubergines, sweetcorn and leeks to tell laugh-out-loud stories and stand up routines - has gone from being an idea thought up “over one too many vodkas” to becoming a major part of Sheffield’s cultural allotment.
Now, this summer things are growing once more. In the next three weeks alone she will entertain at a community fair in Gleadless, a health festival in Fargate, a children’s show in Weston Park and - agriculturally speaking, The Big One - the Bakewell Show. For the first time ever, meanwhile, she is taking her routines out of the region. Her diary currently includes a literary event in London, a food festival in Northallerton and a country fair in Melton Mowbray.
“I suppose seeing a woman dressed as a courgette has a fairly universal appeal,” she notes.
Her biggest comedy hits include Brokeback Mountain with corn-on-the-cob characters, Red Riding Hood where the heroine has a shallot for a head and a self-penned adventure where a Lois Leak and Peter Parsnip save the world from an Artificial Cheese Beast. She’s currently working on a musical comedy featuring songs like Led Zeppelin’s Tangerine and Raspberry Beret by Prince.
It’s her dad who is perhaps the inspiration behind the act. He’s a retired fruit and veg wholesaler. “Maybe this was always in me waiting to come out,” says Natalie, who was a community engagement worker before the character took off.
Either way, it seems she won’t be going past her sell by date any time soon.
“There was a letter to The Sheffield Telegraph the other week saying this city doesn’t have any culture,” she says. “Then someone wrote back saying it has plenty and included a list - and I was in it. “I don’t know if that was slightly mocking but I liked it anyway. It’s nice that people are laughing - even if that is at me sometimes.”
Visit www.madamezucchini.co.uk for show details