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Culture, Comedy, Interviews

OX Meets: Rosie Holt

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How to explain award-winning comedian Rosie Holt if you haven’t seen her online videos or tuned into her podcast, NonCensored? Think topical satire, poker-faced delivery, and a mastery of modern media: finger firmly on the pulse of what’s trending in the public sphere and systematically lampooning our right-wing politicians and political commentators. Her character, Rosie Holt MP became a viral sensation during lockdown and now she’s coming to a town near you.

What can audiences expect when they come to see your show?

They can expect a good time. It’s a funny, satirical look at politics. I have a character where I pretend to be a Tory MP, which is quite popular online. I bring her on stage and also a right-wing talk show host.

You’ve called it That’s Politainment! It might be an obvious question, but what inspired the name?

I was fascinated with the thin line now between entertainment and politics – specifically things like GB news where you have Tory MP's interviewing Tory MPs about Tory MPs, and then devoting a whole hour for the Tory Prime Minister to have a Q&A with a rather biased audience. That was my starting point, but now we’re in election year, it’s become about how, not just the politicians, but the media seem to be in this kind of crazed state because they know we're coming up to an election and things could all change. 

If things do change, will you change? Will Rosie Holt become a Labour MP or will you go into Opposition?

It’s difficult, isn't it? I imagine with my MP she'd just cross the floor and just go where the power is.

I’m guessing you'll have to change your suits if she crosses the floor?

I think she'll just get a red suit, won’t she? One funny thing about Liz Truss was you've got to hand it to her – she may have absolutely spaffed our economy, but she did have some great outfits: she knows how to dress. 

Talking of tailoring, do you tailor your content for different audiences? 

Definitely slightly – not a huge amount. You think about how the characters would react. They’re going to be in Oxford, so they'll probably want to tell you that they've been to Oxford University.

And how about the ultimate crossover. Volodymyr Zelenskyy came into actual politics through his comedy show [Servant of the People] in which he played the character of a history teacher-turned President. Is a political career something you’d consider?

I don't think so. I mean, he's a wonderful example of how it can work but a) I don’t think I’d be very good and b) even though I enjoy mocking them I have quite a lot of sympathy for politicians. I think it would be a really horrible job. Not just all the abuse, but also part of the humour, for me, comes from those who are obviously compromising their own values because they have to repeat the party line.

That being the case, what will you be doing once the tour has finished? 

I’ve got a book coming out in July which is really exciting. It’s in character, and it’s called Why We Were Right, going through all the scandals of the last couple of years and explaining why they were brilliant things. That was really fun to write. I also have a podcast called NonCensored which is a parody podcast where we have people like Vladimir Putin on, or Kemi Badenoch. It’s definitely not comic actors playing them. 

Or even George Galloway looking remarkably like Mark Steel. Watching your videos, I admire how you make the joke, reinforce the joke, and then take it to another level.

Hammering the joke and then raising the joke. 

Exactly, but without ‘splintering the wood on the lid of the joke’.

I’m playing with things that politicians use when they’re trying to communicate to an audience. There are different tactics they use, and one is repetition. One thing that I do on stage is pick someone out in the audience and keep repeating their name, and then keep going back there; ‘Bob, do you find…? And ‘people like Bob…’ etc. You’ve got to judge it, because you don’t want to flog a dead horse but often the joke is in things like the repetition or the ticks they use.

What do you think it says about our political climate that so many people that believe you are genuinely an MP?

I think it doesn’t speak well of our political climate at all. From Boris Johnson’s time in government, we’ve seen ministers going on TV parroting something and saying this is why we’re doing this. Then Boris would U-turn and they'd have to change their argument the following week. I think things like that meant that there was a real loss of trust. Also, there are some completely ridiculous characters that have risen to the top. I mean the fact that Lee Anderson was in any position of authority in the party is extraordinary, and I think a lot of people especially during the pandemic felt a bit like the government were taking the piss. I mean, I certainly did.

I also think that Twitter, or X, is quite an angry place and people love being on the ‘right side’. The amount of people who feel like they need to condemn me and call for my resignation is also a bit telling of where we are as a society. We're all angry, so I think it’s a combination of those two things.

How do actual MPs respond to you, and also the commentators and news anchors whom you splice into your interviews?

It’s funny, I’ve not met any Tory politicians, but I know they know who I am because I’m followed by a few of them. Sometimes when I put interviewers in they get in touch with me privately and they say they really enjoyed it. I met Kay Burley once and she was lovely to me. After one sketch I did with her that went viral she had me on the show.

One of the funniest interactions was when I spliced myself into some footage with a Talk TV presenter. I put myself in a right-wing talking head and he was really cross about it. He tweeted that this was the problem with woke comedians, and it wasn't funny, but then he changed his tune and said, ‘hey Rosie a lot of people have been enjoying your sketch and so have I and we'd love to have you on the show’. I find whenever I mock someone on Talk TV they usually do respond because that also happened with Mike Graham. He wrote that I was terrible and not funny in response to a clip I did with him and it’s kind of brilliant when that happens because clearly, I’ve struck a nerve. 

So, would you describe yourself as woke? You use the word a lot, like it’s in inverted commas.

I am using it in inverted commas because I sort of feel now it’s been turned into something else. It’s ridiculous because it was a word that was originally coined in America by African Americans who were talking about being aware of social injustice. It’s like the right-wing thought ‘we’re going to take that word and change it’, and now it has become a bit of a slur. I’m a bit fascinated by how much it’s used. To begin with, it just seemed to be a culture war thing, used by talk show hosts, and now you've got politicians talking about ‘the woke left’ controlling our schools and our institutions. I guess I am woke.

Do you eat tofu? Let’s boil it down to that. 

I don’t like tofu. If it’s smoked tofu I won’t say no, but I find tofu really boring.

Finally, how would Rosie Holt MP feel about being in our Best of British issue?

She would probably talk about how the best way to show this the Best of British is with lots and lots of Union Jack flags. ‘I’m a big believer in Britain and what a wonderful country it is but we've got to stop ruining history by going on about the past.’

Rosie Holt’s That’s Politainment! Tour opens at Didcot Cornerstone Arts Centre on 11 April and will close on 31 May at the Chipping Norton Theatre. For tickets, other dates and further information visit rosieholt.co.uk

@rosieisaholt

Image credit: Karla Gowlett

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