Skip to content

Rosie Jones: ‘If I Went On Question Time Again, I’d Shut Twitter Down’

February 28, 2023

    Comedian Rosie Jones seems to be everywhere these days from Casualty to QI. But as she prepares to begin her first solo stand-up tour she’s also battling against her own feelings that she doesn’t belong.

    “I’m excited about the tour,” Rosie says, with just a few days to go. “I’m a little bit scared, but I’m excited to go out and meet people.”

    At just 32, Rosie seems to have achieved everything when it comes to “media” – acting in long-running dramas, publishing several children’s books and writing for the Netflix hit, Sex Education.

    She’s also fronted Trip Hazard, her own travel show, appeared on Live At The Apollo and got all political on Question Time (more on that shortly), but she says people are surprised to learn she hasn’t toured before.

    “I’ve really only been doing comedy for six years, and two of those were wiped out by a pandemic,” she tells Access All, the BBC’s weekly disability and mental health podcast.

    Her tour – Triple Threat – will examine the idea of dealing with new fame and whether she actually deserves it, a topic which sees art mimic life.

    Starting on 3 March she has 35 fully accessible venues booked with many performances including British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation.

    She knows she can’t be seen to drop the ball on this.

    “I was absolutely determined to make sure every room was accessible,” she says, aware the disabled community would be particularly critical of her if she messed up.

    “My production company had to ring up every venue and say ‘what can you do?’ And any venue that said ‘we can’t do that’ they said ‘Rosie won’t go’.”

    Although she is excited about her tour she feels nervous. Being a gay disabled woman, she explains, brings on imposter syndrome.

    “I go in thinking of the comedian stereotype which I grew up with which was male, non-disabled, straight, loud and talking really quickly.

    “When you come to see me, you don’t get fast-paced jokes but I guarantee you laugh a lot.”

    Rosie has cerebral palsy. It affects her speech and walk and she says she’s “constantly fighting internalised ableism”.

    Ableism is discrimination that favours non-disabled people above disabled people.

    Internalised ableism, a phrase we’re hearing a lot more of especially on social media, is when a disabled person absorbs the discrimination they face and think that way about themselves, too.

    “Being a woman and being gay means that every time I’m on TV I’ll get a comment about what I sound like, my disability, my weight, my teeth, my hair. So every single level is a way to abuse me.

    “Because of that I’m in therapy. I’m really dealing with a lot of internalised ableism and things that I probably painted over with a joke,” she says.

    Trolling and ableism are on her mind at the moment. As well as preparing for her tour, she’s filming a Channel 4 documentary about society’s attitudes towards disabled people which is due to be aired in May.

    She says: “Every single day I get some form of ableism online or in real life and I think in order to eradicate that, in order to face the abusers I’ve got to come here and go ‘you know what, it’s not Ok’.

    “We absolutely need to call ableism out in order to eradicate it.”

    When Rosie appeared twice on BBC One’s flagship debate show, Question Time, social media lit up with seriously unpleasant comments about her which made headlines.

    “Both times I started trending on Twitter from all the abuse I was getting,” she says.

    “[They were saying] that I should be in a cage, I shouldn’t be on TV, I should die.”

    Stars like TV presenter and author Richard Osman, who himself is visually impaired, came out in support and it prompted a national debate about the way society viewed disability.

    BBC reporter Alex Taylor summarised it at the time saying: “Society is used to disability being discussed, but not so much disabled people making their own voices heard.”

    It has been two years since Rosie’s last appearance on the late night politics show and she has had time to reflect.

    “I think Question Time is brilliant but it attracts a lot of angry people and not only being female, disabled and gay I am also, surprise, surprise, extremely Labour-leaning. So when I went onto that show and said ‘here’s what I think’ a lot of right-wing people didn’t agree with me and the easy thing to get me for was my disability.

    “Would I do it again? Yes. But I would go in there more prepared and I’d probably shut my Twitter down for a few weeks.”

    The experience rocked her but she says speaking out for what she believes in is more important.

    “I will always champion diversity, but it’s hard and it’s exhausting when I expose myself to so much abuse.”

    Despite that experience Rosie’s career has continued to rise. Her series of children’s books about The Amazing Edie Eckhart, who has cerebral palsy. have brought her legions of young fans and she is currently the go-to girl when it comes to booking a female, disabled comedian.

    “Selfishly I like that because it’s bought me a lovely house, ” she jokes. “But I don’t think I’m taking jobs from other disabled people.

    “We’re still, unfortunately, at a stage where they’re getting either me or another white straight non-disabled person.”

    She says appearing on as many different shows as possible might “encourage more disabled people to come into the industry”.

    Her “ultimate dream” is to appear on a panel show which just happens to feature several other disabled comics at the same time.

    It’s something she got close to recently when she fronted Rosie Jones’s Disability Comedy Extravaganza – an online event showcasing 10 disabled up and coming comedians for UKTV Play and Dave TV’s YouTube channel.

    One of the comedians who performed was Dan Tiernan who talks about being dyspraxic in his stand-up routine. He has gone on to win both the BBC New Comedy Award and British Comedian of the Year, demonstrating the strength and mainstream appeal of the acts.

    Rosie appreciates that with her recently found success, she can help to change the industry.

    “I’ve got this platform, and it’s about how we bring up a load of brilliant disabled comics with me,” she says.

    As Rosie gets ready to head to Birmingham for opening night she acknowledges, “I’m really proud of myself”.

    Just like a rockstar, she has a non-negotiable rider that she expects to be provided at every venue.

    “This is the most embarrassing thing. I wish I was a packet of fags and bottle of whiskey gal. But it’s just a bit of Yorkshire Tea.”

    No comments yet

    What are you thinking?

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: