Interview: Comedian rejects lesbian stereotypes with I Am Nesia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

As a singer, Rosie Wilby has opened shows for the likes of Jamie Cullum and Bob Geldof.

As a comedian, she plays gigs all over the country and has been a finalist at Funny Women at the Comedy Store.

Next week she will bring her critically acclaimed comedy show I Am Nesia to London, starting with a free show at Peckham Library on 14th January and then two further shows at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre on January 15th and 16th. Tell us about the new show I Am Nesia.

The title is just a pun on amnesia, as the show is based on memory.

I’ve always had a little dream where I panic about not doing revision, and the show started from that.

Sometimes I think what would happen if I had to take my physics A-Level again, and of course comedians often have a fear of forgetting their set when they are on stage.

I do a running gag in the show where I say “It’s not about me,” but of course it is.

The idea is that there is a slightly frumpy chemistry teacher who wants to talk about herself instead of teaching the lesson.

I did the show in Edinburgh last year which was a bit of a last-minute decision, usually comedians do the comedy circuit before they take a show to Edinburgh but I’m doing things the other way round.

Have you had positive experiences at the festival?

In 2007, it was a bit of a disaster.

A group called Funny Women cast me in a play; it was an all-female stand up cast.

The play was called Guid Sisters but it was pulled after two performances, because it just didn’t quite come together. It was a shame because the idea was really good.

But I was also up there doing a late night show with two other comics, so I stayed up there for the whole run anyway.

You took a degree in engineering. What made you change plans and go into performing?

Do any of us have a plan? I think in early life I just wasn’t confident enough doing what I wanted to.

I was quite into science at school and took A-Levels in maths, physics and art. I originally wanted to go to art college, as that was something I had a natural gift for. When you are younger, I think you are more likely to do what is expected of you, but once you graduate you want to do what makes you happy.

Do you get stage fright before you perform?

I think it’s good to be a little bit nervous. After I had begun to do comedy, I found getting on stage to do music a total breeze! Now it’s more the other way round because the music gigs are more few and far between.

But you do still keep up the singing alongside the comedy?

Yes because I think it would be a shame to let that go, in fact I’m performing in Cambridge on Saturday.

How do you react when the audience clearly aren’t on board?

With music it’s not so bad because you just enjoy it for yourself and people generally come up to you at the end and say they really enjoyed it even if you know they didn’t.

With comedy you just have to do what you can and hope that a little bit of banter will bring the audience back on your side. When you are a new comic, I think it’s much harder to go off script and have a different plan.

You’ve played quite a few venues on the LGBT circuit. Do you enjoy them?

I think they’re fun, they are always a very supportive audience. When I play at venues such as Comedy Camp (in Soho) it feels a bit like playing to a home crowd!

Do you tailor your shows depending on the audience you are playing to?

I tend to surprise people a bit, especially if there are some that aren’t very clued up because I don’t fit the ridiculous stereotype of a lesbian that most people still adhere to.

I once played at a Christian Centre for Women’s Day in Battersea.

The stage was in a lecture room with a cross and there was a lady who almost fell off her chair when I got to the part of the show where I came out.

I said: “I know, you think I’m too attractive to be a lesbian.”

I think humour sometimes helps to release the tension!

What else do you have coming up in the future?

I’m presenting some LGBT radio shows with South City Radio, a local south London station, which start on 27th January.

We will be having guests such as Stella Duffy coming on, I’m really looking forward to it. I also doing some work for Resonance FM at the moment which is good fun!

For more information on Rosie Wilby check out the official website or on Myspace at