Art & Events Interview Caro Meets

Rosie Wilby: The Breakup Monologues

By | Published on Friday 26 February 2021

We’ve been fans of Rosie Wilby for quite some time now, not least because of the fab shows she’s done at edfringe and elsewhere.

The reason for speaking to her this week, though, is because of a special live recording of her fab podcast ‘The Breakup Monologues’, which you should definitely get around to absorbing, if you haven’t already.

And if you have, as well as taking in the upcoming live recording, you should also start planning to read the accompanying book, which is out later this year.

It seemed like a great time to catch up with Rosie, to find out more about the upcoming event, how things have been going in this pandemic year, and what we can expect from her in the future.

CM Can you start by telling our readers about the history of your podcast ‘The Breakup Monologues’. How long has it been going and what does a standard episode look/sound like?
RW: ‘The Breakup Monologues’ follows my trilogy of solo comedy shows investigating the psychology of love and relationships – ‘The Science Of Sex’, ‘Is Monogamy Dead?’ and ‘The Conscious Uncoupling’.

The final part of the trilogy told the story of the time I got dumped by email – but felt much better after correcting my ex’s spelling! Fellow performers often spoke to me after the show about their own breakup stories. So I decided to pilot a live chat show about breakups. This eventually evolved into the podcast, which I’ve recorded live at Kings Place, Poplar Union and festivals including Deer Shed, Green Man and Port Eliot.

It’s typically a mix of comedy and discussion about the ins and outs of relationships with two guests per show. Guests include performers as well as academics and experts. This year, I’ve had to rethink the format as we can’t do live shows at the moment. So the new season has more of a fun magazine show format with three separate interviews all thematically linked by me.

CM: What inspired you to turn the original show into a podcast?
RW: I’ve presented radio shows on London’s anarchic arts station Resonance FM for many years. So I’ve always been interested in telling stories through audio. A podcast seemed a good idea. I also guested on ‘The Guilty Feminist’ when my first book – based on the middle part of the aforementioned trilogy – came out and this inspired me to do a live podcast show and keep things very much ‘as live’ and spontaneous. It sounds more fun I think.

CM: In your experience, is it a cathartic thing for your guests?
RW: Oh yes! My friend, the writer Abigail Tarttelin, spoke about a breakup that involved a near fatal car crash. She was at her ex’s hospital bedside surrounded by his family members, none of whom knew she had broken up with him. Then when he awoke from his coma, he had also forgotten about the split! The podcast was the first time that she had spoken about it. She’s now writing a novel based around this chapter of her life.

CM: Do you have any favourite episodes that stand out in your memory?
RW: So many! I really loved the episode with Katy Brand and Miranda Sawyer, which was recorded in front of a packed house at Port Eliot festival. We chatted about women’s fluctuating desires during midlife and Miranda told a very funny breakup brunch story.

I also love the one with Nat Luurtsema and Sajeela Kershi. Nat told a story about a very unfortunate sexual health misdiagnosis. Debra-Jane Appleby’s episode was brilliant too. She spoke about having to get divorced back in the nineties when she transitioned. You couldn’t convert a marriage to a civil partnership in those days – because they didn’t exist yet!

But then there are so many others… the episode on friendship breakups with Kate Leaver, Olga Koch and Ayesha Hazarika has been very popular too.

This sounds very female-heavy but there have been a few brilliant male guests too, particularly Richard Herring, Justin Myers – aka The Guyliner – and Brett Goldstein.

CM: Can you tell us what to expect from the upcoming special? Who is involved?
RW: Coming up on International Women’s Day, I’ll be hosting the first ever live online recording of ‘The Breakup Monologues’ with our lovely partners Poplar Union. My guests will be Jessica Fostekew and Sindhu Vee. So it’s a pretty awesome lineup!

CM: How will audiences access it?
RW: If you check out the Poplar Union website, you can book there and you’ll get sent a Zoom link.

CM: Has it been difficult to continue with the podcast during this pandemic year?
RW: Yes. Although I was planning a break last year anyway because, rather excitingly, Bloomsbury have commissioned me to write a book based on the podcast, also titled ‘The Breakup Monologues’. So I’ve been burrowed away writing that. It’s available to preorder from all good bookshops now and is out in May.

CM: How has COVID affected your work in general?
RW: A lot of live events, including recordings of the podcast, were cancelled. As I now split my time between the comedy circuit and the literary world, I tend to perform at a lot of literary, science and arts festivals. But the majority of these did not go ahead last year of course.

It is frustrating but I’m certainly not alone in experiencing this. So I just try to be hopeful that events will recover in time. And there are some benefits to performing online of course… especially in terms of reaching audiences who are spread out geographically.

CM: What plans/hopes do you have for when lockdown is over?
RW: I’d love to take the live podcast show on tour and I’m talking to a couple of promoters about this. It’s difficult to plan right now. But do look out for this next year if we are out of the woods with the pandemic by then.

Apart from that, it’s really all about promoting the book. I’ve put a lot into it and I’m proud of it. So I’ll be getting out and about to do bookshop signings and readings, literary salons and festivals as and when they’re all happening again.

CM: What aims/plans do you have in general, for the future? Any new projects in the pipeline?
RW: I would love to write several more books. The first one felt so painful to give birth to. It really is like having a baby! But once you’ve done it once, you feel able to face the pain again. I also have ideas for a longer form, investigative storytelling podcast. But we will see. ‘The Breakup Monologues’ is keeping me pretty busy right now.

This special live recording of ‘The Breakup Monologues’ will be broadcast via Poplar Union on 8 Mar. For more information and to book, see this page here.

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