Rosie Jones is a charismatic critically acclaimed stand up comedian. She has journeyed through her life with Cerebral Palsy – a condition she confesses has made her more determined to succeed.
While she had to resort to comedy her entire life to put people at ease, Rosie did not believe it to be a viable career path for her. She didn’t know any comedians with disabilities, especially ones who spoke slowly. “I thought I couldn’t be a comedian because my audience would get to the punchline before me,” she joked, “then, I realized I could use my voice as a comic device by playing with the audience’s expectations”.
Rosie began as a TV researcher who wrote questions for comedians, and eventually their jokes. “I loved doing that,” she recalls, “but I also wanted a little bit of the limelight because I’m a big attention seeker.” While she loved hearing the comedians telling her jokes, a part of her felt like they had been getting her laughs. This motivated her to go on stage for the audience to see where the jokes actually came from. For Rosie, this transition had felt very natural with her former career providing her with access to doors that would otherwise be unavailable.
“I come from quite a funny family and we’ve always used comedy to bring us closer”. Rosie describes her parents as immensely supportive, without ever holding her back. The comedian confesses that her stubborn nature wouldn’t have let anyone do so regardless. “I told them, I am doing this now, and all they got to say was okay”. Having booked to see their daughter perform for the fifth time, their unconditional support gives Rosie the energy to keep on going.
Due to her physical disability, people often expressed scepticism at the extent of Rosie’s capacities. “I like to prove people wrong. Their disbelief started a fire in me and allowed me to be more focused than ever”. Thanks to her disability, Rosie doesn’t take anything for granted. Rather than a disadvantage, it allows her to remain humble and appreciate the little things.
Disabled, not Less Able
For Rosie, a disability is merely another characteristic that can potentially be used to one’s advantage. “I wouldn’t give my disability up for the world,” she says. Not only has it made her stronger, but more determined, more persistent. “I’m not disabled. I’m just Rosie”. The media only amplifies these stereotypes through its tendency to portray disabled characters as one dimensioned, often as an angelic figure or a fragile victim.
The comedian admits to being annoyed by these characterisations. “We’re human beings, flawed just like everyone else.” Nevertheless, Rosie believes that we are making improvements as a society as we begin to see more representation of disability in the media. “It’s an ongoing process”, the comedian states. Someday, the comedian hopes to see a “flawed bastard” on TV who only happens to have a disability. “It’s the only way disability can become normalised, rather than being seen as taboo or awkward.” In the end, the comedian reminds us that it is life all the same, and we’re not all the same.
Feminism – A Fresh Perspective
For a long time, Rosie thought feminism meant an ideology you had to dedicate your life to. The reality today could not be more different for the comedian. For Rosie, feminism is about taking everyone as an individual and not having any preconceived judgements over them just because they are a woman.
“Even now, people judge me for being a woman, because of that ridiculous idea that all women aren’t funny. I do feel like I need to break down that idea very quickly when I get on stage.”
The comedian points to many more brilliant female comedians coming through the circuit. A change that she feels within the next 5 years or so, will be a bit more of a level playing field with men and woman.
Rosie draws her inspiration from every day life, often finding herself in comic situations, especially when it comes to how able bodied people react to her. “It’s brilliant,” Rosie tells us, “Most of the audience does not realise what I go through on a daily basis. I like giving them an insight into my life”. For Rosie, comedy and education come hand in hand; beyond laughter, she hopes to inspire reflection. “Being a comedian is such an honour. We are given a platform to express our own opinion and potentially change the listener’s perspective without them realising it, while creating laughter along the way”.
“The greatest joy in the world is to make people laugh.” In fact, the comedian still cannot believe she gets paid to do it. While the constant travelling can become quite lonely, Rosie believes that the ability to give people a break from their own lives and make them forget about their worries for a single evening makes it all worth it.
As Rosie says, in every job there are good and bad days. During the latter, she reminds herself of why she began in the first place. “My dream is bigger than me. I want disabled children to see themselves represented in the media. It’s about the next generation”.
Moreover, Rosie reminds us that there is more to learn from bad gigs, both in terms of execution and determination. “It stops you from becoming complacent. It makes you want to go out there and do it better”. If she had to sum up her entire career in one sentence, it would be a constant striving to improve with the hopes of someday becoming the best.
For those who wish to undertake the path of comedy, Rosie advises them to get out there and perform. “When I did my first gig, it set a fire in me”. It was only then that Rosie became certain it was what she wanted to do. “No one’s first try will be ground breaking. If a single person laughs, that’s amazing. If not, go home and rewrite it. Get back out there. You’re not going to be a comedian from your bedroom.”
Currently, Rosie spends most of her time writing for her upcoming show in Edinburgh while developing sitcoms and brainstorming for future comedy projects. Already in possession of her dream job, in five years’ time, Rosie wishes to maintain her role as a champion of diversity and keep doing what she is currently doing, only more of it.
Rosie is heading to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival this August. Get your tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com