The Guilty Feminist
Love the podcast? Good news - its creator is coming to a theatre near you this spring. We grabbed Deborah Francis-White for chinwag.
The Guilty Feminist comedy podcast has clocked up a whopping 60m downloads since launching in 2015 and now its Australian creator, Deborah Frances-White, is taking it on the road, with a 23 date live tour. She promises a range of comedy and musical guests, plus local activists joining her on stage (including comedian Bridget Christie at Aylesbury Waterside on 17 May) – and she’ll be wearing a sexy sequinned green cape. What more can you ask for of an evening? This one has ladies’ night out written all over it. We grabbed the woman of the moment to talk Fleabag, what mystifies her about Brits and unexpectedly winning over the haters.
Why do you think the Guilty Feminist has captured people’s attention so much?
Because this is the time for women to step up to the plate and ask for more. The #MeToo movement has proved that there’s a serious gap in power and women are now saying, ‘Hey, let’s talk about it. Let’s fix it. Let’s move on’. Guilty Feminist fans want a place where women can come together, free of judgement and admit their own paradoxes. We always start each conversation with ‘I’m a feminist but…’ For example, ‘I’m a feminist but once when I went on a women’s rights march, I popped into a department store to use the loo and got distracted trying out face cream. When I came out, the march had gone’. And everyone laughs and says, ‘Yeah, I’ve done things like that’ because we’re all human. The more we can admit our paradoxes and make comedy out of them, the more we can also start to build muscle and go ‘OK, what do I want to be better at? What do I feel holds me back? How can we overcome those barriers?’
What can we expect from the live version?
Brilliant stand-up comedy from some incredible comics off the telly like Bridget Christie, Desiree Burch, Sindhu Vee, Jenny Éclair and Rachel Parris, plus great live music. We’re also going to have local people on the sofa, Graham Norton chat-show style, talking about what they’re doing to make their patch of the world a better place to live. And what’s quite lovely about the tour is that it’s not being podcasted or recorded so we can make it visual and we can make it spectacular. It’s going to open with me in a green sequinned cloak so all the girls at the back will be able to see me!
What’s your 10-second pitch to persuade people to come along?
You are welcome whoever you are. We often have men coming along. Expect to find music that’ll get you moving and grooving, hilarious comedy in an unapologetic un-PC marked space and thoughtful conversations which will help you understand how to plug into your local area to genuinely make a change.
Do you get nervous before a show?
I really look forward to it, to be honest. I love being on stage. I feel more alive there than I do in real life. But, you know, going on tour can be quite lonely. You go out and do that show for an hour and then you go back to a Travelodge or a Premier Inn and you’re on your own. You’ve gone from talking to 500 people to nobody. But this tour is going to be incredible because afterwards we’re all going to have some drinks.
What are you planning to do when you’ve finished your month on the road?
I’ve booked a few days away to get some R&R. To completely chill out and not do any writing or any anything. I think I might even turn my phone off. That’s the reward at the end – I’ll turn my phone off for 4 days.
Who’s been your favourite guest on the podcast?
Phoebe Waller-Bridge was incredible. We are old friends so I knew her before Fleabag. I’m in awe of what’s she’s done, shooting into the stratosphere in an incredible way. She’s very brave and bold like her character, Fleabag.
Do you ever get trolled by men who don’t like feminists?
It’s a podcast that you actively have to seek out rather than a TV show, so I don’t really get that too much. I did have a man write to me saying ‘I hate feminists so I started listening to the show because I was wondering what the enemy was up to, but, after 18 months you’ve worn me down.’ I was, like, ‘What kept you listening for 18 months?’ and he said, ‘It’s funny. Some of what you say still annoys me but keep saying it because it’s working’. And that was really nice. Comedy is a powerful tool and it makes people lower their resistance.
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
I’m not sure there is one. Pretty much what you see is what you get. Some comedians are very outgoing on the stage and then very shy in real life but I’m not. I’m very outgoing in real life – what I’m like on stage is an only slightly heightened version of who I am.
You moved from Australia to the UK in your teens. Are you assimilated or are there things about the British people that still mystify you?
I still find queuing weird. I feel that British people enjoy queuing. The other day I was at the airport and the ticket we had meant that we could go in a shorter queue. I said to my husband ‘Right, I’m going to go in that queue’ and he was like ‘Ah no, we might as well wait here now.’ I said, ‘There’s no queue over there though,’ and he was like ‘No, I’ll just wait here’. So I went to the front of the next queue, got through passport control and was shopping on the other side while he was held up for ages. I don’t want to just stand around waiting for some numpty who’s forgotten their passport. Sorry, no.
Do they think you’re posh when you go back to Australia?
Yeah, they think I sound like a ponce.
The movie you wrote, Say My Name, has just been released – tell us about that.
It’s a post-war comedy about a mismatched couple who have a one-night stand and get stuck together and involved with some bad guys. It’s very rare that a woman gets to write a film with guys and guns – women usually get to write films about a woman who owns a cupcake shop or who wants to own a cupcake shop but doesn’t have the confidence until she meets a loser man who tells her she can do it. You know, it’s a really fun film and I want everyone to see it.
Will you do another?
I have some more opportunities now for movies which is really exciting. So watch this space. I want to write again but I would love to direct and act. I actually do a little cameo in Say My Name.
Ooh, like Alfred Hitchcock!
Exactly. I want to do a cameo in every one if I’m allowed!
The Guilty Feminist tour dates: 11 May Richmond Theatre; 16 May Cambridge Corn Exchange; 17 May Aylesbury Waterside Theatre; 19 May New Theatre Oxford; 22 May Southampton Mayflower Theatre; 25 May Plymouth Pavilions; 26 May Brighton Centre; 30 May Leicester De Montfort Hall; 1 June New Victoria Theatre Woking. Buy tickets at guiltyfeminist.com