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L-R: Nicola and Rosie Dempsey of Flo & Joan

Flo & Joan Interview

30 January 2019 | Rosa Johnston-Flint

We caught up with daring musical comedy duo and internet sensation Nicola and Rosie, otherwise known as 'Flo & Joan' about their new show, sex robots and lady crisps...

What’s the show about?
Rosie: It’s an hour of musical comedy and it’s basically everything we’ve come across this year that we’ve found funny or interesting. There are some weird bits, some fun bits…
Nicola: …like sex robots and lady crisps – it’s the things that we couldn’t get away from this year – we also wrote a song about crackers, which isn’t necessarily a world news thing but it came into our world this year.
 
And just to get my head round this – you’re real sisters, but not called Flo & Joan?
Rosie: Sure, so our names aren’t Flo & Joan, our real names are Nicola and Rosie – this is Rosie speaking right now. We are real sisters; we have the same mum and dad. We’re pretty sure.
Nicola: But our grandmother and her sister were called Flo and Joan, so we stole their names as a cover-up. We’re not playing characters; it’s just the name of the act.
 
Your songs have a jolly quality to them but deal with some quite heavy topics; why is that juxtaposition so effective?
Nicola: I think it would be quite depressing to see the facts of the world through depressing music. So you have to put it to jolly music; it’s funny to sing really negative words to really positive music. If you reflected on fun things with funny music it’d be too sickly sweet, and if you put sad things to sad music people would never come back.
Rosie: Lots of musical comedy has that sort of vibe. It’s a way of getting away with doing pointed stuff without the audience feeling like you’re giving them a lecture.
Nicola: Yeah – no one wants to be sung a lecture.
 
And they’re very catchy songs! Do you ever have to stop yourself singing them at an inappropriate time or place?
Rosie: It’s more of an issue at night; the songs go round and round in my head at night. I’m driving myself crazy and not sleeping because I’m singing… But I don’t think I’ve ever sung along to my own song in public. I’m not ready for that humiliation yet.
 
They’re also total tongue twisters – how do you prepare before you perform?
Nicola: We just run stuff over and over again, and the first few times we do it on stage we usually cock it up quite spectacularly. But we’ve also found that the first time we do something it’s never usually very good and you forget absolutely every single lyric, and then you go home and remember it word perfect, so just getting it wrong in front of a group of people seems to be enough for us.
 

Has living in Canada – notoriously upbeat country – had anything to do with your upbeat musical style?
Rosie: Yeah, we lived in Toronto for a few years; we were just out there having fun and trying to work our what we were doing. Toronto was very upbeat and we learnt a lot of our comedy tricks out there…
Nicola: …and Canadians definitely like listening to the British accent, and I think the more you sound like Mary Poppins the more they enjoy it. So it definitely helped. I think British people – I’m guilty of it – often lean towards the negative rather than the positive, and we sometimes laugh at North Americans for being so perky. It’s actually really nice and refreshing to spend time with those kind of people, and focus on the positives, or look at things from a positive angle. Even if you’re laughing at how the world is on fire.
 
Have you felt a difference in your writing since coming back?
Rosie: In some ways… When we brought some material back from Toronto to the UK for the first time, there were some things that we had to edit. I think Canadians have a bit more patience? We had to make some songs a bit shorter or get to the point a bit quicker in the UK. The scene here is so good, you do have to keep upping your game. But we just write what we find funny, and hope and audience finds it funny as well.
 
What’s next?
Nicola: In terms of material, we’re just looking at what’s going on in the world right now, and people that we find interesting or funny. We’re also writing a series of podcasts, which are mini musicals based on people’s stories that we’ve found. They’ll be coming out pretty soon.
Rosie: We’ve got some dates left on our UK tour and then we’re going to Melbourne for the Comedy Festival there, and we’re doing Edinburgh Fringe in the summer as well. So we’re very busy.
 
Would you ever lend your talents to write a musical?
Rosie: Yeah – so the podcast we’re writing will be mini musicals, but yeah, one of our big plans is to be able to write a musical as soon as possible…
Nicola: …to rival Cats.
Rosie: Yep – Cats Number 2.

For full tour listings and to book tickets, visit Flo & Joan's website

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