Brad Shreve: 0:47
Rosie Wilby Welcome to Queer We Are. It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you for joining me.
Rosie Wilby: 0:53
Thank you for having me.
Brad Shreve: 0:56
Normally, I save formal introductions till after the intro music. But you wrapped up your career nicely for me into a short and sweet package. So what do you say just do it now?
Rosie Wilby: 1:06
Brad Shreve: 1:08
All right. Well, Rosie Wilby is an award winning comedian, author and podcaster, based in London, her new book, The Breakup Monologues, is based on the Reclaim podcast of the same name. And the book is published globally by Bloomsbury. And Rosie on that bio is short, you’re shortchanging yourself. You have your comedy in there. You have your books in there, and you have your show. But you left off something that I think is pretty significant from your past. Do you know what that is?
Rosie Wilby: 1:39
i Wow, good. There’s there’s quite a few things. There’s a TEDx talk, perhaps. There’s lots of tours and awards and things. Just trying to think
Brad Shreve: 1:54
the TED talk, I watch news interesting. I’m talking about something that was more long term, and that is your music career?
Rosie Wilby: 2:01
Oh, well, yes, of course. Although I don’t tend to use that in my current biography, because that was something that’s part of a slightly different lifetime for me. And yes, it was a big and long career in I guess, the sort of late 1990s and early 2000s. And yes, I had an album out and toured or all around the UK, and loved performing music, but eventually ended up developing my between song banter, and people were laughing and finding that fun, and I had a go at stand up comedy. And that was, I suppose a more flexible way of going round and communicating with audiences. Because I could do that without a band or without any musical instruments. Without much technology or equipment required, you can just go and speak. So it’s in some ways easier and more portable, to be a stand up comedian than be a musician.
Brad Shreve: 2:59
Well, I would definitely think it’s easier to pick up and run. We are going to talk about that we’re going to focus more on what’s going on but I want to touch on it because I think it’s important, and we’re going to talk about a whole lot more coming right up. But so people know who we are. I’m your host Brad Shreve,
Rosie Wilby: 3:16
and I’m Rosie Wilby,
Brad Shreve: 3:18
and Queer We Are. Welcome to Queer We Are where you’ll hear inspirational and motivational yet entertaining stories by LGBTQ entertainers, athletes, politicians, activist, or maybe even someone right there in your neighborhood. I’m Brad and I’ll discuss with queer individuals about their successes, their challenges, and what they learned along the way. Rosie before anything, there’s something I have to do. You got married this year during pride month. And for those in the future, it’s 2022. I will say well done.
Rosie Wilby: 4:11
Thank you very much. It was very exciting to get married, particularly during such a significant months. And after having many relationships which were not able to be legally or formally recognized in that way. And in fact, many years ago, when I was a student, I remember taking part in a same sex wedding demo, where we got to two female friends married and two male friends married and we were sort of shouting through megaphones, saying Love is not a crime and thinking that women marrying one another and men marrying one another was not something we would see in our lifetimes. So yes, it’s it’s incredible that we have progressed and we have made these positive changes in so many parts of the world, obviously, not every part of the world. Are we seeing gay people being able to get married, but in many places, Now fortunately, we can.
Brad Shreve: 5:07
You have openly shared some of your past relationships, and most of them lasted several years. Do you think they may have lasted if you were married? Or would they have ended up in a divorce rather than a breakup? Maybe you
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? And I think
Brad Shreve: 5:20
what ifs are hard. don’t know. that relationships,
Rosie Wilby: 5:31
Well, I think it’s relationships are very complex. And we do tend to see, particularly lesbians, queer women, divorcing at quite a high rate a much higher rate than gay men actually. And in the heterosexual world, we see women initiating three quarters of all divorces. So I think that actually women seem to cycle through relationships more quickly, perhaps then then sis men. So it’s quite an interesting conundrum for women, you know, if we get married, and we tend towards more serial monogamy sort of one marriage at a time, rather than one marriage for life, if you like, you know, are we going to have lots and lots of divorces in our lifetime, if we follow that sort of instinctual drive for variety? You know, I’ve obviously in my work in my books, I’ve looked at polyamory and different ways of thinking about relationships. And so for some people, that’s an alternative way of incorporating variety. But for many women who want to be monogamous, particularly lesbian women, you see that the sort of preference has been a behavioral pattern of serial monogamy. And you see many, many queer women having deep friendships with EX partners, and perhaps several ex partners and all forming a sort of group of friends. And everyone’s kind of been in a relationship with one or other of the of the group at some point. And there’s a whole interested into connected network between between queer women. So yeah, I do think that all those relationships were important and had lots of joyful and challenging moments. And we’re part of the journey of what led me to my marriage and my wife now, and I don’t think if, you know, if I hadn’t have had some of those relationships, I don’t think I would have ended up at the same point doing some of the same interesting things that I’ve done in my life. But I you know, equally if one of those relationships had lasted, perhaps I would have been on a completely different journey. But I do think that breakups can be a healthy thing, sometimes a relationship has run its course and that’s okay. Particularly if you’re able to separate amicably and consciously and have a sort of, if you like conscious uncoupling the term that was popularized by Gwyneth Paltrow, although not initially devised by her,
Brad Shreve: 8:02
why do you think it is that women tend to go through relationships much quicker than, well, let’s just go the opposite and gay men. I know when you’re can’t comedy, you’re very funny. But you throw some scientific information in there as well. So it’s funny in educational based on what you know, or what you may think, you know, why do you think that is?
Rosie Wilby: 8:24
Yes, I like to throw in some data and science and some real research. I mean, obviously, all data and statistics, we sometimes have to take with a pinch of salt, because we can all interpret whatever narrative we want to that serves our, our purpose and our story that we want to tell. But I have been very fascinated in the divorce rates of lesbians and gay men and why lesbians divorce at a much faster rate than gay men. And I think part of that is down to gay men historically, being more open to the idea of an open relationship, or a more fluid arrangement around sexual partners outside of a primary partnership. And sometimes when this is done in a respectful and healthy and consensual way, and everybody’s having safe and respectful, and consensual sex, I think that can ease the pressure, it can ease the burden placed on one partnership on one partner, because you’re not necessarily looking for them to meet all of your needs all of the time. Other people, of course, might spread these needs in a, in a more emotional way, rather than a sexual way. They might have different partners for particular activities, or hobbies, or going and doing things that we do with friends. But I think, you know, our sort of monogamous narratives that that we hear actually pile a lot of pressure on to one relationship because we can be led to believe that one person can be everything to us at all times, which I think, you know, even the most wonderful and saintly partner perhaps can’t be therapist and best friend and lover and colleague, and, you know, I advisor and yeah, you know, a parent, you can’t be everything.
Brad Shreve: 10:21
But a lot of us we get what we can from our partner, and the others. We get a lot of that from our friends, not necessarily another relationship. I think that’s one of the important parts of friendship.
Rosie Wilby: 10:33
Yeah, I do agree. I think also there’s a gray area. I know many people who have romantic friendships and in fact, an ex of mine uses the term love affair friendships to describe friendships that are a bit like relationships. They’re non sexual, but they definitely have a deep romanticism about them. And so sometimes those relationships might cross the boundaries that a partner is comfortable with, they might feel threatened about these deeper emotional connections or the secrets that you might share with with a friend that you have a really romantic and deep connection with. I see a lot of heterosexual women having friendships with one another that I think, gosh, those are relationships, you know, they’re not sort of just in inverted commas friendships, and I know, we shouldn’t actually diminish friendship, by putting the word just in front of it. But I do feel that relationships actually covers a broader spectrum of connection than we perhaps think it does. We think it’s always when you’re actually dating someone and having a sexual partnership with them. But I think it’s more complex than that. I mean, obviously, we have some people who are on the asexuality spectrum, and they still have relationships, but they might not be having sex. So I don’t know, we could always define things by by sex and whether we’re having sex with a partner.
Brad Shreve: 12:00
As far as having friendships that kind of bleed over into sex. That can be a bit difficult. I after a horrendous relationship, a buddy and I would go out and hang out and we were friends what I can think of the term fuck buddies, is usually what it’s called. And
Rosie Wilby: 12:19
Brad Shreve: 12:19
unfortunately, he started to see it as much more than that. And I did not in any way I liked him as a friend, we had a little fun. That was that his gap wasn’t there. And, unfortunately, that ended our friendship. So it is a risk.
Rosie Wilby: 12:33
Yeah, I agree. I think friends with benefits is another term that we use to describe those relationships as well. So yeah, sometimes sometimes the boundaries are muddy.
Brad Shreve: 12:44
Friends with Benefits was the term I was looking for. And since I couldn’t get out of my head, I had to go the more dirty route. Back in 2011, in The Guardian, this really jumped out at me, you wrote, I want to entertain. But I also have an opportunity to present my life as a lesbian, to the public and do my little bit to change the minds of people like my ex families, and to make youngsters think twice before using the word gay as an insult at school, Do you feel like you’re accomplishing that?
Gosh, yes. Well, I hope so. And that’s a little while ago that I wrote that I’d forgotten about that article that I’d written. And it’s very much been a part of my comedy persona. And my, I suppose, admission, if that doesn’t sound too grand a word to really Yes, present my, my true authentic self and my life as a lesbian living in the UK, and having friendships with many, many other lesbians and socializing with lesbians and working with a lot of, of lesbians and queer women and queer people more broadly. And I suppose, just the the interesting things that, that then play out in your life because of that identity and identifying so strongly with a certain part of the community and with within a certain social group and minority. And you know, also the experiences that I’ve had that have been really difficult when I was younger, and certainly coming out as a teenager here in the 1980s. It was it was deeply homophobic times here. And we had a Prime Minister who brought in legislation that meant that school teachers could not talk about lesbian and gay relationships. I mean, definitely didn’t talk about being bi or queer, or trans or non binary, or the more sort of sophisticated discussions that we have now. But there was nothing that could be even spoken about outside of heteronormative partnerships.
Brad Shreve: 14:52
Over here. During that time, we had her good friend, Ronnie, it was a little bit more conservative on both sides of the pond during that period.
Rosie Wilby: 14:59
Brad Shreve: 15:00
But I do love it when people can use humor to make a difference, and you do a great job of it. So that was in your mind. I think you’re doing it. Before we get too deep into other conversations, I really want to make sure we talk about your book. It’s called The Breakup Monologues in it’s based on your podcast of the same name. Now, something I want to ask is you’ve got a theme that’s been going on you talk about breakups, not just in your book, and not just in your shows, but it’s also in your standup routine, too. What is the fascination with breakups?
Rosie Wilby: 15:41
Well, I started because I’ve been very fascinated by breakups, and well somewhat obsessed by them when I was dumped by email many years ago, and I joked at the time that I felt much better once I corrected her spelling, and punctuation and changed the font. But of course, behind that silly joke, there’s a serious quest really to try and understand why I felt so or let’s see, so lost and confused about my relationship suddenly being going wrong and suddenly being sort of taken away from me and disappearing and the rug being pulled from under my feet and feeling like a tree up rooted. So I wanted to understand with the sort of scientific mind that I have from having studied science at school and at university, I was interested to understand what was happening and to understand the psychology of heartbreak and how we can recover from it and perhaps even use it as an opportunity for reflection and growth and healing eventually, because the subtitle of the book is, in fact, the unexpected joy of heartbreak. And I have many positive stories of people who have done exciting new things in the wake of a breakup and actually found it was the catalyst for really positive change.
Brad Shreve: 17:11
Although most definitely can be I agree with you, 100%. Do you find it cathartic?
I find writing and speaking and performing about difficult experiences or difficult topics incredibly cathartic. In fact, I talk in the book about how when we remember a specific experience, the number of times we retell that story, in more comforting or comfortable surroundings, it sort of re re remembers and rewires our memory of that event. So it becomes a less traumatic event to remember. So when I now think about the breakup, I think about myself telling the story of the breakup on stage with people laughing and sort of being on my side, if you like. So it, it does reduce the trauma attached to the initial experience. And I suppose my message Initially when I started The Breakup Monologues podcast, and now obviously, it’s become a book as well. I think my main message initially was to share your story and speak about it speak about breakups. Because we don’t often talk about our heartbreak, we feel like it’s something perhaps to be ashamed of, and to go away and lick our wounds and listen to sad songs and eat chocolate and ice cream, and all those things that find to do definitely give yourself permission to do those things. But it’s also very healthy to get out there and socialize and see your friends and do physical activity and dancing and laughing and sharing that breakup story and telling other people what has happened. And that will help you start to process it for yourself and perhaps understand that maybe that relationship was supposed to end perhaps you weren’t that compatible with that person, or weren’t that compatible anymore, or at least
Brad Shreve: 19:02
was funny when I saw your podcast,The Breakup Monologues and I thought, how, how can you keep a subject about breaking up going on? And keep it interesting? And but you’ve been doing it about two shows a month for four years now? Do you ever have a problem finding people to talk?
Rosie Wilby: 19:24
No, I, I really don’t. There are so many comedians and authors and interesting creatives and academics who want to come and share their breakup stories or talk more broadly about how heartbreak works, how we recover from it, and what other stories they may have heard of people doing extraordinary things in the wake of a breakup. So I think it’s a fascinating topic. And there are always new, new angles, new aspects to think about. We’ve done episodes on who gets the pets after a divorce, you know, dog and cat custody, there are sometimes some fierce custody battles. Or we might sort of go deep into the science and maybe the spooky future of whether we might be able to take a pill in order to forget an ex a bit like a real life version of the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And what would be the ethics of that? Would it be a good thing? Or would we end up just endlessly repeating the same patterns with the same partners as indeed, the two characters in the film do because when they’ve erased one another from their memories, they end up meeting again?
Brad Shreve: 20:33
Well, my guess is the reason why the podcast is sustained itself and why your book is so popular and people are more than willing to come on to your podcast is when we’re in the lifeboat we like to talk and share about our experiences when we were in the lifeboat. I know for myself, when I go to alcohol support groups, or mental health support groups, we tell stories and laugh that other people would be like, That’s not funny. But it’s shared experience. And it’s so refreshing to have somebody to talk about what you normally don’t just talk openly about. I think that’s your success.
Rosie Wilby: 21:06
I think that’s right. And breaking up is such a universal experience, most of us have experienced a breakup of some kind, whether we were the person who got dumped, or whether we were the person who had to end the relationship and how to initiate that difficult and painful conversation. Or even if we’re someone who’s not really had romantic and sexual partnerships, we’ve probably experienced the ending of a friendship or the ending of a work relationship, or a job or, or something that we do mourn in that way. And often these different types of relationships, the ending is still a very similarly painful experience.
Brad Shreve: 21:48
With the book, there’s some humor in there, you’ve got, again, some statistical information without being boring. What can people find when they when they read the book? What will the experience
Rosie Wilby: 21:59
I well, they will experience well, hopefully, some fun and laughter, because they’ll hear about some of my experiences and research, including the time that I participated in a sex lab experiment, and was wired up to the machines to measure my arousal whilst looking at erotic images. So they can hear about experiences like that. And these can also follow my journey of Finally, having learned from my many breakups trying to commit and stay in a relationship, which, you know, now has worked out because Hi, I’m now married. But also, as you say, there’s lots of science and surveys and studies, all peppered through the book. So I hope it’s a really accessible way of learning about some of the psychology of heartbreak and learning about many studies that have been done that show us that we can recover, and we can make better choices moving forwards after a breakup. And so there’s a lot of learning in there. But in a really fun and accessible way, with lots of other people’s breakup stories alongside my own journey of trying to finally find the hope and hilarity and heartbreak.
Brad Shreve: 23:13
You said one of your exes broke up with you via email. And you’re not the first person I’ve had say that and I’ve had other people tell me they got a broke up message via text, I would think both would be devastating. Are you still friends with that individual?
Rosie Wilby: 23:28
No, we didn’t really stay in contact. We did we did for a time. And we certainly tried to remain civil. But in that case, which is a rare occasion for me, I am friends and I’m still in touch and still connected with most of my ex is, although in that scenario, that there had been a lot of difficult and challenging things that had happened around the breakup. And ultimately, I suppose we both felt that it was perhaps the right thing to to not be in contact anymore. But you know, I certainly learned a great deal from that experience and learnt that sometimes, however much you may want to be friends and have an ongoing connection with somebody, perhaps there are occasions where it’s it’s just the right thing to do to cut ties, and let them get on with their lives and and for you to get on with your own life.
Brad Shreve: 24:27
Yeah, I have the three relationships I have before my husband right now. I am friends with two of them. We live long distance. So we’re not real close. But we certainly have a friendly relationship. The other one, not so much. And that’s it’s a good thing. Trust me, I won’t get into that story. We should have broke up the day after we met. Now one of your other relationships you had she could not come out to her parents while you were together. And you said that hurt? How did that impact you might weigh
Rosie Wilby: 24:59
I think it really hurts if you feel in any way that your partner is ashamed of you. And if you feel that the relationship can’t be taken seriously, by that person’s family or more broadly in the world, if it can’t be recognized if you can’t move forward towards any of the steps that we tend to see couples making in terms of living together or perhaps having children or having pets together or or getting married or making commitment in you know, perhaps civil partnership which we had here before marriage. You know, I think it is It can feel like you’re not in a real relationship, if you’re not able to move in together and not able to do some of those things. Or if you’re not able to spend important times of year like sort of Christmas holidays and, and those kind of times of year with somebody because the family doesn’t know or recognize the relationship. So I think it can become incredibly painful, because it feels like you’re not visible and not heard and not not something or someone to be proud of. It’s also of course, incredibly painful and difficult for the person whose family don’t accept them. And so they are in the middle of a really difficult situation themselves.
Brad Shreve: 26:33
I would imagine it would put you in a difficult situation, because certainly you would want them to come out, but at the same time, respect that we all have to do it on our own time. You can love it and hate it at the same time, I guess.
Rosie Wilby: 26:45
Yes, I guess so. I mean, I, because I was a bit of an activist, as a student, I felt that it was important to come out, I felt that there was a certain amount of needing to stand up and be counted. And that was good for the movement for equality. I mean, you know, wasn’t it Harvey Milk, who said you must come out and there were so many inspiring queer activists over the decades who have really promoted that message that it is important to be out and be yourself. But I know of course, there are people who for whom it’s not easy, it may not even be safe for them. So yeah, it’s perhaps not as easy as all that. And I was lucky that my particularly my mother, you know, but my parents were pretty accepting, and ease now I even joke in my standup about my mum almost being too cringy ly enthusiastic and telling me all about how close she was with her female friends when she was younger, and how she might have been a lesbian in a different era.
Brad Shreve: 27:56
What inspires you
Rosie Wilby: 27:58
what inspires me? Gosh, well, I a whole range of creative people and creative art forms. I mean, I still love music very, very much. But, I mean, yeah, comedy writing books. It’s sometimes it’s my, you know, rather than very, very famous high profile people. It’s some of my, my very dear friends who are not sort of household names around the world. But they’re doing really interesting things. In fact, I’m mentoring a friend of mine at the moment, who is a psychotherapist and also a comedian, and poet. And she’s writing an incredible memoir about her time training to become a psychotherapist. And when she was also having psychotherapy and kind of figuring her stuff out, as we say, and yeah, it’s really interesting to see her writing develop. And I’ve been editing her book with her. So that’s been a really interesting project. And yeah, sometimes it’s when our friends are doing interesting creative projects, and you see them move forward, and and become better writers or performers, that that that is very inspiring.
Brad Shreve: 29:14
This is going to be a bit different. Typically, when I have a guest on who has written a book, we talk about it, of course, and then at the shows, and I tell you, the link to the book is in the show notes. And you’ll hear at the end of this episode, it is no different. But one unfortunate thing about hosting a podcast is I don’t always have time to finish a guest book. Well, since Rosie was my guest, I enjoyed the book enough to make the effort to finish the breakup monologues. And I’ll tell you this effort is a poor choice of word, because it was no effort at all. It’s witty, has some science and yes, some heartbreak. And dare I say it can help you with your relationships. So take it from me, click the link in the show notes. You’ll enjoy it what is it about being a comedian that you are getting to, let’s say fill that hole? That music did not? I know it’s still a part of your life. But you’ve made being a comedian, your vocation?
Rosie Wilby: 30:21
Well, I think music definitely filled an emotional hole for me. In some ways, almost too much. It music was very important and dear to me and almost too painful. Because when you’re singing songs about maybe difficult things like when my mother died, I wrote two songs. About that time in my life, which was really difficult, and it’s almost, you know, too painful, you’re really going somewhere that it’s very difficult. And I think in comedy, of course, you can go to those difficult places as well. But there’s a very different feel and flavor, because you are sort of punctuating that with with jokes and and it takes many years to become the kind of sophisticated comedian who can incorporate the darker, sadder, more difficult stuff and still find fun and, and humor and accessibility into that, and not just have a very sort of depressing show. But um, you know, there are many, many people who are doing it better than I. But yeah, I think comedy was almost a sort of light relief, and also what I would say, because it’s sort of easier and more portable, as I mentioned earlier on, it was a way of actually creatively making a living. When I was a musician, it was aside from, you know, sometimes getting a great sort of royalty statement, because some of my songs had been played on the radio, digging around. As a musician, you know, it was difficult to make money in any meaningful sense, because I often played with a band, and then you’re spreading the money, maybe five ways. Whereas if a comedian if you’re a comedian, and it’s just you, and you can do sometimes in London, you could do two or three gigs a night if you wanted to, or particularly if you go to the Edinburgh Fringe, which is obviously this huge festival of the arts and comedy and theatre here in the UK, you could run around doing doing many performances that day. So there is more of an opportunity to do more performances with more regularity. Because you might do shorter performances, shorter sets. And also you’re not necessarily expected to bring your audience along in the way that music promoters might expect you to. So there’s more opportunity to perform more and, and perhaps start to make it meaningful.
Brad Shreve: 32:54
To talk a little bit more about the music not because I find it more interesting. I just find it an important part of your journey. And I listened to some of your songs on Spotify, you have a beautiful voice. addition to that, you wrote an interesting book. It’s out of print right now, I believe. It was called how not to make it in Britpop. I was surprised I had problems because in The Guardian again, you had an incredible review by them. They said, your voice is glorious, ranging from the Trembley heights of Kate Bush to a wistful candy floss slightness warm and welcoming each note played and word uttered is as finely tuned as Willoughby’s guitar without an air of elitism or jazz. Cool. Now, first of all, no offense to this, they laid it on kind of heavily. Sounds like a romance novel, but they obviously really loved the music. And I can see why. Why wasn’t it working?
Rosie Wilby: 33:58
Oh, gosh. I mean, if if I look back, perhaps I was being too impatient. Perhaps it was working. And it was just working a bit slower than I was expecting it to. But I guess when you’re younger, when you’re in your 20s, as I was, when I was doing music, you’re sort of expecting fame and fortune. And I was, yes, struggling struggling to pay the bills. So you know, it really was it really was a financial decision really, to perhaps change to do something else that was economically more, more viable, but still really creative and fun, and still gave me a sense of agency and purpose. But I love music. And I like you say I sort of returned to music. Few a few years after I had finished my music career officially. And one of my comedy shows that sort of became a a memoir that wasn’t out officially but but some sections of it ended up in my first book that so there was this show called how not to make it in Britpop. And that was a trip down memory lane where I you know, look back at some of the old photos from that time and told many of the stories about some of the gigs and festivals and songs from that era and read from some of my diaries at the time, which had been published as a column in a now defunct music magazine called making music and so I had had this column called Rosie’s pop diary about the ups and downs of a sort of want to be musician and in inverted commas, Popstar, and you know what, what adventures you go on on the road to perhaps trying to get Record Deal or then as I did deciding to release, release an album on your own label on your own terms. So it was certainly exciting to get some of the old band back for a few reunion gigs and also perform and tour this show where I told all these stories and had a few of the old songs embedded in part of the part of the show. And yeah, that was when I also put the old album, which had only been released on CD back in the day, I put it out on Spotify and released it digitally. To coincide with that show in that tour. My album Music Album was called precious hours.
Brad Shreve: 36:25
Under Rosie Wilby. It’s precious hours.
Rosie Wilby: 36:28
Brad Shreve: 36:29
it looks like you had 10 of your songs.
Rosie Wilby: 36:30
That’s right. Will be was the name we toured the band under. But I think Spotify have me as Rosie Wilby. So I think when I released by the time I released the album, I was just using my full Rosie Wilby name.
Brad Shreve: 36:45
Let’s talk about coming out when you were in the lady, you said it went fine for your parents, but still wasn’t very open minded time. How difficult was it for you? And after they knew how was it? For lack of a better word, I hate it. Living a queer lifestyle, just because I can’t think of something better to say. Being yourself. Let’s put it that way.
Rosie Wilby: 37:06
Yeah, I think it was challenging, but also really thrilling and exciting. Because I think to some extent, if you’re a queer person, and LGBTQ i plus person coming out at a time when you’re not accepted, it does give you a certain freedom to make up your own rules about how you’re going to live your life and have your relationships. You know, in some ways, it was quite an exciting to think, well, maybe I won’t follow the conventional route that my straight friends feel that they’re pressured into of having children getting married, getting a sensible job. You know, in some ways, it felt the the were more choices and some interesting options available to me because they weren’t some of the same pressures. So yeah, certainly, when I came to London, in the early 1990s, after I graduated, then that really opened up a whole world of exciting gay networks and clubs and venues and music and theater groups and book groups and discussion groups and activism and so many activities that and kind of social networks and groups you could get involved with, here in London, I mean, many sort of Lesbian Gay centers and women’s centres that that actually don’t exist anymore. But lots of community hubs and venues and bars that really, it’s sort of fostered this great spirit of I suppose friends as family, and the idea of logical family, which the writer Armistead Maupin talks about,
Brad Shreve: 38:52
and I’m curious about that out here in LA, all the lesbian bars are closed. I learned just recently, that’s pretty much true everywhere. Why do you think that is?
Rosie Wilby: 39:02
Yeah, I think queer women are a difficult audience. Because once we get into relationships, we disappear off the radar, and we stay in with our new girlfriend. And so, yeah, whereas I think gay men, I think, kind of go out more socially and have fun and go to bars and party, you know, even when you’re coupled up or, you know, whatever your situation is. Whereas I think lesbians more typically go out to meet somebody or go to singles nights or, or that kind of thing. And then yeah, sort of disappear for a while. And then when they’re single, again, when the relationship has ended, they pop up again. So sometimes there’s not the same constant audience. If you are a promoter, or a venue owner, you know, it’s difficult to have that reliable core group of people who are going to come along and come out every weekend or every night.
Brad Shreve: 40:03
Out of your very broad and varied career. What’s the one accomplishment? This isn’t gonna be easy? The one accomplishment that satisfies you most when you reflect on it?
Rosie Wilby: 40:15
Oh, it’s so difficult.
Brad Shreve: 40:21
We have many
Rosie Wilby: 40:22
Yeah, I know. But I think having two books published, particularly now when the publishing world is not what it was maybe 10 or 20 years ago. And it’s hard. There are so many people writing books, so many people’s self publishing. You know, it’s it’s hard to get a publisher to invest in you You and you know, give you some money to write a book and design fancy covers and do the promotion and marketing that it takes to get a book out properly into the world and get audiences, hearing about it and buying it and reading it. So, I do think that it does mean something because when I first started thinking about writing a book, it felt like a really insurmountable mountain, it feels like a lot of words to write, when you write a comedy show, for example, I mean, that is a challenge in itself, particularly to write a good one that’s, that’s funny and interesting, and engaging, and has a nice sort of structure and flow. And it’s not nearly so many words, you know, it’s a few 1000 words, probably for a sort of just under an hour long show. Whereas, you know, for a book, you were talking at least sort of 70,000 words. So you’re talking about sort of writing 10 solo shows, or the equivalent of so it’s a much bigger endeavor, and it’s a much bigger body of work, you know, so I think that those two books feel like achievements, because you have to structure your thoughts, and really think about, you know, drip feeding those ideas in a way that they will be understandable to the audience. I mean, particularly with my first book, I had so many different things I wanted to say, but I had to resist the temptation to just say them all at once, and actually take the audience on a journey, as they made the discoveries that I had made along the way whilst learning all about the psychology of love and relationships. And, and that first book was called is monogamy dead? Which was, obviously, quite an interesting title and and thinking about monogamy and what it means and polyamory and different types of relationships and how, how that all works.
Brad Shreve: 42:40
Correct me if I’m wrong, my guess is most people know you as a comedian. But I believe I heard you say that your writing is just equal to you and your eyes as the comedy and you may even get more money, correct?
Rosie Wilby: 42:53
I think so I think now, I might even be thinking of myself now as a as an author, slash comedian rather than the other way around. I would have always a few years ago said comedian first and foremost, whereas now perhaps I think of myself as an author and writer, I think, I think the pandemic changed that a lot. Because obviously, all the comedy gigs were closed down. And I was getting on with writing at home. And as well as writing the book, the second book, the new book, The Breakup monologues, I was writing articles for various magazines and newspapers, and started enjoying being a journalist and writing lifestyle features for four different publications. So I have started to enjoy writing and embracing the idea of being a writer, because it was something that I could get on with, during those lock downs that we had. Well, I know you had them over there, too. So that certainly changed the life and the sort of daily activities and routines of many, many creative people and performance.
Brad Shreve: 44:01
As an author, in my case, my book was on Kindle first. And that was exciting. But I want you to tell me express the feelings when you actually had that box, come to your home. And you open it up, and you held the book in your hand.
Rosie Wilby: 44:20
Oh, yeah, there’s so many different emotions, because it’s been such a challenge to to get to that point. Because what I think a lot of people who have not written a book don’t realize is that once you’ve handed in the, your text to your publisher, there’s a long process of back and forth of editing, and then proofing and typesetting. And they design a cover. And there’s so many different things that happen and so much work that that goes into it. So in some ways, you’re quite emotionally drained. By the time the books or books arise. And it is a wonderful high, but it’s also a relief. It’s a real for me, I know many people will say it’s just a joyful thing. But I I think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s a real sense of relief that all of this work has is now a tangible product, it is now a tangible thing you can hold in your hand, it does exist, it is visible, you have been heard, even if nobody buys it is still a thing that will exist and maybe somebody will discover it in the future. You know?
Brad Shreve: 45:29
Yeah, I remember well, it was very cool. And actually my second book, I felt the exact same way. It’s very exciting.
Rosie Wilby: 45:35
Definitely very, very exciting.
Brad Shreve: 45:38
You talked about the little bit of challenges when you came out, but actually about a decade later was still dead. got for you. I know, you’ve said that in your comedy routines. As a lesbian that was much more difficult than it was for gay men, lesbians were not as well accepted. What was that experience?
Rosie Wilby: 45:57
Yeah, I think in some ways, that’s true. Because we we live in a world where sexism exists. Yeah. Hi, you know, so I think there are many, many situations where relationships between women have been erased and have not been that visible. I mean, I think a lot about older generations of, of LGBT people, and how, I mean, we talk about the lesbian bars being all closing down now. But I mean, there was a time when they were really sort of thriving in the world, lots of particularly when I first came to London in the 1990s, there were a lot of spaces for queer women. But that certainly hadn’t been the case. You know, in previous decades, either. I knew, you see women sort of socializing in very small groups in one another’s houses, because there weren’t places they could safely go, go out and socialize. And the same may well have been true for gay men, but it seemed like the worst some spaces where they could go and meet one another, even if they were the sort of cruising grounds or, you know, the gay saunas and bath houses, and so on the workplaces where gay men met one another, but I don’t know if if women really, really had historically. So yeah, I think it’s, it’s definitely interesting. And, you know, I just think if you have two women in a relationship, there’s just different sort of baggage attached to that, and the messaging and messages that we’ve had as girls growing up in the world, that we can’t do certain things, and that we won’t earn as much money or, you know, we shouldn’t behave in certain ways, or we shouldn’t speak up and be too loud. So there are so many cultural pressures that I think are put on on girls and young women. And so we grow up with with certain amounts of, of baggage because of that, and then you sort of throw homophobia into the mix as well. And we do see, Well, broadly within the queer community, a lot of sort of mental health problems and more, much more common occurrences of depression and anxiety, sadly. So, you know, I do think that queer women have have a lot of sort of, you know, a lot of different societal pressures to balance and juggle.
Brad Shreve: 48:29
And I don’t want to focus too much on what was going on that was making it difficult, but I want to bring up an article that came out, right about the same time that you made that statement, it was written by somebody that listen to your radio show out in South London, I guess this was about maybe 10 or 11 years ago. Oh, yeah. Okay. After saying you had a fine voice and manner, which I must say is very British wording. You are on resonance, which is community station, and she said, Renaissance was wonderful, but she questioned why you are not on a national mainstream network, based on the fact that you were queer. Do you think that was a fair question for desk?
Rosie Wilby: 49:11
Yeah, I think I think that was a fair question. Indeed. Yeah, I mean, so a time we did have specialist programming here in the UK, we did have LGBT radio shows, or well, perhaps they were just thought of as lesbian and gay shows before we sort of slightly broadened the way we like to talk about her sexuality and sexual minorities. But a lot of those programs were axed in favor of what was in theory, a sort of broader programming ethos of perhaps LGBT people popping up on dramas or in documentaries or on magazine programs more more generally. And perhaps the idea of them being gay being incidental, rather than it being a defining characteristic that meant they were on a particular sort of niche show. And perhaps, the idea was that you would sort of reach a broader audience and perhaps, you know, we would achieve more progress that that way and sort of change minds a bit more than if you have a lesbian gay audience tuning into the lesbian and gay show, but I do think that both things are really important, I think LGBTQ radio shows TV programs specialist podcasts that we now see a whole seal of on if you you look on any podcasting platform, there are We’re podcasts everywhere. And that just shows you really that seeing your own life and your own experience and your own identity represented is really, really important. And I think, you know, we still need those spaces where those particular stories are told. And that would be the same for, you know, any particular community, I think those stories need to be held on to and need to be told. And sometimes that does need to be done in a particular safe space.
Brad Shreve: 51:20
And I know since then, you have been on the BBC Radio for I know, as a guest, I don’t think you had a show, you can correct me if I’m wrong about that. But you have been on there more than a few times, would you say things are better? And how much better do you think they are? Yeah, I
Rosie Wilby: 51:35
think things are way better. I mean, even if you just look at the comedy scene, and how many diverse voices there are, and you know, on the radio and in the media, and I say particularly in the podcasting world, because that is such an accessible platform and accessible medium, you know, most people can set up a microphone or even just use their iPhone, or what equipment they have to hand to start making a podcast and putting it out there, and putting their ideas and thoughts and conversations out into the world. So yeah, I do think things are hugely improving. And, you know, we see a different way to see a different type of gatekeeping, I suppose going on. Whereas we used to have these all powerful networks, like here in the UK, the BBC, who are no doubt, still a very major broadcaster. But there are all kinds of other formats and social media platforms and you know, online platforms that people are consuming as well. So it’s not necessarily all about being on radio for that I do love radio for so I have very much enjoyed the times that I have guested on various programs there and I recorded what’s called a radio for for thought where you give a short talk and presenting some of your ideas about something. So yeah, mine was called a new currency of commitment, which I really enjoyed recording a lovely venue called the ICA in London.
Brad Shreve: 53:11
So working out in the life of Rosie Wilby.
Rosie Wilby: 53:14
Um, well, in the slightly longer term, I’m going to be touring the breakup monologues podcast, recording more episodes, and moving on to some new ideas as well and developing hopefully more book ideas. And yeah, what’s the space we’ll hopefully see more books coming in the next few years.
Brad Shreve: 53:38
We’re really humor is a gift. And I want to thank you for sharing it with the world. I think it does make a difference. and listener. You’ll find more about Rosie
Rosie Wilby: 53:43
Thank you with some links in the show notes including how you can buy her book, The Breakup Monologues. Also check out the show’s website queerweare@com where you’ll find transcripts and more. Rosie thank you for being my guest. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you.
Brad Shreve: 54:01
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