Rosie Wilby is an award-winning comedian who has appeared many times on BBC Radio 4 programmes including Woman’s Hour, Loose Ends and Four Thought, TV programmes including Good Morning Britain and at major festivals around the world. Her first book Is Monogamy Dead? was longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize 2018 and followed her TEDx talk of the same name, articles and a trilogy of internationally-acclaimed solo shows investigating love and relationships. Rosie also presents The Breakup Monologues podcast, which will be published by Bloomsbury as a book in May 2021. Follow her on twitter @rosiewilby
How has your career in comedy informed your writing?
I think humour is a great device for making tricky subjects more accessible. That’s what I’ve done onstage for many years touring solo storytelling, multimedia and comedy shows around the world that discuss sexuality, monogamy, feminism and inequality.
Is Monogamy Dead? is quite a bold title – have people found the book and the work provacative? Was that your intention?
I definitely wanted to grab attention with what I thought was an intriguing question, given how much the habits and patterns around the way we conduct intimate relationships have altered in recent decades. What surprised me, however, was how many people leapt to the false assumption that I was not monogamous and was telling everyone else not to be. I do think there are a ton of positive aspects to a more polyamorous way of being, of openly, consciously and respectfully opening yourself up to multiple emotional connections. As it happens, I am and always have been, largely speaking, monogamous. But I was a little tired of the rollercoaster of serial monogamy, which is perpetuated by our inflated expectations of love. So I was keen to find a more comfortable, honest way of being monogamous that was accepting of the fact that one person can’t necessarily provide everything another person needs.
Tell us about The Breakup Monologues. Where did the idea come from?
My first book Is Monogamy Dead? was based on a show of the same name which was the middle part of a trilogy all about love and relationships. It began with a show called The Science of Sex, which I performed at a queer festival in New York as well as at Edinburgh and a host of U.K. festivals, and ended with a solo show about my breakup story, about the time I got dumped by email nearly a decade ago. That show was, somewhat ironically, entitled The Conscious Uncoupling. After the show, other performers would often come and tell me their funny, dramatic or bizarre breakup stories. So I started up a live chat show called The Breakup Monologues. Then I realised that the conversations were so interesting that I should start getting them recorded and releasing them as a podcast. I’ve now released three seasons and recently was nominated for a British Podcast Award. And then in September last year I wrote up The Breakup Monologues as a book proposal, combining some science, psychology and other people’s breakup stories with my own story of trying, at last, to stay IN a relationship. I got a new agent, a deal with Bloomsbury and am now in the final editing stages. It’ll be out in May 2021
What’s the fascination with sex?
I’m a romantic. I’m addicted to love. And, as such, I find sex problematic. Sometimes it ruins great friendships and loving connections. It’s a puzzle to me, one that I want to solve. I want to figure out why humans are wired in such a way that doesn’t really make us very happy. Our programming makes structures like monogamy really challenging. And yet I’m drawn to the idea of being in love with someone, being part of a couple and staying with that person. I’m deeply conflicted. But find me a human who isn’t!?
What is your writing process and routine, if you have one?
My writing for performance was always somewhat unstructured and would happen when inspiration struck, often gazing out of windows on long train journeys (remember those?). Yet writing a book is such an intense, lengthy process that you have to set yourself daily word counts and force yourself to meet them. You have to be disciplined if you’re going to meet a publisher deadline.
What advice would you have for women trying to break into comedy?
Go for it! It’s a great time for women in comedy now. A lot of doors and opportunities have opened up in recent years. It feels very different to the industry I started in about fourteen years ago. Look out for Funny Women who put on an annual competition for new female acts and create a community for comedy performers and writers. I was in the final in 2006 and it was definitely a confidence boost. With the live gig scene still in a weird pandemic limbo, it’s a good time to be writing the next Fleabag, creating the next podcast sensation or filming sketches and putting stuff out on your socials.