We share the same sense of humour. There’s something in our bones
Real-life sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey are finding fame as comedy musical duo Flo And Joan. They tell MARION McMULLEN about their influences and why their new sister act is a winner
Your 2016 Song has become a viral hit and been viewed more than 50 million times, but do you think you are comedy Marmite?
Rosie: I think in terms of comedy and entertainment, everyone is Marmite even large acts like Michael McIntrye and Peter Kay. Comedy divides people down the middle. If everyone loved what we did I’d be a bit suspicious.
Was it worrying when you received online death threats after appearing in the Nationwide Building Society adverts earlier this year?
Nicola: We know what the internet is like, we’ve grown up with it, so it doesn’t really cause concern us about what goes on there. Rosie: We don’t have a problem with hecklers either – it’s difficult to heckle a song. (Laughs) And that’s definitely not a challenge.
We’re not inviting people to come along and see if they can heckle us. Sometimes we have people who sing along with us but that’s nice.
Did you both get along growing up?
Rosie: We probably grew closer after we both went away to uni. We were always bickering when we were young – as sisters do – and we were a tag team annoying mum.
I think we grew closer later. Nicola moved out to Canada and then invited me to stay. Nicola: I did music at university, but in the second year I wasn’t enjoying it. I finished and started exploring American television shows that I really loved and did some research and came up with the impro company Second City.
I always watched a lot of comedy as a kid and BBC Radio 4 bought one of my jokes and I thought there might be something in it. We both started doing impro and writing classes and Flo & Joan came out of musical comedy we liked such as Victoria Wood.
We started performing and thought ‘If it goes wrong, no-one knows us in Canada and is going to know’.
What are your telly favourites?
Nicola: (Laughs) Rosie will watch anything. I remember watching 30 Rock, Parks And Recreation, The It Crowd and Smack The Pony. We were probably too young to be watching Smack The Pony, but we loved the quickness of it. Rosie: There was Wood and Walters and well, Monty Python... all things like that.
Do you share the same sense of humour?
Rosie: Yeah, definitely. There’s something in our bones. Sometimes we have different opinions on things, we’re very different people, but we agree when it comes to subjects and songs. Nicola: Sometimes we’ll be watching something and both think ‘We’ve got to write a song about them.’ Our new song about sex robots came about because we were watching This Morning and they were talking about them and we just both looked at each other and thought ‘We’ve got to write a song about sex robots.’
You had to add extra shows at the Edinburgh Festival and are now touring the UK with Alive On Stage. What can audiences expect?
Nicola: It’s been quite a nice summer. We sold out all the shows so they chucked in a couple more. It’s a slightly longer show for the tour. The first half will be new songs – weddings, sex robots and Leslie Ash, although probably not all in the same song – and we will be doing some older ones in the second half.
(Laughs) I wouldn’t call them our best hits, we’re not at the stage yet, but they are our favourites. They are songs people might have heard on albums or online, but not seen live before.
Has music always been part of your lives?
Rosie: Music was always around growing up. Mum was into music and it was always playing in the house. She would take us to musicals and local am-dram societies when we were younger.
Mum was into classical music as well and we had pop songs, disco and 80s and 90s music.
Nicola plays keyboard and I do beats on percussion and, depending on the style of songs, you’ll see me playing castanets as well. Nicola: Rosie can play the flute and trumpet as well and she’s a professional percussionist but we don’t have enough space to carry around a full drum kit on tour.
What’s next after the tour?
Nicola: We’ll be thinking about a show for next year for Edinburgh and we will be releasing a podcast towards the end of the year.
It’s going to be about women in history – the ones most people will have probably never heard of before.
The first half will be new songs – weddings, sex robots and Leslie Ash, although probably not all in the same song... Nicola and Rosie discuss their upcoming tour
Nicola and Rosie Dempsey