When I hear the words ‘chicken shop’ there are three things I think of: five wings and chips for £2.50, cans of Miranda, and Amelia Dimoldenberg.
Amelia is another impressive multi-hyphenate (comedian-presenter-journalist-chicken nugget connoisseur) who proves that when you work hard, work smart and put your all into your passions, it really does pay off. She started her first YouTube series, Chicken Shop Date, seven years ago, interviewing grime artists and celebrities from AJ Tracey to Kurtan from This Country through the medium of dead-pan, awkward dates in chicken shops across London (a series which got me through much of my young adulthood, watching while revising, on my lunch break at work, and, of course, throughout the last year and a half of lockdown). The winning combination of her awkward character and the unaffected nature of the talent she interviews sets her apart in the comedy scene, and she’s continued to put that unmistakable Amelia spin on everything she’s turned her hand at since.
Having recently turned her one-woman-channel into a full-blown production company, Dimz Inc. (something that Amelia says has always felt like a natural progression for her career), her new political commentary show ‘Who Cares?’ has been commissioned by UKTV for the Dave YouTube channel. Who Cares? sees Amelia take to the streets of Britain to ask the nation questions about the things that *really* matter.
Sitting down over Zoom (shock horror), Amelia chats to GLAMOUR about the role comedy plays in her life, why politics is so important for young people, and how to navigate dating in a post-lockdown world.
So how are you, how is everything, how are you doing?
Busy! I’ve got loads of content coming out at the moment. Like everything is just coming out at the same time, which is good. I think it’s good. Part of me was like, ‘it’s too much going at one time’, but actually I think it’s all good because then when people are watching one YouTube video and then they get recommended another, so it’s all good, really.
Lockdown (obviously) has been wild. How has it been for you? As a creator, has it been a challenge to try and tap into your creativity and come up with ideas, or was it almost like a blessing in disguise?
Well, it’s funny because it feels like so long? That first lockdown felt so different to the ones that have come after and everything stopped in terms of production, you weren’t allowed to film anything and everything was shut, so I couldn’t date in chicken shops! So, I was a bit stressed because I didn’t have my monthly date on the cards. But then I moved the episodes to Zoom, so I did three episodes on Zoom. There are some really brilliant ones, actually. One with Jamie Demetriou who plays Stath in Stath Lets Flats, that was really fun. Mike Skinner, Munya Chawawa the amazing, brilliant comedian. Those were really fun and with Chicken Shop Date it’s quite good because if it’s awkward, that’s the point. So any kind of technical difficulties or connection problems worked in my favour. But yeah, I’m really glad to be back filming in real life now and actually I would say the winter lockdown was like such a low point. It was actually very bleak I think for so many people and loads of my friends really struggled and actually, I don’t even like looking back or thinking about it because it was so hard. Luckily, my birthday’s in January, so that was a fun day. I had people come and wave outside my house in the rain and that was fun.
That was really hard, but I’ve never read so much as I have in lockdown. I got really into reading. My family are massive readers because my mum’s a librarian and my sister’s training to be a librarian as well, slo they’re all bookworms and I’ve always been the odd one out and so lockdown really got me into books. So that was good. I find so much inspiration for my own work from reading, from watching stuff. I watch so many things as well, loads of series. So I found the first one super creative, and then the Christmas one was… not good.
I’ve also never really worked as much as I have this year, I don’t think. When you’re freelance, specifically, I think everyone was so scared that they wouldn’t get any work again so you’re just saying yes to everything which means a lot of people are working more than ever. Also, with lockdown, you couldn’t socialise, so I think work became pretty all-consuming. I’m actually so grateful now, like many people, that you have more of a work-life balance which I think everyone’s adjusting to at the moment. It’s like, ‘wait, so where am I going to fit in the pub into all this work I have?!’. But what a wild year.
Obviously comedy has helped a lot of people get through the past year, and creators like Munya Chawawa and yourself have helped bring light to people’s lives. Is comedy something that helped you cope?
Sometimes I get really nice messages from people saying that watching my videos has helped them through whatever time and that’s amazing. But mainly it’s just people laughing, not for a deeper reason. I think that’s also amazing and that’s why I do what I do because comedy is just so powerful. Not to get too philosophical, I genuinely think there’s nothing greater in life than laughter. It’s just the best remedy and the best thing ever. I’ve always loved watching it and have been so influenced by so many different types of comedy, and it’s true that whenever you’re feeling low, you don’t even have to be feeling like the depths of despair, to watch something that’s funny. The reason I got into comedy was because I think it’s the best way to connect with people. When you can make someone laugh or you can make something funny, it really resonates with people and they remember it more than if it wasn’t making them laugh. So that’s why I think comedy is so brilliant.
I just watched loads of YouTube clips, YouTube all the time. It’s not actually comedy, but I’m loving the England YouTube channel at the moment and all their content and the comradery with the England team. I’ve got football fever right now, and they’re all just having a laugh. In the video I watched yesterday, they did water balloon fights and playing volleyball in the pool, which, you know, I don’t *mind* watching. I’m also a big SNL fan. I find so much inspiration from that and This Country, Kurupt FM, mockumentaries, I find them so funny.
Chicken Shop Date is very satirical and the topics are very funny and lighthearted. What inspired you to take a leap towards more serious topics with your new documentary series, Who Cares?
I’ve always been interested in politics and current factors and I think it’s so important for young people to be interested in politics because, essentially, the government are the ones making the decisions. So, apathy just doesn’t really work in terms of making significant changes, the only way you can do that is through changing the government or pushing for policy changes. Young people are always so sidelined within politics that for me, it’s always been a really important thing to try and talk about. I just have never found the right vehicle to push those topics forward until I was like, ‘Oh, Vox pops are so brilliant, and I’ve always loved doing Vox pops with other people’.
I think the first job I ever did in front of camera was for Vice and I went to 420, you know, marijuana appreciation day in Hyde Park. And I was vox-popping people and it’s just such a fun way to talk about a subject by getting everyday people’s opinions. And I thought that’s a great way that I can talk about politics in a tone that feels authentic to me where I’m not just preaching my own thoughts on a subject and can get a cross-section of opinion. I think through still being a character in some ways and my tone of asking questions and my replies, the comedy comes through in that way. So, I hope that it’s both educational and entertaining. I think we’ve got the mix right.
It came about because I did a video last year on the statue debate when Edward Colston was toppled over and put into the canal. I went and did that and people really liked it. That pushed me forward to pitch a full series. My friend who’s a secondary school teacher actually told me the other day that she played that video in her geography class because they were talking about statues and their significance and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that is such a cool story, thank you so much for telling me that!’ Because I’d never thought of it as being educational reading for young people but then as soon as she said that, I thought that’s what I want it to be for the full series, so that maybe they could be played in your history class or like your politics class or at school.
I think that is the key to getting young people engaged, using comedy and accessible ways into it that way…
Yeah, reaching people through comedy is the best, if you’re making them laugh and then also making someone think about something differently. I feel like even with Chicken Shop Date, that is always what I’m trying to do. I hope that with everything I’ve made, I’m trying to make something that is unique and that you haven’t seen before, or provides a different perspective on either the talent that I’m interviewing or the subject matter that I’m discussing. I’m really proud of the series and I really loved making it.
And how have you found the transition from being on camera to behind the camera and running a production company? Especially with COVID, how has that been?
It was quite a natural progression because I’ve always self-produced Chicken Shop Date and my cooking show. But I never sort of formalised that it was a production company when, for the whole time, I’ve been operating as a production company. When I first started, I was literally doing everything from going out and finding the shop to booking all the camera operators, finding the kit, making the call sheet, literally everything. Then as time’s gone on, I’ve had people assist me, I’ve learned so much from other people to the point now where I have my own creative producer that works with me that I hired, then formalised the production company, called it Dimz Inc. and got a logo!
So it’s been like a journey, but I’m really happy that now it’s all official and it just sounds good, doesn’t it? I think it’s so important that I have formalised it because I am in the nitty-gritty of all of the content that I’ve made and sometimes I don’t think people know that but I would like more people to know that I’m involved in the creative process and that I have a production background. Hopefully, it shows people that you can do it as well because when I started, I didn’t have any idea how you would make a video and I kind of wish I had someone who taught me a bit more about that.
I think it’s a common thing with a lot of young women not being taken as seriously as their male counterparts and not having the credit given where it’s due. For a lot of young girls, seeing your success is super inspirational, especially in a male-dominated industry. How important is it to you that women have a voice in comedy?
So important. I agree it’s very male-dominated, like with so many industries, not just comedy. For me, putting my awkward persona out first, it’s a bit different and some people don’t get it and then loads of people do. And I think it is really important to make sure that people know how hard you work to do something and explain your journey so that other people can follow the same steps that you have. Also collaborating with others and lifting up other people as well is also so important and showcasing my peers, other women as well, is really important to me.
And finally, as you are the dating *queen*, what is the number one piece of advice you have got for people navigating the bizarre post-lockdown dating world?
I mean thank God we don’t have to go on walks in the park anymore. I actually went on a walk in the park date and he was so hungover when he arrived and was messaging me before like, ‘I’m so hungover’. I was like, ‘okay, um, well you don’t have to come’… And he got there and then he literally, in the park, leant over his knees like he was going to vomit and I was just like, ‘oh my God, he’s actually gonna be sick on the date’. So we just sat on this park bench and I was just like, ‘this is hell, take me back to the chicken shop immediately’. This would never happen there!
So my top tips for dating… I think with dating, it’s all meant to be fun. It should just be fun. And usually, it is fun, even that story, it’s a great story to tell, it’s fun. So if you’re not having fun, get out. Leave immediately because that’s really what it’s meant to be. And also make sure you go somewhere where there are chicken nuggets on the menu.
Who Cares? with Amelia Dimoldenberg airs weekly on the Dave YouTube channel. Watch Chicken Shop Date and Amelia’s Cooking Show on Amelia Dimoldenberg’s YouTube.
For more from GLAMOUR’s Social Media Assistant, Luca Wetherby-Matthews follow her on Instagram @lucawetherbym.