Insults from a school teacher about Nicola Dempsey’s lack of personality and passion are a hilarious thought. Especially because that lacklustre persona is now her schtick that makes up her and her sister Rosie’s comedy double act Flo & Joan. You’ve no doubt seen Flo & Joan’s Facebook post – the ‘2016 song,’ that went viral – or this year’s Nationwide advert with their song ‘Sisters’ (the sisters didn’t seem quite as loving as they should be). Following on from a successful Fringe show this year, the girls are on a roll and with their Winter show looming they chat to Susie Daniels about it and the dichotemy in their student life experiences…
The sisterly singing sensation who spread comedy throughout the laugh-a minute building society world (I jest) are about to spread comedy through…disease.
Yes, don’t adjust your eyes, you read it right…and here. Hilarious double act Flo and Joan, whose witty whimsical song ‘Sisters’ was such a hit in the Nationwide advert earlier this year where they sang ‘…you get on my nerves…we’ve got chubby cheeks and nobbly knees…’ are taking their comedy to an unhealthy new level. Flo enthuses: “We’ll be writing for the Edinburgh Fringe next year and we’re writing podcasts and mini musicals for the end of this year so that’s exciting. One’s about women in history. You’ve probably not heard of many of them such as Typhoid Mary who spread typhoid to all the houses she visited!”
Flo and Joan, real names Nicola and Rosie Dempsey, are constantly trying to come up with new ideas, make each other giggle and catch on quickly to what’s not working thanks to their house-mates and mum. Twenty-eight year old Nicola – the dark haired one – says: “We usually have a good barometer of what works. We wrote a song about looking at photos of people’s babies saying ‘we don’t care’ and we decided that didn’t work. If we’re not passionate enough about it we don’t use it. We often try to write things that make each other laugh. Sometimes we find it hilarious and put it in front of an audience and they don’t agree.”
Rosie adds: “We stick pretty much to feedback from our house-mates. If our mum comments we usually disagree with her immediately so she’s become cautious. We’re quite united as a unit. Our mum finds it quite difficult to not be emotional about it but audience and friends are the best way of getting feedback as they have no emotional attachment.”
Though the girls became famous on television thanks to the building society switching from pets to musicians in their advert the girls wouldn’t take advantage of the new found relationship by getting tied down with a mortgage. Rosie says: “We don’t have a mortgage, we can’t afford it” and Nicola adds: “And I think it would be too depressing for both of us!” Rosie, 25, is the smilier of the two to balance Nicola’s deadpan approach which grew organically thanks to a comment from a music teacher. Nicola recalls: “When I was younger we used to sing in the school choir and I was told by the teacher I needed more personality and passion.” Rosie adds: “I’ve always been more of a smiley person and I like being more jolly.”
Thankfully the girls had another music teacher who was an altogether much more positive influence – their mum! Rosie recalls a happy childhood full of song: “We do have a musical family. There was always music and my mum would be playing the piano. Going on caravan holidays we always listened to music.”
The girls are both former students but studied different degrees, in different cities with very different experiences of university life. Rosie recalls: “I studied English at Queen Mary University. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. English seemed something that would help in all jobs. It was quite a solid degree. After I graduated I was living in London and my immediate reaction was ‘work in the city’ but I moved home and worked as a waitress way too long. Nicola looked at comedy so I guess I owe her something.”
Nicola studied Music at Cardiff University with a less than great experience studying on a course she felt may have been too challenging for her. She reminisces (laughs): “Thank you Rosie. My degree was a complete waste of time. I’m not very good at much but I was always good at music during school and it was the only thing that made sense. The course I studied at uni wasn’t for me. I probably wasn’t good enough.”
Rather than give up on music Nicola rerouted thanks to an American comedy influence. She explains: “I watched a lot of American comedy and I did research where a lot of comedians were coming from when starting out. There was an improv sketch school and I decided when I finished uni I should go to Chicago where the course was! My friends found me funny and I thought can I make more than five room-mates laugh?”
The girls became an overnight success when a video they uploaded onto Facebook went stratospheric and soon millions were sharing the post. Nicola says: “We did a song called the ‘2016 song’ summary of 2016. There was Brexit, Trump, lots of celebs dying and we put it on Facebook – that spread like wildfire.” Rosie adds: “It was a hit at the right time. Everyone was feeling the same. That was a year that was so mental and it hit a chord.”
The girls were introduced on stage in Toronto by a friend and didn’t have an act name so they chose their grandmother’s and sister’s name ‘and now it’s stuck!’ Nicola says: “We’re doing gigs and selling more tickets and people are intrigued. There’s two albums with music online. Rosie’s a very good percussionist but in our ‘Sister’ song you only see her play the egg shaker. She also plays the flute and trumpet.” So soon the girls can spread their happy typhoid sketch to millions throughout the world and literally go viral.
Flo and Joan play The Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow on January 17 and The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh on January 19.