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‘Awkwardness is a part of life’: Amelia Dimoldenberg on Rooster Store Date and flirting with Andrew Garfield | Comedy

“You’re about to get on to the purple carpet for one of the vital unique awards ceremonies of the yr!” a voice booms. “It’s showtime!” It seems to be extra like Amelia Dimoldenberg and I are strolling down a darkish hall; this isn’t Hollywood, however London’s Madame Tussauds. “Is that an actual individual?” she jumps as we move a plastic paparazzo. Then a human photographer fawns over us as if we had been actual stars. Besides … “Oh my goodness, it’s you!” he giggles, overcome. Is that this nonetheless a bit? Or has the presence of an precise celeb melted Madame’s waxy fourth wall?

It’s the latter. He needs a photograph – however his digital camera is pretend and he has no telephone. “How would you’re taking it then?!” says Dimoldenberg, bemused. A minimum of the pretend photographer will get to expertise her trademark sharp-shooting. As host of the comedy interview collection Rooster Store Date (CSD), Dimoldenberg takes celebrities out for nuggets, purportedly on her quest for real love, though her exaggerated awkwardness doesn’t precisely make for conventional romance. “So, how do you sext?” she asks Ed Sheeran in a single episode. (“Wow. In individual.”) To rapper Fuse ODG: “Did you could have desires of being an electrician?” And, infamously, “Are you able to bear in mind any of the rap that you simply did?” to Louis Theroux. He did, spawning final yr’s greatest meme by reciting the “My cash don’t jiggle jiggle / It folds” rap from Bizarre Weekends. (The Theroux episode of CSD has now been considered 11m occasions.) “As somebody who’s at all times been so considering popular culture, to be a part of a giant popular culture second like that was actually wonderful,” says Dimoldenberg.

It wasn’t a one-off. Extra lately, Dimoldenberg, 29, has been internet hosting the purple carpet at glitzy awards events (together with the Self-importance Truthful bash on the Oscars) as legacy manufacturers lunge for her potential to mint bizarre viral gold. On the 2022 GQ man of the yr awards, Andrew Garfield declared his fandom. She praised his armpits. He admired the “rubbery ropes” of her difficult costume and mentioned he’d do CSD. Their nervy oneupmanship indicated simple chemistry, titillating Twitter. They met once more on the Golden Globes in January and solely grew extra flustered. “I’m terrified of what it might flip into,” mentioned Garfield. It was all anybody remembered concerning the ceremony. Nora Ephron couldn’t have written it higher.

As we enter the “awards social gathering room” at Tussauds, Dimoldenberg, in black biker jacket and jumpsuit, compares our entrance to actuality. “The purple carpet is essentially the most overwhelming place,” she says, leaning in as we strive to not topple Priyanka Chopra Jonas. “There’s so many eyes on you. You’re meant to be essentially the most excellent model of your self. And also you’re round essentially the most stunning, profitable folks so you may’t assist however examine your self.” It’s worse within the photographers’ pen, she says. Principally they don’t know who she is and need her to budge for Jennifer Coolidge. If there’s an indication together with her identify on to inform them who she is, it’s usually misspelt. However, tellingly, Dimoldenberg’s identify, or thereabouts, is on the indicators. “Most individuals interviewing the expertise should not additionally going to get their photograph taken,” she says hesitantly. “So I’m in type of a special bracket.”

Amelia Dimoldenberg
Prepared for her closeup … purple carpet queen Amelia Dimoldenberg. {Photograph}: Simon Webb/The Guardian; styling: Rosalind Donoghue; hair: Ellie Fox; make-up: Grace Macartney.

We encounter an alternate actuality by which a waxwork Steven Spielberg is directing a bulbous, sauntering Shrek. “He was popping out of the Self-importance Truthful Oscars social gathering as I used to be entering into,” says Dimoldenberg. (Spielberg, not Shrek.) Surrounded by celebs, she felt nameless till the actors Sophie Turner and Zoey Deutch recognised her. However at dwelling, Dimoldenberg is turning into higher identified than a few of her dates, turning the melamine-coated tables on her present’s premise.

Rooster Store Date thrives on incongruity: why would a celeb meet some random lady for chips? Dimoldenberg began it as a column interviewing rappers in a youth membership journal and in 2014 pivoted to YouTube. “The dynamic is that nobody actually wished to be there,” she says. Her first hit was Individuals Simply Do Nothing’s Asim Chaudhry, in character as foul-mouthed wannabe mogul Chabuddy G. He nearly made her corpse, though normally she will be able to poker-face for Britain, whether or not telling Maya Jama she’d by no means heard of her then boyfriend, an MC referred to as Mike (ie Stormzy) or serenading Dave on a toy piano. The considered dropping the masks retains Dimoldenberg awake at night time, she says, “however I’ve made it a part of my shtick. Individuals assume I’m being awkward however really I’ve simply forgotten the place I’m at so I’ll ask: ‘What’s your favorite color?’ and so they’re like: ‘You’re so humorous!’”

The true Dimoldenberg is hyper-aware and direct – a successor to Paula Yates, Ruby Wax and Popworld-era Simon Amstell – and her facade conceals deep analysis. There’s rather a lot at stake for her company. “You’ll be able to’t sleepwalk via it, it’s not promo,” says Apple Music presenter and CSD fan Zane Lowe. “You’re speaking to somebody who sees previous the veneer of the leisure enterprise so you may’t telephone it in.”

Particularly males: Dimoldenberg subverts the cliche of the sleazy male chatshow host, leaving guys to parry her disconcerting advances with out overstepping. “It’s fairly unhealthy, I by no means take into consideration their nerves,” she admits. “I’m too wrapped up in mine.” Some attempt to outfox her: the 1975’s Matty Healy goaded her to kiss him (she pecked his brow). Ed Sheeran instructed viewers: “She’s really a really pretty individual.” However Dimoldenberg will get the ultimate say with a razor-sharp, sub-seven-minute edit. She discovered Sheeran’s remark humorous, so saved it in. “Awkwardness is a part of life nevertheless it’s edited out of what we eat.”

She has a confession. “I’d by no means go on CSD.” What? “It’s too intense! What if folks assume you’re not good at flirting?” But the calibre of celebrities eager to share a boneless field retains rising: Rosalía, Jack Harlow, England’s Lionesses. Nowadays, stars wish to show that they’re hold – therefore the parallel recognition of offbeat movie star podcasts corresponding to How Lengthy Gone and Off Menu – and PRs are determined to fling their purchasers into Dimoldenberg’s deep fats fryer. “At a expertise assembly yesterday, I turned down everybody aside from one,” she says (however retains stumm on who).

In the end, she needs to flatter her dates. They get courtesy edit approval; solely footballers have flinched. “A participant’s staff requested to take out all references to flirting,” she says. “My blood was boiling!” Louis Theroux complimented her for revealing a philosophical aspect of rapper Central Cee. (He calls love “a delusion” as she seems to be anxious.) “I make an effort to point out the precise individual, not the constructed individual of their music movies,” she says. In an period of filters and heavy picture administration, CSD reminds you the way little it takes – simply ketchup and strip lighting – to disclose one thing sudden and human.

As she struggled for finances – she pays the hen retailers to close and hires safety – Dimoldenberg tried to promote. Channel 4 declined. BBC Three wished the copyright, so she declined. “Then a giant media firm wished to purchase the rights for £500,” she gawps. “And I mentioned no. I’m so completely satisfied I mentioned no to all this stuff.” It stayed on her YouTube channel, she began a manufacturing firm and started benefiting from views; obtained administration, and lately, a starry US agent.

Late final yr, administration rang. Dimoldenberg panicked, assuming she’d been cancelled. It was the Golden Globes. She set to work, prepping questions for each nominee, presenter and visitor, flipping “nitty gritty information” despatched by their researchers into her tone of voice. She exhibits me her mile-long Google doc of prep. “I don’t like exhibiting my course of, it cringes me out. However I’m overthinking it, as ordinary.” On the purple carpet, she had a “mountain of cue playing cards”, prepared for anybody. She wished massive names: “I used to be like, I’m gonna get Rihanna.” However many A-listers breezed previous. She nonetheless danced with Henry Winkler and obtained Guillermo del Toro to rub her fortunate egg. However: “I ended up leaving the carpet actually upset.”

Watching the rushes, she felt marginally higher. “Particularly the Andrew Garfield one.” For him she solely prepped one query, which she garbled thrice (“You have got an affinity to [not for] enjoying non secular characters”) as he howled with laughter: “Are you really going to ask a critical query? … That’s not even a query!”

“I knew it will be a vibe,” she says confidently. “It exhibits which you could get one actually wonderful interview and that’s all that issues.”

The Oscars offered the yr’s different viral purple carpet second, the mannequin Ashley Graham’s excruciating Hugh Grant interview. Watching dwell from her lodge, Dimoldenberg knew how she would have performed it. “Seemingly he didn’t wish to do the interview, or didn’t see the massive fuss concerning the Oscars despite the fact that he’d agreed to present out an award,” she laughs. “So I’d simply say that: ‘Effectively, why are you right here then?!’ Usually what I do looks like stating the apparent, however I believe folks aren’t used to that. Or possibly my apparent isn’t everybody else’s apparent.”

Dimoldenberg’s goal is “to make one thing that doesn’t really feel like one thing you’ve seen earlier than”. She set her bar excessive at major faculty, simply down the street from Madame Tussauds. She grew up in Marylebone, central London; mum a librarian, dad a PR government and Labour councillor. She was neither gifted nor hopeless, however an excessive striver of the mid-tier. “It’s in all probability simply desirous to impress my dad and mom,” she says. “I wished to point out them: I obtained chosen to do that.” (She obtained “a prize for effort in yearly”, says mum Linda Hardman.)

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Dimoldenberg was gutted she was too young for S Club Juniors and dragged her mum to Oxford to audition for the film adaptation of The Golden Compass despite not having read it. (She did manage to bag a Newsround Press Pack reporter gig.) “I always felt special and happy when I was doing those things,” she says. “Maybe that’s still what I’m doing now.” Determined to become editor of Vogue, at 17 she joined a youth club that ran its own magazine. She liked pop but everyone else liked grime, and she wanted to understand it. CSD was born, which Dimoldenberg continued on YouTube when she went to study at Central Saint Martins.

These origins have prompted periodic criticism about optics – a white woman interviewing Black men in chicken shops – and media gatekeeping. While Dimoldenberg doesn’t think people have a problem with the former, she’s alert to the latter. “There is an issue with access within the media,” she says. “There’s a need for more diversity and access.” At the same time, she says, her show is DIY: she wasn’t anointed by powerful execs. “If you remove CSD from the equation, the problem is not solved.”

Unfortunately we’re mid-conversation when Madame Tussauds’ routing leaves us no choice but to strap into a ride touring waxy scenes from Ye Olde England. “It’s a systemic problem,” continues Dimoldenberg, as Shakespeare scribbles away. She never films with all-white crews and fundraises for arts access and youth services charities; her old youth club has gone: “That wasn’t necessarily needed for me, but for people from disadvantaged backgrounds that was really crucial.” Watch a lot of CSD and you notice that scenes of guests celebrating these spaces survive her edit. “There should be more things like that to level the playing field,” she shouts, as we’re forced to recline and watch marionettes frolic in the Great Fire of London.

Although major stars now hanker for a CSD, Dimoldenberg will “never not be interviewing rappers”, she says, after we escape the puppet hellfire. She laughs. “My type will always probably be that.” She intends to end the show with Drake, who has promised to do it. Handily, he is Madame Tussauds’ newest superstar. “Oh my God,” says Dimoldenberg as we meet his suggestive stare. “He looked exactly like that when I met him.” (Very, very smooth.) She gets a selfie. “If I posted this, people would think it was real,” she says. They met at Wireless 2018; Covid scuppered a planned CSD shoot in 2020. “I think what’ll happen is he’ll message and say: ‘I’m in London, let’s do it tomorrow.’ I’ve got everything ready, even handmade props.”

Shania Twain chicken shop date
Kentucky fried chat … Amelia Dimoldenberg takes Shania Twain to the chicken shop. Photograph: Chicken Shop Date

She is ready for CSD to end: “It’s so much of my identity.” Plus, she thinks it interferes with her love life. “Maybe because I have a dating show, guys don’t take me seriously. Or they have a preconceived idea of what it would be like to go on a date with ‘Amelia’?” Her success has previously intimidated men: “I want to meet someone where I can say: ‘I’m about to interview Drake,’ and not feel it’s bruised their ego.”

Has the show’s newfound starriness also changed its essence? Surely things are different when Shania Twain is throwing nuggets into your mouth in Chicken Cottage? Dimoldenberg disagrees. It retains its integrity because “I’m in control”, she says. She doesn’t feel her new fame affects it. “If anything, I’ve just become more confident.”

While she defines herself as an interviewer and dreams of her own chatshow, her next goal is TV writing. She’s awaiting notes on her first draft for a script about teenage hedonism, though her ambitions feel looser now to when she was younger. “I feel like I’ve been trapped by my own brain,” she explains. “Like I’ve had such pressure to achieve something that now I’ve done it, I’m free from the plan I created for myself.”

She wants her next project to feel true to her voice; watching CSD now, it doesn’t feel like her. The Andrew Garfield moment showed her that “my true personality is also interesting”, she says. “Before I thought, people like my deadpan side, so let’s stick to that. I’m realising that me is good enough.” Almost, anyway. As Rihanna songs blast and reality feels a distant memory, I’m forced to ask … Amelia, what’s your favourite colour? “Maybe lilac? I was going to say black.” She pats her outfit. “I wear a lot of colour but I always wish I was more chic and Parisian.”

Shady character … Amelia Dimoldenberg.
‘Because I have a dating show guys don’t take me seriously’ … Amelia Dimoldenberg. Photograph: Simon Webb/The Guardian

We behold Little Mix and a couple ask her for a selfie. The increasingly recognisable Dimoldenberg is figuring out her public-facing identity. “People shouldn’t know everything about me,” she says. “But I want people to know that I’m multifaceted, and sometimes I feel frustrated that maybe people think I’m one-dimensional.” She’s rarely publicly vulnerable, I note. “Isn’t that quite telling?” she says, wondering if it’s common to interviewers. “They ask for it from others and they don’t do it themselves.” It could be self-preservation, she says. “Especially if you worry about always having done the best.” She’s “agitated” about bettering herself. “Do I sound really intense? Sometimes I wish I was more chill.”

Finally, we exit the gift shop. “It’s funny who chooses to come here,” she says. “I guess people are obsessed with celebrity, and I include myself in that.” Maybe we fancy them or want to be friends, or “maybe the coolest thing is to be your own person without wanting to be like anyone else. But that’s very hard to master and celebrities provide some inspiration, however sad that might seem to some people.”

Dimoldenberg seems close to mastering it, despite still spending “70% of my time” fantasising about greater success. “Then I set myself up for real disappointment.” Maybe that’s simply the logical outcome of dating hot celebs. “It’s hard not to let your mind run away with you,” she laughs. “It’s really disappointing when Jack Harlow doesn’t actually text you back.”

She tries to remember that achieving her wildest fantasies rarely goes how she had imagined. Speaking of which: when is Andrew Garfield doing CSD? “Who knows when. And he’d better do it before I end the bloody show. Maybe he won’t, and he’s missed his chance,” she says tartly. Dimoldenberg isn’t missing hers. She hails a cab home to get ready for a party. “I really am in the mood to fall in love. And maybe if I end the show, I actually will.” She’s started wearing less colour and going out more, and knows that if she wants to meet someone, she’s got to get out into the real world.

Chicken Shop Date is on Amelia’s YouTube channel.

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