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Showbiz Interview

Ronna & Beverly interview: 'I want a night with Prince Harry'

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Despite what The Guardian might have you believe, interviewing celebrities is actually a pretty fun way to pay the rent.

A pair that clearly enjoy it a lot more than broadsheet profile writers are American duo Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, who as their comic alter egos Ronna & Beverly put the great and the good through their paces on stage and on TV.

Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo as Ronna and Beverly

Ronna and Beverly.



They return to the UK this week for shows at London's Soho Theatre, and Digital Spy got in touch to talk to them all about it.

How have UK audiences taken to you compared to the US?
Jamie: "I love the British audience. I think they have a deep and delightful embarrassment in all of their American cousins, which works in our favour as people that come in and put it all on display for them. I think they also appreciate the different levels that we try to work on."
Jessica: "We're really a double act at our essence, and that's a pretty British thing. There's such a long history of that. There's also a long history of character comedians or character chatshow hosts - whether it's Mrs Merton or Dame Edna, obviously she's Australian but she's very popular over there, the Kumars etc. There wasn't much of a learning curve. We love UK audiences."
Jamie: "I also think there's a deep tradition of taking the piss out of people of a presumed higher status than yourself, and that's a lot of what we try to do, bring celebrities and beloved people down to our human level."
Jessica: "Chop them off at the knees!"

Did the audience act any differently for the Sky Atlantic filmed shows?
Jessica: "No, I don't think so. I think it's your job to win an audience over in the beginning and I think that we deliberately wanted to do the show in front of a live audience because that is the essence of what we do. The stage show is always the heart. If anything it was more about us needing to be smaller because we had to remember there were cameras on us."
Jamie: "I think we actively encourage people to drink beforehand!"



How do you choose your celebrity interviewees?
Jamie: "We like to get a broad spectrum of people. We didn't just have other comedians. It was so exciting and fun for us to have people who generally don't have the opportunity to laugh at themselves as often because everyone takes them so seriously. When Charles Dance does an interview on another show it's all about his process as an actor, and when he does a show with us, it's, 'Did you have sex with the Queen ever? Did you want to?'"
Jessica: "Definitely. I think we try to choose people who are relevant to our audience - meaning a cheeky-thinking audience. But most importantly we need someone who is up for it. You need to be willing to laugh at yourself and you have to be willing to cede control for a few minutes. If they have a gameplan in their minds, it always goes out the window after about three questions... We ask them a curveball question and they're forced to behave as themselves, rather than the persona they've made."

Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo as Ronna and Beverly

Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo out of character



Have you got a dream guest you've not yet managed to get on stage?
Jamie: "Royals! Royals royals royals royals royals!"

Any in particular?
Jamie: "Well, listen. We want the prime royals! I don't need Eugenie. I want the first family. I don't want cousins. I would very much like Kate Middleton and/or foetus or baby in lap."
Jessica: "I want a night with Prince Harry. I don't care if he does the show or not."

Do you ever get celebs who are happy to go on the show but their agents say no?
Jessica: "I think the English are so polite that we never get enough information to know why they said no, they just pretend to be busy! You'd be surprised how up for it people are. If you asked me I'd never do it! It's a good time, people tell their friends... you always get a guest from a recommendation from another guest."
Jamie: "I think there's also a really nice cachet to turning up in a different context and showing an alternative comedy audience that you want to play along, that you can play along. We've had people who've been able to explain to their agents and managers afterwards, 'See, I do comedy!'"
Jessica: "Charles Dance is a perfect example. He did our show last summer - he said he'd never really done comedy ever, and someone saw him on that and booked him to play the rock 'n' roll grandfather [in Sky Atlantic's Bad Grandad comedy short].

Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo as Ronna and Beverly

Ronna and Beverly



"He was quoted as saying, 'Because I did Ronna & Beverly they saw me in that and thought I could do comedy'. It was the hugest compliment. He was once of the best guests we've ever had. We always like a handsome man, young or old. Between us, British men are better."

What was it like working with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat?
Jessica: "It was awesome. Sandra's been famous for 20 years or something. She's an icon! You could totally understand if she chose to not look you in the eye or talk to you or anything! She's so cool and so friendly. She's a comedic actress, but what we do is improv, a lot of making things up, which can really throw people off - but she was such an amazing scene partner, such an amazing comedic force."
Jamie: "And Melissa is a powerhouse."
Jessica: "It just doesn't get better in terms of another comedian to do scenes with. She was just awesome, we really love her. We think people are going to be really dazzled by these two, they have amazing chemistry."



You've both appeared in lots of other shows - are there any you'd love to feature in?
Jamie "I think I can say for both of us that we would very much like both to be on the upcoming season of Downton Abbey, but as Ronna and Beverly. Beverly is downstairs and clearly Ronna is upstairs. That's how that works. Or in Game of Thrones as Ronna and Beverly."
Jessica: "I'd like us to be on some panel shows. Everyone's so British on those shows. We know a lot of those comedians now, having been over. I think it would be fun for us to shake up the perspective a little bit on that comedy show universe. I think it'd be really fun for us to go on as ourselves or as Ronna and Beverly."

Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo return to the Soho Theatre as Ronna & Beverly on Thursday (June 13) and Friday (June 14). Tickets are available now.

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