Even if you don’t know her name (and you should), you might recognise Rachel Parris from her viral videos. The undeniable star of the BBC’s topical comedy show The Mash Report, the comedian has brought charm, wit and most importantly awareness to topics such as sexual harassment on her segments on the show, and racked up over 10 million views doing so. Hell, she even got Piers Morgan to angrily tweet about a piece she did on his Trump interview, so she must be doing something right.
We caught up with multi-talented comedian, to find out what’s it’s like going viral, and her absolute career dreams.
Your Mash Report segments have been so popular. When you first started working on them did you ever imagine they’d go viral?
“No, not at all. Not even slightly! It’s been a total shock for all of us. With the first series, it did really well and people seemed to like it. They released a few things that went a bit viral, but there’s been nothing like this series. I’ve put things online before that have only got like 8000 views in over 5 years or something, so, yeah, it’s amazing and very surprising.”
What is it like now when you’re scrolling your Twitter feed and keep seeing yourself in there?
“Really exciting; but also very unnerving – it’s quite scary. I’m really not used to it. There’s been some very good things about it, like I’ve spoken to loads of new people and I’ve got loads of new Twitter followers, and that’s really nice; but when you’ve got a complete stranger in Ohio talking about you, it’s like, this is so mental that we’re talking about this. I know it’s TV, but at the same time you don’t foresee that so many people all over the world are going to see it, and have an opinion on it.”
You’re putting forward these really important issues in a humorous way. Do you think that helps people who may not understand why they’re so important?
“I hope so. That’s the goal. I mean, the number one goal is to make people laugh, that’s definitely the first aim; but aside from that, when we discuss which topics to talk about, the second goal is to try and make a point about it. Like all satire, we’re trying to address things, That needs somebody to say “let’s talk about this” and so, I do think raising thinks in a jokey way, and a not-angry way, what with the persona, it never shouting and never irate, and I think that’s a way of sweeping the anger under the carpet and presenting it in a funny way.”
How do you pick what you discuss on the show?
“It varies from week to week. So the sexual harassment one I wanted to do, and I pitched it to the team. And I went away and wrote it, they [the writing team] wrote theirs, and we kinda smushed them together! It’s very much a team effort, but the sexual harassment one I certainly pitched, and Trump-Morgan one was more from the team, in terms of the idea of doing it; but as soon as they said it I went and watched the interview and was like “yes, I want to talk about this! I have a lot to say.”
And with the Trump-Morgan sketch, did you expect Piers Morgan to respond?
“I wasn’t surprised – we had foreseen that he would respond, given that he so often responds to things about him, so of course he would respond to that! It was interesting what he said, because he’s an intelligent man (annoyingly) and I think he has a way of explaining things to his followers in order to stir up certain feelings.
But I wouldn’t want to respond to him [on Twitter] as I don’t think his followers or the people on the Twitter feed are the people I would want to get into an argument with as I don’t think it’d be worth having. I would be happy to speak to him more about it, I just don’t think Twitter is the place for it.”
When did you first discover a love of comedy?
“When I first started doing improv, which was when I was about 22. That was when I first thought of it as an option as well. I’d always liked having a laugh with my friends, and I’d done comedy in plays; but then my friends asked me to join this improv troupe and it went well and I started performing with them. And it was great – it was like, they’re laughing and they’re laughing at something I’ve said! That was the first time I thought I could be funny on stage. And it wasn’t until a couple of years later when I tried doing standup, and it was definitely scarier as you’re on your own, and I remember doing 20 minutes for my first ever standup gig which is insane! And that first gig, when I got that first laugh, I thought this works!”
What was it like that first time you walked onto the stage?
“I was so nervous; I still get really nervous now. Less so, but I still have gigs when I’m literally shaking in my boots, and that never really leaves you.”
Tell me about your live show, Keynote?
“That’s all about me, in real life, being asked last year to go back to my old school in Loughborough and do an inspirational speech, which I find hilarious, the idea of me trying to give this graduation speech, like some kind of role model. So I wrote the show and performed it in Edinburgh, before I had to go back and do it. So when I did it in Edinburgh last year and all the lead up to it, was all like “what should I say” and what can you say in a Keynote with the world being as it is. And we go through the women’s march, and sex, and drugs and feminism, and all the things we have to think about. So it’s got a lot of different stuff in it! And now I’ve rewritten it for the Soho Theatre. It’s got songs in it and videos; it’s got a bit of everything!”
And finally, do you have, absolute career aim of something you’d love to achieve?
“Much like Tim Minchin, I’d love to write and appear in a West End Musical. That’s the dream.”
Rachel is touring ‘It’s Fun To Pretend’ from September www.rachelparris.com tickets are now on sale