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REVIEW: A Conversation with Joe Lycett and Jess Phillips
Culture critic Holly Reaney enjoys an evening of conversation between comedian Joe Lycett and Jess Phillips MP.
Maybe not quite a Paxman inquisition but an interview definitely not out of character for Birmingham comedian Joe Lycett as he chatted politics, comedy, feminism and Birminghamness with the MP for Yardley Jess Phillips at The Town Hall on Wednesday 11th October.
“'Joe Lycett asked the most hard-hitting questions of Jess Phillips...'
Interviewing a politician is a daunting prospect, so where do you start? Google, obviously. And so the interview got underway with a series of insightful questions from a source which I can only assume that Paxman uses himself, an incredible article entitled ‘What Are The Questions We Need to Ask Our Political Leaders’ curtesy of IndianYouth.net. Joe Lycett asked the most hard-hitting questions of Jess Phillips including ‘Who are you and why do you want to represent me?’ and the less applicable but more entertaining ‘what are your plans for the future of India?’. Joe Lycett facilitated a hilarious conversation which was more like a living room chat rather than a staged event and you felt part of the conversation rather than a member of the audience. References to people’s tweets and audience participation was actively encouraged leading to some incredible moments of spontaneity, none more so than Jess sending a text to Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn. Well, what text would you send to Jeremy Corbyn given the chance? Though the burrito, hair flick and poo emoji were all suggested but Jess finally decided on the magnificent unicorn emoji (with no additional explanation), after some not so gentle encouragement from Joe Lycett.
The reason why Jess Phillips has the reputation for being the Birmingham people's politician was evident from the moment she sat down. She is Brummie and proud, her accent is a rarity in parliament and her commitment to making this country and city a better place radiated through every discussion. She is unashamedly one of us, something some politicians both repel and desire in equal quantity as they attempt to construct a persona which is so artificial that we will never trust them, let alone like them. Jess Phillips has no such personas; her characteristic relatability when discussing her dream to be on Strictly Come Dancing was paired with genuine politician discussion surrounding the challenges of being a woman in parliament as well as about the representation of the trans community within Westminster.
“'A fabulous evening of hilarity and spontaneity, alongside honest political and social discussion...'
Striking the perfect balance between heartfelt political discussion and Brummie banter, Joe Lycett facilitated a multifaceted conversation which was fascinating to watch unfurl. From an opening question which encapsulated the general frustration over the bin-strikes the conversations exploded, splintering into discussions of internet trolls, Joe Lycett’s antics on BBC Radio 1 and the Kurdish political situation. Despite the variety, nothing felt awkward or misplaced, it all seamlessly blended together as a genuine conversation between friends is prone to do. A special mention must be made to the sign interpreter for the show, Claire, who joined in with the hilarity, humouring Joe and Jess as they got her to sign phrases and place names, the sign for Cockermouth is a entertained as you would imagine.
A fabulous evening of hilarity and spontaneity, alongside honest political and social discussion, as well as a brilliant manifestation of Birmingham’s city, culture and community.