• Host of ‘Trip Hazard’, Rosie Jones, on the island of Anglesey. (© Studio 71 for Channel 4)Source: © Studio 71 for Channel 4
Comedian Rosie Jones has become a fixture of British television and is noted for promoting people with disability through her own cerebral palsy. She speaks to SBS about ‘Trip Hazard’, her new light-hearted travel series.
By
Grant Watson

11 Jan 2022 - 9:59 AM  UPDATED 19 Jan 2022 - 9:38 AM

“My favourite scene of the whole series was when I broke a sausage machine,” says comedian Rosie Jones. She is talking about her new travel series Trip Hazard, in which she and a range of celebrity guests try out British tourist attractions. “People have said to me, ‘Did you do that on purpose?’ and I’m, like, ‘No!!’ It was over a year ago and I still have nightmares about it.”

Jones is a regular fixture on British panel shows including The Last Leg, 8 out of 10 Cats and QI. She has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and even co-wrote an acclaimed episode of the Netflix comedy-drama Sex Education. Now she can add destroying someone’s antique sausage machine to her growing resume.

“There was a moment when I thought, ‘Thank God I’m disabled,’ because I think if I wasn’t disabled, he’d have been very angry.”

Rosie Jones has cerebral palsy, a disability that she has actively embraced. Her delivery while performing is based around it; she makes her disability work for her. “Because I speak so slowly, people try to get to the punchline before I do, and I think they might already have got it, so I make sure that I write jokes that don’t answer that way and people are caught off-guard.”

Seeing Jones perform for the first time often leads to surprise. Not only does she seem constantly happy, but she also takes satisfaction in subverting expectations. “That’s more of a deliberate decision,” she says, “I feel even now people see me walking on stage, wobbling on, and they go ‘Aww, isn’t she adorable? Isn’t she cute? Isn’t she like an innocent creature?’ So, when I come out with all this filth, they’re taken aback from it which is (a) funny, but (b) me going ‘No! I’m not a cute disabled lady. I’m a 31-year-old woman with sexual thoughts and desires. I’m just like you, and the fact that you’re underestimating me? You know what? Fuck you!’”

“I mean, my nanna doesn’t like it,” she admits. “My grandmother tells me, ‘Do you need to swear so much?’, and I’m like, ‘Nanna, I fucking do, because I’m changing society one fucker at a time.’”

It is likely Jones’ subversive tendencies that led to Trip Hazard. It is a travel show, although the comedy is never far behind, and focuses on small rural destinations in the UK. The most striking realisation when watching the series is that people with disability simply never turn up in these kinds of programs. Jones says: “So, I loved how it came about, because you’re in lockdown number one. In the UK we’ve had about 82 lockdowns, where the government goes, ‘We’re okay – no we’re not, we’re going back in.’”

During the first lockdown, she left London to return home with her parents in Yorkshire. “I think on some level I always resented where I lived because it was small and quiet, and boring. Very boring. Going back there in lockdown as an adult, I fell in love with it again. It was there that I contacted my very good friend and I asked ‘Can we make a travel show about Britain, and can we not make it moody and dull? Can we just celebrate how great Britain is?’”

With broadcaster Channel 4 on board, and yet another lockdown on the horizon, time was of the essence. “We actually filmed all four episodes in 11 days, which is unheard of. But I loved it! It was like a big adventure, and we went from place to place. You probably heard that everywhere in Britain is cold and rainy and windy, and you’d be right – it is! But for some reason, for the majority of the series – especially when we were in Wales – it was beautiful weather. So, by the end of the 12 days I was absolutely knackered, but there was something really special in the fact that we filmed all four episodes one after another.”

Rosie Jones’ public profile has enabled her to speak up on issues of disability and representation in the UK. “I don’t know the statistics in Australia,” she says, “but in the UK 22 per cent of the population have a disability. When you think that it’s more than one in five, that isn’t nearly represented in the media. Disability-wise we need to speak out; we need to speak about it more. We need to get the public representation that is fair.”

Does she feel pressure being such a visible spokesperson for disability rights? “It’s funny, that, and it changes day by day because also I’m gay, and also I’m a woman, so I feel like I have a lot on these five-foot-one shoulders. The thing I’ve got to remember is first and foremost, I am a comedian – that’s it. My job is to tell jokes and be funny, and then definitely this year and last year through the pandemic I’ve made sure to tell jokes to keep morale high because no one wants me to be a doctor and I wouldn’t be a good vaccinator, but the thing I can do to keep us all going is make everyone laugh, and hopefully with Trip Hazard I’ve done that.”

It is clear in speaking to Jones that she is only getting started. More comedy, writing and activism are clearly on the horizon. More besides, with her not only adding travel presenter to her list of achievements but actor as well; in 2021 she guest starred on the popular medical drama Casualty. The future looks bright – with hopefully fewer broken antiques along the way. “I’m still thinking about a way to repay the poor man,” she says, “because he was so sad.”

Trip Hazard: My Great British Adventure premieres with a double episode on Monday 17 January at 8.30pm on SBS VICELAND. The final two episodes air on Monday 24 January. Episodes will be streaming at SBS On Demand after they go to air. Start with episode 1:

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