Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment! ★★★

Comedian Rosie Holt returns to the Edinburgh Fringe to expose the increasingly thin line between politics and entertainment

Rosie Holt caught the imagination of the public during the pandemic. Taking advantage that many politicians had to zoom their contributions in to television shows, her own piece-to-camera videos on Twitter captured the zeitgeist perfectly.

As a putative Tory MP, Holt would parody the endless line of government figures who would defend the indefensible, never answer a direct question and shamelessly peddle sophistry to avoid being held to account. Such was the comedian’s skill at skewering the dissembling of the political elite, she frequently would be on the receiving end of furious reactions – as people believed she was an actual MP!

Images by Karla Gowlett

Advancing the premise that the worse the political career, the more lucrative the subsequent entertainment opportunities, Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment! explores the ever-growing breed of politicians such as Hancock, Dorries, Farage and possibly the unlikeliest of them all Rees-Mogg as they swap Westminster for a career in the entertainment industry. 

The first of her trio of characters is Harriet Langley Swindon, a right-wing broadcaster and opinionist, author of the book “Wokies, You Wankers”, enters to Lawrence Fox’s single being played on a loop. After bemoaning the fact that she once ruffled Boris Johnson’s hair and still doesn’t have a life peerage, she launches into a “Deep breath – are you okay?” monologue where her tribute to a former broadcast co-presenter sees her determinedly throw him under the bus Willoughby-style. She lambasts the contemporary ruining of history by going on about the past, citing the National Trust as a prime example: insisting that she goes to stately homes to stare at chairs, not to learn things. 

As Tory MP Rosie Holt, having successful raised her profile on I’m A Celebrity, she has decided to venture into a new enclave in the world of showbiz – she attempts her first stand-up set in order to Bring Back Banter. Relating how her fiancé proposed to her, when he got down on one knee to her, she was terrified that he had gone all Black-Lives-Matter. Recognising how brave she is being by entering “the woke den of comedy” who now run the entertainment industry, she reminds us how so many right-wing comedians have had to give up being funny. Included in her set, How many immigrants does it take to change a light bulb? None, we can change our own light bulb, ban the boats.

Her third character, left-wing comedian Rosie Holt, wants to be the new political Fleabag. Auditioning to impress a BBC comedy producer, her set offers with a right-wing punchline, then a left-wing punchline, then an attempted centrist punchline to suit the balance required of the Corporation’s comedy output. Although it aims to explore how readily even the most left-wing comics will sell out for some TV exposure to advance their career, it’s all a bit niche. The key to good character comedy is specificity but her left-wing comedian feels far too wooly to work. 

There are many funny lines in That’s Politainment– and one genius moment where the right-wing TV host bemoans all these right-wing MPs coming over here and taking our jobs on channels like GB News and Talk TV – but overall the show doesn’t land as well as you might hope. The nature of satire is that it needs to be a bit ahead of the game. It feels culturally that we are at the absolute fag end of these kind of politicians. When a piece of political detritus such as Lee Anderson can be Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and is given his own TV show, you know the joke has gone too far. How can comedians find anything to mock when politicians are more ludicrous than any parody can manage?

While Holt’s online videos are a quick, satisfying puncturing of the latest political turpitude, an hour-long show of such material leaves you feeling vaguely depressed about the world. 

It’s a Starmerist fudge ★★★ 3 stars

Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment! Tickets

Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment! runs at Pleasance Courtyard - Pleasance Two

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