Amelia Dimoldenberg is amongst the list of comic stars who are finding fame via YouTube. You may have seen her recently as the deadpan roving reporter on Don't Hate The Playaz, or her guest appearances on The Big Narstie Show, but it's probably still her web series Chicken Shop Date for which she is best known.
As the title suggests, Chicken Shop Date sees Amelia interviewing stars through the medium of a date, in the environs of a fast food restaurant. The show has gone from strength-to-strength, and there are now some exciting plans in place to take the format in additional directions.
We met up with Amelia to find out more about how she developed the format, and whether TV exposure is still important for profile building when you can get millions of views directly on the web.
Hi Amelia. OK, before we start, let's just check our dictaphone is actually recording what you say...
I used to intern at Vice, while I was at uni. I was on the editorial team and was doing loads of phone interviews. They had one of these phones where you plug something in, so you can record the phone call. I did one interview and it didn't record... three times! I had to ring him back twice. It was so mortifying!
Gosh! That actually leads in to our first question. At what point did you decide you were going to aim for a career in entertainment. Or maybe you didn't, and it's an accident you're now on our screens?
I feel like I've always wanted to entertain. Being within the entertainment world is something that's always been an ambition of mine, but I just never really knew in what way. Simon Amstell and Miquita Oliver on Popworld - that was a huge inspiration for me!
So what was the first thing you did?
I was Mary in the reception nativity. That was a big high point in my career actually! I was in Annie at school too - one of the orphans that had a solo.
In secondary school I was someone who maybe didn't have as many friends at the beginning; being funny was a way of being like, "look at me! I'm not all bad, it's fine, you can be my friend!" I guess my funny bone was sort of expanded in secondary school as a result of being a bit of a nerd.
Trying to make friends at school features in the origin story of how most comic entertainers started out.
Yeah, it's very unoriginal of me!
I always wanted to be an entertainer, but never a show off.
So what was your first conscious step then to entertain people outside of school?
So it was Chicken Shop Date. That's the first time I ever did anything on screen.
It started off as a [written] column in a youth-run magazine. When I started there, everyone was so into UK rap and grime. It was the only thing that anyone listened to - I was the posh person at the youth club, by like a mile. It was really great to be around that kind of music because I wasn't as familiar with it before. So that was kind of the reason why I decided to start interviewing rappers, because everyone at the club was listening to rap. So I was like, "obviously, if I'm going to interview anyone, it's going to be these people that everyone idolises."
So, that's how it first started. Then it progressed into the YouTube videos. I put off doing the video for a while because I was like, "oh no, I've never done anything in front of a camera, I don't know if it's going to work as a video, and I'm not professional and, well, why should I be doing this?" But then I really enjoyed my interactions, when I was doing the written articles. I knew that there was funny elements to it, and it was really awkward, and it would be good to see that.
The first YouTube video... How were you feeling?
So the first YouTube video was made by me and my friend from the youth club, Marvin. He'd just got his first job as a video editor, so I was like, "Marvin, obviously you are going to be the editor on this video."
When I did the interviews myself for the articles, I'd just turn up. We wouldn't even ask permission. But now we have the camera crew and it's like, "we probably have to let the boss man know that we are coming." So we traipsed around Farringdon, near where Marvin worked, to find somewhere.
The boss man [of the selected Chicken Cottage] was called Honey and he was so, so sweet and he was like, "Yeah, sure, if you're just an hour that's fine."
Ghetts was the first interviewee. I sitting there I was like, "Well, is he going to come? Is he going to turn up? I hope he comes because... ahhh..." I was stressing out that he wasn't going to turn up, but he was early, so that was also stressful because I was like, "we aren't ready!"
The shop was tiny. We blocked the door. We told the manager "yeah it's fine, people can come in and out." I didn't know about sound, like it has to be quiet for things... Nowadays it's like, "Turn that fridge off! No cooking the chicken, we have to have complete silence!"
The camera was almost blocking the door, so this queue started to form outside of all these people who wanted to get their dinner. People were banging on the window, being like, "let me in, why is the shop closed?" Yeah, that was a bit stressful. Honey was like freaking out: "my customers can't get in, what's going on?"
But overall the first episode was quite smooth, to be honest. I've had people stand me up and I've had things go wrong, so really the first episode was great. And Ghetts was the perfect first guest, because he really set the tone. He was so charismatic, so naturally funny, and nice that it really sort of made it what it is today. I think if I'd had someone else on, who wasn't as confident, then it wouldn't have worked and I maybe would have thought "this isn't right for me."
You're a bit of an ice queen in the videos, would that be a fair label?
Sure, go with it.
I don't know where it came from, but I've always just wanted to make things as funny as possible. I think if you make people interested, you gain their attention. So for me it was like a no-brainer that whatever I did, it should be entertaining.
I was already sarcastic; like in school I got detentions for being rude, for like snapping back at teachers. So, it just was more like an exaggerated version of me. Just me thinking, "oh, if I play this role then it will just make for a better interaction."
I think I've always been so obsessed with being original. Much to my detriment sometimes, because I feel like sometimes you overthink things being really unique and then it just ends up... you're in a spiral and you don't make anything.
But really, I was not interested in doing the same interviews that everyone else does. What's the point? Being an exaggerated version of myself, was the thing that made me different.
That's great. We've watched all the videos trying to spot you smiling...
I take Chicken Shop Date so seriously. I've never cared about anything more than I do about Chicken Shop Date, apart from my family and my friends. So when I'm in the chair, when I'm sitting there with my nuggets in front of me, I'm like: "this has to be fucking good. You have to make sure that you do as much as you can to make this good. If that means not laughing then I just get in the zone for the greater good of the show!"
But obviously I laugh sometimes and we edit that out.
Ahhh! So let's talk about how Chicken Shop Date has grown...
I think it's been a really gradual journey. I started the very first written piece nearly seven years ago. So, to me, it doesn't feel like "all of a sudden I've had success with it". It's been very gradual. I think that's quite good in a way. Because it's made me really explore what the possibilities the format could be.
There's always the chance that when you put stuff online it will go viral. I've seen other people go viral and I've really been so happy that's never happened. Because that's so much pressure to then deliver at the same high level as that one viral thing that happened, which not many people can do.
But Chabuddy G [Asim Chaudhry from People Just Do Nothing] was big for me. Because that got 3 million views, and that's when I first started having people come up to me in the street or whatever, in the uni campus, like "Oh it's the Chicken Shop girl."
Nobody knows my name, it's just "Chicken"! I turn around now whenever I hear chicken. The supermarket is a real bad place for me to go because it's like, "Have they spotted me, or do they just want a roast chicken?"
So who would you like to go on a chicken shop date with next?
Drake is number one. That would be so epic if I got him on. But I kind of feel like if I got him on it would be like, "what should you do after that?", so maybe let's hold off on Drake. But that's a constant I think that my fans want too, because I always talk about Drake and me wanting to get him on the show.
All the people I'd love to get on, they honestly do not do interviews... which is why I want to get them on, but also why it's so hard to get them on the show!
For us, your show has been an introduction to a new type of music too.
I love UK Rap and Drill and I love all of the music from the artists that I've had on the show. Hundred percent. I feel like the scene now, where it is, it's so big right now. All young people are listening to it, it's charting, it's like ... well, it is pop music!
It's really cool for me because from the beginning UK rap and grime was popular but it didn't have the mainstream success that it does now. So to grow Chicken Shop Date at the same time as the popularity of the genres is amazing. So, whilst I am interviewing rappers, I'm now also interviewing the biggest pop stars in the UK right now.
Will you ever 'date' people outside that music scene?
I'd love to expand and interview different people. I just interviewed [football stars] Jesse Lingard and Bernardo Silva.
That's one way, I think, you could expand Chicken Shop Date. Initially, it is through the talent I'd get on there. The other way is by expanding the format. I've tried to get it on TV, but it's just not really working.
I'm having some videos come out on my channel this month where you see me outside the Chicken Shop. I've never done that before.
But, that said, at the end of the day, it works so well with rappers and I love them. I just love the music and the people and it's so nice and everyone is so talented and I just think that, at the end of the day, it's always going to go back to that.
It's interesting you mentioned TV ambitions for the format. The biggest YouTube stars are now getting more viewers than BBC One. Do you need TV?
No, that's what I'm now thinking. When you get people emailing you, channels, it's only natural that you are like, "oh my god, obviously I'm going to take that meeting and obviously I'm going to try to get on TV"... YouTubers are getting views like you just said, but I still really feel like there is this thing with TV that it's just seen as more respectable, even though the views can be less.
I just feel like once you're on TV it's like "oh you've made it now", even if you've been getting millions of views on YouTube. I think it's still going to take a while for that to change.
I'm very happy with Chicken Shop Date being on YouTube, and there is a reason why Chicken Shop Date is still on YouTube: all my audience is there, like all the young people are there. It's just the best place for it to be. YouTube is such a great platform, it's totally free and anyone can see it. It's so easy.
There's not as much money as in TV of course. But I work with brands now and brands have money and they are open to commissioning things. Obviously working with a brand is different because you have to use their message in someway, but I think you can find a way to do it well.
Going back to what you said before, yes maybe Chicken Shop Date is not right for TV ... but there are projects which I have been a part of and I want to be a part of that I think do work for TV, you know?
I loved filming that. I've never done a studio show before. It's amazing to be a part of an ensemble cast, I'm just so used to doing everything by myself. That [roving reporter] role was made specifically for me, which is incredible.
I really want it to get a second series. It's a really fun show and I feel like the response of everyone whose seen it has been like, "it's so fun, it's so great and it's different."
It is so lively and fresh! It makes most of the other panel shows feel very slow and stuffy. It's clearly made by a young team.
It is made by us, we have so much input. I wrote for my bits with a comedy producer, and was very involved, and it was very much a conversation with everyone in the cast.
Things are certainly going in the right direction for you. You're now signed to James Grant Management, the agency that looks after some of the biggest names in entertainment, from Ant & Dec to Leigh Francis...
I know. It's pretty amazing; it's a big game changer getting management really. Because for so long you are doing everything by yourself, trying to make all the connections by yourself. I did that for a long time and it served me really well but now that I've got people fighting for me, that's amazing. Just for your own piece of mind, if anything. Just that you know there is someone else that's trying to do a good job, it's not just you. That's really, really nice.
Talking of exciting, you've just announced a big event series - 'The Hot Sauce Tour' - in partnership with mobile network VOXI...
Yes, with the help of VOXI, I am taking Chicken Shop Date to the next level... three brand new episodes will have their own live show attached. After the Chicken Shop Date episode drops I will host a performance by the artist to an audience of fans.
I am going to continue to showcase my favourite talent in the UK scene - basically the ones I have the biggest crush on - but now combining online interactions with real life ones.
The Hot Sauce Tour will have the hottest artists and be the hottest ticket in town. This is the biggest thing Chicken Shop Date has done so far and I'm super excited.
Chicken Shop Date is on YouTube
The Hot Sauce Tour will see events take place in London, Manchester and Birmingham in early 2019, showcasing the incredible music talent the UK has to offer. It will also include some unexpected surprise cameos along the way.