Chris and Rosie Ramsey are laughing, and making me laugh, as they tell a story about the other night. “At one point, this guy got up,” says Chris, “and his beef with his girlfriend is about her toenail. He says: ‘She keeps trying to make me cut her massive toenail.’ So we were like, ‘Let us see it then,’ and she got up onstage and came to the sofa with the guests…”
“And she’s absolutely stunning…” says Rosie.
“Stunning lass, gorgeous,” agrees Chris. “And it was her little toe on her right foot…”
“Thicker than it was wide…”
“Like a solid Rice Krispie. And he tries. And the clippers just don’t go down on it.”
“It was,” says Rosie, “brilliant.”
Welcome, gentle reader, to life with the Ramseys. Domestic, honest, intimate, silly, full of vaguely disgusting stories about everyday events you might not recount to your great-aunt, but you would definitely tell a friend. Perhaps you don’t find a Rice Krispie toenail funny, but I’d say you probably would if Chris and Rosie were describing it. It is, as Frank Carson used to say, the way they tell ’em. They are funny people and, though this is not true of all funny people, they are funnier together than apart.
At the moment, they’re bustling around the rooms of a supercool east London house that’s been hired for the photoshoot. “Ooh, these chairs are nice, Chris,” says Rosie, about some outdoor seats. They’re having their own new house done up (a six bed-er in the countryside near South Shields) and are at the garden-fouffing stage. “Not sure about these table edges, though,” she says. “No good for kids.” Chris is interested in the food on offer. “All vegan?” he says. “I’m starting to try that more. Though we did go to a London hotel for breakfast recently and when they said that the chia balls were all sold out, we weren’t that disappointed. We are from the northeast.”
Do you know the Ramseys? If you listen to their weekly podcast, Shagged Married Annoyed, you may well feel – as I do – as though they’re your long-term friends. If you haven’t heard it, let me sell it to you. It’s an hour of them chatting to each other. Yes, there are regular items, such as the “Lucrative sponsor opportunity”, an excuse for them to bitch about something that’s irritating, such as people who comment on how much luggage you have with you when you’re on holiday, or who hold their dogs up for you to talk to when you’re FaceTiming; more importantly, there’s the “What’s your beef?” section where they both bring up something that has annoyed them about the other. Plus, reader’s emails, which provide loads of the fun: the very first episode featured a woman writing in about treating her husband to “his first foursome, next Wednesday”. Really, though, SMA is just an hour of daftness, of the Ramseys being silly and making each other laugh.
Both from South Shields, the pair have been together for 10 years and are parents to two little boys, Robin and Rafe. Chris is a working comedian, appearing on Strictly and Taskmaster, and is currently touring the UK with his one-man show. But the Ramseys’ humour isn’t scripted: it bubbles up and out of their relationship. And it has made SMA one of the most successful podcasts in the UK. Launched in 2019, it immediately zoomed into the iTunes Top 10, where it stayed: it’s the only podcast that has ever stayed in the Top 10 for a whole year. As of last month, it has 100m listeners. When they decided to take the show on tour last year, they sold out Wembley Arena in a day. And then they sold out the O2 (the only podcasters ever to do so: they were given a commemorative plaque).
Now, they’re about to do a BBC chatshow (the toenail story comes from a pilot programme they did the other day). Featuring celebrity guests and an up-for-it audience, it’s already a success. The website crashed when tickets went up online; they set it up again the next day and yes, it crashed again. Chris and Rosie aren’t famous people trying to convince us they’re normal; they’re normal people who have become famous.
“Are we?” wonders Rosie. “I don’t feel like we’re well-known at all. Maybe it’s because we don’t live in the hustle and bustle, or because we do the podcast at home, and you don’t see the results of it all the time… I’m always excited when people come up to us. We try to be nice, and it’s easy because people are nice to us.”
“My mam once saw Colin Firth checking into a hotel,” says Chris, “with his kids and some family and he turned around and looked at her. And she loves Colin Firth. And poor guy, she says to this day he gave her a horrible look.”
Rosie: “He was just busy. He just looked over at a stranger.”
Chris: “She literally has never got over it. That tiny moment where this poor guy is on holiday and just glances at my mam, and my mam takes it utterly personally.”
We settle outside in the spring sunshine, Chris in Ray-Bans, Rosie in big round sunnies, to talk about their telly venture. The show is being filmed in the same studio as Graham Norton’s show and I can imagine a similar vibe: famous people on a sofa, funny audience interaction. “It’s even more about the audience,” says Chris. “The guys have sent beefs in, but they don’t know who’s going to be picked. And we don’t know either. We just take the beef out of the envelope and that’s the first time we see it and we react.”
This is exactly how they did their live show – “for three-quarters of the show, we didn’t know what we’d be doing,” says Rosie. It’s the key to everything, they think.
“If someone says something that’s really disgusting, if you already know what’s going to happen, you’re kind of in on it,” says Chris. “It’s about our bewilderment and dumbfoundment: ‘What the bloody hell is this?’ We don’t over-rehearse. We’re not those kind of people.”
Rosie is excited about the show, but nervous: “It’s a world Chris has been in for a long time, and I haven’t. It’s really new to me.”
Chris: “But I keep telling her she’s got no reason to feel nervous. Some of the lines she came out with at the pilot, off the cuff, so funny, so hilarious… She’s so good at it.”
He’s right; it’s Rosie who makes their show work. There are plenty of witty comedians out there, but not many with a funny life-partner who doesn’t compete (John Richardson and Lucy Beaumont? Though their shows are written as though they’re competitive). Unusually, it was Chris’s audience that demanded Rosie join in: in 2019, when he was promoting his Comedy Central solo show, he did some Facebook Lives from home, and Rosie kept heckling. She proved so popular that when he actually did the show, the audience spontaneously chanted her name. No wonder they thought they might try something together.
At the time Rosie was – and still is – a stay-at-home mum, setting up mother and toddler groups, gritting her teeth through long summer holidays. Before having children, she’d been a performer, dancing and singing in hotels abroad, working as a Pontins’ blue coat, co-hosting a local radio show. She loved it, but had never had huge success.
Born Rosie Winter, she’s the middle child of three, to parents who are “grafters”: a dad who worked for the Prudential, “going round houses, collecting mortgages”, and a mum who was a nurse. At some point, her dad did a masters degree (he now works for the NHS as a drug and alcohol abuse worker); while he did, the family lived on income support. Rosie’s young life was noisy and fun; she has 25 cousins and describes her family as “big, loud, welcoming, loving, would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. No money. But full of fun, always up for a laugh. Cry together, laugh together.” (“Every time they get together it’s like a Christmas party,” says Chris.)
Rosie was an outgoing child, “a show off”, convinced she was going to be an actor or a popstar. “I don’t even know if I was any good, I just loved the spotlight.” She auditioned for London drama schools, but her parents couldn’t afford to send her there; she did open auditions for the West End, but got nothing.
Chris: “Didn’t you get to the final five or something for a Lord of the Rings musical?”
Rosie: “I did! For the Hobbit part.”
This makes Chris howl; he makes a note in his phone. They often do this, to remind them to talk about something in their podcast. One of them will do something silly and notice the other subtly (or not so subtly) jotting it down for later broadcast use.
Chris also grew up in South Shields, close to Rosie, though they didn’t know each other as kids. His parents, he says, are quieter. “They would work during the week, go out Friday, go out Saturday, chill out Sunday. Very organised, very nine to five.” His dad worked at the pit, until the mines all closed and he went to work as a delivery driver; his mum worked for the NHS. They’re both retired now and, along with Rosie’s parents, help the Ramseys out with childcare.
He is an only child – “typical comedian,” says Rosie – who didn’t really know what he wanted to do with his life, though he knew he liked making people laugh. He can remember being 11 or 12, and going on holiday with his parents and meeting some strange posh kids and thinking, “I’ll tell everyone about them when I get back. And when I did,” he says, “there was this moment where all my mates were sitting cross-legged on a driveway and I was standing up next to the fence, on a little patch of grass, and I was telling them all about my holiday, and they were falling about. And something clicked.” He started constructing little routines in his head, but it wasn’t until he left school and was at university that a friend, Carl Hutchinson, now also a comedian, told him about open spots at comedy shows. “It was this moment where someone pulled the curtain back and went, ‘There’s a door here.’ And I just belted through it and never looked back.”
Chris can remember his first show; he told a joke about STIs and Marks & Spencer. It was at the Dog and Parrot in Newcastle. (“It’s near the Arena,” says Rosie, “and every time he does the Arena now, it’s like: ‘I was just over there, the Dog and Parrot.’ Every time. I feel like you have to say it now, because if you don’t say it, it’s all going to go away.”)
Though they remember seeing each other around when they were young (Rosie dated an older guy from Chris’s estate when she was 14), and went to the same sixth-form college, it wasn’t until 2012, when they bumped into each other at a local nightclub, that they got together; once, Rosie said, she realised Chris wasn’t quite as cocky as she’d thought.
Chris appeals to women: his comedy audience has always skewed more female and it’s similar for SMA, especially now Rosie’s there. Fans tend to be younger than the Ramseys, in their early 20s, and what Chris and Rosie are about, very definitely, is bringing them all together.
“Some comedians can walk into a room,” says Chris, “and they can do a massive bit on, like, Brexit. And they can split the room in half, and go, ‘That was good.’ But in my eyes, I think they died on their arse because half those people hated them. It’s clever, but you’re there to make them laugh, dude.”
For this reason, on the podcast they steer clear of divisive topics, like football or politics, though I did notice that in one episode, they brought up the government’s many lockdown cheese and wine parties.
Rosie: “We do talk about politics at home, we’re interested in it. We live in this world and we’re of an age where we’ve got mortgages, we’ve got children. But we just don’t feel like it needs to be in our show. Also, I don’t know about you, but I change my opinion all the time…”
Chris: “But when something is as cut and dried as, they had parties when we weren’t allowed, there can’t be anyone emailing in going, ‘How dare you? They deserved those parties.’ Wine and cheese parties, when people are waving at their grandkids through windows? I’m never going to change my opinion on that.”
Rosie: “There’s nothing to argue about.”
From there we veer off on to Will Smith (they are huge fans, especially Chris: “It was awful, the Oscars, like watching your dad lose his temper properly, like him having a fight in the pub”); how Chris went away on tour just 10 days after Robin was born: “Really, really hard,” says Rosie, “and I tried to do everything myself”; how Chris is stuck in his ways: “I listen to Absolute 80s, I’ve got the Guardians of the Galaxy playlist and I watch Family Guy and UFC on the telly”.
They let each other speak, they chime in with jokes and support; they really do seem to have a good working marriage, and they’re sure the podcast has improved it. After all, serious relationship counsellors often advise couples to have a weekly conference in order to talk through differences.
“Obviously we have rows,” says Rosie. “We don’t go straight to the podcast and laugh about it. You have time to mellow, and then you have a nice day, and you’re friends again. Then being able to talk about it after is really healthy.”
Chris: “It can be really bad in the moment, because Rosie’s better at it then, but, later on, I can pull it apart on the podcast and get an apology. It’s a very clever system.”
Rosie: “Yeah, he comes on the podcast and annihilates me. And I’m like, “But I won this in the moment!”
Chris: “Do you know what I remembered the other day? Years ago, before we did the podcast, your mam would come round, and you would kick off at me because I would roast you in front of people. I’d be like, ‘Sandra, do you see what she’s done with this dishwasher?’”
Rosie: “Yes, you did that all the time. I hated it. Why would you just rip the piss out of me in front of people?”
Chris: “And now we do it for a job!”
The Chris & Rosie Ramsey Show debuts on BBC Two on Monday 16 May at 9pm and on BBC iPlayer
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