Meggie Foster

The perils of making Diane Abbott jokes

The perils of making Diane Abbott jokes
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I wanted 2020 to be a landmark year for me, so I came up with a killer set of resolutions. This turned out to be quite the existential task. Last New Year’s Eve, I had some spirits to raise my spirits, retreated to my room and started jotting down my big plans. But for millennial house-sharers, moments of privacy tend to be cut short. My flatmates started hammering at the door, demanding I come back to the party. I woke up, our first day into 2020, in a pool of my own drool and discovered I’d scrawled some resolutions on my arm. But on closer inspection, they weren’t so much my goals but rather Mae West quotes I’d drunkenly Googled the night before: ‘I’m gonna stay away from temptation — as long as temptation stays away from me’ and ‘if I have to choose between two evils I’m gonna pick the one I ain’t tried before.’ So, it would seem, I inadvertently egged on this hellish year: where to act on temptation has become illegal and we all suffered a new kind of evil. I’m terribly sorry for wishing on us a year no one will ever forget.

This pandemic has had many strange consequences. One has been to put twenty-something-year-old actresses on the map due to silly stuff they do on the internet. I must admit, this has been to my benefit. My lip-syncing TikTok videos — in which I satirise politicians, celebrities and royals — have taken me from obscurity to becoming ‘Twitter famous’. It’s gone well enough that this summer I was asked to appear as a guest on Lorraine — so I know I’ve ‘made it.’ It would be too easy to simply pick up the famous gaffes and turn them into videos. I like to dig for the rank hypocrisies. I’ve found it’s these videos that do best, where the narrative oozes ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ Highlights include mouthing away to Meghan Markle’s infamous ITV interview — in which she complained that people hadn’t asked if she was okay — dabbing my tears away with a £50 note. 

Or the time when I decided Boris should lecture Theresa May about his freedom-loving country’ while handing her a £10,000 fine for running through fields of wheat during lockdown. 

Then there was lip-syncing along to Keir Starmer’s instance that a leader should ‘never turn’ on their staff, until the staff member in question is Boris Johnson’s (now former) top aide Dominic Cummings. Of course, then, the rules are different.

I found it slightly disconcerting when cabinet members started following my social media accounts, mainly because, despite the contents of my videos, I’m not a very political person. For me, it’s about great characters and great lines. I couldn’t care less what colour rosette they wear. Most people have taken the impersonations as they are meant: playfully. I’ve even been told some politicians are hopeful they’re next in line to get ‘Meggied’ — a phrase born out of (first) lockdown for when I take the piss out of people. But some politicians lend themselves to more content than others. I’ve devoted a lot of time to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. She inspired my comedy alter ego, who swigged booze and smoked fags while echoing her infamous announcement that there had been ‘three hundred thousand, and thirty four, nine hundred and seventy four thousand’ Covid tests in April. 

The video proved so popular it earned me the same number of Twitter followers — including the Home Secretary herself, who swiftly unfollowed me again when I rolled out the character a few more times. I hope Priti knows it’s not personal. No politician is safe from me. Except one: Nicola Sturgeon. As I understand it, as soon as a person hears her dulcet tones, it is a common reaction to immediately start shouting at the television to drown out the noise, while desperately searching for the remote control to make it stop. I’d hate to invoke such a reaction: I’m a comedian, not a sadist.

I live in constant fear of being ‘cancelled’, as I suspect everyone does if they are making the smallest attempt to be funny. If anyone tries to tell you ‘cancel culture isn’t real’ assume it’s part of their comedy routine. It is very real. I did one video of Diane Abbott getting her sums wrong on LBC, depicting her trying to tally up some costs on an abacus.

The only thing I seriously tallied that week were the aggressive and frightful messages I received, for daring to make a joke out of her interview. As mentioned, I’m not a member of any political party. You shouldn’t be able to cancel someone who’s never RSVP’d to confirm — or conform.

This year hasn’t been all bad. In the strangest of circumstances, I managed to kickstart the career I’ve always wanted. And this autumn, I met the boy of my dreams. He wasn’t at all what I expected… completely bald, somewhat crotchety, and all of ten days old. But I’m very lucky that my sister gave birth to my baby nephew in October because I’ve been able to throw all my time and attention at him — a silver lining of my lockdown experience. I’m also trying to think up better New Year's resolutions than last time. What would Priti Patel do? I’m hopelessly stumped. Maybe I’ll leave the burden of prophesying 2021 to others — and spend more time with my family.