One of the most exciting performers within British entertainment, writer, actor, comedian and podcaster Jess Robinson wasn’t always destined for a career in comedy and instead cut her teeth within the world of musical theatre. As a child, her mum recalls making costumes for her to perform her own performances in their living room. Attending the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, her passion lay in music, with cultivating a strong and versatile singing voice. On graduation, Jess secured the lead role in the theatrical interpretation of Little Voice at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon. This was the first time that Jess had considered playing around with voices in an attempt to mimic a particular character. Jane Horrocks’ voice in the 1998 film is so distinctive that it almost encourages impersonating and therefore Jess’s first impression was born.
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Securing a supporting role in the final two series of the TV incarnations of the BBC’s Dead Ringers offered Jess experience of a successful comedy vehicle. Yet as merely a supporting actor, it prevented her from showcasing her versatility as both an actor and voice artist. This made her hungry to cultivate opportunities for herself and over the subsequent years, set about attending to break the comedy world. Meeting the great Gaby Roslin at BBC Radio London, Jess discovered a great champion of her work and was happy to give her some valuable air time on her Sunday afternoon show. Over the next few years, Gaby would become a significant figure in the direction of Jess’s career and help to make her one of the most creative and exciting performers on the comedy circuit.
In 2022 Jess joined the cast of the Radio 4 Impressionism panel show Gaby’s Talking Pictures alongside fellow Impressionists Luke Kempner and Josh Berry and the cream of British comedy talent including Leigh Francis, Nina Wadia and Marcus Brigstocke. This has challenged Jess to perfect her voices from the great Hollywood era from Audrey Hepburn to Marilyn Monroe as well as covering the majority of the contemporary crop of female actors. She also has refined her interpretations of female singers from Judy Garland and Billie Holiday to Shakira and Lady Gaga in order to perform a mashup of Christina Aguilera’s You’re Beautiful with the Cindi Lauper classic True Colours. This showcased Jess’s range not only as a singer but also as an entertainer to be able to identify the comedy in something that is already quite a remarkable art form.
Returning to TV Impressionism in 2020, Jess was unveiled as a voice in the return of the iconic Spitting Image exclusively on Britain’s newest streaming service BritBox. With so many strong characters within the world of contemporary politics, it seemed the perfect time to lampoon the establishment. Appealing to the international television market, the show aimed to feature high profile figures from across the worldwide cultural and political sphere. This resulted in Jess playing everyone from Adele to Ivanna Trump which expanded the pool of voices which she could perfect. Recording sketches from her home studio in the middle of lockdown was a very bizarre experience for the accomplished performer who is more at home in a theatre or TV studio than she was performing in her own house to just her dog! Yet when she saw the finished series of Spitting Image, it all seemed worthwhile. The future of Spitting Image is currently unknown but hopefully it shall make a return to our screens very soon and allow Jess to showcase the very best of her talents.
Spitting Image wasn’t the only project on Jess’s agenda during lockdown as together with her band Jessington World of Adventures, she entered the podcast universe with the award winning Stars In Their Ears which entices celebrities to take part in improvised sketches and interviews. This also provides her with the opportunity to teach her guests how to perfect a voice of a fellow celebrity. Stars In Their Ears developed quite a following during the first lockdown and was victorious in the 2020 British Podcast Awards which was the ultimate accolade for the woman who has devoted her life to entertaining audiences. Everyone from Gaby Roslin to Robert Rinder have been subjects for episodes of Stars In Their Ears and has been an incredibly fascinating way of interviewing some of our favourite performers in such an original and engaging manner.
Jess Robinson is currently one of the most exciting and in demand performers in Britain. Her new Edinburgh show Legacy runs from the 3rd to the 28th August at The Pleasance Theatre and is Jess’s tribute to female singers and movie stars both past and present. With radio and television projects in the pipeline, there’s much to be excited about for this versatile, creative and prolific performer. From her mum’s living room selling out theatres up and down the land, wherever there’s an audience, Jess is sure to perform. It was a great pleasure to welcome the formidable Jess Robinson onto my podcast and I can’t wait for the next time!