Jessica Fostekew is hoarding all the Mini Eggs

Talking eco chocolates, embarrassing toffees and sexy beetroot juice with the stand-up who’s putting her pedal to the Mettle

If turning 40 is a landmark, Jessica Fostekew isn’t slowing down to admire the view. “I’m doing the opposite,” she laughs. “I’m speeding up. There are all these things I want to do now, and that’s really exciting. But what a shame I didn’t fall in love with PE when my body was younger. I’m now of an age where I recently pulled a muscle in my shoulder from playing Paper, Scissors, Stone…”

Ever since her 2019 show, Hench, turned female weightlifting and her own birth story into the talk of The Fringe, Fostekew has been picking up speed. Guesting on Live At The Apollo and QI, starring in Motherland and Cuckoo, co-hosting The Guilty Feminist and launching her own podcast, Hoovering… the last few years have been gruelling enough to become the focus of her new show, Mettle.

“It’s a show about trying really hard for the sake of trying, and being too cool to feel really passionate about something… and being prepared to be rubbish at something,” she says. “We’re so good at saying to kids, ‘All I want from you is to try’, but I think we forget to tell ourselves that as adults. We’ve become so much more goal focused.”

Not that having a 50-date national stand-up tour isn’t an impressive enough goal to celebrate – even if it is slightly terrifying. “It’s quite rare that you get the big feels. It’s kind of awful and brilliant in equal measure. I love it. I live for it. And if I wasn’t a bit scared I think it would mean that I didn’t care enough. And I really care.”

We got stuck in a lift with Jessica Fostekew to ask what else drives her – from Dawn French and Rik Mayall to a car boot full of corner shop snacks.


Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with? 

Claudia Winkleman or Fury from Gladiators

Did you watch The Traitors

Of course I did. And I think she’s just sound. I read an interview with her recently where she basically said, ‘I’ve been doing this job for 100 years so I think I’m probably okay at it – but none of the shows I do would lose anything if I wasn’t there’. And I thought… Oh my. We live in a world now where everybody feels under so much pressure to love ourselves. I flippin’ love it whenever anyone still has a modicum of humility or self-deprecation about them, especially a national treasure like Winkleman. She lives in a house without any full-length mirrors. She sounds like a badass parent. I think she’s just naturally incredibly funny. And I think she’s brilliant at her job. Yeah, so I’d love to be stuck in a lift with her. I think we’d have a right laugh.

And Fury from Gladiators

She plays rugby for Exeter and her real name is Josie. Not that I’ve spent too much time on her Instagram… But if she does want to get married, that is also fine. I’ll just quickly check with my current partner if they’re up for opening up the marriage, but I think they’ll probably be fine with it. She has a great combination of incredible fitness and sportsmanship. She was great on the show last Saturday, and I had some really strong feelings about what a great guy she was. If she ever wants to, like, hold hands or whatever, we’ll be best friends.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

Andrew Tate or Legend from Gladiators. I’ve managed to largely avoid any details about Andrew Tate, because I’ve only got the one short, sweet life. But my partner was watching the documentary about him recently and I kept hearing bits of it. He said there isn’t any female that he can’t control and that “Females exist on Earth to be controlled by men”. I think if I was in a lift with him, he wouldn’t survive that journey. Even if it’s just a couple of floors. And then Legend from Gladiators, because it feels like he’s sort of based his whole character on Andrew Tate. 

What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?

It’s embarrassing. I was in an ITV drama comedy series called The Trouble with Maggie Cole, and the lead part was Dawn French, one of my idols. I was only in a few scenes, as usual, Johnny Five Scenes here. Anyway, the first time I was in the same room as Dawn I just couldn’t think of anything to say. I didn’t want to risk saying anything weird, or anything too sycophantic, so I just went silent. I had a fictional son in this show, and I was stood with him just off to the side of the set. Dawn came over, all lovely, and starts chatting away to this kid. I was stood there thinking, “At some point, I’ve got to speak… I’ve got to say something”. Then she asked us if we wanted a toffee – she had this bag of Eclairs in her bag. The kid took one and I said, “No, thank you.” Finally, I thought, I’d said something! But then I was thinking, “Why have I said no?… I do actually want the toffee.” So I said, “I will have one actually, yes, please, I will have one, please, thank you…” I did it in a weird way. She gave me one and I put it in my mouth. And as I was doing it, I just started going, “Oh my God, this is so nice, this is nicest toffee I’ve ever had. Oh, God, I love this toffee. Thanks for my toffee…” I just couldn’t stop talking. I was overpraising a very generic sweet so much that I had to walk away. I just walked off and left this national treasure, the star of the show, alone with a child actor who I was meant to be chaperoning. 

Jessica Fostekew's sexist toddler

What was the last gig or show that you went to?

I went to an inclusive queer punk rock wrestling cabaret night called Eve Wrestling. It was awesome. It’s in an incredible venue in a warehouse called Big Penny Social in Walthamstow. It was so cool. I can’t wait to go again when I’m not gigging. It was technically research for a new series of my radio show, Sturdy Girl Club, but I just want to go every month now. It was utterly joyful and full-on wrestling as well. 

What’s on your rider?

My real rider or my dream rider? 

Your real rider.


Your dream rider?

Some nice alcohol-free beers. I want some Brooklyn Special Effects. Some Minstrels. I want blueberries and bananas. I want original Doritos. I want a salt and vinegar Graze box. I want some Barebells soft protein salted peanut caramel bars – the best protein bar that’s ever been invented so far. I want those Marks & Spencer cans that are just called Juicy. I want the one with rhubarb in it. And that’s only on the assumption it would be inappropriate to ask for hot food. 

I don’t think any of that is too unachievable for your real rider. 

Can you speak to my tour manager? 

What did the 12-year-old you imagine you’d be doing now?

At 12, I wanted to be an architect. But at 13, an uncle or an aunt asked me what sort of buildings I’d design. And I said I didn’t know. Then they asked me if I’d ever designed a building and I said no. So I went upstairs, had a go, and I got bored. 

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

I’ve been given loads of absolutely toxic advice. In comedy, the worst advice I was given was by a man called Peter who runs a club that’s been going since the beginning of time. He had dinosaurs doing open mics. He’s at The King’s Head in Crouch End. It’s a lovely comedy club, and he’s a lovely man, but he did give me some diabolical advice when I was brand new. He said “It’s really obvious you’re an actor – you need to decide between stand-up and acting. Never let a stand-up audience know that you can act.” And that was the worst advice I was ever given because for years I listened to it. And what a waste of being able to embody a character, or to move and use the stage well, or to be able to colour in the pictures in a story in a way that an actor can. Of course there can be a crossover between stand-up and acting. The better version of the same advice would have been saying that stand-up is different to acting and you have to connect to the audience. It’s not a monologue, it’s a conversation. And you have to address that. But that’s not what he said. And he was fundamentally wrong. 

Jessica Fostekew's feminist flirting

What’s your most controversial food opinion?

I like loads of stuff that people think is rank. I genuinely like beetroot juice. It makes me feel like a big sexy vampire. I like chucking loads of seeds on things too – that annoys everyone around me. Oh, God, I’m worried that I’m just confessing to be annoying, rather than gross.

Beetroots and seeds are both pretty healthy choices though. 

Yeah, what a nerd! But I also like loads of stuff that’s not good for me too. Here’s a confession – at Christmas, Quality Street bought out a bar called Collisions, which was basically just a load of green triangles smooshed on top of that big purple one. These are the two best Quality Streets in one bar. I caught on really early that this was just going to be a Christmas thing, so I purchased every single bar in south-east London. My glove box is full of them. Every nook in my home. I do it when Easter comes around with Cadbury Mini Eggs too – come October, I’ll open the car boot and find a pack, and they’ll have gone all dusty and flacid-shelled.

Did you have an opinion on the new paper wrappers for Quality Street?

Love them. Of course I love them because I want to have grandchildren that can breathe normal human planet air. It blew my mind how many people got annoyed over that. Did you see that lady on Twitter? She went nuts because she said she wanted the wrappers to be shiny in her hand. I’ll tell you what will be shiny madam – the last gasping dead Orca, unless we start using paper instead of plastic on our confectionery.

Which film have you rewatched the most times? 

I’m gonna have to go right back. When I was about 10 years old, there was a year where I watched Drop Dead Fred every single day. It’s a brilliant film, and it stands the test of time as well. I watched it recently with my son and I still love it. Rik Mayall is fantastic. There are other films I’ve obviously watched a lot as an adult, I’ve seen Die Hard a lot, but it’s not up there with the Drop Dead Fred numbers.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

The first job I ever had was in a pub that my dad used to drink at. I was 11, and I got 50p an hour for carrying people’s pizzas out to them. I worked with a girl, I think her name was Lisa, who wasn’t very bright. I mean, obviously, there was no training involved, we were just told, “Carry the pizza over and put it on their table”. An adult would take the pizza out of the oven, slide it into a cardboard box, and we would walk it over to the people sitting at the tables in the pub garden. Lisa carried it over and slid it out of the box directly onto the tables… But yeah, that’s the worst job I ever had. Mainly because of the wage. 

What’s the skill that no one else knows that you’re great at?

I think I’m quite good at driving. I’m quite good on a reverse park. Obviously, ideally, when no one’s watching. And that’s why no one knows about the skill.

Do you have any superstitions?

Certain venues that I’ve played quite a lot, like Soho Theatre in London, I have to walk a specific route from Charing Cross station to the venue. Otherwise, that’s bad luck. If there was something blocking the route, like roadworks or something, I’d have to climb over the barrier and walk through the rubble. I think the only other thing I do that’s superstitious is that I have a lucky cubicle in every toilet I’ve ever used more than once. You know like when you go into a restaurant where the menu doesn’t change, like a Wagamama or something, and you have the thing you always have? I’ve got that with toilet cubicles. If there’s a new cubical I won’t risk it. Just stick with what you love. Even if it’s just for a wee.

Jessica Fostekew is now touring her new show, Mettle. Find tickets here