Poppy Hillstead Enters Our Chat
As series three of her podcast drops, Poppy Hillstead talks Pixar, mumblers, BTS fans and people’s enduring unease with the word ‘clitoris’
When the hugely popular Gossipmongers podcast re-emerged in September 2020, people had just one question: Where’s Poppy?
Poppy Hillstead, one of the pod's original host trio, eventually broke her silence on Twitter to say that she’d been kicked off the show via her co-hosts' agents, and all of the old episodes taken down without prior notice.
Such a departure would surely send anyone into a spin, but having spoken to Hillstead, it doesn’t seem to be playing on her mind.
Hillstead’s name, face and voice are undoubtedly front and centre of her podcast Poppy Hillstead Has Entered the Chat. Does it reflect a desire to realize a project totally her own, and does it mark that Hillstead has truly arrived onto the comedy scene?
“Yeah, maybe,” she says. “I like that. Because, you know, I used to do behind-the-scenes stuff in comedy. I used to run live gigs and I always wanted to do my own stuff.”
Her new podcast, which has just entered its third season, has made its own splash by being a pretty ingenious take on the form. It consists of real conversations Hillstead has had with anonymous people in chat rooms, re-enacted with the help of fellow comedians. It’s a rare gem in a market dominated by cosy chats between friends.
“Because I come from an animation background originally, I like when you’re talking to someone and you can’t see them and you kind of get this whole visual thing going on in your mind. So then I thought ‘this could be quite cool as an animation’,” she says.
By no means has she turned her back on the idea, “but it’s just hard [...] because I wanted to do like these big, full animations, but [I’d] need to have, like, a whole team.”
So instead she made a podcast, and the time she has saved has left her free to explore other projects. She says: “I’m doing a web series as well, that we’re going to start filming as soon as all this corona stuff wraps up. I’ll be writing it and acting in it.”
But with 12 episodes of ...Entered the Chat behind her, she has finally started animating some of the clips. “I like stuff like Dr. Katz, and [Aardman’s] Creature Comforts," she says. "I love animating little uhmms and ahhhs and people mumbling shit. It really makes me laugh. You don’t really see a lot of Pixar or Disney characters umming and ahhing. [Imagine] a whole team of, like, 200 people trying to animate an uhmm.”
Has Hillstead’s trolling people improved her own troll detector perhaps?
“I suppose so. I’ve definitely had people being so weird with me that I’m just like, ‘oh they’re winding me up and I quite like it.’ At the start of the second series I had Rich Fulcher [of Mighty Boosh fame] play this guy that I met in a paranormal chatroom and to this day I have absolutely no idea if he was trying to wind me up. He was telling me about this big, bald man that he kept seeing running through the woods and that he didn’t know if it was an alien or not. I was absolutely shitting it.”
But scarier than any of that, says Hillstead, are fandoms. “I did attempt to do a K-Pop episode but I’m too scared, d’you know what I mean? The K-pop fanbase, towards BTS and stuff, are so angry [that] I think I’d be in danger for the rest of my life. I can’t face that, I’ll get slaughtered.”
Above all else though, Hillstead’s main fear is that she may be getting numb to the smut of it all. After having given a YouTuber she really admires (but won’t name) a script to read for the show, he had to admit to her that he didn’t think he could do it. “Mark Haines ended up doing it and I was like, ‘You okay saying clitoris?’ I think people should get more used to saying the word clit.”
Poppy Hillstead Has Entered the Chat Series 3 is out now; new episodes are available weekly via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts