14 Dec Chicken Shop Date has racked up millions of views but Amelia Dimdoldenberg doesn’t plan to stop there
Chicken Shop Date’s take on proceedings involves Amelia Dimoldenberg, an awkward host, going on dates with high-profile guests to ask them a bunch of critically-essential, life-changing, vital questions like ‘what is a skeng and why do you trust it?’. The viral YouTube series is known for uncomfortable questions, rappers being put on the spot and interviews you don’t usually see elsewhere.
All of this has contributed to Chicken Shop Date amassing a huge following. The show began as a written feature in a magazine four years and launched its first video interview to the tune of just 1000 views in a week, but has now racked up over 8 million views. The first ‘seasoning’ has seen over 2.1m views, the second 4.2m and the first four videos of the third season have brought 1.7m views, with over 70,000 YouTube subscribers. By this point, every single episode of Chicken Shop Date has racked up a minimum of 200,000 views, with two episodes, AJ Tracey and 67, topping the million mark.
Chicken Shop Date’s guests include Dave, Maya Jama, Kurupt FM, Cadet, Ghetts and Krept & Konan, with those recorded dates providing a strong platform to reach new audiences too. Amelia has piled up millions of views through presenting work with VICE and the NHS, has a radio show on Rinse FM and writes for The Guardian. Outside the show, there’s a lot going on too.
Chicken Shop Date is what most people know Amelia Dimoldenberg for, but the popular show is a foundation of sorts for her to actualise her wider goals. Plugsville caught up with Amelia to discuss the show’s roots and where she plans to take things.
How did the idea for Chicken Shop Date come about?
I used to be part of a youth club in Royal Oak, and there we made a magazine. It was by under-21-year-olds and you could write about whatever you wanted. It was mainly about music and fashion, and everyone there was listening to rap and grime. I had no idea about either, rap or grime, but I wanted to find out how I could get to know these musicians, so then we thought a fun way to do an interview would be to do a date. It was so organic. I wanted to interview musicians, it would be fun to do it on a date, then someone said I should do it somewhere where I’d never go on a date, a chicken shop. That’s how it happened.
How do you go about choosing each guest?
I have to have watched their stuff before to see if they have a bit of personality, sort of like a little screen test, to check they’re not going to be dull. I have to like their music and I feel like there has to be some kind of buzz around them to. I try and get people that are being listened to right now, as a criteria. But also, do they message me back? That’s a criteria.
Who hasn’t messaged you back?
J Hus. I DM’ed him so many times and he just airs my messages. I always think they are quite funny messages I send to him. I went to his show at Brixton Academy, and I was going to with a sign saying ‘date me’, but in the end, I didn’t. But that’s what I wanna do, I wanna start doing more stuff like that, pranks and whatnot. Right now I’m trying to get Drake on a date and I need to think of ways to do that… maybe I’ll fly to Canada.
Drake liked one of your videos on Imjustbait’s Instagram page… is that episode close?
I can see it. Definitely, 2018 is my year. And Drake’s year. It’s going to happen. I just need to find a way in that’s more than me sliding into his DMs, because I don’t think that’ll work. He definitely knows about Chicken Shop Date, he definitely probably has a photo of me pinned up on his bedroom wall. So I think it’s a matter of time really. Do you think I should speak to Dave about it?
Not sure how effective that ‘can you hook me up with this person’ trick will be…
I could tweet him. ‘Hey Dave, wondering if you could hook me up with Champagnepapi, your friend’. I think I need to wait a bit to the Drake episode, because when you do that, where do you go from there? But it won’t be the final episode, that has to be with a UK artist.
What are some of the difficulties you face with recording Chicken Shop Date?
The problems are, finding money and paying for everything to happen. The production costs, that’s what I’m struggling with at the moment, like paying to close the shop and the kit. Getting dates with people I really want to go on with, that’s hard. Sometimes people will say yes, and it’s their label are like ‘we can’t do this until so and so time’. The Dave episode took five months for me to do that, so everything was long. The other struggles are doing something on your own channel when you don’t have the support of a media company behind you, and not knowing what direction you’re going to take next.
What’s been your favourite episode so far and why?
I obviously love the Ghetts one, because it was the first filmed interview I did in a chicken shop, because before they were written in a column in the magazine. So that was fun to do the first one, he was really nice about it. He was like ‘you’re gonna be a star’, and I was like ‘I’m gonna be a star’, so he was really nice. They’ve all been really good, apart from sometimes. I always end up after the date thinking ‘they hate me’, ‘this is so awkward’, ‘they’re never going to speak to me again’, and they never do because I never see them again. Literally, it’s like a really awkward half an hour, I don’t speak to them before, then we have this really awkward interaction, and then I’m like ‘bye’ and then they leave. And I never see them again. And that’s it. And whenever I do see people on the odd occasion if I’m at a party or something, it’s always just such a funny and weird meeting. I’m always asking them if they remember me, and they’re like ‘no… yes?’, but no, they do remember me.
The show has had over 8 million views. Did you envision the show taking off the way it has?
You know when you think you have a really good idea, that’s what I thought about this. I thought people would like it, so I always thought it would be big. It’s just been the whole thing of getting people to understand what I do. Because it’s an alternative thing, the comedy and my character and how the situation is kinda weird, it takes time for people to get it. And some people don’t get it, they still don’t get it. I met some people that hated it when they first watched it but now they get it. I’ve always thought it’s going to be big and hoped it would get bigger. In March it’ll be four years old. The first one with Ghetts got a thousand views in a week. Now I get one thousand views in the first minute, so that’s the process. But it was just literally me pushing it, so it takes a while. But I’m happy I haven’t really gone viral, because when you go viral, it’s a lot of pressure to sustain a level of entertainment for people, and sometimes you can’t do that. Someone like Michael Dapaah is great at doing that and he has a great team around him, but other people, they go viral and then they can’t really keep up. Then everyone’s like ‘you’re shit, because you’re not putting out a video every week. I’m not watching you anymore. Bye’. And then you like… die.
You often ask people whatever you want. How easy or difficult is it to carry that out?
When I started doing it, I had no idea who the people sitting opposite me were, so I literally didn’t care. When you understand people and their importance, it’s harder to ask them anything. But when you just see them, not in a rude way, but don’t think about how famous they are or any of that kind of stuff, and just literally ask whatever you want, it’s so easy to do that. There are so many interviews that ask the same questions and I wanted to do something different. Something funny. I thought at the time, whenever you saw rap or grime artists being interviewed, it was very serious. There weren’t that many fun things they were doing. And all the artists I’ve met are all hilarious, everyone has a great sense of humour, but that wasn’t really being shown.
Heard you were banned from Chicken Cottage after the Ghetts episode…
Yeah, in Farringdon.
What happened there?
It was really sad because I wanted to film there again but they won’t let me.
Are you banned from all Chicken Cottages or just that one?
No, just that one. I caused too much nuisance. We said to them, can we film in the shop and you can keep it open because we didn’t have any money to pay for the shop to be shut. They said it was okay, but the shop is so small, that the crew literally blocked the door. So there was a queue outside the shop of people trying to get in, and they couldn’t. The manager was so pissed off with me and said I could never go back there again. But we got the video and that was the start of everything, so thank you Farringdon Chicken Cottage.
Has anyone tried to go on a real date with you after doing an episode of Chicken Shop Date?
No. Literally no. I’ve never had a follow-up. Honestly, what? Some of them I thought went well… nothing. I saw Konan at the MOBO party and he was talking to some other girl, so I didn’t know whether to say hi or not and I didn’t want to interrupt him, so I just waved, and he just waved back at me. That was about as far it goes.
You’re a journalist as well, how did you first get into that?
I studied journalism at uni and I finished this year. I got into it with the magazine I used to work on at my youth club, The Cut. I always wanted to be the editor of Vogue and always thought I loved magazines, and I like doing shoots and stuff. I’d make my sister dress up in all these clothes in all these different places, and it was terrible. Then I studied fashion journalism at Central St Martins, so I’ve always been doing that. Then, when I was at uni, I realised video journalism is where I wanted to go. I feel like I like being on camera and being able to create funny situations and report on things in a different way. My whole thing I’m trying to do is be original in every way. Do things with a different angle. Even when I was at the MOBOs interviewing people on the red carpet, it was the first red carpet interviews I’d done, and it was so good. But everybody was asking the same questions. They’d be like ‘what are you wearing?’, ‘are you excited about performing?’, ‘Congratulations on your nominations’. And I thought ‘guys, why have none of you thought about asking a different question?’ How is everybody here asking the same question? I was asking some different questions, but I’m really happy with the video because it’s just a bit different. And that’s what I’m trying to do. Do something different, because then you stand out.
You have a show on Rinse FM. How did that come about?
They asked me to do a show, and I was a bit nervous because I never do live stuff. Everything I do is really edited, so I was a bit worried about being funny live. But it went kinda well, and they asked me to do a monthly one. Now I have a monthly show where I can just bring in guests and just chat.
You also do some presenting for VICE and presented on the red carpet for the NHS at the MOBOs. Are you trying to be a presenter?
No. I don’t want to be a presenter, but I want to be doing content that I’ve written or apart of. Rather than doing it for someone else’s agenda. I just wanna do something a bit different. I’d love to do stuff like Louis Theroux does, documentaries, learning stuff, teaching people stuff, but I don’t really have any intention of hosting Strictly Come Dancing or that kind of thing. I want to do stuff that I’ve written. I think of the idea and then I do it.
Have you seen any mad things happen since Chicken Shop Date began taking off?
I got on the bus and someone was playing Chicken Shop Date out loud on their phone but didn’t realise I was there. So when I made myself known, that was really cool. I did an advert for Carphone Warehouse, where I was in a Chicken Shop and went on a date with a phone, so that was cool as well. Stormzy’s a big fan and that was really great when I met him and he knew who I was, so that was a big moment. Whenever someone agrees to go on it, it makes me so happy that they think it’s cool, because I just started it by myself.
What are your plans for the show and yourself more generally?
My plan is to expand Chicken Shop Date. Make consistent episodes, so one every two weeks. Then I want to think of side content I can put on the channel to make it bigger. Then maybe I won’t do Chicken Shop Date forever, because I don’t want to do that forever, it’s like a stepping stone. I want to be able to be on TV or do stuff I’ve written. I don’t know, I’m still figuring it out. Chicken Shop party, me popping up in other places, I’m trying to write a sitcom. A lot, hopefully. Maybe I’ll find love, that’s what I want.
What advice would you go give to people looking to start a YouTube channel?
With Chicken Shop Date, I immediately knew, If I put myself in a situation where I stand out, people are going to look it. If I put myself with people that I don’t usually hang out with, it’s going to be funny because it’s different cultures colliding. When people say they want to start a YouTube channel, I say think about who you are, then stay exactly who you are, but yourself somewhere else. And immediately you’re going to be making something that’s different. I don’t change who I am. I’m literally just me. Posh Amelia from Marylebone. That’s who I am. I feel like people don’t get annoyed with what I’m doing because I’m not pretending to be someone else. I’m just being me.