It’s happened already. No sooner had the credits rolled on Britain’s Got Talent at the weekend then claims of fakery were being bandied about.
This time, the person on the receiving end was Jess Robinson. The comedian, who had the judges in hysterics on BGT with her impressions of Cheryl and Sharon Osbourne, was called out by some viewers after it was revealed that she already had a successful TV, radio and stand-up career.
“I’ve done lots of live gigs before and I’ve had experience,” Jess told RadioTimes.com. “I’ve never tried to hide that. But I’ve never done a gig in front of Simon Cowell and 2,000 people before.
“The gigs I’m used to – previewing my show for the Edinburgh Festival in London, literally I would just have my mum in the audience. It’s tragic. Totally tragic. I have had 200-300 people to one of my shows before, and that was incredible – but I’ve never had a gig like [BGT].”
For the past three years, Jess has performed stand-up shows at Edinburgh and in the past has also provided voices for several satirical comedy programmes including Dead Ringers and ITV’s Headcases.
“I think BGT’s open to anyone and everyone,” Jess said of the backlash. “But yeah, I have had some really nice experiences and I’ve got to work with some of my heroes like Jon Culshaw and Debra Stephenson. But it’s never been my show and I’ve never been the main role, ever. I’ve generally been playing the waitress, barmaid or secretary. Bit parts, and not getting to showcase my impressions and definitely not my singing.
“I’ve put YouTube videos up and I’ve written my own show for the last three years and taken it to the Edinburgh Festival,” explains Jess. “And always left out of pocket! This year I came away owing £4,000, I think. So I’m trying to get myself out there but there’s no other platform like BGT.”
Jess, who says that she’s been trying to get on the Royal Variety Show “for years”, explains that she was actually approached to enter BGT “a few years ago”, but held back because of nerves. Although after getting four yeses from the judges, it turns out she didn’t have much to worry about!
Jess Robinson performing for Chortle’s Fast Fringe in 2015 at London’s Leicester Square Theatre
Jess revealed on the show that she had endured a bad 2016, going through a divorce which gave her another push to bite the bullet and take her chance on BGT.
“I was just really scared of being told that something I’d been working on for years wasn’t good enough,” she says. “But I decided to enter the show this year because I had those weird changes in my life and I just thought ‘sod it, it’s now or never’. After everything I went through last year, nothing could be more rubbish than that so I’ll get out there.”
She also had support from Francine Lewis. A fellow impressionist, she made it to the final and finished tenth on the show back in 2013. “Fran’s a friend of mine and she’s been really encouraging,” explained Jess. “She was one of the people going ‘you’ve got to audition, you’ve got to audition,’ so she’s been lovely and very supportive.”
Aside from winning BGT and a spot on the Royal Variety line-up, Jess’s ultimate dream is to have her own TV show and follow in the footsteps of Marti Cane and Cilla Black.
“That’d be incredible,” she says. “That’d be like a massive dream. Something like a Saturday night variety show – not BGT, obviously! – one where I could have a guest on, I’d absolutely love that. But actually just to get on the Royal Variety Show would be amazing.”
For now, though, she’s working on her next performance for BGT. If she gets through to the semi-finals she plans to showcase her Shakira, Jessie J, Tina Turner and Queen impressions (that’s the monarch, not the band!) and hopefully all of the judges. She says she’s “working on” impressions of all four of them.
If all that wasn’t enough, she would also “love” to go back to Edinburgh Festival this year. “I might break even, you never know!” she laughs.
Britain’s Got Talent continues next Saturday at 8pm on ITV.