If you saw previews for BBC America's Almost Royal before you knew it was a spoof TV show, you probably thought that Poppy Carlton, the snobbish sister, was the worst. But in actuality, Poppy is the best. Because Poppy isn't a real person — she's a character created by comedian Amy Hoggart. And Hoggart does such a bang-up job at portraying the completely delusional Poppy that you almost believe she's real. It's no wonder Hoggart is so talented — she's been doing improvisational comedy long before making it big with her Almost Royal partner in crime, Ed Gamble.
Besides Poppy, Hoggart's cat-loving, socially awkward Pattie Brewster character is famous in the UK. Pattie had a miniseries on BBC Radio 4 extra this year and she even released a self-help book called Pattie Brewster's Guide to Life/Pattie that you can purchase for less than $10. Hoggart also has a YouTube channel with Max Dickins where they posted improvised weekly comedy sketches. As with all improv, some of it is hit or miss, and they acknowledge that with their tagline. "Always improvised, sometimes good."
Before those characters, Hoggart was in the comedy duo Christmas for Two with Sarah Campbell.
Hoggart met Campbell after graduating from University of Cambridge (where she was a member of their sketch group Cambridge Footlights). Campbell is known in the UK for being a BBC7 New Talent Winner and she has a bit part in the upcoming movie Jupiter Ascending, which stars Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, so maybe she'll have crossover success like Hoggart.
The pair performed sketch shows at festivals in the UK in 2011. Although you've missed the chance to see Christmas for Two live, you can still check out their take on festival culture.
If their name amuses you, Hoggart and Campbell have something to say about that too.
We've grown to hate Christmas since we started out. I mean we're in direct competition with it. Looking back, it was a huge mistake to go up against such a strong brand but what can you do? The only advantage we've got over Christmas is that we're a year-round thing.
(And be careful Googling "Christmas for Two" videos. Be prepared for many an interesting Christmas song that you've never heard of and low production videos to pop up. Maybe that was Hoggart and Campell's master plan.)
Now knowing Hoggart's background, the Almost Royal episode where Georgie and Poppy performed improv in New York City makes so much more sense. It was already tremendous because it was two great improvisational actors punking a bunch of other improv comedians — like a play within a play. And although Georgie and Poppy acted innocently enough, Gamble and Hoggart knew exactly what they were doing.
We know that Hoggart and Gamble must truly respect the art of improv, just like they are into really highbrow actors.
We love you Rick Moranis!
So though Hoggart wasn't huge in the UK before, people did know who she was. But it's better that she was virtually unknown in the US until now, or Almost Royal just wouldn't have worked. Like Poppy, let's hope that Hoggart's acting opportunities continue to grow and that she stays a familiar face on both sides of the Atlantic.
Images: BBC America; Almost Royal BBCA/Tumblr