Q&A: Rhod Gilbert

Simon Button

The comedian talks about going live with his podcast 

RD: You’re doing a live version of your podcast The Froth for the Unmute online podcast festival. What makes podcasting so important right now? 

It’s all about connection. One of the reasons we launched a podcast sort of right now, albeit a few months ago, was partly to give us something to do—what with live stand-up having disappeared and a lot of our work along with it—and partly just that feeling of wanting to connect.  

I used to have a live radio show and I gave that up to go back to touring, stand-up and everything, then of course that all came to a halt. This is the closest thing I’ve got to going back to a live radio experience and that feeling of connecting with other people. 

 

RD: How would you sum up The Froth

We describe it light-heartedly as “a spa break for the mind, far away from the relentless depressing serious news cycle”. Conversations in our house were very serious and quite depressing earlier in the year so we just wanted something that was absolute wall-to-wall nonsense and total escapism, where we aren’t allowed to talk about anything remotely serious and nip it in the bud very quickly if it comes up.  

 

RD: What changes are you ringing for the Unmute version?  

It’s going to be completely live, warts and all, so I’ll be fumbling around on the floor for bits of newspaper to come up with topics to cover. At the moment it’s just a one-off but if it works—who knows? I really miss live radio. I love the buzz and immediacy of live radio, and I’m hoping this will capture something of that. 

 

RD: What topics have you covered so far? 

When you go through the news looking for nonsense, there tends to be a lot of stuff about animals—like people’s weird pets or someone who has potty-trained a goose, and there was a guy the other week who had a snake round his neck rather than a face mask. Apart from that it’s literally anything we can get our hands on, so we’ve had somebody with a Monster Munch addiction and someone who thought she’d bought the world’s biggest potato. It’s so frivolous and trivial, and that is what we’re looking for. 

 

RD: Who have been the featured guests?  

We basically just follow the conversations. It’s myself and Sian [Harries, Rhod’s wife] and our producer Barry Castagnola, who often chips in, and then anyone else we can think to call. We’ve had genuine friends like Sarah Millican, Greg Davies, Jason Manford, Josh Widdicombe—friends of ours from the comedy circuit—but then we also call people like the chef Cyrus Todiwala because we had a question about lemons. 

 

RD: Is it all done from your home studio? 

“Home studio” is a very grand phrase for it. It’s our basement where we have some microphones and a laptop. I’m hoping our internet is strong enough down there to do the live podcast, when people will see it’s a little basement kitchen and nothing like a live studio. 

 

RD: How important is laughter right now? 

Very important and not just for listeners. If I’m really honest, our mental health—myself, my wife, Barry and most people I know—has been up and down during the last few months. For us, having something to do every week where we’re really having a good laugh and talking to our friends like Sarah Millican is keeping us sane.  

From what I can see on the social media comments and the comments on iTunes, you can just tell they’re really appreciating having some laughter now. It can’t be underestimated. All you have to do is imagine life without it to realise how important it is. 

 

RD: One fan has hailed it as "the most random podcast ever". Do you take that as high praise? 

Absolutely. That’s exactly what we’re going for. Everything I do has always been fairly chaotic, whether it’s stand-up or radio, so “random”? I’ll take that. 

 

RD: What’s the best thing about working with Sian? 

We genuinely have a really good laugh together. Especially at the moment, with living and working together sometimes the conversation can all too easily slip into things you’re worried about. Then we go down to the basement and we can have two hours of laughing together, which reminds us of how much fun we can have. 

 

RD: Did you master any new skills during lockdown? 

For the first time in my life I’m wearing a tennis elbow support. We’re lucky enough to have a garden and in March/April, when the lockdown first happened, I borrowed a long-handled cutting thing from a neighbour, then spent hours and hours cutting the overgrowth back. I got really into it but since then I’ve had terrible pain from tennis elbow. So I got into gardening but at a cost. 

 

RD: What’s coming up next for you work-wise? 

I’m just concentrating on the podcast for now. I’m hoping to get back to touring next spring but I’d like to wait until the experience is the experience of old, with packed theatres and everyone sitting together. If I have to push it back again then I will, and at the moment people are thankfully holding onto the tickets, which I’m very grateful for. I just think the atmosphere will be amazing when and if it happens. Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine what it will be like when we can do it again. 

The Froth with Rhod Gilbert, Sian Harries & Friends is part of the Unmute Podcast Festival, which runs from October 20-24. Tickets from: unmutepodcastfestival.com/ 


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