We finish up our story of Bursledon Brickworks Museum volunteer Bob Palmer, with a quick…
Four, or should that be five, young men with seemingly nothing better to do, meet up on a weekly basis to record a comedy podcast with a difference. None of it is scripted. ‘The Stuart Dickinson Famous Five’ audio podcast is starting to gain followers and recognition. This is their story.
Q: how did you guys meet and what was the starting point for Stuart Dickinson’s Famous Five?
(Steve) Me, Andy and Dave met at a drama group in Purbroook at around about 2007. – drama group now defunct so no link
(Andy) My introduction to Dave was by way of him telling me a really terrible joke. The very first thing that he said to me was ‘tell us a joke’. He put me completely on the spot, with a room full of people that I’d never met. Then he said, don’t worry I know one. And it was awful. LOL.
(Steve) I knew Rich through a mutual friend, and at some point we thought it might be good to do something creative together. Initially, it was going to be in the form of some sort of play, so I recruited Dave, Andy and Stuart into the fold.
(Andy) It was originally going to be a ‘Goon-show’ type stage play, with the performers standing up behind microphones reading a script and doing foley work (stage term for sound effects). After we’d thought about it for a while, we came to the conclusion that it probably wouldn’t garner that big an audience.
(Steve) We were a bit concerned that nobody would turn up. So we thought, how do we build an audience first? I think it was Andy that suggested trying it as the podcast.
(Andy) It was either me or Dave.
(Dave) I do remember that we knew right from the off, that we didn’t want to go to the effort of writing and then performing a stage show, if there were only going to be, maybe, fifty people who would turn up. Considering that most of those would have been friends or family to start with.
(Steve) We wanted to get a wider audience first. Somehow, the original idea of a play has kind of gone by the wayside, and turned into getting an audience for the podcast as a separate thing.
(Rich) I’d still like to do a simple three or four man play. There must be an easy play out there that we can do?
Q: So now after, five episodes (at the time of this interview) I’m assuming that you’ve settled into a kind of routine?
(Steve) Yes, we record fortnightly and release the previous episode on, or as near to, the current recording day as possible. So, recording number six would be released as we are recording number seven, number seven would be let into the wild as we prepare number eight, and so on. We’ve found that it works better to have a set recording day, rather than trying to manage everyone’s diary. It’s just gives us too many headaches. So now we have a day set aside, usually a Friday, and agree at the end of a recording session the next date, so that everyone knows they have to work other things around that date. There are bound to be exceptions, but it’s kind of working so far.
Q: How do you decide on the content for each show?
(Steve) Basically, at the end of each recording, we all go our separate ways and carry on our lives as normal. During the time between shows, we’ll scribble down ideas or things that make us laugh. This usually happens the week before, because the whole point is to be as topical as possible. By the time the episode goes out, we’re already two weeks behind, so the closer the material relates to the recording date the better. Not all the material is time sensitive, so that takes some of the pressure off in that respect.
Q: Who decides what will be included or left out of the running order?
(Steve) On a recording night, everyone will put what ideas they have into the ring. We add it to the running list, and we just work our way through it. When we started, we had no plan whatsoever, which gave us dead air when we were scrabbling around for what was going to be discussed next. Obviously that’s not good for the listener so, after the first episode, we agreed to have a running list to give it some structure.
(Rich) The whole thing was very random to begin with. We started off trying to do sketches and such like, but after reviewing the experience of the first two episodes, it became obvious that what we actually enjoyed the most was the improvised talking pieces.
(Andy) There’s a whole episode zero, of about three hours of recording, that was scrapped because we were so unhappy with the end result. By this point ,we had the website URL, Dave had started to promote us on Facebook, so we had to release something to capitalise on the hype. We ended up cutting that first episode into a four-minute trailer, just to keep the momentum going.
(Steve) As Rich said, we started out thinking that what we wanted to do was a sketch show. But it just didn’t do it for us. It was funny, but it just felt forced and unnatural. The actual preparation took the enjoyment out of the whole thing. So, the next time around, we decided to do the random discussion pieces and slot the sketches in at the end. As it turned out, the talking worked out so well, and more importantly filled the time, that we agreed the sketches were unnecessary.
(Andy) Instead of the sketches, we opted to have ‘guest appearances’. It’s a variation on a sketch, in that you have an extra character, but it allowed us to continue with the discussion approach. Basically, I suppose it’s turned into a radio chat show, but without the musical interludes. The other problem with sketches was that we don’t really have the time to prepare for them. The first time we would see them was on the night of the recording. Without having them sound like you’re just reading from a bit of paper, you have to rehearse enough for it to sound natural. Which of course we hadn’t, so it didn’t.
Q; So you don’t have any meetings prior to the recording night to discuss the material?
(Andy) Very occasionally, one or other of us will text an idea that we’ve had, but no great detail. We said, I think it was after episode three, that one of the best things about the whole experience was keeping the spontaneity. We do ‘news of the week’ each episode, but none of us know what each other is going to bring to the running order. That way, all the reactions, comments and humour are very much ad-libs. Which, for us at least, adds to the whole feeling of what we are aiming for. We wanted to avoid the scenario where we each have a series of jokes that we add in to a pre-written script. Dave does that anyway, I’m convinced that he has a huge back catalogue of jokes that he’s determined to shoehorn in at every opportunity [LOL].
(Andy) It’s a form of therapy isn’t it Dave?
(Dave) More or less [LOL]
(Andy) I think he just stands in front of the mirror in the bathroom the night before, repeating them to himself. Saying ‘Candy Man’ five times.
(Dave) It’s as Steve says, we know that every reaction is genuine. It’s not like a lot of so-called ‘unscripted’ TV shows, where everyone knows in advance what subjects are going to be covered, and they prepare material accordingly. Then pretend to laugh at each others’ jokes.
(Andy) It’s very rare that we will re-record anything either. Even then, it’s only been because of noise issues from outside. Sometimes we’ll ignore it, or make it part of the show. Last week, for example, the neighbours upstairs were playing up and that provoked a conversation in itself. The conversation can often go off at a tangent when something like that happens.
(Steve) Usually, it falls to me to bring it back on track, after we’ve rambled on for about twenty minutes or so. Otherwise we’d be here all week.
Q. Are you making notes as you go, to refer back to later?
(Steve) We don’t write anything down related to what is said during the recording. If we take a detour and it gets referred back to later on, it’s because it’s part of the natural flow of the conversation, or we think it’s naturally funny to mention it at that point. Not because we’ve planned it.
(Andy) That can present problems in the editing. If the first mention isn’t particularly funny, but a latter reference is, we then have to decide ‘does the whole thing have to be scrapped, or is it worth keeping because of the pay off?’
Q. Who decides whether something is worth keeping or not?
(Andy) Whoever is doing the editing at the time. Which, at the moment, is either Steve or myself. I take the even number episodes and Steve does the odd ones.
(Steve) We tried editing it together, but it worked out faster, and actually better, when one of us did it. We did the trailer together, but, since then, we each do alternate shows. The editing tends to be late at night when you have a spare couple of hours after work. Dave and Rich don’t edit, so they don’t hear the whole recording in its entirety. But of course, what they will remember are the funny bits, and that’s what gets left in anyway. So it works out quite well.
Occasionally, we have to remove some good material because, as is often the case in a real conversation, somebody will talk over the top of somebody else, and you can’t actually hear the punch line or the pay off. That’s annoying, but we have to work within our limits.
Q. Ideal world then, would you like to record in a proper sound studio?
(Andy) Not necessarily. We want to feel relaxed enough that it sounds like we are pretty much as it is. Sat around a table in a front room having a chat.
(Rich) It would certainly make it easier for these guys to edit if we each had our own microphones and it went through a mixing desk or something. But we don’t want to lose the informality of the recording.
(Andy) That’s it. We would like the benefits that decent recording equipment would bring, but, as Rich says, keep the sort of ‘four blokes in a pub having a beer and a chat’ feel to it.
(Steve) We’ve started small and on the cheap, but we know the limits of what we have now, after six episodes. As we progress and maybe get some money together, we can invest in better, or more, microphones, if we think we need them.
(Dave) Yeah, and the reviews that we’ve had on iTunes say that ‘it sounds like you’re having a really good time’, which is basically how we want it to sound.
(Steve) We’re not aiming for perfection, but it has to be at a level that is listenable.
(Steve) The whole thing started when we were sat around talking about putting a show together, originally a play, as we said earlier. It was the discussion itself, which turned out to be quite funny, that held the appeal. And when it was suggested that it might make a good podcast, we decided to give it a go.
(Rich) And it definitely worked better when we stuck to that format. When we tried to do other people’s sketches, our own versions of them, it was just too stilted. Just being ourselves really.
(Andy) it would be nice to work in a studio, but only if we were allowed to drink beer, and somebody drove us home afterward.
Q. Do either you, Rich, or Dave fancy editing?
(Rich) This is why we have no quibbles about the final recording. As Dave said in the car on the way over here today, “It’s a case of checking your ego at the door.” If we don’t edit, we can’t complain about the end result.
(Dave) Blimey, did I say that? Personally I think, considering what they have to work with, the editing is about as good as it can be. But I guess that, at some point, we ought to take a turn to give these guys a break.
(Rich) Truth be told, I’m the least technical person out of all of us. I have enough trouble turning on the computer in the first place.
Q. Do you see the show’s format evolving in the future?
(Rich) At the moment, I think we’re still finding our feet.
(Rich) I’m happy with more of the same, for a while at least.
(Dave) I spent this week trying to get us onto various podcast lists, which has been a huge hassle. It turns out you can’t just say ‘We’ve got a podcast, can you put it on the list?’, you have to fill out endless application forms. We tried to create a Wikipedia page, but you can’t write about yourself, or something that nobody else has heard of. So, if we give it another fifteen episodes or something, we can get somebody to do it for us. I think this format would work as a live radio show, with a seven second delay button for me [LOL]. Maybe a live internet radio station or something, with T-shirts and whatnot.
(Andy) I’m a little less ambitious. I’d be happy if we could get a regular audience of, say, one hundred people, that weren’t just family or friends. I’d consider it a success.
(Rich) That’s what I was getting at when I said about doing a play. If we did it as ‘Stuart Dickinson’s Famous Five Presents’, they could see that we are this bunch of idiots having a good time, and it would draw attention to us.
(Andy) There is this tradition in podcasting, of spinning out and doing live recordings. From what I’ve seen, that seems to be pretty much a case of a show’s cast sat at tables, behind microphones, recording, but they just happen to have fans of the show there at the same time. There might be an interactive Q&A at some point, but essentially it’s just another episode being recorded.
(Rich) if we do something like that in future, it would help to promote the podcast. At the moment, it’s just word of mouth and trying to gain attention wherever, and however, we can, using Facebook and social media in general.
(Andy) I think that’s our main problem at the moment. Signing up to podcast directories will help, but it seems quite a slow process at the moment to actually get people to listen.
(Steve) Our core audience has been family and friends. We get feedback from them, but obviously we want to go beyond that. We’ll get there eventually, but it’s just when and how long it’s going to take. My hope is, like Andy, to get enough listeners together and see what happens from there. And yeah, it would be nice, as Dave says, to have merchandise and things like that [LOL] if it comes to it. But that, to me, is a long term goal, if it happens. It’s always nice to have something there to aim for, but, if it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve come from no listeners at all to, what, about ten regular listeners at the moment?
(Dave) It’s really tiny, but they enjoy it, that’s the thing.
(Steve) It’s a starting point.
(Dave) Although I am ambitious on pretty much everything that I do, I will only ever consider doing this as long as it’s fun. Even it we get a radio show or something. If it’s not fun then, to me, there’s no point in doing it.
(Rich) Exactly. I wouldn’t want to be walking up and down the high street with a sandwich board advertising something that I wasn’t enjoying doing.
(Andy) if nothing else, from a more mercenary point of view, it looks good on your CV if you’re trying to get a media or IT job, if you can say that every two weeks you’ve been involved in the editing and production of a podcast show.
Q. How difficult was it to get on iTunes (Subscribe to SDFF in iTunes)
(Steve) Fairly straightforward. They’ve made it as easy as possible, which is really nice. The main thing you need is somewhere to host your audio feed, which is fine, because I do website design, so I have a hosting contract set up anyway. You fill out a form on iTunes with all the podcast details and links to the web site etc (insert link). I think it only took us about forty-eight hours to get the process approved. We started off with the four-minute trailer, to test it. Once the first offering has been approved, you’re off and running. I now just update the site listing, and that automatically updates iTunes. It was quite slow to update to start with, but now it’s really quick. Often a couple of hours, if that, to be ready for download. The hosting and registration isn’t a problem. The main thing that I have a problem with, is getting accurate statistics on the number of web site visits and number of downloads and such like. Because iTunes doesn’t deal with that directly, we have to get our own. We’ve found that some people listen via their phones. As you can’t use iTunes on non Apple mobile phones, we’ve made it easy to get to via the mobile version of the website. It’s a simple as two clicks and your onto the episode list, where it will stream direct from there.
(Rich) Apparently we have a listener in America.
(All) Really! Who?
(Rich) It’s a friend of a friend, whose fiancee is moving to America; he listens.
(Dave) Great, that will make us an international broadcaster.
(Dave) I put a Barak Obama joke on twitter this week, so maybe that’s helped?
(Andy) That’s just lost our one American listener then [LOL]
Q. Who would you say are your comedy heroes or heroines?
(Dave) My favourites are Dame Edna Everage and Lily Savage, the two greatest female performers of their generation [LOL]
Stand up wise, I really like Ross Noble and classic performers like Billy Connolly, Eddy Izzard. But Ross Noble is my main stand up really. I do like a lot of old comedians like Bob Monkhouse, Les Dawson. For me, they’re timeless.
(Andy) My tastes are skewed more American. Bill Hicks, Louise CK that sort of thing.
(Steve) I’m like Rich, I was brought up with more old school comedians. The Two Ronnies, Morecombe and Wise, that sort of style, and I think that was kind of my influence for wanting to do a stand up show that we were talking about earlier. Some of their sketches are so memorable. Nearly everyone has heard or seen ‘four candles’. We could have done our own versions, or interpretations, of those sketches, which is where it kind of stems from.
(Rich) Somebody like Ronnie Barker, for me, is one of our best actors, not just stand up comedy routines. I also used to listen to really old shows like Round the Horne.
(Dave) My sisters are quite a lot older than me, so I was exposed to people like Bill Hicks. Also, from the nineties, shows like Newman and Baddiel, or the Mary Whitehouse Experience. Back when comedy was the alternative to Rock and Roll. But then I’d listen to something like Hancocks Half Hour over and over again, which I had on cassette tape; how archaic is that?
(Andy) Even things like Black Adder and The IT crowd.
(Steve) I’ve been watching some of the Likely Lads episodes. What I like about them is the on-screen dynamic that clearly exists between them. They don’t really seem to be acting; it comes across as so natural.
(Andy) I’m not a big fan of a lot of the ‘new’ comedians. What they do is very good, but it’s all the same. Essentially, it’s the same joke, or punch line, with a slightly different set up. Very formulaic. I completely understand that many people like that, and that’s why the comedians hone their act to cater for that audience. But, for me, I want a bit more variety in an act, something unexpected every now and again. I think that’s why we enjoy our particular approach. We kind of bounce off each other. We’re all very different and have our own sense of humour.
Q. Of course I can’t pass up the question of why the name ‘Stuart Dickinson’s Famous Five’?
(Rich) I don’t know. I’ve never met him.
Q. Is he a real person?
(All) Oh yes, definitely.
(Rich) I’ve seen him once, on the other side of the room.
(Andy) The whole idea was that we were to meet up, the four of us and Stuart, to go through the original idea for the play.
(Steve) But he never turned up. Hence the on-going reference at the beginning of each episode.
Q. But you all know him?
(Steve) He was part of the same drama group that we used to go to, but Rich never got to meet him.
(Rich) It’s a kind of coincidence that I used to work with his now wife, and we both went to a work’s Christmas meal. Stuart was one end of the table and I was at the other. It wasn’t until I went to see one of the plays that Stuart was in, that I realised who he actually was. But I’ve never actually met him face to face.
Q. Presumably he’s aware of you using his name. Has he passed comment or given you any feedback at all?
(Dave) On one of the sketches that I wanted to do, which was a little bit more controversial, he had doubts about having his name associated with it.
(Andy) He’s the only person with veto power over the podcast.
(Dave) As it turned out, it wasn’t that funny, so we dropped it. But, essentially, it’s not our aim to upset him deliberately.
(Andy) He’s a really nice guy, and it’s only circumstance that has prevented him being involved more directly. The very first recording he missed, due to being ill …
(Steve) … and it’s gone on from there really. We’ve tried inviting him, but he’s a busy guy.
(Rich) I’m not sure who came up with the name
(Steve) I said the Famous Four originally. Someone else said, well Stuart’s supposed to be a part to this, so shall we make it about him. Make the running joke the fact that it’s named after him, but, so far, he’s not turned up. And it went from there really.
(Rich) It’s the famous five because he is the fifth member and it’s always open for him to join in.
(Steve) So, each week, we come up with an excuse as to why he’s not here. We keep it quite ambiguous. We never say that Stuart’s part of the podcast, but he never turns up. It’s open to interpretation.
(Steve) It would be good to get him in for at least one episode
(Andy) Yeah, a milestone episode or something.
(Steve) Personally, I’d quite like to get him in; not as Stuart, but as someone else. Keep the mystery going.
(Rich) As a special guest maybe
(Steve) It works with just the four of us, but it’s good to mix it up on occasion with some other characters, our guest stars. We’ve done three now. It’s obviously one of us as a character. We don’t pretend that it’s anything different. Even the accents are very tongue in cheek and all over the place.
Q. How long does an average recording take?
(Andy) We normally have about two hours worth of raw audio, over a, roughly, two-hour twenty recording time. We take the approach that while we are all in the room, we might as well record it, because you never know what might come out of it that is worth using. From this, we edit it down to around thirty-five to forty minutes of air time. It’s strange that, no matter how much raw material there is, it seems to come out about the same duration in the edit. The first few were thirty-four minutes, and the last couple have been forty minutes.
(Steve) We’re hoping that, as we get more experienced, we can get an hour’s worth of usable material from two hours worth of recording time. Episode five has been the exception.
Q. This was the infamous ‘drunken episode’? (Episode Five)
(Steve) Yeah, that was a struggle to get it below forty-five minutes. Mainly because there was a lot of good material, interweaved with lots of rubbish.
(Andy) We worked it out that me and Steve had something like eleven shots in an hour …
(Steve) … It was a gimmick episode. To be fair, going into it, I didn’t expect to be able to get anything worthwhile from it. But I think it came together in the end – just.
(Andy) It’s nice to have the episode to fill in the blanks from the evening.
(Andy) It’s a really weird concept, that Steve edited a part of my memory. Because that’s forever how I’m going to remember that night. The edited highlights.
(Steve) There was a lot of rambling, which you kept referring back to, and it made no sense at all. During or after [LOL]. You were determined to get it in though.
There have been occasions when time has been an issue. There was one episode (insert reference) where somebody came up with the concept of monkey board games. It generated so many ideas that it kept cropping up throughout the episode, and beyond.
(Andy) That’s when you were trying desperately to wrap it up
(Steve) Yeah. I was trying to wind it down and everyone just kept shouting out new ideas in quick succession. There was just more and more coming out. So I got to editing this and I was thinking “I can’t cut all this out because it’s funny. How do I put it together?” It came down to me recording an extra bit after the show, saying something like, ‘coming soon to a monkey board game store near you, monkey board games’. I then edited all the suggestions from throughout the recording into one long spiel. So, after the credits, all you’ll hear is about twenty monkey related board games, one after the other. It’s a bit weird for the listeners because, we know where it’s come from, but they have no idea. There’s a small reference to it during the show, but not the amount of time that was really taken up.
(Steve) That’s what we’ll try to do with the episode titles. It’s going to be something that the listeners don’t necessarily know what we are talking about. We’ve just started relating them to the start of a topic of conversation, or a particularly funny one liner. Out of context, it’s meaningless, but if you listen to the whole episode, it falls into place.
(Andy) I don’t think that’s a bad thing though. It’s almost like, once you’ve seen the title, you’re waiting for the reference to come up.
(Steve) Again, it’s another running joke for us.
Q. You have a couple of items that turn up on each episode, such as the ‘News of the Day’ and ‘Final Thoughts’.
(Steve) We have horoscopes, which is Rich’s semi regular slot
(Rich) Regular, in as much as I’ve done it three times out of the six episodes so far. There’s the ‘Would you Rather’ bit that has been in a couple.
(Steve) It really comes down to, ‘is it funny?’ We record a ‘Would you Rather’ every week, but they don’t always work, or there doesn’t seem to be place where it will fit without sounding odd, because it’s come out of nowhere.
(Rich) Every time I listen back it surprises me how much I laugh.
(Dave) But that’s what we mean about keeping the spontaneity to it all. Those laughs are all genuine, not faked.
(Steve) We don’t add any canned laughter or anything. The only thing that we have added is the drum snare and stuff like that, just for effect. We bleep out the swearing now, after the first episode.
(Rich) You missed a couple in the drunken episode
(Steve) Did I?
(Dave) I thought you’d done that on purpose.
(Steve) There were so many, that it was really difficult to go through it all
(Andy) We’ll have to put an explicit tag on that episode
(Steve) It’s all ‘explicit’ tagged. I do that anyway to avoid the wrath of the iTunes police. I think the only one that we’ve missed is the first one. But we can re-upload that if necessary, and it will overwrite what’s already there. We also thought it would be funnier if we have beeps, rather than the actual words. Everyone knows that we’re swearing. The timing is such that you hear the beginning of the first syllable, or the ‘ing’ at the end, or something like that. Because that’s funnier than bleeping out an entire word. I’m not really sure if the listeners find it funny, because they are used to that on some American TV or …
(Dave) I think we find it funnier, which is why we do it
(Steve) Again, it comes down to the simple fact that we don’t know who the audience is. There may be some listeners who are offended by our approach. We’ve marked it as explicit ,even though we don’t really need to, now that we have the bleeps.
(Andy) It also covers us for when we include subject matter that may not be to everybody’s taste.
(Steve) We don’t purposely set out to be controversial, but there are occasions when we my stray into areas that, shall we say, may not fit with everyone’s world view. It might make me hesitate when editing. I find it funny, but will everyone else take it the same way …
(Andy) I don’t take any of that into consideration when I’m editing. If I find it funny, I couldn’t give two ‘bleeps’ if it will offend somebody. They can turn the podcast off. It’s how we are. If we start to edit based on perceived ‘good taste’, it stops being us as we naturally are.
(Dave) Exactly. For me, there is a really big difference between saying what we want to say, and actively driving people away from listening.
Q. How do you rate the quality of the production?
(Dave) It might come across as four guys coming into a room with nothing planned and turning on the microphone. I suppose, to outsiders, the way we approach the recording might be perceived as haphazard, or of not being very high quality. But you have to remember that we all have a background of improvisation from our stage experience. I remember having a conversation with Steve just before we released the first episode. He’s such a perfectionist and was concerned that, from his point of view, it wasn’t as good as he would have liked. I was saying ‘well lets put it out and see what people think, before making a judgment on it’. And, so far at least, part of the podcast’s appeal seems to be that it’s not just an overproduced, super slick, or word-perfect presentation. It has some depth to it. More like real life conversations.
(Steve) I’m definitely the worst at wanting to make it shine, before letting it into the wild.
(Andy) I think that’s more a case that you know the tools a lot better than I do.
(Steve) Maybe, I’m prone to taking out the occasional stutter or ‘umm’ etc.
(Andy) See, to me that sounds more natural, a bit more conversational if you keep those bits in …
(Steve) Yeah, you’re probably right. I guess you could tell the difference in who’s edited an episode, from how much of that sort of thing is left in or taken out. Although It can be down to time available for editing as well. Other things, like listening back and realising that a particular cut makes someone sound stupid, will often prompt me to try to improve on it.
(Rich) You’ll have a hard job trying to make me sound clever.
(Steve) [LOL] Yeah, come to think of it, it is mostly you Rich.
(Steve) But that is something that may change of over time, maybe I’ll stop doing that so much and leave it more natural in the way that Andy does.
Q. Modern listening habits have changed with the advent of digital delivery. Your audience may not listen to the complete episode in one sitting. Do you edit with this in mind.
(Andy) I think the nature of podcasting in general, is that listeners will dip in and out for ten minutes here, or fifteen minutes there. Unlike a carefully scripted play or something, the very nature of what we are presenting can be taken in bite sized chunks if necessary. As we said earlier, because some people are listening on their mobile phones, it has to be a very portable medium. So they could be listening on the bus on the way to work, whilst out walking the dog, or during a lunch break.
(Steve) I’ve never approached editing with the mindset that someone is going to start listening at the beginning, and carry on through to the end, therefore we have to consider continuity from start to finish. I think Andy’s the same, I don’t mess around with the running order. I’ve never taken a bit from later on in the recording and dropped it in at the beginning, let’s say, because I think that it will work better. It’s taken as a ‘start to finish’ project, cleaned up along the way, as necessary, but the timeline is fundamentally linear. The only things that we add in will be the music or sound effects, to break it up.
(Rich) It’s broken up naturally anyway; just the way the conversation progresses. So, as a listener, that gives you the opportunity to dip in and out to suit the time you have to spare.
Q. How would you describe what the show is about?
(Andy) There aren’t any sketches as such, so it’s not a sketch show in the traditional sense.
(Dave) When I’ve described it to people, I’ve said, it’s like ‘Have I Got News For You’ but without the quiz element.
(Andy) And the comedy.
(Steve) I’ve never really tried to sum it up in a short sentence or two. When people have asked, I’ve said ‘it’s us talking about stuff that we find funny’.
(Andy) Others have said it’s a radio show, minus the music
(Dave) I suppose if anything, I’d describe it as ‘four reasonably intelligent and witty blokes, in a bit of an upmarket pub, having a chat’
Q. OK, lets say you’ve been invited to the BBC, to pitch the idea for a new radio series based on your podcast. The executives who have never heard the show want to know, what it is, and what do you do.
(Dave) Loose women (British lunchtime Television programme) with alcohol. And men.
(Andy) I guess it’s that ‘loose women’ format
(Steve) I suppose, quintessentially, it’s a chat show, in a way. With four hosts and no guests. But it’s really difficult to pin it down. We started out with what we thought was going to be a sketch show. We said, right, we’ll have a bit of a chat, do a sketch, have a bit more chat, then another sketch etc. But as a format, it just wasn’t right for us.
(Andy) We have fallen into a tried and tested format for podcasts though. If you listen to many special interest podcasts, it’s usually a news section up front, a general chat section about the subject they are covering, and an outro bit with a plug for whatever the guests or hosts are trying to sell at the time. It’s not really a template that fits any other media. It’s very specific to podcasting.
(Dave) Going back a few years, it’s probably like ‘Good Morning with Richard and Judy.’ Where Richard would have to discuss sanitary towels for three hours. All we need is a map and a fish pond and we’re sorted.
(Andy) So far, we’ve described ourselves as Loose Women and Richard and Judy. That’s essentially daytime ITV.
(Rich) That’s how you describe us then, ‘The Daytime ITV of podcasts’.
(Andy) I think that, ultimately, it will be more for the listeners to tell us, rather than for us to describe what we are or do.
(Rich) It’s good listening back after the recording though. Because, even though I was there, I often hear things that I missed at the time, but the microphone picked up.
(Andy) That’s a real good payoff in the edit. You can look at the audio track and see where it spikes knowing that’s where all of us are laughing at the same time. As your editing and progressing towards it, I’m like, please let it be me that has the last line before that peak.
(Andy) It’s rewarding to have a graphical representation that I said something funny.
(Dave) We’re all fairly confident performers in our own right. What we’re learning now is when to be quiet; to let the humour of others get the best effect.
(Steve) it’s strange the way that’s gone. When we started, that wasn’t an issue was it? We weren’t talking over each other or jumping in, because I think we were all quite tentative. But, as our confidence has grown and we are more familiar with how it turns out, there’s a lot more of that. I admit that I didn’t expect that to happen. I thought that it would be the other way around. It’s getting a bit harder to edit now. because of that aspect. So, it’s been a case of easing back a little bit now that we have that confidence. It’s not that we are all fighting for air time. It’s just that we’re riffing off of each other, and that exuberance bubbles over. The good thing is that as we’re progressing; the group dynamic is starting to mature and we’re getting a better feel for timing and each others reactions.
Q. Is there anything or anybody that you’d like to give a shout out to?
(Rich) Yeah, I’d like to give a mention to John Deacon who does our music.
(Andy) The rest of us have never even met him, but he’s done us proud.
(Rich) Basically, whenever I do anything that requires music, he’s my go-to guy. He plays guitar and performs(??) as(??). I sent him a text saying what we were doing, and could he help out with the intro. He sent a piece of music back and, after a minor edit request, he’d nailed it.
(Steve) We couldn’t have described what we wanted, but what he came up with works really well. None of us heard it and thought, ‘no, this needs to be this that or the other.’ It was just right. It’s become our sort of identity now.
(Rich) And it really helped make the first episode sound like a professional recording. It made it ‘real’ for all of us, and gave us a confidence boost at just the right time.
(Andy) To start with, we didn’t have any stings; those came along later.
(Steve) The outro was us messing around …
(Andy) The outro is the intro reversed at half speed, to make it sound like German techno music. Not Kraftwork more like Kraft Cheese.
(Steve) We thought, ‘We really like the intro, but we don’t want to bookend it with the same piece.” Andy suggested that we flip it, so we did that. Then changed the timing. It sounds ridiculous, but, for us at least, it works. Not to get too pretentious about it, but in some ways it represents exactly how the shows go. We start out with one thing and it ends out going somewhere completely different, which is pretty much how our conversations go.
Q. Any other mentions?
(Steve) We really ought to thank Stuart.
(Dave) For all the hard work that he’s done …
(Rich) His massive contribution …
(Steve) He’s been here in spirit for every single episode
(Andy) I’m not sure that I would let a group of four of my friends use my name for a podcast. He’s been very good about it, considering.
(Steve) We don’t really know how much he listens to the podcast, if at all really, but we’re fairly careful about how his name is used. It’s all meant to be light hearted and we wouldn’t want to paint him in a bad light or anything.
(Andy) So Stuart, from all of us, ‘cheers mate, and thank you for the loan of your name’. We wouldn’t be what we are today without it, literally!
Links & References
SDFF (Stuart Dickinson’s Famous Five) Web Site: http://www.sdff.co.uk/index.html
Twitter Feed: https://twitter.com/SDFFPodcast