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May 1, 2017 | by  | in Podcasts | [ssba]

Interview with Andy Zaltzman

Andy Zaltzman is an English stand-up comedian who has been making audiences the world over laugh with his superb political satire for almost 20 years. He is also the co-host of the immensely popular podcast The Bugle, which he created with Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver.


Hi Andy, thanks so much for talking to us today! I believe you’re in Melbourne currently for their comedy festival, how is that going?

It’s been good thanks! People have been mostly laughing in the right places, so it’s been fun.


The show you’re bringing to NZ is called “Plan Z”, what can audiences expect to see?

Well, it’s a quick scoot round various global events of the last year or so, which touches on global issues like Syria, global migration, obviously Trump, a bit of British stuff, and I guess I’ll have to mug up on whatever is going on in NZ before I go over!


To my mind, comedy is derived from nuance — does it become more difficult writing political comedy as our engagement with politics seems more devoid of nuance than ever?

I don’t know, I think there’s different ways of going about it. I think one of the great challenges, particularly about Trump, is, as many people have said, he’s almost beyond satire. Also many people on TV and in stand-up and online are doing bits on Trump, so finding an interesting and distinctive angle can be something of a challenge, but I think on the flipside of that he just generates so many stories that you could make political comedy out of, so it works both ways. Same with Brexit back home, it’s put politics in the forefront of consciousness, so it’s made it a fruitful area for comedy.


You’re also the host of the phenomenally successful podcast, The Bugle. Does writing for the podcast help with writing standup material?

Unquestionably yes. I’m been doing The Bugle for 10 years now, for most of that time it’s been a weekly show, and having that regular deadline to write topical stuff and random tangential stuff is a great discipline. The more you write, the more ideas you have and some of that stuff will seep into The Bugle and adapt and develop into standup as well. So just having that regular outlet definitely helps to write stuff for live shows.


The Bugle is back after a hiatus, with a revolving set of co-hosts. Are you enjoying the new perspectives they bring to the show?

Yeah it’s been great, obviously I miss working with John [Oliver] because we worked together for 12 or 13 years, back on The Bugle and before. It was clear he just didn’t have time any more. Having lots of different people to work with, having different perspectives, having different comedic styles — I’ve had two co-hosts in the shows recorded in Australia which I think has freshened things up further so maybe there will be more of those in the future. It’s been great working with new people I’ve not really worked with before.


The Bugle used to be distributed by The Times, now it’s distributed by Radiotopia — do you have complete creative control over what the show sounds like, or does Radiotopia help shape the show?

No, it’s completely down to me basically. Even when we were with The Times they would just let John and me get on with it, they never really interfered with anything — apart from one libelous thing that we did* — then for four years we were independent. Since the relaunch we’ve been with Radiotopia but they just let us get on with it, which is great. The great thing about podcasting is you do have that total freedom, although I guess it could depend who you’re doing it for. The stuff we did on the radio we were always worried about radio commissioners looking over your shoulder, and waiting another year to find out if you’ve been recommissioned the podcasts. I guess like YouTube for visual comedy, it has opened up opportunities for comedians to make what they want to make and help them find their audience without having to wait to get something commissioned or recommissioned.


It seems clear that your American co-hosts — Hari Kondabolu and Wyatt Cenac — are really keen to talk about the Trump administration, because it’s the nightmare they’re living in, yet many non-American listeners may be suffering from Trump fatigue. Is there such a thing as too much news, and does that worry you as a political comedian?

Because it is a topical news comedy podcast people expect The Bugle to cover these stories fairly repeatedly, and I don’t think that is too much of a problem seeing as they are always shifting and changing and there’s always new stories and new angles coming up. Also the show has a built in balance where we shift from doing stuff about Trump to something completely unrelated about sport or absolute nonsense. I guess there is an element of there is only so much people can take, but I think if you can present it comedically in a way that’s fresh that can be quite a good thing, if in the deluge of news you can provide a fresh perspective and some respite.


What’s next for you — any upcoming projects our readers would like to hear about?

I’m carrying on with The Bugle, touring the UK, writing about cricket for ESPN, and then we’ll see what comes up!


*The pair were dropped by The Times in 2011 after repeatedly criticising Rupert Murdoch, the paper’s owner, for the News of the World phone hacking scandal.


Andy is performing his show “Plan Z” in Wellington on Monday, May 1, at the Hannah Playhouse as part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.


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