Changes: Louis Theroux
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Annie [00:00:00] We'll be done by one.
Louis [00:00:01] Oh my God.
Annie [00:00:02] Is that okay?
Louis [00:00:03] Yeah, that's perfect.
Annie [00:00:04] I mean, I say that, but I'm going to have to go as quick as I can.
Louis [00:00:08] I'll talk faster. I have 1.25 and 1.5 speech modes where I just *speeds up* talk a little bit faster.
Annie [00:00:13] *Laughing* I wish I could do that in real!
Louis [00:00:13] I'm a lot like YouTube. *talks nonsense in sped up voice, Annie laughs*.
[00:00:17] *Intro music*
Annie [00:00:24] Hello and welcome to Changes, it is Annie MacManus here. So good to have you with us. My guest today is *blows lips* kind of a national treasure. I would say that, he's national treasure status for sure. His name is Louis Theroux. You will know him from his face, his voice, his mannerisms, and the stories he has told over and over again on our televisions, all focused, I suppose, on our psyches, our human connections, our 360 degree rounded selves; the good, the bad, the nuanced. Louis tells stories about what it is to be human, I suppose, and by doing so, so well, he has got a real cult following in the UK and beyond. Louis was born in Singapore and moved to the UK when he was one with his big brother and his mum and dad. He graduated from Oxford in 1991 and got his break in television in 1994 when he was 23, working for the American documentary maker Michael Moore. You will probably know Michael for documentaries like Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, Planet of the Humans, Roger and Me. He's a really famous documentarian from America, so it was a big break Louis getting to work with him when he did. He then went on to be noticed by the BBC and to be commissioned to make the BAFTA winning series' Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends and When Louis Met, and then a series of award winning specials happened including The Most Hated Family In America, Miami Mega Jail, Altered States, and a feature length documentary, My Scientology Movie. He's made films about people with dementia, people with autism. More recently, he did straight up celebrity interviews, maybe you saw him interviewing Stormzy or Judi Dench or Bear Grylls, and he did a podcast during lockdown called Grounded with Louis Theroux for the BBC, that was really, really good. He has a new podcast starting with Spotify this week, which was a nice excuse to get him to come over to my house and sit in the kitchen with all the doors open to the garden and have a chat. Now, I must say that it's a risk when you open the doors to the garden because you then get all the noises of nature and humanity nearby and there were aplenty but you will hear this. I like the atmosphere of it. I like hearing the birds sing and the children laughing in the background. I loved this convo, see what you think. Louis Theroux, welcome to Changes... Okay so I'm sat my kitchen and Louis Theroux is here.
Louis [00:03:02] Yes, I am.
Annie [00:03:03] I tidied the kitchen earlier Louis, did you notice?
Louis [00:03:09] Ummm.
Annie [00:03:09] *Laughs* I thought there might be a reaction.
Louis [00:03:11] It looks tidy. I mean, I didn't see it before so-
Annie [00:03:15] Trust me this is tidy for us.
Louis [00:03:15] I believe you.
Annie [00:03:16] But as I was tidying-
Louis [00:03:17] It's tidier than my kitchen.
Annie [00:03:18] I couldn't stop thinking of like- it's strange because we've never met and then I thought, God, what if he comes in and he starts picking things up and he's like 'oooh-, you know like you do in your profiles of people when you're on the television. And I was like, 'yeah of course that's what you do, you go in and you look at peoples houses!'
Louis [00:03:32] Is that my M.O... I don't-
Annie [00:03:34] So I started seeing my kitchen through your eyes and I was like, what would they say? What would people think? And then- but it's not. It's a podcast. It's fine. No one can see it. But just so you know if you're listening at home, it is tidy.
Louis [00:03:45] It's very tidy, It's lovely. I'm not being weird like, we're neighbours, right?
Annie [00:03:49] Yeah.
Louis [00:03:49] I cycled here, took me about 2 minutes, 3 minutes.
Annie [00:03:52] Really?
Louis [00:03:53] And your kitchen reminds me a bit of my kitchen.
Annie [00:03:56] Oh, good, good.
Louis [00:03:58] But yours is a little tidier.
Annie [00:03:59] Well a lot of the houses round here are kind of similar but what I've done today is I've opened the doors at the back so that the garden- in May it's my favourite month of the year because May is when the lilacs are blossomed and you only get about two weeks of them, they're already on the turn. So I thought, let's get the lilac- lovely fragrance of them in. But also there's a school behind us and it's break time so if you hear like, bloodcurdling screams, that's just the children.
Louis [00:04:26] Yeah.
Annie [00:04:27] Sometimes it does sound like a horror movie out there.
Louis [00:04:29] I can hear the children quite loudly.
Annie [00:04:31] Yeah, my producer's going to hate me for this.
Louis [00:04:34] I've got a podcast... this isn't me plugging my podcast, but I'd be worried about the sound.
Annie [00:04:37] Oh, don't say that Louis! *Louis laughs* I insisted on it.
Louis [00:04:40] We wouldn't put up with this on my podcast.
Annie [00:04:42] We can't close the doors.
Louis [00:04:44] Since it's yours I'm fine with it.
Annie [00:04:45] Yeah, we can't close the doors, but it's just a bit of a bad vibe once they've been open... but anyway.
Louis [00:04:49] I'm a pervert for good sound.
Annie [00:04:51] Oh, well, that I suppose you are, because that's what you do and- good sound and good-
Louis [00:04:55] Almost to the point like, if I'm doing a documentary, before the sound recordist even says anything I'm like, 'I think I can hear a plane, there's a plane' or 'are you okay with that fridge noise?' *Annie laughs* you know, that kind of thing. Which is almost like a problem because actually-
Annie [00:05:11] How do you be like that though, when you make those movies that are so- and films that are so kind of, you know, you're in people's houses, you can't control the fridge noises, you can't go in there- you're meeting them for the first time- I know there's reccies, there's lots of reccies.
Louis [00:05:23] So you can control fridge noise.
Annie [00:05:25] Just unplug it?
Louis [00:05:27] You unplug it.
Annie [00:05:27] Wow. Big ask.
Louis [00:05:29] The trick of the trade is that you- the sound recordist, or we put the crew vehicle car keys in the fridge so that- because the classic manoeuvre is to unplug the fridge, forget and leave, and then the people you've been interviewing, you've defrosted their fridge. So if you leave the crew vehicle keys in the fridge- I don't know if I should be going round picking up your things now like I have-
Annie [00:05:50] No, don't, please don't. Erm, I've been reading your book loads.
Louis [00:05:54] Oh my God.
Annie [00:05:55] Oh, my God. I loved it.
Louis [00:05:56] Oh, thank you.
Annie [00:05:57] And it taught me a lot about you, which I didn't know. And it's funny because, you know, having seen you on telly for all these years and loved your documentary, was such a fan of your work.
Louis [00:06:04] Thank you.
Annie [00:06:05] Didn't really know that much about you and now I do. So you're a father of three sons.
Louis [00:06:09] Yes I am.
Annie [00:06:09] And how old are they now, if you don't mind me asking?
Louis [00:06:10] 17, 15 and 8.
Annie [00:06:12] Wow.
Louis [00:06:13] Yeah.
Annie [00:06:13] What's it like being father of someone who's nearly an adult?
Louis [00:06:17] Ahhh, well, I'm getting my head round that. When you're used to crisis mode- like, you're a parent as well, you know that as a parent you lurch kind of from crisis to crisis, a feeling of being overwhelmed and inadequate. I mean, obviously, there's a lot of pleasure mixed in with it and satisfactions but a lot of this. You sure think like, oh, well, there's a squalling baby I have to keep it alive. You know, like we've got to keep the baby alive! You know, and then it turns into a toddler, we've got to stop the toddler from picking up scissors and *Annie laughing* stabbing out its own eyes or microwaving its hand.
Annie [00:06:51] I know it so well.
Louis [00:06:52] You know, so it's one thing after another and our eight year old still wakes up at 7 in the morning on the dot.
Annie [00:06:57] Ahh, bless him.
Louis [00:06:57] Even if he's- for whatever reason, there's been something that means he's gone to bed late, he's up like an alarm clock. And then on the other side, like, you have these kids, when they hit whatever is, 14, 15, suddenly they don't want to go to bed but they can sleep till like midday or one or two in the afternoon if you don't wake them up.
Annie [00:07:14] Yeah. Yeah.
Louis [00:07:15] So there's this weirdness- You've got these kind of small men in the house who aren't even that small.
Annie [00:07:19] See, this is all ahead of me. I've got two sons. I mean, this is what I'm trying to figure out, the teenage son phase.
Louis [00:07:24] You feel like you're kind of running a boarding house.
Annie [00:07:26] Right *laughs*.
Louis [00:07:27] And then the weird thing is you come downstairs and there's like, why are there three bowls- empty cereal bowls with, like, a puddle of milk in them? You know what I mean? I mean, I don't know if this is very specific to me.
Annie [00:07:42] I mean, that happens now, God.
Louis [00:07:42] Your house is no longer your own and you just sort of feel a bit- there's a sort of slight sense of physical intimidation.
Annie [00:07:49] Right. Because they're big?
Louis [00:07:50] When they're small, you know, whatever happens, like I can control this situation physically.
Annie [00:07:55] Yeah!
Louis [00:07:55] And it's no longer the case. If they chose to double team on me, it would be game over. So you got to get a bit more wily and find other ways of getting your way.
Annie [00:08:06] And do you now, having teenage boys, look back at your teenagerdom, and your parents, or your dad and think like, do you see echoes of yourself, I suppose, in your parents?
Louis [00:08:16] Yes and no. The thing is, when I was 13 I was sent to a boarding school. So it was weekly, so I'd be back Saturday a little after lunch and then I'd be there through end of Sunday, back at home. And they had me in the holidays, obviously, but I don't think my parents ever had much of the experience of pure, uncut, kind of adolescent or young adult male energy for weeks on end. My parents kind of found a workaround where like, they just yeah, like my dad would- we'd be on holiday with him in the summer so he'd have us for a few weeks but his thing was always- we had sleeping bags so we didn't have to think about changing our sheets.
Annie [00:09:02] Right, yeah, clever.
Louis [00:09:02] And he would cook the kind of basic stuff and just let us fend for ourselves. Like, I feel like I'm much more involved in a way that maybe my parents weren't, actually.
Annie [00:09:12] And is that something you want actively to do?
Louis [00:09:15] Well, I'm happy to do it. Like, I don't think anyone else is going to do it *laughs*.
Annie [00:09:19] But I suppose if you don't have the experience of what it's like to be parented, I suppose in a hands on way as a teenager then you're kind of going in blind. I suppose you have Nancy, who sounds like a total legend by the way.
Louis [00:09:29] My wife is a legend. I also do enjoy like, the domestic responsibilities of being a dad and I I'm somebody who likes to cook. So Nancy sometimes says I'm overdoing it, like I'm cooking for them too much. Like, *confused voice* 'why are you always cooking different meals? Like, you could just give them pizza!'.
Annie [00:09:48] Ohh God, Nancy.
Louis [00:09:49] And I'm like, well I know but I actually get a buzz- like on the way here I was thinking about, 'ahh I think tonight I'm going to do a chicken tray bake'.
Annie [00:09:56] Yeah.
Louis [00:09:57] And then yesterday I did a macaroni cheese and the day before it was a bolognaise but- so it's not ambitious meals, but I like to provide a home cooked meal that I can get a little pleasure in putting it together.
Louis [00:10:10] But Louis that's good! Amateur psychology, but that's got to be something to do with the fact that you were in boarding school and you didn't have the home cooked meals during the week. You know, it's kind of like a kind of subconscious, like, I'm going to provide what I- mind me I don't know, maybe you didn't wish you had that when you were a teenager.
Louis [00:10:22] I don't think it is that, I think all it is is that I'm someone who is naturally quite anxious, I find ways to dissipate my nervous energy with activities-
Annie [00:10:34] You like chopping?
Louis [00:10:36] I like chopping. I do, I like chopping. I like the alchemy of ingredients turning into something edible or even more delicious. I don't relax by watching television. If there are other people around or if I feel like there's things that need to be done, I like to be on my feet.
Annie [00:10:49] Yeah, you like to be doing things.
Louis [00:10:50] Yeah.
Annie [00:10:51] You sound a bit like my dad. My dad's the same. He can't sit still, goes to the shop every half an hour.
Louis [00:10:54] Tinkering. If I knew how to fix a car or something or, you know, I'd fix the vacuum cleaner. I would probably do that. But I also like being in the mix, like the fam- you know, being in the kitchen you're still in the midst of family.
Annie [00:11:05] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, let's talk about your change, if you don't mind? Your first change.
Louis [00:11:09] Please.
Annie [00:11:09] So we ask everyone 3 change questions. So you cited a couple of things, but can you tell me about the change you cited about going to school when you were eight? That change of school?
Louis [00:11:20] Yes. Okay, yeah. So basically when I was about eight, I went from a local state school. I wonder, is this the one I was talking about?
Annie [00:11:31] Yeah.
Louis [00:11:31] And then they sent me to a private school and it was a strange and actually quite an upsetting experience. I had been a very happy, I think, reasonably well-adjusted child at my old school and I felt like I was in amidst my peer group who I liked and they were fun and we played football. At that time, probably, the music at the beginning was Bay City Rollers and Abba because this was mid seventies, but it was kind of like this South London rough and tumble atmosphere of a primary school and then I went to a private school which was like time travel because it was like being sent back 30 years to a prep school, what they call a prep school, it's short for preparatory school where all the kids wore uniforms, which is more nor- I mean primary school now they wear uniforms, we didn't wear uniforms in our day.
Annie [00:12:25] Right, okay.
Louis [00:12:26] You just wore whatever. But in this prep school, we wore like, little kind of suits with pins, like bright blue pinstripes, and you get to learn Latin and physical punishment was still a thing so if you misbehaved, they would slap you on the hand with a ruler or on the bum with a shoe or something. And it was all boys.
Annie [00:12:48] Right, so it wasn't a co-ed, yeah.
Louis [00:12:49] And you called each other by your surnames and it was all like, *posh voice* 'oh, Theroux this'. and 'oh, shut up, Miller'. 'Oh cooper, yes you're such an idiot' and I just found it totally wretched.
Annie [00:13:02] Yeah, yeah. I'm not surprised.
Louis [00:13:03] And so it was a big transition, and I kind of, um- one of the weird things that happened, I felt so self-conscious about maybe not measuring up or not fitting in that I began talking differently, and I actually got the nickname Posh Claud because they said I talked poshly, whereas actually I was- I'd just come from a state school. I think I was overcompensating and trying fit in *nasaly voice* by talking a bit like this and annunciating.
Annie [00:13:28] So it's like performative. Yeah, it's kind of, yeah.
Louis [00:13:30] It was a hideous experience, what a bummer. I'm sorry I chose that as change.
Annie [00:13:34] No, but it's like, that's such a huge change. Okay, so if we rewind a little bit about what life was like before you went to this school. So you have one brother, Marcel, big brother, and you describe, which I really related to, being the youngest in the family as kind of being the person that provided light relief in the house, like the kind of, the guy who was the fun guy, and your brother was the clever guy, in your opinion.
Louis [00:13:55] That's right.
Annie [00:13:57] What were your parents like in the house to live with? What was your house like?
Louis [00:14:02] I would say they were- my dad worked at home, he's a writer, he's american. My mum worked at the BBC, she's a radio producer, she's English. They'd met in Africa. They were both teaching there. They were people educated, curious about the world, quite literary. People who prided themselves on how much they'd read. I would say, looking back, there was a degree of, what I see now as intellectual snobbery.
Annie [00:14:30] Yeah.
Louis [00:14:30] Which sounds maybe judgemental, but I think that was definitely present. I think you could put it kindly and say they were people who valued learning.
Annie [00:14:40] And they were both first generation university like, you know, they didn't come from wealthy backgrounds.
Louis [00:14:45] They didn't come from wealth, no my dad was from an immigrant family-
Annie [00:14:47] Yeah.
Louis [00:14:48] In Boston, Massachusetts, where his parents, one was Italian, the other was French-Canadian and for them, like they were, yeah, but my dad just went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and so that was a big deal, like to go off to university. And my mum, South London Tooting, again, went off to Oxford but that was, you know, she was the first person in the family to go to university. So I think maybe part of it, they saw it as their salvation. They thought that we've been saved from like humdrum lives of, you know, whatever that was, just trying to make a living and get through life and actually educated ourselves and, and, you know, they're both creative and sort of insightful people and I think they would have thought that that's what we would have passed on to our kids. And, you know, my dad is a writer of some distinction. He has an international reputation. He's written, I don't know like like 60 books or something, like a absolute ton of novels, travel books, and so in the house, when I was growing up there was this overriding- a background sense of our dad is someone special, right. And it wasn't spelled out, but it was a sort of sense of like, he's some kind of big deal and that we are born into this in some way, like and probably I'm supposed to be a writer and my brother- we would have grown up thinking we're going to be inheritors of this literary tradition, which is again, like at the time, it just feels normal, right? But that was very, you know, looking back on it, that obviously wasn't totally normal.
Annie [00:16:25] At any point in your childhood, did they talk about the move to private school? Like why was that important for them that you go to those type of schools? Because that would have cost them a lot of money. That's a big choice for them.
Louis [00:16:35] A couple of things happened. One was, you know, having written six or seven books that were very well-reviewed and, you know, sold a reasonable amount and for literary fiction would have been considered successful, my dad wrote a travel book called The Great Railway Bazaar that was a huge hit and it was a bestseller all over the world, suddenly we had money as a family. The second thing was, you know, I've asked my mum about this. What she said was that she was worried we weren't learning enough. And I think that, you know, that may or may not have been the case, but that was her fear and her worry. I think mixed in with it maybe was, I sense on my dad's part was that he liked the idea of us learning Latin, you know what I mean? And and being slight- you know, he's, as I said, he's American, but I think there's a part of him that had an Anglophile streak and the idea of having two posh little nincompoop boys *Annie laughs* *mockingly high voice* going around saying, 'yes I liked Latin and I can speak Latin'. And then when we went to America showing off to his family that he's got these two sons like, you know, *American accent* 'Louis, tell him what you're learning in school', he doesn't sound like that, I've got one American accent that I do. *American accent* 'well, you know, Louis, they're learning Latin and erm- tell him some Latin Louis'.
Annie [00:18:05] Then you're rolling out your Latin.
Louis [00:18:07] And then my brother would be like, 'Dad, no one speaks Latin, it's a dead language' *Annie laughs* but, you know *American accent* 'well, come on. You can say some Latin'. He's not- I'm making him sound like an idiot *Annie laughs* this is a kind of pastiche- my dad's nothing like that but definitely it was like a party trick of like, *high pitched american womans voice* 'so, Louis, your dad says you're at school and in London and learning Latin'. And so I think there was a degree of the feeling- and you know what? The school was very hot on academic stuff. Like, I mean, it was a kind of almost to a cramming extent. So I definitely was learning Latin.
Annie [00:18:44] You were a prodigious academic.
Louis [00:18:46] And I became like very serious about my studiesa and so, you know, although I would say it distorted other aspects of my life and possibly my personality, right, made me- I think it rendered me more or less incapable of talking to girls.
Annie [00:19:01] You describe yourself as 'like something created in a lab, a freakish man child in culottes' which made me laugh out loud.
Louis [00:19:06] Yeah, a freakish man child in culottes. Well, the culottes was because I'd suddenly grown very fast, so my trousers didn't reach my ankles.
Annie [00:19:16] Yeah *laughs*.
Louis [00:19:16] So there was a time when *laughs*.
Annie [00:19:19] Sorry, I shouldn't laugh. But it is funny.
Louis [00:19:21] Yeah, a piccolo voiced androgyne is the other phrase *Annie laughs*. Meaning I had a high voice and I was- because I was a late developer, and then anyway, I mean, I could go down the rabbit hole on this.
Annie [00:19:32] You also say 'it was perfect for me, in some ways perfect for me and as much as it was founded on the two lode stars of my life, withering repartee and academic work, my geekiness already in evidence was about to be turbocharged'. I mean, you worked so hard all the way through school and you got your entrance exams for Oxford when you were 16.
Louis [00:19:49] Yeah, well that is true. Well, because I'd missed a year. So basically, at age 13 I moved on to a London boarding school and then I skipped a year because that's just what they did, I don't know if they still do that. If you were considered to be academic, they would say like- what was then called O-levels, now would be GCSEs like, 'you can do them a year early. It'll be fine'. And then if you're a late developer, I can't remember how I addressed this in the book but basically I was publicly challenged.
Annie [00:20:23] Yeah.
Louis [00:20:23] I don't know if this is a thing for girls. For boys like, when you see other boys getting pubic hair and you haven't got pubic hair... It's surprisingly traumatic.
Annie [00:20:29] Mhm, does that correlate to facial hair as well? Is it the same? I need to know all this.
Louis [00:20:36] You know, I don't think there's a fine science about it but basically, you might get a little fluff on your, on your upper lip but the main thing is you're just looking for some evidence of incipient manhood in your nether regions *Annie laughs*, you just want to see something growing. It's a bit like looking out on a lawn and being like-, you know, do you ever plant bulbs? Like, when are they gonna come up.
Annie [00:20:58] Yeah.
Louis [00:20:59] It's like you just want something and if you're sort of 15, let's say as I was, you're doing your GCSEs or O-Levels or whatever and everyone around you, *deep voice* they're going 'alright Louis'... *high pitched voice* you're like, 'yeah fine, how are you doing?' *Annie laughs*. And then boys can be cruel so they're like, *deep voice* 'oh, your voice is so piercing. Call me when your voice breaks'. Like making kind of-
Annie [00:21:23] Yeah, horrible jokes. Cruel jokes.
Louis [00:21:25] Related to the fact that you are basically more or less a child physically. And so anyway, yeah, it's a surprisingly withering and traumatic experience.
Annie [00:21:41] But you had your work.
Louis [00:21:42] So I buried myself in academic stuff and then finally did my GCSEs, I got some pubic hair and, um, and I'm fully man now, I'm happy to say *Annie laughs* in all departments. I don't think I really needed to say that *Annie laughs*. And then hit sixth form and finally found some friends who I, who I liked. And I dunno, is that my next change?
Annie [00:22:06] Yeah, so you talked about that. But just before that, just to stay on the academia because- so when the acceptance letter came for Oxford, I find this really interesting, you said you read it with a 'weird blank feeling of inevitability, and then "well, of course"'.
Louis [00:22:20] Yeah.
Annie [00:22:21] Where did that come from, I suppose, that feeling of inevitability. Why were you so unsurprised by your passing these exams so early and so successfully?
Louis [00:22:31] Um, oh, wow, Annie you're really getting into it.
Annie [00:22:35] Sorry.
Louis [00:22:35] I like it. I think there's two things I could say to that. One is that I'd done so much work, I'd sort of become a life support system for a kind of examination taking process, like, there are so many parts of life that I knew nothing about - social stuff, anything vaguely useful, but I did know how to sit and take an exam about medieval French history and write about the Valois Kings of France and so it wasn't in a sense, easy or free of stress, but I just knew that's what I was supposed to do. And I think the other part of it is that I've always had a slight weird erm... the term of- le mot juste may be 'anherdonic' which means sort of like 'without pleasure'. Like, this feeling of- sometimes it's a little bit the same, ahh I can't quite believe I'm saying this but I've won a few BAFTAs in my time and it's surprising how in the moment you don't feel as thrilled, you feel a bit disconnected from it. And there's some part of me that almost short circuits pleasure that if you've worked really hard and done something, you sort of just think, oh, yeah, and then you get the good news, there's some part of you, I don't know, it feels like you just don't- I don't experience joy-
Annie [00:24:03] In the way that you feel like you should?
Louis [00:24:06] In an uncomplicated way.
Annie [00:24:07] Okay, so you can't just enjoy, like, a pure feeling of gratitude and joy from an achievement?
Louis [00:24:14] Very rarely. Yeah, I wouldn't say never. There's times when I feel very happy, I feel grateful, times when I feel pleasure, when work is going well, I've filmed something or edited something and you're just in this moment of- you're in a flow state and you're just like, this is amazing!
Annie [00:24:26] But that's the climb. That's not the peak, that's not summit. And I think that's that's interesting, isn't it? The joy is in the doing, not the achieving.
Louis [00:24:33] Like you get a little letter and it's like, you have got in. You're like, well there it is. Or if you get an award it feels very disconnected to the work that it's notionally rewarding. Does that make sense?
Annie [00:24:43] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. There you go anyone listening, if you get an award in your life, the actual doing the work is so much more fun.
Louis [00:24:49] The work is the real pleasure.
Annie [00:24:50] It's more fun. Sometimes it's fun because if you've worked with a team, it's good to be able to celebrate together and say thank you. It's good for that but, no I get it.
Louis [00:24:57] Yeah. Or being on location and then you drive back and you've had an extraordinary encounter with someone and you're in the crew vehicle and you're like, 'oh my God, that was extraordinary. That was so amazing'.
Annie [00:25:08] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Louis [00:25:08] That's the real pleasure.
Annie [00:25:09] Yeah.
Louis [00:25:10] There's something a bit weird about awards in general. I think they exist and it's good and they can bring attention to things that need to be noticed but it's not a perfect solution to whatever that is *Annie laughs*. Here's your heavy metal object, well done.
[00:25:25] *Short musical interlude*
Louis [00:25:35] Let's move on to your adult change, kind of the Michael Moore years, discovering that you had a potential career in television, I suppose. So he kind of plucked to you, I mean, it wasn't him, it was a friend who brought you to him to work on his show TV Nation, and you ended up doing these inserts for this show, TV Nation in America. And I suppose this is the nucleus of the Louis that we know now on television and that we're so familiar with, but what about those inserts and that work? Did you learn about what you could do, the power that you could have in terms of bringing stories to people?
Louis [00:26:08] Well, the first thing to say is that I had never had any ambition to be on television, right. And I had been working as a print journalist and we were talking about my dad being a writer and I had always sort of thought, well, I'm supposed to be a writer and at some point I guess I'm going to write a book or something. And I was working as a journalist in New York at the time. I'd been working on a magazine called Spy Magazine and meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I was sort of thinking is this going anywhere? Am I ever going to arrive where I want to be? And am I ever going to measure up to anything my dad's done in terms of writing? He's written so many great books. And I was also aware that I've always watched a lot of television going back years and I started to think like, well, maybe I should be writing on television. Like, at least that way I won't be inviting comparison with my dad and, you know, this was the year of Frazier and Larry Sanders and Seinfeld and The Simpsons, and there were so many great TV shows and I thought, well, maybe that's something I could do.
Annie [00:27:10] Yeah, there's a bit in the book where you hear that apparently a lot of highly educated academic people are going to L.A. to write for sitcoms, and there's a little light that goes on your head then, you're a bit like oh, maybe that could be- you know, you kind of put yourself in that context, I suppose.
Louis [00:27:22] Yeah, I thought, well- and it goes back years, doesn't it, that in Hollywood the idea of East Coast people who might be writers or playwrights and then they kind of ship out to Hollywood and start writing for the movies, and I thought, yeah, and I had a light bulb moment of a sort and thought, I'd love to do that. And also, I've always had a part of me that sort of- I suppose a sli- I don't want to say anti-intellectual but a side of me that appreciates the artistry of the everyday. Whether it's pop music, TV, movies- I guess what I've tried to do is reject the snobbery that goes along with 'well, there's real art that exists in galleries and then there's the things that you do day to day that you enjoy'. Do you know what I mean? Which is kind of this weird like ghettoisation off like different art forms, whereas like actually these are all the same- I met Tracey Emin once and I was asking her about her art and she said to me, 'but what you do is art too, Louis' and I really like- I mean, that's debateable but I actually thought the idea that you know, why gatekeep art? Like all these things that the people enjoy that have any part of creativity in them that involve choices that you're making to connect with people in different ways through storytelling, through the visual element and aesthetics, that's all art. And I think evidently, like when you watched The Simpsons or Seinfeld or Larry Sanders like that's art and I thought I want to be part of that art! Do you know what I mean?
Annie [00:29:01] And it's kind of like, I suppose this sense of when you come up through academia, there's a sense of entitlement, there's a sense that only certain people should be heard. Whereas you've kind of spent your whole career bringing light to those people that are not, their voices are not very heard, you know. They're quiet people, they're marginalised people, they're othered, they're deviants, they're, you know, they're people that would be considered strange, I suppose, in mainstream society. And those are the people that you've zoomed in on. Interesting, isn't it?
Annie [00:29:29] Very much so. And in addition to that, I would say trying to, in so far as I'm able, to tell stories and bring a kind of a little bit of a documentary sensibility, a little bit of a psychological curiosity and reaching everyone, like that's the beauty of the BBC and TV in general that, you know, we can get into people's homes or indeed Spotify, because I'm trying to promote my podcast *Annie laughs*, but you're basically getting into people's homes and hopefully giving them something of value, something that will make their daily a little easier or make them think about life in a different way. But you were asking originally about Michael Moore and so having all of that in my head, I sent off- I was trying to get into TV and it was not going all that well. But because my friends had worked with Michael Moore on the pilot for this show he was doing called TV Nation, and they knew that he was being co-funded by the BBC and that the BBC had said to Michael, we'd love it if you had someone vaguely British on your show. And I think I was the only British person any of them knew.
Annie [00:30:31] You must have been so quintessentially British to an American then, I mean, you know, the accent, I suppose. So, so, so educated, charming.
Louis [00:30:41] Maybe, yeah, for sure.
Annie [00:30:42] Like ideal. Tick every box.
Louis [00:30:45] Well, I think the box that I ticked that Michael liked was that I was British but I also had American qualifications.
Annie [00:30:51] American sensibilities, yeah.
Louis [00:30:51] Yeah. I think the fact that I had an American dad who was himself, from a kind of working class background, and also that I'd done- I had a U.S. passport and I had done time in American journalism, I think that meant that he was more likely to give me a go.
Annie [00:31:08] So you did these slots for TV Nation and I guess it was you learning on the job very much so, and you're very honest and funny about just kind of being thrown into the deep end in that way. And there's a bit where you voice your worries and your anxieties about how some of these things come across and, you know, I suppose this idea of you never really planning to be a satirist and at times feeling like you were and abusing the trust of the people that you were using in your pieces. I suppose, was that valuable to you having that time to learn what you did and didn't want to do in that way? And kind of being able to shape the future of what you could do on the telly?
Louis [00:31:46] Well, yeah, definitely. I mean, you know, in this notion of change, right?
Annie [00:31:49] Yes.
Louis [00:31:52] Without Michael Moore saying, oh, you know, you can be on TV, and I don't even know if we mentioned this like he basically said, oh I'd like to put you on this show. Like instead of like me going, I'm going there as a writer, possibly, or a researcher or whatever, coffee maker, he's like no, I think you should be on the show as a presenter, correspondent. Without that having happened, I don't think- I find it hard to see how I would have ended up making television programs. Maybe I would have found some other way of- I like to think I'd have found some other way of working in television as a writer, but whoever it is I am now, I would not be that person. And making those segments gave me a chance to learn and kind of fail and sometimes succeed and acquire some of the skills of being a kind of correspondent. I do think, you know, there's many people out there who could easily have done what I did or been me in a sense. I think that's true for life in general.
Annie [00:32:51] I was really interested in that because I've heard you in interviews kind of, try and not belittle, but just trying to say you don't think that your education would ever kind of helped you, but there's definitely something about who you are that meant that you excelled at that. You talk about when you come into the first meeting for Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, which is your first commission for the BBC post TV Nation, and you come in with these files of clippings and articles and interviews of people that you were interested in over the years. Like so, you were very qualified, you were doing this anyway. You were passionate about those worlds and those kind of strange corners of society. So I do think you were made to do this.
Louis [00:33:30] Maybe. I mean, the other part of it was that I would have never pushed myself forward to do it, and the idea of being given the opportunity filled me with panic and then, frstly it was it was kind of a huge blessing that the first segment I was sent to do by Michael was about groups that think the end of the world is about to happen, like millennial groups, cults.
Annie [00:33:54] Apocalypse, what do you call those people?
Louis [00:33:58] Apocalyptic sects *emphasises sect*. I only said it like that because otherwise it sounds like sex. Um, and, and I thought, well, you know what? I may be totally shit at the job, and I'm definitely very nervous and in a flap about it, but at least I'm going to get to talk to these strange people and what else- what could be better than that?
Annie [00:34:17] You're genuinely curious *laughs*.
Louis [00:34:17] Yeah, could be better than that. This is perfect. And in the end, I'm just so curious to meet them and find out, like, what makes them tick.
Annie [00:34:26] But I think if you're going to employ someone right, you can learn how to be good on television. You can learn, but you can't learn how to be genuinely curious and passionate about a thing, which is what you were, so I think that's the most important thing. What do you think it is about you that kind of led you- I mean, I know obviously over the years your programs have broadened out not always to be about deviants, and strange people, and marginalised people, or the dark side of society, but the Louis then, what made you so attracted to those things? Why were you collecting clippings of people Louis?
Louis [00:34:55] Well, you know, I don't have a simple, easy answer to that because it's so deep in me, maybe it's something to do with a feeling of anxiety that I have. Like, going back years, I've always felt like quite an anxious and worry prone person and that erm-
Annie [00:35:13] So you're a catastrophist?
Louis [00:35:16] Ahh, no I'm not that because if anything- Well I guess maybe I can be. In some conte- but I'm also liable to sort of trust to dumb luck a lot of the time. I'm also guilty of saying 'oh it'll be fine' you know what I mean?
Annie [00:35:30] Yeah ahaha.
Louis [00:35:31] I don't prepare- like I'm the kind of person who rushes out of the house and doesn't think 'maybe I should bring a raincoat', I think it'll be- if it's not raining now, it probably won't rain. Do you know what I mean? I don't prepare for the worst in that sense. But I do think that if I'm in a new and unfamiliar situation, my default setting is that it's probably bad and my skills are probably not going to measure up, you know what I mean? And certainly going back years when there was something on the horizon that felt unfamiliar, I thought this is not good. And so in general, like when I speak to someone who seems more confused than I am, or if they seem to have a sense of- and maybe this is more relevant, if they seem to feel freer and and are expressing something taboo or slightly deviant or dangerous or forbidden, then I'm really curious to talk to that. Like I'm sexually-
Louis [00:36:32] Is it the conviction that they have?
Louis [00:36:33] Am I going too deep into my own private life?
Annie [00:36:34] Noo!
Louis [00:36:35] Like I'm sexually a pretty conventional person.
Annie [00:36:37] Yeah yeah.
Louis [00:36:38] Like you will never read, I don't think, I'm going to touch wood, that I was found dressed up as a-
Annie [00:36:44] You're not gonna do a Jamie Theakston?
Louis [00:36:45] Yeah, what did he do?
Annie [00:36:47] I think wasn't he found in like, it wasn't even that deviant, he was just found in a brothel and got cancelled before cancellations.
Louis [00:36:55] *Laughs* you won't read that you found me in a layby in Watford.
Annie [00:36:58] Ironically, you would be found in a brothel, but it would be part of your show.
Louis [00:37:01] I would be hopefully filming.
Annie [00:37:04] *Laughs* You should just carry a little camera just incase.
Louis [00:37:04] That will be a good excuse. You know, like you won't hear that I was caught dogging in a layby in Watford *Annie laughs* or dressed up in rubber locked up in a briefcase, know what I mean? But I am interested in the people who do that.
Annie [00:37:22] Yeah. You fair that in your books.
Louis [00:37:23] And it's not that I don't want to do that!
Annie [00:37:25] Yeah, you're curious about it.
Louis [00:37:27] There probably might be some part of me that's like, yeah, get me in that little briefcase-
Annie [00:37:31] That's healthy I think.
Louis [00:37:31] I wanna see if I can fit inside it, that sounds hot,
Annie [00:37:34] But is it something to do with the kind of, I suppose, you mentioned it a few times in the book, your life was quiet, your life was, you know, quite predictable and I won't say the word boring, you didn't say that and I wouldn't say it, but it was kind of just- it was just very normal, mundane life.
Louis [00:37:47] I was in a relationship living in New York, I was a stoner. I would basically get high and watch videos like, it's not legal is it? But basically I would smoke a lot of ganj-
Annie [00:37:59] So was it something- was it a kind of counteraction to that, I suppose?
Annie [00:38:04] I think in a way I was someone who yeah, I think there was some kind of yin and yang thing going on, right. I do crave experiences, but I also think you know, maybe it's as simple as this, that thing we talked about working hard, being studious, this was my version of being studious as well was like, I want to do well at work. And I think I was ambitious and more ambitious than I realised. So when I went and made programmes, like the first episode of Weird Weekends was about survivalists, I'm like, how can I commit to this fully? Like, how can I get as involved as possible? And then when I did the second episode that was about the porn industry I'm like, well, obviously I'm going to strip off and get a naked polaroid and obviously I'm going to get a role in a gay porn film. And we had a serious chat in the office about, should I have sex with someone on camera, right.
Annie [00:38:53] Right.
Louis [00:38:53] I mean, looking back on it that would be like God, Jesus.
Annie [00:38:55] Fucking hell, thank God you didn't do that.
Louis [00:38:57] I mean, we had a chat and I'm like, I don't think that's- no one needs to see that. That's pretty weird.
Annie [00:39:02] Yeah.
Louis [00:39:03] But, you know, it was on the table as a conversation. And I think the feeling was, if we're going to make TV, how do we make it feel like it's not humdrum and drab? Like, let's make something- let's try to take it further and push it. And a lot of that is just anxiety about feeling like, is it going to be any good at all, right?
Annie [00:39:26] Yeah, there seems to be a kind of a commitment to being able to show people in their most rounded way. So challenge prejudices of a label of what a person is and show people who, on paper are kind of horrific in their views, but then end up being quite, you know, personable or affable or kind of charming, you know? So where do you think that comes from, again, of being a really bad amateur psychologist but is there something in your life where you felt like you've had to prove a wholeness in a person, in a human like, and you kind of want to do that? Or is that just a natural curiosity thing in terms of reading and-?
Louis [00:40:01] I think it's a few things. I think partly it's just wanting to reflect the truth. And I think partly it's a sort of sense of, I just hate *helicopter overhead* are you alright with this sound?
Annie [00:40:12] I'm alright with a helicopter. I mean, we've had drums, we've had planes.
Louis [00:40:14] I mentioned the sound. Didn't I say I was a pervert for sounds.
Annie [00:40:16] I don't mind. The doors are open.
Louis [00:40:18] Is that alright?
Annie [00:40:19] Okay. It is pretty loud. It's getting louder.
Louis [00:40:21] Give it 10 seconds.
Annie [00:40:22] Okay.
Louis [00:40:23] And while we're waiting for the sound, I'd like to tell you a little bit about MailChimp *Annie laughs*. A word from our sponsors.
Annie [00:40:30] Oh my God. MailChimp.
Louis [00:40:41] *American accent* stamps.com.
[00:40:41] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:40:44] Where were we? I can't even remember, fuck.
Louis [00:40:44] No, I can remember.
Annie [00:40:44] Oh yeah, the wholeness, the kind of roundedness, the 360 degreeness of telling those stories, showing the truth in humans.
Louis [00:40:51] I think I get very easily bored and I think it's that feeling- and I also don't like that feeling of 'eyy, we're all on the same team', like that kind of group thing.
Annie [00:41:02] So there's a contrariness to it?
Louis [00:41:06] Yeah, the contrariness. It's a bit like when the World Cup is on and, you know, I grew up in England, so I support England and then when England go like two goals up, let's say, I'm like, ah, It'd be nice if Italy got one back *Annie laughs*, or more likely Cameroon or Costa Rica.
Annie [00:41:23] I'm so the same, I'm always up for the underdog.
Louis [00:41:25] And then my family are like, what is wrong with you?!
Annie [00:41:26] Why are you supporting Cameroon, yeah.
Louis [00:41:27] And they're like, you don't understand anything in football. I'm like, come on, it's boring and-
Annie [00:41:32] It's predictable.
Louis [00:41:33] Predictable and, you know, in a sense you're rooting for the underdog. So I think- and then also in narrative terms, you just want things to be something different. Something that you're not going to expect. And when you arrive and- I just want to feel like the story telling is one step ahead of where I think I am as a viewer, does that make sense?
Annie [00:41:56] Yeah, yeah, yeah, so you're constantly being kind of surprised.
Louis [00:41:58] So you're like- what's better than- so you've got your broad headline, which is we're going to go and meet, you know, crazy in inverted commas people who've gone up to Idaho because they think the end of the world is going to happen and they're characterised as far right and they're gun nuts and you're like, okay, that's a good headline. But then once you're there, you've got 50 minutes of TV to fill, it so much more interesting and satisfying, and by the way, truthful, if when you arrive at the gun nuts house, it turns out he's a big fan of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and he's an old hippy and his wife is Mexican born. And then you sit round and you find that nothing is quite as you expect, right? Yes, he has a gun rack. And yes, he does talk about when, you know, the UN is going to invade and there'll be a big gunfight. But also he's sort of sensitive and has self-awareness and an unpredictable set of kind of likes and dislikes.
Annie [00:43:03] What's been the thing that most people have said in criticism of you on telly that has done your head in the most? Like that you feel is unfair.
Louis [00:43:13] Well, because I think a lot of it probably is fair, right. I recently went on ChatGPT and I was like, write a negative review of Louis Theroux, just out of curiosity, and I was like- And it was talking about, oh, does he exploit and take advantage of people who are vulnerable? I mean, I don't think that's true. I do think that- what is it? Look, it's quite evidently the case that I am a privileged white male, privately educated, middle class family, and then I'm going into spaces where I have all the control. And as much as I create the illusion of being at the mercy of events in a prison, at a kind of white power event, but the fact is I am controlling the narrative. All of that is true. But then what you said, what's done in my head in? I think the one that maybe is inaccurate is the idea that I am more polished and I'm pretending to be like faux naive or that I'm pretending to be awkward and actually whatever- insofar as I have a persona on screen is pretty much who I am.
Annie [00:44:27] It is. Have you ever had a situation where that sense of control that you have of the narrative has been compromised and the person that you're speaking to has either wooed you to the point where you kind of lost your sense of what you're doing in the interview and the direction of it, or scared you into a situation or, you know, you felt like you've lost it on camera and it's not gone well.
Louis [00:44:51] Well, look, there's good losing it and there's bad losing it.
Annie [00:44:54] Yeah, because losing it can sometimes be great on camera.
Louis [00:44:56] Losing it is the most beautiful thing that can happen when you're making a documentary.
Annie [00:45:01] Have you been wooed by someone where you've just kind of-
Louis [00:45:05] It's always a transaction, right? And again, like I recently made- one of the more recent docs I made was about the far right that exists online in America and the main character, contributor interviewee, is a guy called Nicholas J Fuentes or Nick Fuentes. And after we, you know, he's since come to fame because he was in Kanye's camp when Kanye-.
Annie [00:45:33] Oh God!
Louis [00:45:33] Had his anti-Semitic episode and seemed to lose the plot totally. And then Nicholas Fuentes became his sort of political guru when Kanye was going around saying, I love Hitler. And Fuentes was the guy sort of in his corner. Anyway- but when I was with Nicholas Fuentes, you know, you're aware like he's far right, he's basically white nationalist. He may be a neo-Nazi, it's hard to tell, he doesn't identify as that. It's hard to tell, like exactly. But the point is is, it's this very weird thing where he's quite charming. And as much as you tell yourself that I've got this guy's number, I'm in control, I've read up on him, I know where he's coming from. And then you're in a room with a guy who's being quite funny, self-deprecating, joking around, and you're like, you're telling yourself, I'm being wooed, I'm being schmoozed, I'm in control but it's a constant act of vigilance, and that sort of goes across the board that in any time you're in an interview with someone, you have to remind yourself that they are presenting their best self.
Annie [00:46:43] Yeah.
Louis [00:46:44] And then there's the after effects of learning something afterwards. I mean, the most obviously erm, how do I say it? Well, notorious and kind of awful example of in a sense, interviewing someone and realising there was so much more to them than you realise was Jimmy Saville.
Annie [00:47:06] Was Jimmy, yeah, yeah. And the way that you managed to get him being real, not being his best self was by literally being in his life for two weeks and having the camera on at all times and getting this little moment in you when he was watching television and wasn't quite sure that he was-
Louis [00:47:20] Yeah, no, I have to give props to my director Will Yapp and my executive producer, Kevin Sutcliffe, because they had been very much pushing us to absolutely like film as much as possible so that we would get behind this leathery self caricature that he had and film him in ways that he wouldn't be expecting. Because he was always on. Well I say he was always, but then when he seemed to have forgotten that the camera might be on, you did see a different side of him. And clearly he didn't confess to all his misdeeds, but he spoke brazenly about being questioned by police for things that he'd done in his nightclub, actually physically intimidating and possibly beating up-
Annie [00:48:08] Locking people in boiler rooms.
Louis [00:48:09] Locking people in his boiler room of his nightclub. And so that's all in the in the documentary. The documentary is back on iPlayer I've been told.
Annie [00:48:16] Which one? The original one or the second one?
Louis [00:48:18] The original one. The follow up, which I made after he died is-
Annie [00:48:20] Are you glad you made that follow up?
Louis [00:48:22] Yeah.
Annie [00:48:23] You happy you did that? I was reading a review of that and it was very interesting. They described you as kind of a cabin boy taking responsibility for, you know, the sinking ship.
Louis [00:48:30] That was Mark Lawson's review, yeah.
Annie [00:48:32] Which I thought was pretty good. And it was really interesting and it made me think because all the way through your book as well, you're very quick to self denigrate and self-deprecating and kind of- and put your flaws on show and put those cards on the table and say, 'no no no, I'm not perfect'.
Louis [00:48:45] Yeah that's true. And sometimes people use that against you and you have to- you shouldn't do that excessively. I think I might be guilty sometimes of overly self-flagellating. So I do think that- and when, you know, I was taking responsibility for my piece of the whole thing which was that I didn't reveal that he was, you know, that he was a paedophile. And I didn't know him to be one. But I also think you can flip it and say.
Annie [00:49:06] You can flip it and say no one else asked him directly and put that on television for the entire time!
Louis [00:49:10] And also, by the way like, you know, having made documentaries in America, I was the one who said, you know, we're allowed to do specials, let's do a special about Jimmy Saville because that guy's really weird. And let's spend two weeks following Jimmy Saville around because there's something about that guy that is deeply unsettling and strange. And even if you believe half of what's published and rumoured about him, then there's still something about that that needs to be exposed. And so it wasn't that I was saying like, we need to give this guy a kicking, but I definitely thought this is a phenomenon that is exists of he's hiding in plain sight that is worthy of exposure and just exploration. So, you know, it's easy to forget that.
Annie [00:50:01] So funny, it must be strange having such a huge library of stories and, you know, television and work to look back on. Not a lot of people have that. They can see themselves through the ages from being young 20, 23, 24 year old to now in your 50s, on show, on film. How do you think you've changed in terms of, you know, your attitude to television and how you sit being in front of a camera?
Louis [00:50:26] I think I- That's an interesting question. I think I'm a bit more confident in terms of like, from those early days when I was riddled with anxiety and fear about making programmes. I mean, I still get a degree of apprehension, like there's a sort of feeling of, kind of focus or a feeling of just heightened awareness before I make a documentary, even in the day or two leading up to, say, flying out or filming, I try to every time I go out there, like approach it with the same level of seriousness. Like I've been making mode interview type programmes-
Annie [00:51:04] Yeah, I'm interested in that.
Louis [00:51:04] And they require more preparation.
Annie [00:51:07] Have you found that harder?
Louis [00:51:08] Yeah, yeah. There's a lot of prep that goes into that so, in a sense it's easier for me to wander around a prison or arrive at the headquarters of a religious- strange religious group or be in a mental hospital. Like, that's a happier place for me because I can just sort of-
Annie [00:51:26] Ingest it all.
Louis [00:51:27] I just can immerse and lurk. And when you're doing a long form interview, as you'll know as well as anyone, like you have to do your prep, you're thinking about where's this going to go? How will I begin? Where will we get to? What threads am I trying to pull away at? But in the end, for me, my lodestar is just to try and remember that it's the natural curiosity. Like, my least favourite thing is when people I work with, producers or directors, ask me to ask a question. Like I wouldn't say like I've got a rule about it, but it has happened several times that, you know, my producer said, like, why don't you ask this? And it's taken me off the scent. Like I really trust my instincts.
Annie [00:52:09] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh that must be a wonderful feeling.
Louis [00:52:14] Yeah, and I think as long as you're just still curious and you're not- and I don't love the process of television, you know, when you do a magazine interview now- like I did a thing for British Vogue and I go along and- and you arrive and you're like, oh wow, there's two cameras and a bunch of other people and I don't know what they're all doing. And you're like, oh okay, it's a social media shoot and you know, I'll do it and it's fine but-
Annie [00:52:44] I got the sense of that- your most recent series where you're interviewing celebrities Stormzy and Judi Dench and all that, I really got the sense of the size of the crew and the staticness of the interview might have been difficult for you, having only ever done interviews on the move and doing things, it's so much easier to talk to someone when you're not sat fuckin staring at them like. But suddenly you're sat on a stool with a huge crew and it's just all or nothing in that hour.
Louis [00:53:08] I always think like erm, the thing you say before the interview starts and the thing you say after the interview ends, are often more interesting than anything that gets said in the interview.
Annie [00:53:19] That's why in your podcast, in your Grounded podcast, you heard all of the Kufuffle getting on air.
Louis [00:53:22] GAnd the new one, all that, the throat clearing, the thank you, the goodbye, that's all included and I think, you know, that's something that carries over from the TV as well. How you come into a room, how you initiate a conversation, all of that is erm-
Annie [00:53:37] It matters.
Louis [00:53:40] Part of the thing itself.
Annie [00:53:41] Yeah, erm-
Louis [00:53:43] The relevant Nietzsche quote is- I always try and get in a Friedrich Nietzsche quote.
Annie [00:53:48] I love this. Come on. then.
Louis [00:53:51] My first book, I made it the epigraph of the book. 'Even when you lie, you nevertheless tell the truth with the shape that your mouth makes when you lie' *Annie laughs*. Something like that, I slightly garbled it. But that's the idea it's like, it's metadata. Like it's the idea that the circumse of how you sit, how you say what you say, the intonation, everything other than the words, the explicit words, are also providing truthful information.
Annie [00:54:22] Mmmm. Your book, when I saw it, I thought it- and you can, you know, just say this isn't true or not, but it felt very authentic to you in that the cover is kind of, like what it looks like compared to what it reads like is so different. Because it's got this kind of dad pun as a title Gotta Get Theroux This. It's kind of turquoise and yellow, these bright, garish colours. It's got a close up picture of you like.
Louis [00:54:45] Looking like ugly groomed.
Annie [00:54:46] And then you read it and it's so beautifully, exquisitely written and literary and the way that you write, I had to get my dictionary out. I loved it. I learned loads. You called Harlesden a polyglot.
Louis [00:54:57] Yeah.
Annie [00:54:58] A metonym for the disadvantaged. Like, you know, you write incredibly.
Louis [00:55:03] Thank you.
Annie [00:55:03] And it made me think about that kind of juxtaposition between you being very smart, but also very into humour and playfulness and fun and kind of those two things sitting beside each other. And maybe that's the essence.
Louis [00:55:18] Ahh, you know, I think that I- there's this tension, isn't there, between absolutely wanting to spread your wings, whether it's in writing or in the programs you make, but also being ruthless and disciplined about not being pretentious, you know, reaching people, you know. And it's a fine line between using a few long words because it's fun and it's enjoyable and expressive, but also not being a dick about it *Annie laughs*. And funny you should mention the cover of the book because I think of myself as an accommodating person and maybe sometimes to a fault like that I don't really like conflict. And the one time I had a like mini disagreement with my publisher was when they showed me the cover of the book and I was like, this is ridiculous. And it was because my name Louis Theroux is like *shouts* LOUIS THEROUX *Annie laughs*. It was like 1000 point type. And then the title, which it was my idea for a title to have a goofy kind of title like Gotta Get Theroux This but it was it was really small. And, you know, by this stage I'd sort of- because when I signed my book contract, I'm like, oh and they'll obviously like, they'll just want it to be kind of literary and then you realise, oh no! This is actually a book that's supposed to sit next to books by Jonathan Ross and Jeremy Clarkson and-
Annie [00:56:42] Yes, yes!! It's got to pop.
Louis [00:56:44] Yeah. They're not looking for the next Zadie Smith to mention someone we were talking about earlier or, you know, as much as I might like to think I'm in my little lovely literary garden of my fellow little returs. You know, *posh voice* 'oh, yes we're publishing the new-'. I mean, the peer group that I- writers I admire like Philip Roth or Jeffrey Eugenides or I mean, I really like-
Annie [00:57:13] Love him so. So it doesn't look like those books?
Louis [00:57:17] No and so it's like, this just looks like-
Annie [00:57:19] But the writing does write liek those books.
Louis [00:57:20] Anyway, the compromise was they made the title a bit- I was like, my name is in the title as well, just make it- at least make the title a bit bigger. So that was as far as we got with it.
[00:57:28] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:57:38] Louis, what is the change that you'd still like to make? And we won't say to the world because that's impossible, but just to you and how you're living your life, if at all. Maybe you're happy where you're at, but if there's anything you still want to tweak moving forwards.
Louis [00:57:52] I'm in the process of making a change. And I think the change is like being aware that I'm getting older.
Annie [00:58:01] So you're going to be 53 on Saturday.
Louis [00:58:03] I'm turning 53 shortly. And as you get older you realise, well quite clearly like death. Death is, if not round the corner, like it's, you know, a few houses down the road. And so suddenly that kind of- that urge to sort of chase success, defining success as professional accomplishments and maybe financial security, like that diminishes and you sort of think, well, what about like the whole complement of life, right. And things that you maybe thought ahh maybe I'll get to that one day, like just kicking back and just, well, I mean, being around a bit more, travelling less, being more present for the family, cooking more, which is obviously a change that I've made. You know, we mentioned that we're neighbours. We are lucky enough to have a local tennis club, are you aware?
Annie [00:59:03] Yes, yes.
Louis [00:59:04] Big shout out to Elmwood Tennis Club.
Annie [00:59:06] Love Elmwood.
Louis [00:59:06] And I'm like maybe I should start getting down there, playing a bit of tennis.
Annie [00:59:09] Lovely club.
Louis [00:59:10] Being an old fart. You know what I mean? Do you play did you say?
Annie [00:59:14] I'm down for tennis. I'm actually trying to find a tennis partner because I'm not very good, but I like whacking the ball.
Louis [00:59:20] I need lessons.
Annie [00:59:21] Yeah.
Louis [00:59:22] So there's that and then being a bit more health conscious.
Annie [00:59:27] Right. Well, you look great for being 53.
Louis [00:59:29] Thank you. I mean, I've been exercising. I had a tooth out.
Annie [00:59:32] Right.
Louis [00:59:32] Have you had that yet?
Annie [00:59:34] No.
Louis [00:59:34] Oh my God, I had a molar out.
Annie [00:59:35] Oh, God.
Louis [00:59:36] Drinking a bit less. I've been reading a book by Adrian Chiles, the presenter, journalist.
Annie [00:59:42] Yes.
Louis [00:59:43] And it's called something like The Good Drinker. And his thing is like, you know, people see it as all or nothing, like you either drink or you go teetotal. And his thing is like, there are ways of just, you have a drink, just drink so that you enjoy it but don't let it be in control of you. So that has been something I've been working on a little bit. So just a sort of sense of like.
Annie [01:00:05] Balance.
Louis [01:00:06] Balancing life out a little bit.
Annie [01:00:09] Yeah. And is there stuff that you're working on that you're really excited about?
Louis [01:00:13] Always.
Annie [01:00:14] More telly stuff? More series?
Louis [01:00:15] I mean, this isn't just me shouting out the podcast, but-
Annie [01:00:19] Yeah.
Louis [01:00:21] The interviews I've done for that and sort of giving myself license to meet people who I would never otherwise be across their work, you know, when I did Grounded, one of the people I interviewed was the YouTuber KSI, and I was dimly aware of him through my kids.
Annie [01:00:43] And their obsession with Prime. God.
Louis [01:00:44] And well that's certainly a big thing now.
Annie [01:00:47] Unbelievable, unbelievable.
Louis [01:00:48] That's a whole other phenomenon. And since, that interview was two years ago and then three years ago maybe, and since then, you know, JJ is a friend now, I made a documentary with him but it's also been a way of experiencing this flowering of talent that exists online. And so for the new run of episodes for Spotify, I've talked to some high profile Internet creators in a way that, not to sound like a total you know, completely boomer but-
Annie [01:01:19] I think we're allowed to talk about it.
Louis [01:01:20] Well you know it's that world of erm-
Annie [01:01:23] So you've got Amelia on there, Dimoldenburg.
Louis [01:01:25] Amelia, amazing. Who obviously chicken shop date is a phenomenon and people who you know don't have to go cap in hand to a commissioner at the BBC and say please commission my show but I've created content viewed by millions, hundreds of millions and viewed all over the world and purely out of their own- self starting their own little project. It's cool.
Annie [01:01:51] It's very cool. I look forward to listening to it. So it drops- so if you're listening now, it's drops tomorrow, start of June.
Louis [01:01:56] The first one is Shania Twain and it's superb. Who would have thought I'd be interviewing Shania Twain?
Annie [01:02:01] I mean, why not?
Louis [01:02:02] She's so great.
Annie [01:02:03] Yeah. Yeah.
Louis [01:02:05] Oh my God, she's a legend.
Annie [01:02:06] Louis, thank you.
Louis [01:02:07] Thank you!
Annie [01:02:08] That was really nice. I really enjoyed it. It felt a bit messy in places.
Louis [01:02:10] I can't believe it's taken us this long to hook it up. Did it go meta?
Annie [01:02:14] Well, just because when you're interviewing about interviewing. So you're talking about interviewing and then I was like oh God, maybe I need to be doing this more, and this less.
Louis [01:02:21] You're doing perfect. I'd listen to you- did you interview Rylan?
Annie [01:02:23] Yes, interviewed Rylan.
Louis [01:02:25] I think the Rylan one- when I did, I did an interview with Rylan and I listened to yours and I'm like, jeez, maybe I don't need to interview him now *Annie laughs* that did the job.
Annie [01:02:35] Well, that's the thing about podcasting is that- and something I really related to whilst reading your book and you were talking about those years when you were doing celebrity shows and you just spend your whole life waiting for people to say yes. And it's very hard. Podcasting is kind of like that. You have to have a lot of patience and you have to wait for the right people. But sometimes the best ones are the ones that are not the most well known.
Louis [01:02:58] Yeah, and I think actually and you're exactly right. And I think that feeling of slightly kind of having to kind of go around cap in hand saying like, please, please will you do my podcast and actually you want people to enter into it freely and willingly and ideally enthusistically.
Annie [01:03:20] Yeah. Yeah.
Louis [01:03:21] So that's the part of it, but actually so far we've been lucky. Like people have been up for it and so, long may it continue.
Annie [01:03:29] Well, I guess I'll see you around.
Louis [01:03:31] Well I'll see you down at Elmwood, look out for my serve *Annie laughs*. I think my serve is the strongest part of my game.
Annie [01:03:38] Okay. You've got the height!
Louis [01:03:39] My forehand is not good.
Annie [01:03:42] You've got the height so your serve's grand. I've got a double handed backhand that's pretty bad ass. That's my best one. Everything else I can't. I can't serve for shit.
Louis [01:03:49] I'm gonna try and win it on aces.
Annie [01:03:50] Okay *laughs*. Thank you, Louis.
Louis [01:03:54] Thank you very much, Annie.
Annie [01:03:56] Right, I'm going to press stop... Thank you so much to Louis Theroux. I can confirm that he is exactly the same person in real life that he is on the television. And there was a weird kind of surreal feeling of having him in my kitchen, having only ever watched him on telly for so long. It took a little bit of getting used to, but he's extremely personable and affable and nice to be around and yeah, really enjoyed that conversation so thank you to him for that. Let me know what you thought. Love to know your opinions on what you heard, any comments. You can hit me up on Instagram, I'm on Annie Macmanus there. And don't forget to subscribe to Changes, a rating, a review, always so appreciated if you're a fan of Changes, it helps so much to get us seen and continue the podcast and continue bringing you episodes every single Monday morning. Also, with regards to Louis Theroux's podcast, if you're interested to hear that it's out tomorrow on the 6th of June. Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. See you later!