Way back on January the 1st of this year, comedian, actor and poet Rob Auton launched a daily podcast titled, wait for it…. The Rob Auton Daily Podcast. Rob’s mission was clear – every day in 2020 he would record and release a piece of his writing whether it be a short story, a poem or something in between. The podcast provided an escape from the usual formats and the short (usually under three minute) episodes were easy to digest alongside my regular library of shows. It quickly established itself as a part of my daily routine and is by far and away one of my favourite shows of the year.
In July, Rob won Best Daily Podcast at the British Podcast Awards and the judges were effusive in their praise: “Dripping in charm, the deadpan delivery elevates this daily podcast to one which should surely be regarded as a must-listen. In a subset of daily podcasts that, when faced with an ever-distorting world force themselves into a position of either editorialising and at worst polemicising, this creator opts-out and is here to create and to entertain – and there can be no virtue more universal than that.”
As 2021 approaches and the project comes closer to completion, I caught up with Rob to ask how he’s found the process of releasing a daily podcast during such a challenging year…
Rob! The finish line is in sight! How are you feeling?
I think that’s one of the elements of this year I’ve struggled with most, not knowing how to feel. Normally I have a bit of structure to doing gigs and writing for Edinburgh and writing a new show to preview from January but with all that wiped away there is definitely a side of me that has become comfortably numb. How are we supposed to feel at the moment? Optimistic? I can’t do that with the people we have in charge at the moment. I was watching some watchalong videos of the Pink Floyd song Comfortably Numb and the woman at the end said “what is making you feel comfortably numb?” And I thought “yep this was definitely filmed before 2020.” How am I feeling about the podcast? I haven’t looked back yet as I’m just finishing the last episodes but when I’ve got them done I think I will feel proud of it. That’s been the best thing about working on the podcast this year, it has enabled me to feel something, I have had to mine for feelings that aren’t worry or despair but I have found them and I’m thankful to the podcast for that.
Producing a podcast for every day of the year is quite the achievement, did you ever come close to missing a day or wishing you’d gone weekly instead?
Ben and Naomi from Plosive Productions have been great at producing it and it has felt like quite a smooth process really. They have done a lot of work on it and that has been really good. I’ve had to be quite disciplined with getting them done which has meant forcing myself to work when I didn’t want to. Those times were the most rewarding for me, sitting down and thinking “I haven’t got anything to write” and then getting a bit lost in the writing in a good way. That’s been a big lesson for me. Just start writing and put the hours in and something good might happen or it might not but it’s definitely not going to if you’re not doing it and you’re just playing on the computer getting baths in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Podcasts have provided a wonderful form of escapism in 2020 and many people cite your show as the perfect antidote to the 24 hours news cycle and endless references to ‘the virus’. Has the routine of producing a daily podcast helped you to navigate such a crazy year?
It’s definitely been a difficult/almost impossible year to navigate for a lot of people and doing the podcast has given me a bit of direction for sure. A lot of direction I would say. Maybe I’ll never know how much it really has helped me through the year. It’s probably been absolutely massive for me to be honest. Making it has been a constant source of refuge and I am pleased it has been a part of my life. Would you say that spending more time at home this year has made the whole process easier, or did lack of inspiration become an issue? I need to be in life to be able to write about it. Normally when doing shows or travelling around ideas form when walking, seeing signs or overhearing glimpses of conversations. I will never know the ideas I might have had this year if I had been out in the world, but I’m going to make up for it soon I hope. I’ve tried to be quite strict with what we’ve put out as episodes. There hasn’t been any we’ve put out where I’ve thought “this is awful but you’ve got to put it out.” They all have some sort of thought in that has meant something to me. If something means something to me I want to see if it means anything to anyone else too. That’s the whole point I think, because if someone says they like one of the thoughts it makes me feel less isolated. Connection is absolutely everything and it got taken away for a lot of people this year.
Are there any episodes you’re particularly proud of that may not have existed if it wasn’t for the year we’ve had?
I wrote a short piece concerning the death of George Floyd in June. As many people were, I was really struck over the head by that murder and wanted to try to say something/anything to express my dismay at that. The brutality humanity expresses sometimes just makes me realise as a species we are maybe not as smart as we think we are. Seeing our teeth and other animals having teeth, we are not that far removed, it’s a reminder that people can behave savagely much like our not too distant relatives in chimpanzees and apes. You know sometimes you see a nature documentary and it’s all nice in the jungle and then all of a sudden the animals are ripping each other apart? I wish we were better and I hope one day we can be but it’s going to take a few more million years of evolution I think. We are a long, long way away from being the finished article.
You won Best Daily Podcast at this year’s British Podcast Awards, what advice would you give to anyone considering creating a daily show?
Make sure you have somewhere quiet to record it.
Finally, what’s on the horizon for you in 2021? Could we see you return with a new, less demanding podcast?
I think there will be a monthly best of the Rob Auton Daily Podcast maybe half hour episodes for people to listen to if they like? Ben is that correct? Can you answer here in italics? YEP ROB, THAT’S THE PLAN. Other than that I’m going to be doing some shows hopefully and have been working on something else but will talk about that in the new year.