Broadcaster, satirist and impressionist Rory Bremner is hosting a brand new podcast, The Spying Game, packed with fictional Hollywood spy tales and real-life espionage. Each week, host Rory Bremner sits down with a Hollywood filmmaker, international author or TV star, and a real-life international spy to separate the facts of true espionage from the fiction we see on screen. As a spy enthusiast and someone who makes a living pretending to be other people, Rory is a great choice of host. We caught up with him to ask about his recruitment to The Spying game…
Can you tell us how you got involved in The Spying Game?
We all love secrets and spy dramas. I was approached after a show for a foreign policy/defence Think Tank by the man behind New York’s Spyscape Museum – they run some great Spy-related podcasts- and we talked about me hosting one. It was the closest I’ll come to being recruited as an agent.
Why podcasting? What is it about the format that appeals to you?
It’s driven entirely by enthusiasm- the presenter’s, the guest’s, and the listener’s. You can stumble into whole worlds and hear remarkable people telling their story at a length that’s simply not possible in the usual speed-driven, short attention span media.
Do you have a favourite spy?
Connery as Bond, of course- I grew up in Edinburgh, where he did a milk round (Connery not James Bond). But this series has introduced me to a host of others- Agent Sonya and, in particular, John Le Carré, whose books I’m looking forward to reading.
You’ve spent a lot of time pretending to be other people in your career – do you think you’d make a good spy?
I’d be useless as myself- you’d have to spend so much time on the details, which isn’t my thing. Having said that, when I’m in character I can be quite convincing. I’ve fooled more than one person in the past, including a Tory backbencher in the 1990s who (unbeknown to me) called off a Eurosceptic rebellion against John Major because he’d had a positive conversation with the Prime Minister. It wasn’t the PM. It was me, and the call “saved [Major’s] bacon”.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt through doing the podcast?
Spying is 90% boring and 10% action, but the hidden story behind each mission is fascinating. Every episode is revealing. The most riveting was the account of Jonna Mendez, former Head of Disguise at the CIA (what a title!) who explained how to change from businessman with briefcase to housewife with shopping basket in 45 seconds. Brilliant. I must try it some time.