Our cover stars for Issue #022 of the magazine were none-other than Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo, fresh off the launch of Kermode & Mayo’s Take. The podcast is reassuringly the same thing they’ve been doing since 2001: Kermode gets excited about films, Mayo drily undercuts him and there’s a lot of chatter about stuff that has nothing to do with anything. it’s great to have them back…
PB: TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW SHOW! WHAT CHANGES HAS THE MOVE TO A PURE PODCAST FORMAT BROUGHT ABOUT?
Simon Mayo: Well, it’s everything and nothing really. On the one hand, it’s the same because we are still just chatting about films, life, getting distracted by avocados and elementary physics etc, but delivering a number of pods a week has obviously modernised what we do, breaking it down into more digestible chunks. So hopefully the heritage listeners feel well served, and the new listeners feel fabulously welcome.
Mark Kermode: We also have a new studio with a new neon sign – which obviously you can’t see when you’re listening to the podcast. But take my word for it, it’s there. And it makes a huge difference to the listening experience. HUGE.
WERE YOU TEMPTED TO TRY SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT OR WAS IT A CASE OF “IF IT AIN’T BROKE…”?
MK: Wherever we go, and whatever we do, there’s no getting away from the fact that this show is essentially me and Simon sitting in a room, talking to each other about movies (and now ‘cinema-adjacent’ TV) with occasional bickering and a huge amount of input from the listeners. That’s it – that’s the show. So it’s not just that ‘it ain’t broke’, it’s more that ‘it is what it is’. You can take or leave it, but you can’t really change it.
SM: I don’t do “completely different”.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO YOU TO KEEP THE SAME PRODUCTION TEAM TOGETHER FOR THE NEW SHOW?
SM: Was this question inserted and written by the production team? Sure sounds like it. No one normal asks that question! However, the answer is yes. Continuity in an upheaval is a good thing and this team has worked with us since forever. The heritage of the program is very important and so understanding that is absolutely essential in crafting the next steps.
MK: Well obviously it’s a huge relief to the listeners that we are still subject to the whims of the Redactor in Chief, meaning that there’s someone reining in all the nonsense. From our point of view, it’s very reassuring to have the same production team because we know that they understand the show, and they get what works about it. Also it means that we can keep using running jokes that are way past their tell-by date, so that’s a bonus.
AS RADIO VETERANS, HOW EASY DID YOU FIND ADJUSTING TO THE WORLD OF PODCASTING IN THE EARLY DAYS?
SM: We didn’t even know it was happening. Someone just said it was being turned into a podcast and we said ok. Whatever that is, it sounds like a good idea. So yes, we were early adopters even if we had no idea what we were doing.
MK: Extremely easy, not least because we’ve been doing the show as a podcast for years. In fact, one of the reasons we moved to Sony was because both Simon and I were aware that if someone said something nice to us about the show it was always ‘love the podcast’ as opposed to ‘love the broadcast’. It began life as a radio show but it’s been gradually mutating into a podcast that happened to be broadcast for many years. Also, it feels really liberating not to have to break for news and sport, which would always take priority on the radio, as indeed they should.
WHAT’S THE SECRET TO YOUR LONGEVITY AS A DUO?
SM: Having very clearly defined roles is helpful. There is only one critic and only one host. My main job is to ask the questions you at home are asking. It’s a choric role, akin to the ancient Greek Chorus explaining what on earth is happening to the audience. So, when Mark is being incomprehensible, I have to step in. That is my job, to interrupt on behalf of the nation.
MK: Simon is the best broadcaster in the world and so from my point of view it’s been a simple matter of shackling my wagon to his star and refusing to let go. To me he’s more than just a friend and colleague; he’s a pension plan.
FINALLY, COULD YOU RECOMMEND A PODCAST AWAY FROM THE WORLD OF FILM & TV?
MK: Pod Save America is my favourite podcast. It has seen me through the grotesque insanity of the Trump years, and it continues to be the best, most accessible, and most entertaining explanation of US politics. It’s addictive and I would advise everyone to subscribe.
SM: Other podcasts? Really? OK well I like The Rest Is History with Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook, Unholy with Jonathan Freedland and Yonit Levy and Get Onto My Cloud, Tim Rice’s podcast.
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