When Ed Gamble and James Acaster started Off Menu in 2018, they expected to make no more than 10 episodes. Three years later, we caught up with the pair to discuss their satiating success for Issue #015 of the Pod Bible magazine…
PB: ED! JAMES! TELL US ABOUT YOUR SHOW! WHAT’S YOUR PODCAST ELEVATOR PITCH?
Ed Gamble: It’s a food podcast where we ask a special guest their dream menu and also James is a genie. It mainly ends up being a poo poo wee wee podcast, though. I probably wouldn’t say that bit in the elevator, though.
James Acaster: Ed Gamble and I invite a guest into the dream restaurant and ask them their favourite ever starter, main course, side dish, drink and dessert. Also, I am a genie.
WHY PODCASTING? WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE FORMAT THAT APPEALS TO YOU?
Ed: It’s complete creative control. There’s no notes on what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t, and that definitely appeals. Quite frankly, if we pitched Off Menu as a TV or radio show for a big corporation before it was a podcast then it would’ve got nowhere. All the weird bits would’ve been smoothed over. Podcasts are often characterised by weird running jokes and odd format points that you don’t necessarily get on any other platform. The sort of thing that podcast audiences appreciate – looseness, more natural content – is something I feel much more comfortable with than the more stringent requirements of other mediums. Basically, we can waffle on and people like it.
James: It’s the best format for having a chat and we can release whatever we want each week. Also, Benito does all the hard work for us and that is very appealing.
HOW DID YOU FIND PODCASTING DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Ed: It pretty much became my career and my social life. We were recording a lot before lockdown and I was worried about how doing episodes over Zoom would affect the rhythm of it. But I think it’s worked pretty well! And chats with James and The Great Benito have often been the highlight of my week. Not sure they’d say the same, but they are my emotional crutch and I’ve come to terms with that.
James: Easiest thing in my whole entire life and I bless Jesus every day for it.
WHAT‘S THE SECRET TO BEING A GOOD PODCAST HOST?
Ed: It’s so different to hosting TV or radio I think. It’s OK to be a bit rough ’round the edges and waffle a little bit – people actually like that. I think it’s a more personal experience for the listener – the best hosts make you feel like you’re in the room with them. That’s the joy of someone like Adam Buxton, he’s so relaxed and fun that you start to think of him as one of your friends that you go out for walks with. Maybe that’s just me. I’m lonely.
James: Pretend to be a genie and always have a good anecdote up your sleeve about Diet Coke.
WHICH INGREDIENTS MAKE A GREAT PODCAST GUEST?
Ed: Just being open and fun and willing to go off topic with the host. All our guests have been wonderful, of course, but the best ones have done some prep – but not so much that they’re rigid. When I’m a guest on podcasts I tend to have listened to at least one in advance, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I just like to know the tone of something so I can drop in without too much fuss. I’m sure James would say something different – he doesn’t even listen to ours.
James: Someone who thinks I am really cool and always agrees with me.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK TO BEFORE YOU STARTED OUT AND GIVE YOURSELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Ed: About podcasts? Fire the Great Benito for being a little nerd and for chasing me relentlessly about getting these questions answered by a deadline. Other than that, I’d just go back and make sure I had all the most successful podcasts. Get my dad to write a porno earlier than the other one. Marry Rosie Ramsey. Be really tall and play for England. Be Louis Theroux…? Non podcast advice: buy Bitcoin, start doing weights when I was 18 and practise kissing on fruit before graduating to girls.
James: Steal Peter Crouch’s equipment and throw it in a well.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR WORST PODCAST MOMENT SO FAR?
Ed: Most of our episodes have been the absolute dream. The rare awkward interview is painful at the time but worth it when it comes out because it gets people talking. I’d love to tell you about an episode where I pooped myself during the record, but I can’t because I’ve done that in every episode since the start. It’s sort of a good luck ritual now.
James: Getting bullied by a mean American man.
WHICH EPISODE OR EPISODES OF YOUR PODCAST MEAN THE MOST TO YOU?
Ed: We got to interview Corey Taylor from Slipknot which was a huge moment for me. I’ve loved that band since I was 13. He was utterly delightful and a very easy interview. That’s one of the episodes that turned into mainly toilet chat and I loved every second of it. The first episode with Scroobius Pip was a great way to start – we knew we had something straight away and it gave us a boost of confidence to carry on in the same vein. There’s so many episodes that I’ve loved. I’m always a fan of the episodes where the guest nails the food description: Sindhu Vee, Andi Oliver and Marcus Samuelsson are particularly good for that. Claudia Winkleman is another highlight, and the episode with Sue Perkins contains a story that blew my mind.
James: The episode where we finally kicked someone out of the dream restaurant means a great deal to me because it reminded me that we are in control of our podcast at all times no matter what.
WHICH PODCASTS OR PODCAST HOSTS DO YOU TAKE INSPIRATION FROM?
Ed: James Acaster
James: Ed Gamble and James Acaster on Off Menu.
FINALLY, WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE PODCASTS?
James: There are too many good ones to choose from, oh mama! Find out more about the podcast including links to the restaurants mentioned by all guests at offmenupodcast.co.uk.
Photo: Paul Gilbey
If you love Off Menu be sure to check out our video celebrating the launch of issue 15, listen to Ed and James on Episode 12 of the Pod Bible Podcast and read this best-of Off Menu list from superfan and meme supremo @nocontxtoffmenu…