With all sport currently on hiatus, continuing to record sports podcasts presents a unique challenge. Perhaps escapism is what football fans need right now, which would be good news for Joel Emery, writer and creator of The Offensive. The show is a football mockumentary that follows fictional club Ashwood City FC and all the conniving, backstabbing and idiocy of their CEO and his key colleagues. Today, Joel talks us through the show’s creative process, as well as the origins of this British Podcast Awards winner and Stakhanov staple.
Hi. I’m Joel Emery. I write The Offensive podcast so you don’t have to.
The Offensive was originally developed as an idea for television, with its principle concept being ‘The Thick of It’ but for Premier League football. Our main aim was to not compromise on any football-related jokes and satire, and try to narrow in on just the football audience. Naturally, that laser-focus on a particular type of viewer wasn’t that attractive a prospect to mainstream broadcasting, so the idea kind of sat on the shelf for a couple of years after a video demo. In short, they said no and I got disheartened.
But that’s not the end of the story, there’s more – in March 2018 the idea for showcasing The Offensive as a podcast came to fruition. In the intervening months before the next season we faced the challenges of writing, casting, rehearsing and recording but, despite all that, we were pleasantly surprised by the freedom podcasting allowed us. If we wanted to stage an episode at Emirates Stadium – we could, the narrator just says ‘we’re at The Emirates’ and with some crowd noise and bang; you’re there. No need for crews and extras, permission from Arsenal, lighting… nothing.
With that newfound freedom, we got greedy and decided to have the show go throughout the season, not just back to back episodes – all while in sync with the Premier League. Games would finish up on a Sunday and we’d push an episode out on Monday morning. Looking back, it was a ridiculous decision that probably required more thought and consideration – but without doubt a hugely popular creative model with our fanbase. I’ll sometimes listen to an episode and think ‘God we all sound knackered’ but it would seem no one else has noticed yet.
And thus; our biggest challenge. We have to work tirelessly to write a script, record it and edit it within the week. If we had nothing else on our plate, that would be easy. But with normal jobs and normal lives, cramming a weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) sitcom in there can become a challenge and we occasionally are very tight to the deadlines.
Performers will often be away or busy on other jobs so they’ll provide remote recordings, or we’ll find creative ways as to why such and such a person is on the phone in this episode, and so on. Availability, remarkably, has become one of the most potent creative forces for the entire show. Once we have the availability of people then the episode idea and structure come next. If I get lucky the idea will come to me reasonably quickly, or I can work with something that has happened in football that week. Often something like a cabbage being thrown at Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce is a vital lifeline. Otherwise, I’ll just start writing and see where it goes, shove a funny ending on the end and get it out to the performers ASAP.
Paul Waggott was cast in the summer of 2018 and has moulded the Patrick character into something I didn’t really see coming. He’s morphed into a paranoid, penny-pinching, childish, vain, and yet somehow likable, Etonian millionaire. I can’t put my finger on when Paul really took over the wheel of Patrick, but I would say the first time we heard him ‘whine’ as Patrick it really made us laugh and we haven’t looked back. Paul is passionate about audio and being a voice artist and, although I don’t think he’d admit it, he’s a consummate perfectionist. [His] perfectionism, moulded with Adam Jarrell’s helps balance out the unstructured chaos of myself and Helena.
Helena Doughty was also cast that summer and unlike the growing admiration of Paul, she completely blew us away, straight away. I’m hoping that Helena continues to talk to me after I write this, but I’ve made her character Jess more and more like her as the season has gone on. Helena is a very funny, sardonic person and that moved Jess away from this stony, lecturing arsehole to more of a devilish, tormenting arsehole.
Adam Jarrell, who edits and directs the show as well as playing Woody, is like another co-writer — except the majority of his writing is done in the edit. He’ll often fill holes, add pieces of extra material or offer line changes, thus making him an indispensable last line of defence. Sometimes episodes can come together like a patchwork over the whole week, sometimes they’re edited and put together in a day or two. The additional voices of the side characters in the show are so often voiced by Adam and myself because of time. Do we have time to find an actor, wait for the reply, wait for the file and edit it? No, probably not.
We have used over 80 performers throughout the show at this point, whenever we get the chance to cast and work with the actors we will. The same is for live recording with all of us in the room, that will be around 60% of the episodes, that’s the best scenario. Working with Paul, Helena and Adam in the room together is always a joy and yet a catastrophic waste of time on occasion, as we spent at least half the time mucking about.
The Offensive is growing continually and we expect to take it into more exciting and challenging areas in time but for now, we’re just taking each game as it comes.
You can check out The Offensive via their website, Acast, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.
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