The No Such Thing As A Fish folks on touring top podcast
No Such Thing As A Fish is a weekly podcast series produced and presented by the researchers behind popular BBC Two panel game QI. Here ‘QI elves' Dan Schreiber, Anna Ptaszynski, James Harkin and Andrew Hunter Murray talk about the live tour of their top-rated podcast, which arrives in Ireland next week
Why does No Such Thing As A Fish work so well as a live show?
James: It’s really good to see our fans face-to-face. We read about the numbers who listen to the podcast. But to believe those numbers you have to see that those people actually exist.
Otherwise, it could just be my mum pressing the 'play' button 7 million times. She’s got terrible RSI now!
Anna: It’s really nice meeting fans who are basically just the same as us. They’ve usually got more interesting facts than we have! We also have drinks with them afterwards.
It’s great engaging with them and getting the confirmation that there are actual humans out there listening to the show.
Who is your audience?
James: We have very good audiences. Very few of them have never heard of us. We’re not like an unknown comedian who goes on stage and has to ingratiate himself with the audience.
Our audience are ready to geek out with us. They are very keen to be part of the conversation and tell us their own facts. In Guildford, for example, a dragonfly expert corrected us and told us where they really live.
Anna: We even employed a member of the audience who still works for us now. She sent in a fact about Clark Gable and Cary Grant meeting the day after Christmas every year to exchange monogrammed gifts they didn’t want.
How important is the chemistry between you to the success of the live show, and what qualities do each of you bring to it?
Dan: The chemistry is fundamental. It makes or breaks the show.
Anna: We are all interested in anything, but at the same time we are all very different. We all look and sound different. We all have different manners and different specialities.
I’m the most sarcastic and do the most mickey-taking of the others when they say something weird. Dan is into the Loch Ness Monster and things that aren’t really facts, and James is the Bolton Cowboy. You do have a Stetson, don’t you, James?
Dan: Like John Cleese or David Mitchell, Andy has that classic British comedy characteristic of authority. I’m the only one with huge gaping holes in their knowledge.
Do you enjoy touring?
Dan: Yes. We’ve got our own tour van and we play quizzes in the van. We’ve got the Pointless book. Halfway through playing Pointless one day, I tweeted that no one had got the answer right to the question of who has appeared as a guest on QI.
Richard Osman tweeted us his answer, and it wasn’t 'pointless'. It’s quite funny that he got it wrong as he wrote the book!
How did the podcast start?
Andrew: The whole thing grew out of a conversation James and Dan were having about the number of men in the world with two penises. They came to the realisation that these facts were too interesting to stay inside the office. So now it’s really nice to share them with other people.
James: There were so many extra facts that were never used on QI. They were just going to waste.
Dan: Most importantly, the vibe we kept hold of is that it’s like the chats we have in the pub. That’s what it is – it’s a really good pub conversation. When people press 'play' on a second episode, that’s the equivalent of “let’s get another round in. I want to keep going.”
Andrew: Imagine a pub conversation with a thousand people watching and you have No Such Thing As a Fish.
Why has the podcast been so successful?
Anna: We have surfed a wave of nerd culture. Professor Brian Cox started it, and now geeks have become cool over the last 10 years.
Also, social media is very, very vilified at the moment – justifiably. But perhaps nerds have become fashionable as the result of a backlash against the way celebrity culture has taken over. A lot of people don’t like that culture.
In the age of fake news, people don’t know what they can rely on. They like the fact that people are saying, “These are facts that we have gone to the trouble of researching. We can promise you that they are almost all true.”
It’s not about trash, is about real, interesting stuff. It’s an antidote to what is happening.
James: We did 15 minutes of comedy on William Hazlitt, the 19th-century essayist, which I don’t think anyone in history has done before. I can’t imagine any other show would ever do that.
Andrew: The other amazing thing about podcasts is that they can help you build an audience right around the world. We are touring Australia and New Zealand this summer because our podcasts are very popular there. That would have been impossible even 15 years ago.
Dan: The last 10 years have been all about empowerment. People in every respect – race and gender – are breaking free. In the same way, for a long time anyone who read books would be seen as someone who might get bullied for that.
I guess we’re part of this new great rise of the underdog. It also helps the we are part of a very successful show. In fact, my number one piece of advice to people starting a podcast would be to be associated with a gigantically popular TV series!
No Such Thing As A Fish, March 27, The Ulster Hall, Belfast / March 28, Vicar St, Dublin (sold out). Belfast tickets £16/£18 via Waterfront.co.uk.