Why I hope Louis Theroux doesn't get cancelled
Updated: May 18, 2021
I've been enjoying Louis Theroux's new podcast 'Grounded' so much I've decided to break down the show's secrets to success and help you learn lessons from his magic formula.
Top of my list of people I hope don’t get cancelled is Louis Theroux. I don’t think he will.
Not only because of his work unearthing the tale of the Tiger King (a must watch), but more recently because of his first-ever podcast series, Grounded. Stuck at home, Louis used the first UK lockdown (back in May 2020) to track down some high-profile people he's been longing to talk to, from all walks of life and on both sides of the Atlantic.
His podcast interviews are rich, unexpected and varied. He at once has no agenda and a tightly honed agenda. Ruthlessly rooting out the uncomfortable for each of his guests:
For KSI – why his brother has betrayed him
For Lenny Henry – finding out his ‘Uncle’ was his Dad
For Ruby Wax – why Louis himself caused her downfall
For FKA Twigs – sharing her story of her abusive relationship with Shia LeBouf
For Rose McGowan – why being portrayed as a sex symbol made her feel isolated
Vulnerability. Humanity. Relatability. Louis deconstructs these massively accomplished celebrities into people. Like you and I.
So as a podcast host, what can you learn from his masterful interview style?
Pick up on what people say and react – keep it natural and fluid – conversational
Do your research – he knows these people inside out.
Don’t be afraid to ‘go there’ – risk making them uncomfortable and vulnerable
Ask them about emotion – a strong reaction they had, a different side of the story.
Follow your passion – Louis only interviews people he finds intrinsically fascinating
[Pictured: Louis Theroux and FKA Twigs on Grounded.]
He’s also brought a refreshing energy to the recorded ‘at home’ podcast format, embracing the perils of not recording from a studio and having to fend from WFH.
We hear snippets of his sound engineer Paul helping tech-phobic celebrities to set up their Zoom calls, and light is made of technical hitches. I love how the fourth wall has been dropped by such a big name, who presumably has all the production budget in the world. It feels like a very deliberate choice.
The humorous format and tone suits his personal, conversational style, but it also presents the interview podcast format how it should be – accepting guests as they are – warts and all. Comedic music often accompanies these ‘change of plan’ movements with a charming voice over added in post from Louis – buying in forgiveness from listeners and making us smile in the meantime.
So, how do you cultivate a relaxed format to put listeners at ease?
Break the fourth wall – bring your listeners into the podcasting process
Keep in something to make listeners smile – help them see you as human (e.g. mishaps)
Include the team – if you have producers, engineers or researchers on the call, consider making them a part of the show
Add in a narrative storytelling element in post – to add context + perspective
Use to music to add light and shade – e.g. break music which is different from intro/outro music
[Pictured: Lenny Henry and Louis Theroux on Grounded.]
He’s built one of the top podcasts to launch during lockdown, and his enigmatic, inimitable interviewing style has translated seamlessly from video to audio.
And as long as he continues the challenge and critique the system behind his documentaries finding, I’m confident he’ll never get cancelled, either.
Stay ‘Grounded’, Louis, and please create season 3 very soon!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Louis Theroux's Grounded podcast. Let me know if you agreed with what makes it so great. If there’s any other shows you'd like me to breakdown and deconstruct their formula for success, please let me know and I’ll cover it next time! Drop me a note at email@example.com