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May 8, 2017 | by  | in Podcasts |
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Podcast: Interview with Tim Batt

Tim Batt is a stand-up comedian and Billy T Award nominee. He is a host of the hugely successful The Worst Idea of All Time podcast, in which he and fellow comic Guy Montgomery watch the same movie each week for a year. The pair are currently enduring their third season with We Are Your Friends, after watching Grown Ups 2 and Sex and the City 2 in previous seasons.


Hi Tim, thanks for talking to us today! You’ve recently been performing in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. As a comedian with a few years of the NZ and Melbourne festivals under your belt, how do the two compare?

Well, I think if you consider New Zealand’s population, then pretty favourably. Melbourne has got more money and people behind it, but I think the New Zealand International Comedy Festival has done an amazing job of putting on a festival to an international standard. Especially when you consider how many people we have, how many people they have running the festival and how much money they have to do it all, it’s very impressive. Melbourne is impressive too, and understandably a bit bigger; that will happen when you have the population of our entire country in one city. Melbourne tends to go for a little bit longer and people have longer runs, doing a show for three or four weeks instead of two. It’s probably similar to anyone that’s gone to drama school, when you completely destroy your own psyche and then rebuild it with the people around you, and you gain new family members because you’ve been through the trenches together.


You’re bringing your show Ladies and Gentleman to Wellington in May, what can audiences expect?

They can expect a combination of high and low brow humour — I will be talking about the Trump-ening of politics in one moment, and then shitting my pants in the next, so there’s something for everyone!


Many of our readers will recognise you as the co-host of The Worst Idea of All Time podcast, where you watch the same terrible movie once a week for a year. You’re currently on your 39th watch of We Are Your Friends — does it get any easier, or is it always a nightmare?

This season, I think it’s not getting easier, but I think we’re getting numb to it, so it’s less affecting. We did our 40th watch with Tom Walker. I was here in Auckland and Guy and Tom were watching it in a cheap motel bed where they were lying together watching the movie on a laptop screen and Guy was just in his boxers. You’re watching it, and you’re listening to it, but it just doesn’t touch your brain at all; it’s quite a weird psychological phenomenon. I’m not sure how else to describe it.


The Worst Idea of All Time is hugely successful in America, and your fans have crowdfunded a couple of trips for you and Guy to go over there to do live podcasts — why do you think the show has translated so well to American audiences?

I think we’ve got a big fanbase in Los Angeles because it’s where movies get made. Like if you look at Grown Ups 2, Adam Sandler is sort of the perfect example of the Hollywood machine — a movie he’s in comes out and makes lots of money. He gets money — everyone else gets money, and everyone’s just getting cameos and cashing the cheques even though it’s objectively a terrible, terrible, film. I think people in the industry— whether they’re a lighting person or a gaffer or a sound person, or even just being around Hollywood — enjoy people making jokes about it and coming up with ideas that lampoon the stupider side of their industry. But I have no idea, that’s just a theory!


You’re also the founder of the Little Empire Podcast Network, which distributes lots of podcasts featuring other New Zealand stand-ups. Do you think having a podcast is now the best way for stand-ups to increase their visibility? Is it essential?

I wouldn’t say essential, I don’t think there is anything essential in comedy which is what I love about it, there are no set rules about it. I think it is definitely a great shortcut to finding an audience, and also to sharpening your skills if you lock yourself into doing something every week. You have to get better at talking about something on the fly. You learn internet stuff like how to upload things, and your audience will give you feedback on whether it’s shit, and you can hopefully improve. It’s a really good tool for comics. In America, pretty every single stand-up has a podcast that they’re involved with, or hosting.


The Little Empire Network also has sponsors for most of the shows they distribute. Sponsorship is really common in American podcasts, which are often peppered with ads for Squarespace etc. How do you balance monetising — fairly — a product, without disturbing listeners attracted to a free medium?

Generally speaking, I think podcast audiences are pretty smart and media savvy, and they understand that you’re doing something and putting it out for free, so there’s a little bit of a trade-off there where you might be exposed to some ads. What I’ve always tried to do on the network is make the ads a part of the show, so instead of them being pre-recorded 30 second spots like you get on the radio, it’s the host doing the ad. I’ve been pretty strong on that point to advertisers, that the hosts are allowed to put it in their own words and make it their own. I think that comes through, and I think that’s the way to integrate them into the product.


Do you think that the increasing emergence of successful NZ made podcasts will impact on NZ commercial radio, which hasn’t seemed to change in years?

I can’t imagine in the immediate future it will, maybe in the long term. There’s room for everyone to coexist.


What’s next for you — any upcoming projects our readers would like to hear about?

I’m going to be hosting a TV show for TVNZ which will be a current affairs discussion panel show, which hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s about to be. It’s called Banter, and it’s going to be on Duke and then on the On Demand platform. It will be broadcast live, so I’m looking forward to saying the wrong words and getting lots of complaints.


That’s so exciting! Are there any other regular panelists confirmed?

Not just yet, we’re still just figuring that out, but I think it will be a rotating cast of a comedian, a politician, maybe a university professor or some other kind of expert to chew through things that are happening in the news and maybe some other things that are not in the headlines that day but are still important for New Zealand and New Zealanders.


Tim Batt is performing his show Ladies and Gentleman at BATS Theatre from May 9-13 at 8:00pm.


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