Elis James: The funny thing about podcasts

What do you get when you cross a comedian and a podcaster?

Podcasting has turned out to be a popular medium for a huge variety of different people, but if there's one group that's taken to it more than any other, it's comedians. Comedians are still among the most prolific podcast hosts; Welsh comic Elis James, for example, has hosted a number of shows with collaborator John Robins, as well as The Socially Distant Sports Bar and Elis James' Feast of Football.

In this week’s episode, James sits down with PodPod host Rhianna Dhillon and editor Adam Shepherd to discuss why the two disciplines combine so well, how he blends comedy with sports commentary, and why Welsh podcasting is so vital for the ongoing future of the language, as well as his journey to a podcasting true-believer.

Key takeaways

Embrace the power of the podcast

“When I started the radio show,” James said, “if I hadn't done it with John - who was a podcast devotee, he'd insisted on reading emails and stuff in the intro and doing a little outro as well - I think if he hadn't insisted on that and taken the podcast itself so seriously, I would've just put it out as the radio show and I wouldn't have done anything else to it, which is what lots of radio shows did at the time and still do.”

“And it was then that I saw the power of the podcast. Cause obviously when I was a teenager, I didn't grow up wanting to be a podcaster cause the medium did not exist. And then when we started doing live shows, I realized that the audiences were very, very different to the kind of audiences I used to get as a standup comedian. And they were far more loyal, and they were far more engaged.”

Keep it sharp

“I think crucially what makes Elis and John work as a podcast, is that it's a radio show first and foremost. And obviously, as a radio show and as radio presenters, we are broadcasting to the nation, on a national radio station, on BBC Radio 5 Live. And the way people listen to radio, they might listen in the car or in the van or whatever, or they might have it on in the kitchen as they're washing up. You have to keep relevant to new listeners and so it kind of keeps you sharp.”

“So I think being on the radio means that you can't become too self-indulgent because otherwise you get sacked. And I think that's actually a very, very useful, way of thinking and it's a useful skill to develop. And I think that I'm a better podcaster - I like to think that I'm a better podcaster - for having done the radio.”

You can’t fake good chemistry

“What people love is good chemistry. And if you're lucky enough to have good chemistry with another performer or presenter or comedian, then that is huge. And the people you expect to be really good together aren't always good together. And sometimes, a duo or a trio can be more than the sum of their parts, but chemistry is key.” 

“And again, If I was an aspiring podcast presenter and I wanted to go into podcasting and I was at home listening to this, I think I would find that a very frustrating thing to hear, because you can't really teach it, [but] I think you can teach it to an extent. And if you are someone who collaborates a lot, you become a better collaborator.”


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