Comedian, writer, politics junkie: Matt Forde is many things, and when it comes to podcasting, he’s also many people. His skill as an impressionist has been put to use on Wondery’s British Scandal, where he voices the famous figures behind many of the country’s most jaw-dropping shenanigans. Alongside co-host Alice Levine, he’s retold scandals from Diana and Charles’ ‘Crowded Marriage’ to the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.
He also hosts his own podcast, The Political Party, and says that the popularity of British Scandal within the corridors of power has been useful in getting high-profile guests like Philip Hammond and Angela Rayner. Forde at down with Rhianna Dhillon and Adam Shepherd to talk about the role of satirical podcasting in politics, how to balance humour with serious subjects, and why it’s so much fun being Boris Johnson.
Topicality isn’t everything
“I never try and get too newsy,” Forde said. “I always want to talk to them about the stuff that's going on at that moment, because that's quite an interesting way to open the interview. But I quite like the thought that these are just time capsules of individuals that are preserved forever, that people can just go back and listen and would still get a lot out of in 20 years' time when they didn't know what the news that week was.”
“The stand-up at the start of them is topical, but beyond that, really, I want it to be a bit broader. Obviously, depending on when you interview people, you realise you've got an opportunity to have a deeper conversation with them about a particular thing - And I think that's a really good thing to do and to give them the opportunity to perhaps explain it in more detail… I'm quite obviously political myself, so I know how they think a lot of the time, and I'm trying to get around that.”
Find the funny side
Obviously, we were all horrified, but what Alexander Litvinenko went through,” Forde said. “Equally, I think in any story, there are bits of light and shade where if you're gonna tell a particular story in this way, the listener needs relief. Otherwise it is just too overwhelmingly depressing.”
“And Lugovoy and Kovtun, who are the two goons that are dispatched from the Kremlin to kill Litvinenko, are a pair of clowns, and they're carrying Polonium-210 around with them in their breast [pocket]. One of them wanted to be a porn star. They keep going to these nightclubs that have, like, brass dicks for taps and things. So there was lots of easy fun to be had around the edges.”
Play to the crowd
“What I also have is a live audience, and that is something that when I first started, didn't appreciate how that would affect the dynamic. And if anything, I thought it would make it harder - If anything, it made it easier, because if there’s one thing a politician loves to do it’s impress an audience.”
“Particularly if they get a laugh, you can see them think, oh, well, I want a bit more of that. That is a heady drug. The warm embrace of a comedy audience, laughing at them. It's kind of unique for them, really…. they don't want to let them down. So I think that, if anything, just makes them open up a little bit more.”