The power of podcasting: Andy Zaltzman at TEDxOxbridge

The power of podcasting: Andy Zaltzman at TEDxOxbridge

Translator: Ellen Maloney
Reviewer: Mile Živković Thanks for having me here. This talk I’m giving now is entitled “The Power of Podcasting:
from Jesus Christ to Andy Zaltzman.” You’ve probably heard
of Jesus Christ already, for those of you who’ve not heard of him, prominent, turn-of-the-first-millennium,
middle-east based magician, and raconteur. (Laughter) Which I will admit is a slightly Jewish
angle on the subject, (Laughter) but I am slightly Jewish so it’s fine. I’m a second-generation
lapsed Jew, and as you know, lapsedness comes down
through the father, Jewishness through the mother,
and they sort of cancel each other out. It means I’m neutral on Jesus
but I know all the loopholes. For example, I know bacon
is kosher if you eat it ironically. (Laughter) It’s all about the look in your eye. I was born Jewish and slightly
brought up Jewish, but I don’t have that much
Judaism left in me. The only real legacy
of my Jewish heritage that I have, which I’ve had ever since
I was a small child, is a life-long fear of people attacking
the end of my penis with a sharp blade. (Laughter) I don’t know why that is. You’ve heard of Jesus,
let me introduce myself. I’m Andy Zaltzman, I’m a comedian. Well, alleged comedian. There’s still a court case from a gig
I did in Leeds about ten years ago. (Laughter) I’m a three-time European
classical air-guitar champion, four-time second place in the British National Silver Medal
Winning Championships. (Laughter) A performance I was delighted by. I’m a compulsive bull-shitter. (Laughter) And I do this podcast
called “The Bugle” with John Oliver, who you probably know
from The Daily Show in The States, his new HBO show. Podcasting has been
a big part of my career for the last six – seven years, and therefore, I consider podcasting
the only valid art form left on Earth. By which I mean
it is largely unsullied by money. I’ve done all kinds of podcasts. I’ve done comedy podcasts,
I’ve done cricket podcasts, I know far too much about cricket,
I prefer cricket to reality. I find it more comforting. Even on one occasion,
I took part in a science podcast. Me and science are very much
uneasy bedfellows. To be honest, my attitude towards science is if it wasn’t in the GCSE syllabus
in 1990, it probably isn’t worth knowing. (Laughter) If you doubt me, A) gravity still works
much the same as it did back then, and B) how much top-end physics
has Albert Einstein done since 1990? Not very much I did do a few scientific
experiments in my day. I found out a shaved dog is angrier
than an unshaven dog. (Laughter) Found that out the hard way, and also discovered
that an agnostic child, if you throw it at a church wall,
rebounds at increased velocity. (Laughter) The history of podcasting, it goes back
deep into the midst of time. Well, ten years frankly, but it could have
gone back deep into the midst of time and it makes me think how different
history could have been with podcasting. You don’t need to be a rocket historian
to work that one out. You think back, there were seeds
of podcasting throughout history. Town criers in Britain, very much
the podcasters of their day, with episodes such as “What To Do
If You’ve Got The Plague,” (Laughter) “Why You’re Living In A Mud Hut
Whilst Your Boss Is In A Massive Castle,” and “Burn In Hell, Heretic Pig.” Homer, the pro-celebrity
ancient Greek, epic poet, very much I consider him
a podcaster of his day in the oral tradition of passing down
stories through generations. Arguably, having studied it at university, it might have been better
if he’d done it in weekly chunks per week rather than the whole lot taking
three days sitting around a campfire. The first caveman, basically. To me that’s where the form
of communication originated. Running around shouting,
“Look out, there’s a dinosaur,” and, “Raquel Welch
looks phenomenal in a bikini!” (Laughter) That was some form of primeval
podcasting, if only they’d known it. Neanderthal man with their neanderthal attitudes which admittedly, wasn’t quite
such a pejorative term at the time. In many ways, it was quite de rigueur
to have those attitudes then, but how much faster
would they have evolved if they had been able
to share their ideas globally through the medium of podcasting and tell each other
which berries not to eat? The ancient Romans,
if they put out podcasts, explaining how impressive
their engineering was, maybe Alarik the Visigoth’s stag night
wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. They would have been more interested
in what the Romans could offer them. Podcasting was actually predicted
as a form of global communication exactly 100 years ago, by a man
called Professor Redhorn Snouterback. In this book that I managed
to pick up a copy of, in an antiquarian bookshop, called “The Future Functorium,” in which he predicted various things
that would happen 100 years from now. It’s amazing how accurate he got it. He predicted the podcast; he said, “People would be able to think
something interesting, speak it out loud, and be heard by people
all around the world.” Just the mechanism he got wrong,
thought it would be a giant ear trumpet. (Laughter) He also predicted
that footballers would be paid 600 times as much as schoolteachers because they would have become
600 times as useful. He predicted we would have a tattoo
industry in Britain worth more than the entire
manufacturing sector put together, which is basically a fact. (Laughter) It’s amazing the explosion of tattoos
when you think just a generation ago, parents still had the ability to remember
the names of all of their children – (Laughter) without having them
indelibly inscribed on their arms. Happy birthday… Debbie. (Laughter) He also predicted an economic downturn in which there nevertheless be a multi-million industry
based around pubic topiary. He also predicted,
and this was crucial to the podcast, a single pocket device
which would incorporate the telephone, the telegraph,
the wireless, the gramophone, the diary, secretary, the wife,
the mistress, gentlemen’s club, and the tradition of trying
to knock down buildings by throwing birds at them. (Laughter) He was very much a man ahead of his time. He also predicted the England cricket team
would drop their batsman for being a dick. (Laughter) He’s very much a prophet. It made me think about Jesus. Basically, how much would his career
have benefited from podcasts? I think the internet would have
changed his career. There would have been various
hashtag campaigns such as #probablyinnocent, (Laughter) #dontnailhimup, #commutedtoa20stretchinWormwoodScrubs. But if he came back today, and I realise
that is from a lapsed Jewish perspective, a big if, probably the biggest if
since Rudyard Kipling started projecting the titles of his poems
onto the night skies above Gotham City. If he did come back to life, for a start, he’d have trouble persuading social media
that he was the real deal. They’d probably just tell him
that his beard looked stupid, and where to stick his mother. If he came back today for a second start, he would almost certainly ride
a Harley Davidson instead of a donkey. That’s just basic PR. (Laughter) He’d probably invest in a decent lawyer, rather than representing
himself at court cases, (Laughter) and I think, he would be a podcaster. Jesus Christ would do podcasts, sometimes
on his own, cranking out a parable, sometimes with his disciples,
just chewing the cud, and sometimes in interview
with someone he’d saved. You know, “So Lazarus, exactly
what did your missus say when you walked back in
and demanded dinner?” (Laughter) Parables were very much the podcast
of their day, and it was that that helped Jesus go slowly viral, over several hundred years, to the start of the first millennium. Why would he use podcasts rather than
other forms such as Youtube? Well, Youtube, I don’t think it’s as good. It’s too easy to flip from one
Messiah to the other, depending on the epic-ness
of their miracles. And also get distracted by videos of a dog
falling off a skateboard. (Laughter) That shows the difference
between Youtube and podcasts, audio of a dog falling off a skateboard –
much less interesting than the video. (Kit-a-kit-a-kit-WOOF!) (Laughter) Why would he not use television? Well there’s always editorial
compromise and you just know the producers will want him to put
more sex and violence in his parables. Radio, too slow; the commissioning
process takes too long. Should be a medium that can react
instantly to events but the way Radio Four
commissioning process works, George Formby would still
be waiting for clearance to do a show about the Munich
peace talks of 1938, including an amusing song
about where Neville Chamberlain might end up using that piece of paper. I think the podcast would give Jesus
a number of great creative opportunities because it basically opened up this form of broadcasting to everyone. You don’t need to wait to do something. You have an idea, put it out there,
and within minutes, it’s being listened to by seven billion people
around the world. Potentially. I mean, clearly, that is very much
a two-edged banana of opportunity. You have to make sure you have
the right end in your mouth, and the right end in your hand, not just jabbing yourself in the face
with one spiky end in each eye. Before that thing collapses
like an overstretched metaphor. History is littered with people
whose messages would have been better not broadcast, and podcasts do have an independence. Anyone can make them. They’re cheap to make,
and they’re quick to make. It also provides you
with a creative blank canvas which is a wonderful thing, certainly, as a comedian, to have that total freedom to do whatever we want in the show. Now admittedly, not all blank canvases
end up with a Mona Lisa on them. Some end up looking like Jackson Pollock
has just vomited into a jet-engine, if my kids’ artwork is anything to go by. “Yes, it’s delightful, darling. Well actually, to be honest,
no, it does not look like a doggy. You’re six years old, my trainer
was made by someone in your peer group. Buck it up.” (Laughter) (Gasps) Quality parenting. (Laughter) If there’s a show you’ve always wanted,
you can just make it. If you’ve always wanted to listen
to Alan Titchmarsh’s Farmageddon Show about how to be self-sufficient
after a nuclear holocaust, you don’t have to sit waiting
for the BBC to ring up and ask you to do it. Now you can just go out, and make it. It’s no longer a pipe dream, you can light
that pipe dream and smoke it, assuming that you can persuade
Alan Titchmarsh to do the show, or pay for a Titchmarsh impersonator, or kidnap Titchmarsh
and force him to do it. That’s pretty much the way the BBC
has always worked with him. (Laughter) He actually hates gardening
but fears moths. (Laughter) They just keep him next to a giant moth
in the BBC building. Also, with a podcast,
it gives you a chance to reach your own audience. Much of mainstream culture
is a process of compromise. You might think a lot
of mainstream popular culture is very much like staring
into an abyss of nothingness, able to hear nothing and see nothing, apart from the distant echo
of civilization’s past asking, “Why?” Did our grandparents really slam-dunk
Hitler into the wheelie-bin of history so we could watch unending Karaoke and medium-quality dancing
until we’d all died inside. Well I would say, “No!” But the internet has now opened up
the creative opportunities for anyone. We have shows that aim creatively high, that cater for specialist niche interests. Now you can listen
to great shows about science, reading great literature
shows with with cultural insights, comedy shows untrammeled
by broadcasters restrictions, you can now listen
to a woman in South Dakota telling you about the history
of the bicycle pump, or Stephen Hawking and Cheryl Cole
discussing with each other their favorite bits
of science and music respectively. Or three teenagers somewhere in Burundi
with an hour-long broadcast about how Arsène Wenger has to go
if Arsenel ever want to challenge for the Champions League again. It’s brought the world together
with this community of values. None of those podcasts actually exist,
but the point is they could exist, and in many ways, that is more important
than them actually existing. (Laughter) The internet provides great opportunity and you’ve got committed
listenership with a podcast, which is why I think Jesus
would have loved this format. Committed listenership; it’s basically
what he relied on as his business M.O. Because when you listen to a podcast, it’s not like listening to the radio,
you actively download it. You actively listen to it,
and concentrate on listening to it. And listen to it in extraordinary places. We’ve had emails in to The Bugle
from people listening whilst doing some of the following: research in Antarctica, giving birth, – I don’t know if that works
as a technical painkiller or not – working for an aid agency in Darfur,
having a vasectomy, and being in Uruguay. I think that would be very good
to help Jesus spread his message to people having vasectomies
in Uruguay whilst giving birth. That’s probably a bit of a niche market. But also, people don’t listen
properly to the radio. If you ever make it
to the end of a travel bulletin, they realize no one is listening and say, “Careful on the M6,
there’s an escaped bison, dressed as Ned Kelly,
armed with a water pistol. And Debbie,
if you’re listening, screw you!” It helps as a listener,
you can take advantage of dead time such as those hours wasted
having repeated vasectomies. This is why I think Jesus very much
would have been a prime podcaster of his day, and like many things on the internet, it’s provided a melting pot
of ideas and creativity, unfettered, depending
on where you live, clearly. A platform for the exchange
of high-end concepts, stories, philosophies, culture, information, jokes,
outright bullshit, and contrived puns. Mostly, in my case,
the last three categories. Jesus might have operated
toward the other end of the creative podcasting see-saw, but I think we’d have been
in the same playground. Thanks for listening, cheers. (Applause)

32 thoughts on “The power of podcasting: Andy Zaltzman at TEDxOxbridge

  1. You are making mockery of the one that gave you the gift of life. He is God himself. Please be careful what you say, He is calling on you in  mercy.

  2. This is great and the audience seems pleased as well, it's a quite small auditorium. Don't really understand the over 20% who seem to dislike this on the like-bar.

  3. The audience were confused because they were expecting a pretentious TED talk but what they got was a mountain of hilarious bullish*t from the legend that is Andy Zaltzman. 

  4. the audience didn't realise they were in the presence of the man who holds the record for the longest pun run in the history of written or spoken word. The man is a legend, arguably even more so

  5. I actually love how people don't laugh at the subtle jokes, but he continues to keep them subtle.  He's one of the few comedians /humans who does not pander to people not getting stuff by dumbing down.

    Shit audience.  And at Oxbridge.  We're fucked as a country.

  6. – you can clearly hear the sound of Fred Spofforth from "Fred and Grace" as part of 2 men out 🙂

  7. 14:02 . Leave it to Andy to over run his time. There's no email section today, unfortunately.

    To bad there were no buglers among the audience.

  8. Substitute Mohomoed for Jesus …and the Old Bill would have been down on him like a ton of bricks

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