I’ve worked at various different radio stations throughout the years – LBC, Absolute/Virgin, BBC – and now I’m at the wonderful talkRADIO. The show has evolved and changed throughout the years, at least, it has to my ears. They may all sound the same to you, perhaps the shifts are too subtle, but for me, each show on each station has a different vibe and tone. I started off a bit mean, and that meanness has been pretty much worn away. I genuinely think the stuff I’m doing now is the best I’ve ever done. I’ve been trying to get as far away from the formulaic, hate filled radio that a lot of speech based broadcasting has become. Too much of it, in my opinion, is pointing the finger at differences and blaming the difference for our problems. Those difference might be accent, religion, colour, clothing, jobs, whatever. But so much speech radio is about creating division and scaring people. As Stephen Colbert said ‘if we’re not scaring you, we’re not doing our job properly’.
The TR show is generally an anything goes kind of vibe. There are no questions as such, and conversations can be carried on over hours, days or weeks. I have no obvious agenda (there must be one, but I don’t know what it is yet) and I sit and talk. I’ll say how great a film is I’ve watched that day, how I was staring at my kids and realised that when they grow into teenagers I will MISS the 4 and 6 year old boys I live with now, I’ll talk about feeling suicidal or how life affirming Jackie Chan is. Callers will chip in on these themes, or ignore them and call in with their own thoughts on their own lives. I guess it’s all about us trying to make sense of the insane world we live in, in any way we can. The only rules are you can’t call in about Trump or Brexit unless you have something new and unique to say about it. You won’t. No one does but sweet lord, listen to some shows and some entire stations and you would think that is ALL people want to hear.
My ethos could be wrong, it may lead nowhere. My listening figures are good considering it’s a brand new station, but they could be better, and I know they could be much bigger if I went on air and pointed the finger and screamed and stirred the shitty pot and told you how terrified you should be of everything.
Last night, I attempted an experiment. I’d been thinking for a while that I would like to try and do a mean show, one of those shows that is so popular and gets huge listening figures. A JHB or Hopkins type affair. I’d mentioned a few times on air I wanted to do it, but wasn’t really sure how to proceed. I’d planned to do it on Monday but bottled it. We’d had the delightful Dexter Fletcher on as a guest and he was such an inspiration that it seemed like a betrayal of him and the listeners to do a complete volt face and be all mean. So, Tuesday it would be.
I started by warming people up on Twitter. I posted some incredibly mean tweets about Trans people, immigration and terrorism. I changed my name on Twitter to 52% and told all the Bremoaners to ‘stop whining’. It is amazing how quickly people took the bait. Many got angry with me and were disgusted to find out these were my politics, while some were pleased to hear somebody speaking the truth #freespeech. I probably lost and gained an equal measure of followers!
The show itself started with a debate between someone from Leave.EU and a gentleman from Open Britain. I of course gave the Leave guy an easy ride, despite him having a terrible phone line, and ripped into the OB chap. I felt terrible but, and here’s the thing, a tiny part of me enjoyed the meanness. After the initial questions where I would recoil with horror after being so harsh to him, I actually got a buzz. That probably says more about me then it does about humanity, but nastiness, bullying does seem to be a powerful force.
They went and the phone lines opened. Now, I should say, TR is a newish station. It doesn’t get as many phone calls as I would like. I do very well on the phone call front, and it is improving, but…for something like this to REALLY work, I needed a full switchboard, so in that respect, the evening didn’t work. But, what we got was gold.
There was a gentleman who called in saying he had worn a 3 inch by 3 inch Vote Leave badge and he was confident that had swayed the opinion of a Roman Catholic and a black woman. There was a lady called Sylvia who agreed with everything I was saying regarding cancelling all foreign aid (‘why should we give money to stop Indian women dying during childbirth? Aren’t there enough of them already’ was my argument) and a few others. What was especially interesting was that these people MUST have been listening to my show in the past. I say listening, I guess they had it on but didn’t HEAR anything. Cards on the table, I am a left to centre leaning liberalish Vote Remain lets all love one another depression sufferer. So how on earth these callers hadn’t picked up on that before I’ll never know.
We had a rush of calls at the end. Someone telling me that I needed to calm down. I destroyed him by telling him I’d won 3 awards and that I would call him the next day and tell him that HE was crap at his job. A few other agreeing with me and a wonderful call from someone who ‘got’ the gag and fooled most people as a heartbroken snowflake. Simply wonderful.
What was most interesting to me was the number of long term listeners who got very angry with what I was doing. They didn’t find it funny (fair enough, it was a slow burn gag) or entertaining (again, I’m cool with that) and also didn’t think it was satire (it was, that’s not open for debate). Several called the show wanting to either tell off my producer Katherine Boyle, or come on air and criticise me for not giving them the radio show they were used to and wanted to hear. A real sense of entitlement. I would have thought that if they were such big fans, they would know that from time to time I like to challenge myself and the listeners. It was 1 show out of 170. You don’t like, that’s absolutely fine. Switch off and pop back tomorrow.
I ended the show with a delightful ‘And….scene’ just as the last ads fired in. It’s a phrase used in acting circles to denote the scene or audition piece is over and the audience are free to applaud if they see fit and discuss what they’ve just witnessed. Twitter was ablaze, I haven’t had so many tweets during a show ever. The talkRADIO listeners Facebook page had over 140 comments, a record. People got ANGRY. I know that both of those measurements mean very little, but they do mean something. Being angry, spouting complete untruths such as ‘train drivers earn between £30,000 and £100,000 and all they do is go forward, stop and open and close doors. Sack the lot of them if they go on strike’ go generally unchallenged. The phrase of the moment is post truth, and it really is, well, true. You can say ANYTHING and people will not pick up on it. I said that postal workers were ‘pissing on kids Christmases and they should all be sacked’. Beautifully angry nonsense. Only one person called in to say that was harsh. I destroyed him.
And this is the thing. It is so easy to destroy people on air. I am in a position of authority, of power. I have thousands of hours of experience. Most people calling have never done it before. I control the faders. If the argument gets a bit tough, I can cut them off and slag them off after I’ve got rid of them. It is so easy to be mean, to be nasty, to get people stirred up, to scare them. And British radio has too many of these trolls on the air. They’re not solving anything, a phone in show never solved a single thing. They’re not helping people. They are making things worse. They are making this country worse. They are making the whole world a meaner, nastier place. I am sick and tired of turning on my wireless to hear a bunch of shit stirrers frightening people. Stop it. Stop the meanness. Radio editors, be brave. Yes, people like Hopkins gets loads of listeners and you’re driven by listeners but can’t you see what people like her are doing? Phone Farage? Oh do fuck off. They are spreading hatred. Stop it. Stop it now.
I forgot the Sharia Burgers! How could I forget that? Again, in the spirit of creating fear and talking non truths, I told one caller I was furious that a well known high street burger chain was only selling Sharia Burgers and that we didn’t have any choice in the matter and it was disgusting we had no choice. The caller very quickly jumped on board and shared my anger DESPITE THE FACT THAT SENTENCE MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER!
Ian, I’m not a listener but I do follow you on twitter. I picked up on the joke before you went on air (you retweeted me and called me snowflake) and tuned in. I had to tune off after an hour. I work with a couple of Brexicutioners, so know the arguments and (general lack of) facts, but your callers in the main led me to feel utterly despondent. Great radio. But. Please don’t do it again. On the plus side, I had a mad chat with a lady trombonist in under 140 characters. Keep on truckin, mate.
I will be surprised if you are on air in 6 months. Not for this stunt alone. But generally. I used to feel sorry for you. Now I just feel pity. Will the last listener please turn off the lights.
Thanks for taking the time to read this Mark.
That’s nice Mark. Think its a really important point being made in an interesting way myself.
I love the show and the various characters that are a regular part of it. Last nights show was hilarious because people didnt object to your strong views most of the time. They went with it or said something even more controversial.
I used to love Ian Collins on the old talk radio but he has turned into the mean man that you were portraying yesterday. It was like you were his double.
Keep up the great show! On a side note you should be worried as ive heard theres lots of eastern europeans coming over here looking to steal radio presenters jobs, i read it in the Daily Mail so it must be true…..
You’ve named 3 presenters – Jon Gaunt, Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins. Since they’re far, far more prominent, let’s look at the LBC presenters exclusively.
Nigel Farage is rarely on (mainly he fills in when usual host Katie Hopkins is away, sometimes on a Saturday on the same slot) – so really you’re talking about a 2 hour slot every Sunday from 10-12 that you have a problem with. 10-1 every weekday is presented by James O’Brien who pushes a different type of hate, but we’ll push that aside since he wasn’t named. Is this 2 hours a week, sometimes 4 if Nigel Farage fills in on the Saturday as well, on a rival radio station really that much of an issue?
I don’t think it helps that there are so few prominent Brexiters hosting talk radio shows. Surely even you’ve identified this as an issue too? It’s the only thing that talk radio has been banging on about for months on end but the only 5 presenters I can think of to OPENLY support it are.. Jon Gaunt, Nigel Farage, Katie Hopkins, JHB and Iain Dale. Of these we can say Iain Dale is the most placid and level-headed, for sure, but it stands to reason that people who supported Brexit will flock to the like-minded presenters, of which there are few, considering.
Big fan of yours Iain, but I can’t completely follow your logic on this. That said, I felt compelled to leave a comment because you’ve worked in talk radio for years so it was an interesting and important insight, all the same.
Thanks for taking the time read this. I did mention a fourth presenter not on LBC. And while Hopkins and Farage may only have a few hours, they do get the most publicity. I deliberately chose not to name all the presenters who spread hate, on both sides of the fence. Apologies if that in any way implies a bias.
James O’Brien most certainly does peddle hate. He is full of it for people he sees as his moral, ethical and intellectual inferiors. There are some nasty bastards on LBC – on both sides of the fence – but I think O’Brien is the most malignant.
Iain Thanks again for radio GOLD
I loved every minute of it on air & social media
Yes it was very funny to the point of tears a few times
It is also sad that some people have been conditioned to fake radio and found it normal to have non facts introduced
The people who didn’t get it must have had there minds closed on previous shows or just forgot what you have discussed with us
I listened live all the way to the end
I was up at 05:00 today to go to work
& yes I used listen again on 4g to confirm
That i didn’t dream it
Excellent as always
Ps apologies if Scott calls about slippers it seemed like a good idea at the time????
Cards on the table, my political leanings are exactly as yours. I only mention it because it’s probably why I agree with every single sentence, comma and full stop of this blog.
I wasn’t able to listen for the whole show and to be honest, I’m not sure I could stomach catching up with it even though I knew what the gag would be from following you on twitter when you changed your handle to 52%.
I couldn’t believe some of your retweets, that some people were silly enough to a) take the bait and b) write what I consider to be ill-informed bile. I did hear the ‘heartbroken snowflake’ you mentioned in your blog and didn’t realise she had got the gag. So well played.
As an experiment I think you proved how the power of the mic can be used for wrong, when it should be a gateway to the celebration of us. People. Humans. Our faults, good bits, stupid bits, better bits. Just because we don’t all agree on one or two points, doesn’t mean we have to completely hate or fear that person. That only makes it easy for the meanies to divide and conquer.
Hopefully your show will continue to evolve and grow in listeners. A show that doesn’t go down the easy route of speech radio by relying on the audio equivalent of click bait certainly deserves success.
So thanks for all you do for the medium from those like me who get what you and your show is all about. While you are so right to challenge us and our perceptions and life can’t be all the positives, it deserves better than being dominated by the negatives.
Loved the periscope love bomb by the way, it sums up to me all that you cherish when speech radio sounds and acts its best.
Two words. Spot on!
It was a great show and you did it well for me anyway. You should do
It again but I am a fan and whatever you and the team do “within reason” is still entertaining
169 shows of Peace and Love but 1 little tiny move against the grain and people lose it. Interesting piece of social experimenting.
I am a podcaster and can’t wait to hear this one! Keep up the good work!
I thought it was a brilliant idea and executed perfectly. It is a sad indictment of today’s society that it is the ‘shocking’ or ‘controversial’ that garners more calls and comments, rather than the good and the nice – ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ has never been more apt.
Having been a fan and listener of Iain over the years (bordering on the obsessive with my current hobby of @iainleequotes on twitter) I have witnessed the myriad variety of show Iain has created and whilst the occasional arrow bounces out of the board, the vast majority have been double tops.
Eloise bringing a baby into the studio as Absolute weren’t paying her enough; the non-host show / Eloise’s ‘suspension; Iain’s spat with Tommy Boyd; getting beaten up in the studio by ‘Dave from Pinner’ – I don’t want to pull back the curtain but these weren’t all that they seemed, so why last night’s show took so many people by surprise and received so much apathy from ‘long term listeners’ as well as the targeted bandwagon jumpers is beyond me.
Iain magnificently creates a drama out of what could so easily be just another late night chatting bollocks slot, unlike so many other hosts and stations … and I think that was the point he proved so well last night.
Well done Boss for making people think and not to automatically jump into something without engaging the brain cells first. Frigging shariah burgers ffs!
“He fell off the edge and found a ledge”
Keep up the good work and plenty of ego peace to everyone this festive season.
“…when they grow into teenagers I will MISS the 4 and 6 year old boys I live with now…:
If your kids have kids, you get to do it all over again when you’re old and creaky 🙂
The show sounds great, something to look forward to – I’m about 2 weeks behind on the pods.
The joy is the show is what it is – each and every night – Up / down / mad / Bad / odd / fast / slow the formula is no formula – British TV and Radio has to silo everything and then rinse and repeat to death or boredom.I loved what you did on LBC, Absolute, BBC 3CR and Talk = all different, all the same – All Iain.
i am a huge fan of speech radio, total geek with hundreds of podcasts old and new from some of the greatest hosts from a lot of stations. Last night’s show was a master class in dog whistle broadcasting, pitched perfectly aping the rants of those presenters from the Daily Mail end of the spectrum to a tee. I was surprised to see so many people getting quite heat up about it.Even reminded the Talk Radio listener’s FB page that “It’s only a show”
A bold move to make a “mean show” but for old geeks like me it was pure gold.
I’ve been listening to the TR show (by official & unofficial podcast) since week 2 & I really enjoy what you’re doing/creating. Clearly the 3 of you have a great relationship, it’s fast become my favourite listen &
I now listen again to the entire show each day.
Even without the heads up it was clear to me, from listening to you, that it wasn’t really based on your views, that said I still nearly bit at a couple of your comments. This was showcase for your skill & talent,,a chance to flex the muscles etc.. Enjoyable as it was it was a reminder of how awful most speech radio has become, formulated in the same way music radio has been.
Your show, for me, is a rare beauty. An ‘ordinary’ show is engaging and worthy of my attention but when it soars man alive its a thing of beauty. Clunky gear changes, racist rainmen and Nigel all entertain.
Keep doing your thing, please!!
P.s I was laughing very loudly at the Sharia burgers.
I was confused for about 30seconds and thought you had lost the plot when I tuned in last night – I thought the mean show was going to be on Monday! But, I soon realised it was your experiment, I didn’t like it, it annoyed me, I was annoyed that the person from the OB wouldn’t understand it was a rouse and that others may think badly of you (you seem like a nice decent guy!)…so I did exactly what everyone else should have done if they didn’t like it – turned off. I watched Netflix (the Fundamentals of Caring – 4/5*) and then listened to Mondays Podcast from Monday on the way to work today. I’ll be tuning in again in a bit and probably listen to the Podcast as well. As a ‘fan’, i’ll be back.
As you know, you have some ‘passionate’ followers out there, you shouldn’t berate them for feeling they should have some sort of entitlement towards the show though – if I tuned into Match Of The Day and they were showing rugby, or Countdown and got a Win Loose or Draw show – I’d be a bit miffed, its not what people tuned into hear. But I get it, it was an experiment, with a very good explanation and reasoning as above, but maybe not do it for the whole show? A lot of people have enjoyed sticking by you. So maybe cut them some slack – or not, I’m happy with either – its not really doing me any harm!
I’m not sure if I agree with the experiment (or if anyone else cares about my feelings towards it!). Believe me, life is too short and precious to waste on flapping about this sort of thing.
I’ve always found you entertaining, and will continue to follow you – like most other entertainers I like. You’ll make some rubbish shows, and you’ll make more excellent shows.
Keep up the good work and trying different things.
Well don Iain! that is my listen again sorted this weekend. I Must phone in with my Mcartney/Keith Moon theory??
Brilliant. “Daily Mail Comments Section FM”. Like the Day Today without the surrealism – although Sharia Burgers was inspired. I was expecting you to start asking, “How big would you like your Brexit? Do you want a 3 foot Brexit or 12 foot one?”
I am impressed that you kept up this live ‘performance’ for so long. Little asides that the callers didn’t quite catch and that you wouldn’t repeat, were a great detail.
I am a long time listener to all forms of radio – I’ve heard it all in the past from Blue Jam to Radiolab and from James Stannage to James H Reeve – and I have to say that the ‘mean show’ you did was one of the most innovative, brave, challenging and entertaining things I’ve heard. It has to be worthy of an award entry – just as a standalone piece of radio.
Keep up the good work. And good luck with next ‘concept’ show.
Oh, and another thing – to do this within weeks of the show with the guy in the care home who was on the floor (in itself an outstanding piece of radio drama), makes it more impressive.
The issue I’ve always had with some of the practitioners of this format of show is it does sometimes feel like low hanging fruit – it’s very easy to fill the requisite number of hours by picking on obvious hot buttons, and riling an audience, as you’ll get the response from those who wish to attack and defend whatever point your making, and you just play Devil’s Advocate between the ads.
It must take a hell of a lot of discipline to not just do that, lest you end up being like a Rush Limbaugh figure, where it’s all on the mean side, and actual interaction is kept to a bare minimum. In that sense, you’ve put far more effort into that ‘mean show’ than I think many of the real practitioners have ever considered.
Huge round of applause for Katia as well, she played along beautifully.
I’ve never heard an Iain Lee radio show before (a friend of mine linked to this one and said I should hear it). It took me a few minutes to realise it was a gag. (It was “I’m not racist but I don’t like foreigners coming in” that made the penny drop.)
Absolutely brilliant. Thank you.
Thank you so much for making this. I didn’t like the sound of a “mean show” when you mentioned you might do it, but you pulled it off with great skill. Bold brave and creative, a rare and much needed antidote to the hate-filled buzz of mainstream media that surrounds us.
Iain you provoked a reaction and created discussion just like all good art should . I love it , as always , you rule !
Hi Iain, been following you for years, listen to that podcast this morning – absolute quality. Well done mate
You are the only radio show which makes me stop, switch off the TV and listen.
I don’t know if that makes me old, but sure makes me looking weird at home.
Your show is very brave, exceptionally funny,tearfully honest.
And it may long continue.
Really interesting this mate. Forgive the wordy response but you hit upon things that have really been bugging me so I’ll just have a dump of my thoughts here. There are two elements here – the politics and the perceived imbalance on radio. I love the outside the box satirical thinking behind Tuesday but I’m sorry fella in my everso humble it didn’t work because the basic premise from both a political and radio industry imbalance perspective is – I won’t say wrong – but certainly extremely questionable.
Take the politics. I am a common sense social liberal pro immigration remainer. But the ‘sneer of the Remoaners’ that your targets on LBC so tediously go on about get traction because there is an element of truth to it. People like your mate O’Brian are deeply unpleasant in their dismissiveness of the other side and make the most woeful absolutist statements about the inevitability of post Brexit doom and in so doing, demean the ‘52%’. This is both counter productive – because it fuels the Hopkins/JHBs of this world and wrong. Your satirical stunt, whilst a refreshing angle, merely fuelled that particular fire. What I despair of most about the general talk radio (and print) platform is the polarisation in this – perhaps only the above mentioned Dale gives room for rational, pragmatic middle ground. Tuesday did nothing to help that.
Then there is the imbalance in the talk radio industry. Sorry I don’t think it is as you state. We have mentioned O’Brian but there is also your own Whale (on Europe) and have you heard the until this year entertaining Nick Abbot on this? Utterly rabid in his constant denunciation of Brexit. Paul Ross is another who is pre-Remain. So your premise that it is one sided doesn’t work for me which invalidates your starting point for Tuesday’s show.
I love your show and absolutely support these left field efforts so even if a couple like me felt it didn’t work, never stop that brilliant irreverence FFS! To be honest I am so with you – utterly turned off by talk radio this year because it is so unimaginative. I hate that the brilliant Clive has been reduced to Mr average by LBC’s production policy. So Talk Radio you and the Two Mikes are completely rescuing the whole genre for me!
Apart from your show and selected podcasts (mainly american) I usually only listen to R4, non-sport R5 shows, and Simon Mayo on R2. I used to listen to some commercial talk stations but they’re so boring. One of the things I love about what you do is that I never know what to expect, sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes there is a seed of something that does and you grow and nurture that seed, and sometimes you create radio gold. Sometimes I hate something you’re doing, but that’s OK because experimentation is how you get originality. Keep it up, dude.
I saw the tweets and figured out what you were doing. I get the point you were making, but, the thing is, your intended audience either wouldn’t see it, or wouldn’t get it. There is enough of the mean stuff out there. I know it’s there, I know their views, and I know I don’t like them, so I choose to avoid it when I can.
I temporarily unfollowed you on twitter. I’m usually a podcast listener, but I’ll delete this one. I don’t think that makes me entitled, it just means I’m exercising choice. The dozen or so tweets I read before unfollowing just made me a little bit more sad about the depressing direction society is heading in. I look for places that don’t feed the hate. I hope your show show continues the be one of those places.
Please don’t do it again.
Best show in ages, thank you Iain, you’re the best man, hip hip hip, what kind of cake?
Great blog. I have to say that it was a great show. It was different. It was really interesting to hear a complete contrast of the show. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t always want to hear a mean show but it was good radio.
It does also amuse me how people have reacted to it, because you gave warning that a mean show was happening. Your real views have always been clear, so it is amusing that the show didn’t sit right with people.
At the end of the day, keep it up. Good radio. One of the best shows out there.