During his career as an award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, broadcaster, and author, Louis Theroux has stood at the crossroads of culture and has had countless fascinating conversations. Earlier this year, he announced his latest venture: The Louis Theroux Podcast—brought to you by Corsodyl Toothpaste and Huel—which delivers a mix of insight and comedy in equal parts.
Now Louis is ready for the world to check it out.
Created by Mindhouse Productions, the show’s nine episodes will release weekly starting today and feature in-depth conversations with high-profile stars like Craig David and Nick Cave, along with the featured guest of the first episode, Shania Twain.
For the Record sat down with the British-American host to discuss what makes his new show unique, the parallels between podcasting and his other work, and the “twists and turns” fans can expect from the show’s intimate conversations.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new podcast?
This is a podcast featuring me. We thought it should be about me, given it’s called The Louis Theroux Podcast. And I interview people that I’m fascinated by—a wide spectrum of guests from all kinds of different backgrounds and areas of life. But what connects them all is that, in different respects, they are all eminent and really distinguished in their fields. Whether it’s iconic artists like Nick Cave and Craig David, or Samantha Morton, who is a phenomenal, gifted actress.
And no, this isn’t the first podcast with someone that’s interviewed someone, I can’t make that claim. But hopefully what we have are conversations that contain a combination of intelligence, sensitivity, and humor—but also journalistic fearlessness—that makes for something really distinctive. What we have, I think, is that we can take the conversation to places that are surprising, unexpected, intimate, difficult, but comic. So, it’s a tough flavor combination—if I can put it that way—that I think no one else does in quite the same way that we do.
What elements of podcasting have you come to either enjoy or dislike?
What I’ve come to enjoy the most, I would say, is the ability to speak to people who I would never otherwise have spoken to, and specifically to eminent, fascinating celebrities and public figures.
In my normal work, when I’m doing documentaries, I’m very much immersing myself in hidden areas of life, but not necessarily among people who’ve kind of climbed to the top of their respective profession—you know, they aren’t big stars. And in my personal life, I don’t really mix in elevated circles, so speaking for two hours with Shania Twain or Nick Cave or Ben Elton is just a real privilege and something that I don’t take lightly.
The difficult part compared to my TV work is that it requires a level of focus and almost a level of anxiety in order to bring my A game. With podcasting, you’ve got two hours to get what you need, so the pressure is on. And I’m naturally kind of a conscientious and worry-prone person, so in the couple of days running up to a big interview, it will be there in my brain as a sort of low-level presiding concern. I think discomfort is part of life, and I’ve got ways of dealing with it. But there’s more of a sense of pressure that comes with podcasting.
You’ve covered a lot of extreme characters in your time. What excites you about pushing the boundaries of the human experience?
I think that—like a lot of people—I grew up feeling like a bit of an outsider. That’s not an uncommon experience. When you compare your insides with other people’s outsides, there’s a mismatch. Right? There’s so much angst in us, there’s such a confused array of thoughts and impulses that kind of jostle around inside us.
And in all my work, without really seeking it out, what I’ve actually been exploring unintentionally is this feeling that we are weird. And not to put too fine a point on it, but that the human experience is undergirded by a set of psychological imperatives and behaviors that are, on the face of it, really baffling, and yet, at the same time, really human.
So originally, when I set out in TV, I was just up for having conversations and experiences that I found stimulating. But really what that meant was talking to people on the edge of culture, like people in religious cults or extreme groups, or people involved in marginalized areas of life.
And now I find there is a sort of thematic consistency between that and then talking to Shania Twain about times in her life when she was under extreme emotional duress. In a weird way, Shania is emblematic of exactly what I’m talking about. Because she’s an icon—unbelievably talented, very positive, and in love with life—yet she also grapples with all the same things that you or I do.
Who are some of the guests you’re looking forward to hosting?
In addition to my conversation with Shania, I’m really excited for people to hear my interview with Craig David. When his debut album Born to Do It came out in 2000, it was a big cultural moment. He was ubiquitous. And part of the pleasure for me of speaking to these people is that often it’s straight-out wish fulfillment based on people that I’ve been into over the years. Craig’s had an amazing comeback in the last few years, after having some time out of the spotlight and also grappling with his own mental health issues. He’s now back and completely on top of his game in an amazing way.
There’s also people that I hadn’t heard of before I started the podcast, like Jennette McCurdy, whose book I’m Glad My Mom Died has sold very well. She was a child star on Nickelodeon, and now she’s this celebrated writer. That was an amazing conversation.
There’s also Amelia Dimoldenberg—who is only in her twenties but has risen to fame with her Chicken Shop Date video series and helped birth an unlikely secondary career for me as a TikTok rap sensation—and Tan France, too! People were like, “You need to check out Tan France, he’s amazing.” So I watched a bunch of episodes of Queer Eye and got on board with his story and read his book. Again, that was an extraordinary conversation.
It’s just people who can take me out of my usual stomping ground and expose me to something unexpected, something that I didn’t know about. And that’s a huge pleasure as an older man, to be taken to areas of culture that I might not naturally inhabit.
How does your relationship to a topic change after investigating it?
I often come to a subject with a certain set of preconceptions, and then in the course of investigating, those preconceptions are challenged. But it’s also true that I do research, so I have an idea of what it is that I feel about something.
I think the main thing that happens is that I form a human connection. And everything gets messier and more complicated once you form a human connection with the contributors or interviewees of a given subject. As much as you might disagree with them, if you then find out you like them, you create this weird dissonance. But honestly, that’s where most of my best work takes place.
You’ve truly dabbled in every form of media journalism, from written to broadcast to podcast. Throughout your experience, have you found that you enjoy certain mediums for certain types of stories?
I think different stories lend themselves better to different kinds of treatment. For a fascinating individual who is distinguished in their field, who doesn’t have a lot of time, to allow me to tag along with them, clearly a podcast is going to be a great space, because over the course of two hours we can get very deep into their life, their mental processes, and their artistry.
I think when you’re talking to people who are more or less members of the public, or to people whose lifestyles make them interesting, then that’s more of a documentary scenario. And in terms of written interviews, or print interviews, that’s got its own merits as well. But to be honest with you, I prefer working in live media, like podcasting and TV. Writing is more onerous, so I haven’t done much of that recently.
What’s something longtime fans would be surprised to learn about you?
They might be surprised to learn that I’m a Queens Park Rangers fan. I haven’t talked much about my football fandom, and it’s actually relatively new.
I grew up in South London and the local club was Chelsea. But my dad is American, so we didn’t really have that ritual of the Saturday trip to the game. My dad is from Boston and followed baseball and basketball, so his teams were the Red Sox and the Celtics.
But being based in West London now with three boys, I’ve taken more of an active interest in football. I became a season ticket holder of the Hoops, so as often as I can, I’m down at Loftus Road on a Saturday.
Why should new fans stop whatever they’re doing to listen to your new show?
Okay, here’s the beautiful part. They don’t have to stop what they’re doing. I would say keep doing what you’re doing and listen to the podcast. It goes so well with so many other activities.
It’s versatile. It’s like a condiment, like Tabasco! You can sprinkle it over your laundry. You can sprinkle it over your drive, your commute. It also goes well with cooking, if you have it on your smart speaker or in a pair of headphones.
You can even allow it to lull you to sleep as you tuck yourself in at night. And the reason you should listen is because it’s intelligent—but funny—and it features long-form chats with people you’ll be interested in and will enjoy getting to know. There will be twists and turns along the way, with a mix of raw intimacy, lightness, and reflections on life—in all its glory and misery.
Listen to The Louis Theroux Podcast exclusively on Spotify now.