Louis Theroux

In this post, there are notes so that you can understand the BBC radio 4 Desert Island Discs interview with Louis Theroux. He is a very well known British documentary maker. Aggie and I are currently creating a podcast and it will be launched on 11th October!

You can listen to the BBC interview here:

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1:05 Subjects frequently exist on the margins of society LL

1:06 Englishman abroad (what Louis Theroux is in his docs)

1:17 Common ground with subjects (viewers leave feeling on common ground)

1:49 It runs so deep with me (Lauren asks why he loves creating documentaries and he says its hard to answer it just runs so deep)

2:02 Gun-nut (on a hill in Idahoe with a gun-nut makes all the small problems of his life)

2:16 Placid on screen performance (what he’s like in his documentaries) LL

2:50 Psychological quirks (that surround these extremists and create them)

3:08 Audience surrogate (where he sits in his documentaries)

3:43 Obliging (as an interviewee)

3:55 Nakedly (he has defensive mechanisms to avoid answering questions but he won’t do it really obviously)

4:20 Digging into (FIRST SONG vinyls when he was in he was 20s)

5:26 You said you wanted to tell the truth, a very definite article (regarding Louis’ doc on scientology)

5:44   What it comes down to, if I can Boil it down (film that you made about scientology - tell the truth - tell a story that engages people. ….I usually don’t like to do because it demystifies it..we’re all much more complicated

6:11 The idea of us having stable personalities is flawed (talking about scientology doc again)

6:22 Contradictory impulses which are quite dark (again about his doc)

6:42 Lamentable (his desire to be liked is lamentable)

7:34 Skipped (SECOND SONG the vinyl was a bit scratched so the record would skip)

8:36 Contradictory character (as a child with two elder brothers)

8:43 Boisterous (as a child)

8:49 Oscillated (between being naughty and being sensitive as a child)

9:15 Acutely tuned into (how he feels and how other people feel)

9:51 Rebelling (his parents = children of the 60s rebelling against how they grew up)

10:11 Working woman (his mother as first generation of women at uni)

10:23 Groovy (his parents)

10:45 Intellectually bohemian (what was valued by his parents, book learning etc)

10:53 Global Perspective (again regarding his parents)

11:42 Wreathed in pipe smoke (his father in his office)

11:52 Tapping away on his typewriter (his father)

12:10 Graphic (describing his father’s writing and sex scenes!)

12:45 Morbid (his mothers mother told him morbid stories)

14:59 Macabre (synonym)

13:06 Rusty (an example of a story his grandmother said, if you see a rusty spade you may step on it and get blood poisoning)

13:10 Jam it into (the spade into your foot)

15:13 Midnight feasts (the girls at boarding school had these in Enid Blyton)

15:24 Gypsies (again a story in Enid Blyton)

15:42 Whacky French teacher (again)

16:11 Confined space (boys/men in a confined space - comparing the San Quentin prison to Westminster)

16:15 Improvised physical fabric which is all higgledy-piggledy (again describing school)

16:21 Situational homosexuality (common at all male boarding schools + prison)

16:39 Cliquishness

16:40 Darwinian Atmosphere

16:49 Metaphorical melee

17:04 Copped to the fact (his elder brother admitted it was his suggestion to go to boarding school)

17:19 Slipstreamed behind whatever he wanted to do

17:50 Smuggle in (his dad smuggled in American values though Louis felt British)

18:03 Instill more outdoorsy American values (when they stayed with American family in Cape cod)

18:24 Effete English twerps (their schooling etc turning them into this)

18:57 Driving each other mental (his holidays in America as a child)

18:59 Hacking things apart in the woods (still in US)

17:03 Going out of our minds (and again his holidays in America)

19:23 Rap (his first time listening to rap when he was about 17, he described it as a big moment and poetic and interesting)

20:21 Messing about with camcorders (Lauren describing footage of him at school)

20:25 Very switched on (his friends about music etc)

20:43 Built up my confidence (when he did little films at school)

20:53 Preying on my mind (that he wasn’t the funniest in his group of friends at school → thought about this when asked to be on TV)

21:22 Material for getting a first (what his tutor told him at university at Oxford so studying dominated his time of being there)

22:10 Scavenging parties (what he would do on the weekend walking down the road

22:34 How did you get your break in TV?

22;57 Lack of other options (post university)

23:02 Ended up (at a local paper in San Jose in America)

23:36 Level of incompetence (that he brought to the job on Michael Moore’s TV show as the British correspondent)

24:15 Bookish, to all intensive purposes English-man (Louis describing himself as a correspondent on the show)

24:43 Somebody who’s up to no good (who they go and find and talk to and ask th)

Questions and try to get them to say stupid things)

25:25 Slightly dodgy or questionable people (who he’d speak to)

Wouldn’t trust, dishonest, unreliable

25:33 Polite and disarming (how he would be talking/interviewing people)

25:41 Second hand records (he’d buy these whilst in San Jose)

25:47 Passive aggressive (THIRD SONG passive aggressive love song)

26:50 Long form version of segments (he’d done on previous show)

27:00 Weird Weekends (title of Louis’ show he created)

27:07 Reductive (the title of the show)

27:09 Lobbied (for unusual weekends or something)

27:38 Haggle them down (to make episodes shorter and only one!)

28:08 Key to how it would all work (him being British against American background)

28:22 Making fun of people for 50 minutes (can’t do this)

28:28 Degree of guilt or complicated feeling (when he was doing the show)

28:37 Bit weird and unkind to just illicit ridiculous statements

28:42 Tried to infuse more kindness into weird weekends

29:00 People’s lives are poignant and a bit sad (to make this clear in the episode)
29:19 Horrendous truth (about Jimmy Saville came out after his death. Louis did a doc with him in 2000 when he was doing ‘when Louis met’)

29:54 Personal and professional stock taking (the process of making the doc)

30:09 Traumatic (the whole Jimmy saville story for the whole country)

30:20 Cathartic (his experience of creating the revisited Jimmy Saville doc)

30:52 Trying to square that in your own mind (the disgust about someone who he had quite liked)

31:00 Ambivalence (how victims feel sometimes)

31:40 Catalysing moment (FOURTH SONG: in his relationship with his wife when he saw his wife dance at a nightclub on 3rd date)

31:56 Transcend with physical movement (his wife when she danced)

33:10 Spit some bars (Lauren asking Louis to do this)

33:42 Committing sacrilege (when he tries to rap)

33:51 A collab (that rap that he does)

34:06 A silly dad (Louis describing himself)

34:20 Absentee Dad (because he travels for work)

34:41 That you’ve covered (the serious topics he’s gone over)

34:51 Danger of being funny was holding us back from covering important things

35:21 Its become my MO to look at everything surrounding people with illnesses or something → found out in his dementia doc)

35:39 The whole family is grappling with dementia (when somebody has a disease)

35:49 Whole other realm of story telling is open to us (after he did dementia documentary)

36:04 Difficult to let go (of relationship) (Lauren asking if he finds it hard to not become too involved this during doc making)

36:06 Too cold-blooded (if he says no that he doesn’t find it difficult)

36:34 Awkwardness (when he worries he’s contributing negatively)

37:18 Bombshell (for the family when they found out their son wasn’t going to work, crew was there so worried he was adding to the pain - a mistake)

38:00 A common misconception (that Louis is there by himself i.e. without crew)

38:18 HE gets too much credit and sometimes blame for things that happen in programmes

38:38 He feels fraudulent (people think he does more than he does)

38:52 Going back and forth between California (FIFTH SONG as a family)

39:41 Making docs can be quite intense (Lauren asking if he finds it easy to come home and de-stress)

40:10 Displacement activity (before he leaves to go away to keep busy e.g. cooking taking rubbish out)

40:31 20 years under your belt (Lauren asks which programme changed him the most)

41:04 Revolved around (what Jimmy Saville’s private life revolved around)

41:58 Put the BBC under an enormous amount of pressure (when the truth about Jimmy Saville was revealed)

42:24 People looking to cast blame

43:34 Level of emotional self-knowledge

43:44 Naïve (view of some men that if abuse happens you recognise it straight away, education following Jimmy Saville experience)

44:17 I don’t do well in solitude

44:22 Social arrangements make me anxious

44:32 Wife has wide circle of great friends

45:15 My kids have latched onto this song (EIGHTH SONG)

45:25 Scatting at the end (why his kids call it the baba do dam song)

46:22 First volume (read this of his chosen book as a teenager)

46:29 Recollecting his life in tranquility so feels appropro

46:45 Jigsaw puzzle (his special item, feels civilised + remind of his grandma)

47:27 Evergreen (describing his chosen favourite song as he’s never got tired of it)

End of notes

If you are interested, there are lots of his documentaries on BBC iplayer: