Nerd alert - No Such Thing is coming to Peterborough
When four researchers on BBC2’s QI show sat around a microphone, chatting about the many facts they couldn’t fit into the recordings little did they know where it would lead.
But seven years, almost 400 podcasts, 300million downloads, three best-selling books and plenty of awards later, it is leading to Peterborough’s New Theatre this month.
No Such Thing As A Fish is all about facts – and here is another: the show will feature a live recording of a podcast episode plus a first half stuffed to the gills with facts, comedy, and two years’ worth of pent-up nerdery that wouldn’t have worked over Zoom.
It features Dan, James, Anna and Andy Murray, who also shared a Peterborough fact ahead of the performance in the city on October 15.
So how did it all begin?
“It started because the four of us were working on the TV show QI and we had these conversations in the office about the facts that we were discovering. Those conversations were so much fun, and there were so many facts we didn’t have room for in the TV show, that we thought we would try and broadcast them in another way. So we started sitting around a microphone and recording them and people started listening.
“We said it was a weekly show at the start and seven and a half years later it is still weekly and we are coming up to 400 episodes. We now have to keep going forever.”
So what it a case of spotting an opportunity in the market for a fact-based podcast and why has it proved so popular over the years?
“It was definitely an experiment, rather than a strategy,” says Andy. “We had no idea so many people would listen to it and enjoy it . I think it is popular because there is this big well of curiosity in everybody to find out new fascinating information about the world we are living in and we just started the show at the right time because more people were getting into podcasts. There has been a lot of luck involved and we are bowled over that people are still listening.”
So who is behind the one million downloads each week?
“I think the fan base is pretty broad – lots of people listen with families, or on their way to work or while they are exercising. You don’t really know until you do a live show who is listening to your podcast.
“But an interesting fact is quite universal, as far as we have experienced it. If you hear a really great fact you have tell someone else about, it is infectious.”
Not surprisingly the QI programme also played its part in the name of the podcast.
“Why No Such Thing As A Fish? It is a fact that was on the TV show about 10 years ago when Stephen Fry was host. It is the idea that the word fish does not make any sense scientifically. The only place the word fish makes any sense is on a menu.
“Because things that live in the sea are so distantly related from each other, humans are more closely related to salmon than salmon are to sturgeon, for example. So the word fish is not very helpful to scientists.
“We ran that fact on the show and a few years later when we were looking for a title for the podcast we somehow came up with an old question and used that.
“We normally record in the office but it feels so different performing to a live audience fellow nerds.”
So what can the New Theatre audience expect?
“The two halfs of the theatre performance are totally separate. The first half is a set thing us doing some stand-up, stupid jokes daft songs and things like this, it is a lot of fun.
“The tour is called Nerd Immunity and we are looking at what it means to be a nerd and why nerds can save the world, and how they have done and will keep doing it .
“We have to research 27 different shows as we travel around the country so it is a real research challenge, but they all become a different episode of the podcast .
“We have done three or four tours of the UK in the past and toured the world so it is really nice to be back touring.”
And, finally, does he have a Peterborough fact?
“We had the Guinness Book of World records editor Craig Glenday on the show this week and I think he told us the world’s oldest ever vomit, fossilised dinosaur vomit, was found in Peterborough.
“It travels around the world to exhibitions and things and he keeps it in the world’s largest shoe because it fits perfectly for transport. That has been edited out of the podcast so this is a brand new fact.”