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I came second in a competition in Year 8, and it made me absolutely fuming. The English department at my secondary school had put on a speech contest one evening. Students who wished to partake simply had to write a speech and perform it in front of the English teachers and about 50 parents.
I’d spent ages planning a pseudo-clever piece about why my pencil case should be prime minister. For example, I’d hold up a Pritt stick and explain how my pencil case could be the glue to hold a dividing party together. I’d hold up a ruler and talk about how a prime minister should be precise and get the job done, et cetera.
Long story short, my best mate swooped in and cruelly stole first prize with a speech about why bacon is the best food in the world. He’d written it that morning.
The moral of the story is that some people have such a presence that they don’t need to work hard or have created a masterpiece in order to position themselves in the spotlight. My friend is one of those people.
That Peter Crouch Podcast is another example, albeit one more in the public domain. BBC Radio 5 Live originally billed this as a somewhat serious and somewhat comical conversational podcast where former two-metre-tall Premier League and England striker Peter Crouch would lift the lid on what the football world is really like. Joining him, Radio One DJ and life-long Watford fan Chris Stark, and the BBC’s chief sports writer Tom Fordyce.
The first couple of series established greatness, and since then we’ve had a hefty helping of it in each and every episode. Series five got off and running a couple of weeks ago, and by the third episode it had returned to its most common position: top of the list as the UK’s most listened-to podcast.
Something so quintessentially British was always going to attract that large demographic of football fans who love a bit of banter. This three-way partnership has such incredible comical chemistry that when ‘Foreskin’, ‘Starky’ and ‘Crouchy’ find themselves going off on a tangent that they fail to curtail in 15 minutes, the listeners are at their most entertained. I wish I had a penny for every time I’ve burst out into inappropriate laughter in public because of a one-liner from this podcast…
It’s the randomness — the fully intended lack of structure — that makes the show such a hit. The three of them spend each episode trying to one-up each other as they seek to say the most profound thing of all. Crouch usually wins. The surprise guests are also something to look forward to. Louis Theroux, Fiona Bruce, MC Neat and Liam Gallagher will probably never make higher-profile podcast cameos than their brief guest appearances on That Peter Crouch Podcast.
The listeners play an important role too, proving their fandom by getting creative with their morning runs, sending in embarrassing photos of the three co-hosts, and sending in impossible questions for Crouch to try to answer.
But the best part of this unforeseen sensation is how little Chris Stark, Tom Fordyce and Peter Crouch care about the podcast’s pretentious, pompous reviews — and there are some awful reviews, by the way. BBC Radio 4’s are some of the most scathing, contending that there’s nothing adult nor comical about a podcast billed as having ‘strong language and adult themes’. Bruising. Although, apparently not to these three.
The listeners will vote with their smartphones, though. And download, stream, laugh, and repeat is exactly what the masses continue to do as That Peter Crouch Podcast returns for season five. The podcast version of my friend’s bacon speech. So much reward for so little work. Such little class and yet a class above all its highbrow competitors. There’s a lesson there.