An Interview with Matt Forde
Comedian and former political adviser Matt Forde talks to @Roger Crow about the latest British Scandal podcast, ‘Canoe Con’, the story of one of Britain’s most famous insurance scams. He also discusses his work on the new Spitting Image, and the art of sending up politicians.
Hi Matt. I enjoyed the first episode of the new British Scandal podcast. I was gutted when I realised ‘Canoe Con ‘wasn’t the whole story in one sitting.
Well that’s a great compliment. Thanks very much.
How much did you know about the story of John and Anne Darwin beforehand?
Well, I remember it at the time. I’m 38, so it was a massive story. As with every story we feature on British Scandal, you remember the broad headlines. You remember John and Anne. I remember the thing about the photo when they were abroad, and I knew they had lied to their sons. And he was basically living next door via the cupboard. But the detail in there that I didn’t know is incredible.
It’s an extraordinary story.
Yes, John and Anne are absolutely fascinating people, and obviously you’re kind of transfixed by their dynamic, by what’s driving him. A desire not to be seen to be diminished in the eyes of colleagues or neighbours. It’s very easy to look at this stuff and say, ‘What a crazy, hare-brained scheme’, but for a while it kind of works. Obviously it worked until it catastrophically didn’t work. And in a way they were kind of really successful at it. They did convince their sons… I can’t imagine what that was like. For a while his whole property empire was kind of working. For a while they were getting away with it, and I guess that’s what makes it so satisfying. It’s just so comical, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that the two sons really were put through hell by their parents. I can’t imagine what that’s like. But there are elements of it that are so comical it’s unbelievable.
“I realised it was the pinnacle of satire”
There must be so much freedom to work on a podcast compared to TV?
I do a couple of other podcasts… I do a political one where I interview politicians and that’s more straightforward. These ones, British Scandal, which involve this level of production… and the sounds! They’re like Hollywood thrillers. They’re incredibly well produced. It’s not just two mates chatting over a microphone. It’s just fantastic that people can listen to this stuff for free. It does what all great entertainment should do, like a trip to the cinema or a good book. It just completely takes you away. It’s phenomenal escapism.
It’s great to hear you on the new Spitting Image, because that was always a favourite growing up. Were you too young when the original came out?
I vaguely remember it. I missed it first time round really. I guess in a way it was the South Park of its day. Kids in the playground would talk about the rude stuff. It was only when I grew up that I realised it was the pinnacle of satire. It has a very special place in people’s hearts.
Have the last few years been a dream as a satirist in terms of Trump and Johnson?
I always feel quite conflicted about it because I’m a real politics nerd and I used to work in it. I probably worry too much about the state of politics and worry about the state of the country. But for somebody doing comedy, it really was an incredible gift because it made people really sit up and want to laugh at these people. Actually it’s not really about saying whether you disagree with them or not. Obviously with a more lampoonable figure, there is more fun to be had really than some of the dryer characters. Particularly impersonating them both, it’s just been so much fun. I think the danger sometimes is that people get too tribal, but you can still laugh at the people that you vote for.
What can we look forward to next?
Well, there’s another series of British Scandal after this one, and I do my political party podcast as a residency in the West End at the Duchess Theatre; I do a stand-up in the first half, and interview a politician in the second half. Then my tour starts in February. I usually do a few dates in Yorkshire, so that will be between February and June next year.
We look forward to seeing you. Thanks for your time.
British Scandal from Wondery is available on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and the Wondery app