It is Podcast Month which means that we will be bringing you all the fun shows you should be carrying around in your back pocket on a phone. Today we are talking to a podcast with a difference it is not just a podcast it is also a radio show as well and you can listen to it on k2kradio.com Fridays at 6pm. I sat down with Talal to find out all about it.
Hello Talal! Can you tell us a little bit about the team behind The LIL Show?
The show has always been my baby. I started it on my own but have always relied on the energy of the multitude of guests to make each episode it’s own little thing. After a few months, I had a couple guests on the show (Luc Valvona and Alex Sievewright) who captured my heart. They understood the core ethos of the show, whilst bringing their own unique humour into the mix. So I brought them on as alternating co-hosts. They really helped define the brand and also co-created the web series “Gilding the LIL” with me, which I’m very proud of.
The show is always changing and evolving, as are the members of the team. Sadly, Alex recently left the team for personal reasons. Luc is still officially a co-host of the show.
However, the core of the show has always been it’s founder and host, Talal Karkouti. That’s me! I’ve been doing improv comedy for 6-ish years. I started out with ComedySportzUK up in Manchester, doing short-form. I then moved back to London and joined The Sister Tales of Dr. Synistra – a long-form improvised horror show. This is where I met Luc and had the opportunity to perform in my first Edinburgh Fringe run.
Shortly after, Luc and I formed a band – Panicky Tack. We started out busking on the South Bank in London, but soon were performing at comedy shows around the city, improvising hilarious songs of all genres inspired by conversations with the audience. We later went on to do a full run of late-night shows at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016.
What is the show all about?
The LIL Show is a weekly improv comedy podcast based in London. In essence, we talk about stuff (news stories, personal anecdotes and opinions, interviews with my father and song lyrics I wrote as a teenager) and then perform improvised comedy scenes inspired by the stuff we talked about. It often gets surreal, silly, and sordid but we always have fun. Irreverent and off-kilter being key words here.
Segments like “Newsish!” get us discussing strange and divisive news stories from around the world. “Daddy Issues” features an interview with my Syrian absolute-hero of a father, Mustapha Karkouti. “Movies! Movies! Movies!” sees us recreating obscure or well-known movies based solely on the information found in the IMDB synopsis. “Teenage Wangst” is a newer segment in which we dissect song lyrics found in my teenage scrapbook.
We have many more segments which range from twists on classic improv formats to rap-battles, made-up songs and completely made up nonsense.
However, we often do “special” episodes which are either ongoing stories (such as our Dungeons and Dragons campaign with the young and hilarious improv team called Improvessional), seasonal one-offs (like our version of The Christmas Carol with Suki Webster and Luke Sorba) or broadcasts from foreign lands (check out our Cannes Film Festival episode!).
“There was just a huge pile of podcasts that DISCUSSED improv. Improv techniques, improv preferences, improv teachers, improv audiences, but no actual improv! These weren’t providing the escape I was so reliant on podcasts for….” – Talal, The LIL Show
What does the LIL stand for?
LIL stands for London Improv Live.
London: we are proudly London. We showcase London’s finest improvisers as well as many visiting performers.
Improv: Everything apart from the jingles is completely made up on the spot.
Live: Almost every episode is broadcast live on k2kradio.com before it’s edited down for the podcast.
How did the podcast come about?
Three years ago, I got together with Max Graef (founder and manager of k2kradio.com) knowing I wanted to do a show. However, I had no idea what I wanted to do. He asked me, “what kind of shows do you like?” That’s when it dawned on me how many podcasts I was obsessed with.
Then I thought about which podcasts I liked the most. At the time, they were shows like Comedy Bang! Bang! and Improv For Humans with Matt Besser. These featured improvised interviews, ridiculously over-the-top characters, a high level of irreverence, and a huge number of laughs. I found such a release with these shows. With the world around us growing more and more serious by the minute, I genuinely needed this release.
Then I began researching British podcasts. Specifically British improv podcasts. I soon noticed that 99% of them featured very little to zero improv. There was just a huge pile of podcasts that DISCUSSED improv. Improv techniques, improv preferences, improv teachers, improv audiences, but no actual improv! These weren’t providing the escape I was so reliant on podcasts for.
Then my goal became clear. To create a fun, silly, good-time of a show that features a butt-ton of improvised hilarity. So I called up my improv team at the time (The Sinister Tales of Dr. Synistra) and put together our first episode. From then on, every episode has inched slightly closer to exactly what I want my show to be. We’re getting there!
How do you decide what each of the episodes are about?
The show often begins with an improvised monologue by me, features numerous news stories and other topics brought up by the guests, my dad and even the music played in the break. But these are rarely linked, nor are they an intentional attempt to make the show “about something”.
It’s often weeks after recording that I realise what any particular episode is actually about. Only when editing do I really get to grips with the themes of a show. Very often, they are unintentional. Improv has a beautiful way of pulling someone’s true character out. Even though it’s in the guise of a ridiculous character, when a performer is relying on their instincts to create content their opinions become hard to hide. But reading the difference between true opinion and irony is also an art in itself. Once mastered, you could easily use improv to make a full psychological analysis of almost any performer.
What sort of styles of improv do you explore on your show?
Mostly basic long-form scenes. Some short-form are thrown in too, often as a warm-up segment. Also, we’re very keen on improvising songs and raps. I really like to throw my guests into styles they’re not used to, as well as styles they have mastered. I like to find out where their comfort zone is and then, depending on what mood I’m in, completely disregard it.
You also have a radio show on K2K every Friday at 6pm – what came first the podcast or the radio show?
They were born together. The radio show IS the podcast. The podcast IS the radio show. The only difference is that one of them is live, and the other is edited. I’m not gonna tell you which is which…
Which do you prefer out of doing a podcast or a radio show?
Again, the radio show IS the podcast and the podcast IS the radio show.
I sometimes wish I could get someone else to do all the editing, write-ups, uploads and promoting of the podcast. On the other hand, it gives me the opportunity to enjoy the show all over again, to notice things I didn’t in the heat of the moment and to hear my own voice. I LOVE my own voice!
What are your aims for your podcast in 2018?
I want to push the boundaries of what my format allows me to do. I want to create and experiment with new formats, one-off specials and character work. I want to bring on more superstar guests. I want to find a niche. I want to do more live stage shows. I want so many things. I have plans in place. I also like to keep secrets. You will just have to wait and see.
How do you decide who to have as a guest on each show?
Sometimes I manage to grab the attention of special/famous performers that I’ve never met. When that happens, I build a show around them with guests that would provide balance and segments that will bring out the best of them. Other times, I’m in the mood for some fantasy role-playing and I’ll invite Improvessional back on to continue their DnD campaign. Most of the time, I just see who’s available.
Who is available? Are you? Find The LIL Show on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!
What make you different to other podcasts out there?
Fun. Diversity. Daring.
Fun: We never take ourselves seriously. In the end, I am fully aware that what we do is not important in the slightest bit. So I don’t act like it is. I make mistakes, I take criticism, I make fun of myself and my guests, I bend the “rules” and so do my guests. Mostly. This means that the show is always a good time, even when we are tackling issues that have serious real-life consequences. Because this show is not real life, and when you explore any topic in every way possible (including the silly, irreverent angle), you learn more about it and your feelings towards it. As a Syrian, I had no problem discussing and improvising around the migrant crisis. We like to find the fun, human side of everything.
Diversity: I’m not white. So you’re always guaranteed an alternative point of view. I try to keep the guests as diverse as possible too, but often have to settle with a group of white men called “James” because that’s the playing field we’re on.
Daring: We take a format you’re familiar with, and then shit all over it. I’ll find your favourite movie, and then tell you why it’s absolute garbage. I’ll take Colin Mochrie, and make him do an episode of our web series and only give him one line of dialogue. All those things that you think we’re “supposed to do”, well I can tell you where you’re “supposed” to shove them.
Who would be your dream guest to appear and why?
I would love to have the rest of the Whose Line? cast on the show. Having Colin Mochrie on was a dream come true, and I can’t wait to have him back with some of his co-stars.
I would also kill my pet cat Claude to have on any of the following: Ross Noble, Bob Mortimer, Paul Whitehouse, Armando Ianucci, Rachel Parris, Matt Besser, Scott Aukerman, John Gabrus, Jon Gemberling, Lauren Lapkus, my cousin Kareem, Adam Buxton and Jeremy Corbyn.
What other podcasts are you a fan of and why?
I’m really loving The Adam Buxton podcast, RHLSTP, Hello From The Magic Tavern and Harmontown at the moment. I listen to so many, though. What I find key elements to a show I love are great guests, creative imaginations, rude words and nerdy jokes that only myself and four others get.
Are there any plans or have there been any live versions of your show?
We’ve done two live stage shows of LIL. One on our 1st birthday, and one on our 2nd. They were some of my favourite moments as a performer and I can’t wait to do it again. Watch this space!
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting a podcast?
Find a niche. I was lucky enough that when I started my show, doing actual improv scenes in a British podcast was about as niche as it got. Now, however, they’re a dime-a-dozen. Find yourself a niche that is unlikely to get overcrowded. Hello From the Magic Tavern has absolutely nailed this and the world is currently their oyster. I reckon audiences would crowdfund a HFMT TV series or movie in a heartbeat. I WANT THAT!
“…we are proudly London. We showcase London’s finest improvisers as well as many visiting performers…” – Talal, The LIL Show
If people want to find out more about you where can they find you on social media?
Find me on Twitter and Insta @Talalaban
My Youtube page is youtube.com/TalalKarkouti
If people want to find out more about your show where should they visit online / social media?
Also, I really recommend checking out our web series. It’s a completely scripted behind the scenes look at the show and is very funny. It’s on The LIL Show’s YouTube page: YouTube.com/channel/UCctRHNI22DDYY33uO1px7yg
You can also support the show on Patreon! It helps us book guests and pay for travel. and it makes us feel warm and bubbly! www.Patron.com/user?u=4635666
In three words why should people listen to your show?
Why So Serious?