Words: Rebecca Kent
No one is more surprised at the soaring success of weekly podcast The Complete Guide To Everything than its creators, Tom Reynolds and Tim Daniels. Their goal to vanquish Wikipedia as the go-to reference for knowledge about anything and everything may not have been acheived yet, but it’s turning out to be an highly entertaining journey.
From North Korea and Nicolas Cage toGordon Ramsay, not much is off-limits as the pair continue their quest to make the world a more informed place.
“At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, it’s very tongue-in-cheek that we’re actually a guide to anything,“ Daniels, 29, says. “We’re not very well informed on any of the topics we discuss, so we just end up going into a free association, identifying what we know, then heading off on tangents.“
Indeed, a recent podcast about Reynold’s trip to Austin’s South By Southwest 2012, featured ruminations on St Patrick’s Day all-nighters, bathroom shenanigans, aggressive jerks at bars, a house with no privacy, and homeless 4G hotspots. You may scratch your head, but, with more than two million downloads since the friends launched their first podcast on June 25, 2009 – the day of Michael Jackson’s death – the formula works.
In the UK, The Complete Guide has featured prominently on the nation’s iTunes podcast directory since its inception. Worldwide, it’s had 50,000 downloads a week, with 50 per cent of those coming from the UK and 35 per cent coming from the US.
This week, Reynolds and Daniels step out from behind the recording equipment to perform their schtick live at London’s King’s Place. Accompanied by a host of visual elements, the world-weary men will share outrageous personal stories, concoct harebrained schemes, solve audience members’ personal problems, bicker with each other, and crack jokes
of varying levels of taste.
It’s the podcasters’ second UK visit and Daniels is eager to put some old ghosts to put to bed. “Last time London provided endless fodder for our subsequent podcasts,“ he says.
“However, unfortunately, the real wellspring of inspiration came from the fact that I stupidly did not keep my eye on my bag when I was in a pub in London, and it was stolen. So that was basically the thrust of the post-London shows that time: me saying awful things about the city, which I’d like to take this opportunity to retract.
I was speaking from an emotional place,“ he confesses.
Nevertheless, it’s done nothing to dimish the podcast’s popularity here “People in the UK apparently like us because they feel like they get an insight into the mind of an average American, but I’m sure that’s not fair on America,“ Daniels says. “I would be very uncomfortable being any kind of representative for a legitimate American person. I’m not
a good representation of an adult – or even a man.“
Reynolds, 30, says: “Particularly since we have such a large following in England we go over there and it feels like going to a comedian fantasy-camp type thing – people have stopped us on the street – but then we just come back to
our mundane, not very exciting day jobs.“ (Reynolds works for a tax company, Daniels is too embarrassed to reveal his).
Daniels adds: “Believe it or not, recording an hour of nonsense in a basement every week does not bring in the bucks that one would expect.“
The pair made their foray into podcasting in 2006 with a project called 24cast, about the Fox Television show 24. Just 23 episodes long, it was featured as one of the Top 100 Most Subscribed To Podcasts of 2006 by iTunes.
That was followed by a four-episode series entitled the Drudge Report Report Report, where Reynolds, Daniels and their friend Chris Judice read articles from news website drudgereport.com, and simply made humourous comments about them.
“Those projects “just fizzled out,“ Reynolds says.
But they were the perfect springboard for The Complete Guide To Everything, which features regular segments including You’re Awful, in which listeners are urged to remind people ’not to be a dick’, and Tim and Tom Solve Your Problems, a sort of therapy session that, as you would imagine, can open up all sorts of cans of worms.
Daniels says: “People call in with problems so bizarre it’s hard to believe we live in the same world as them, such as: ’there’s a dog in the neighbourhood that’s possessed by the devil and it’s trying to teach our local kids some bad words.’ That doesn’t interest us as much as the people that have legitimate roommate problems or mundane work issues.“
In between Abraham Lincoln and stuffed-crust pizza, there are some topics that are not up for discussion.
“The things that we don’t cover, and that always get suggested, are topics that are already funny – The Simpsons, for example,“ Reynolds says.
“Twilight on the other hand, was fair game. It’s so boring! Our podcast mostly became a discussion about how did the two of us get to a point in our lives where we were sitting down watching Twilight for the amusement of the internet – and I think it got a lot more existential than the movie.“
Whether that’s more worthy of tuning into than, say, marrying dogs, is subjective, but the pair are psyched that anyone’s listening at all.
“We’ve could have never predicted where we got to – two idiots talking into a microphone – so for the time being, we are happy to ride this out to see where we go,“ Reynolds says. ❚