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Elis James and John Robins have been doing their weekend show on Radio X for almost 3 years now and I’ve been a big fan of the accompanying podcast for a big chunk of that time.
The podcast is centred around the comedians John Robins and Elis James. Both are biggish names in the comedy world with Elis possibly most notable for playing Owen in the sitcom Josh and John featuring on Comedy Central’s stand up spots as well as both having been panelists on Mock the Week. They are joined by Producer Dave (Prod D), a company man who keeps a firm hand on the tiller and Producer Vin (Prod V), a denim-clad mysterious character who both try to keep a grip on the Unproducables.
Together they work as a great double act with their clash in characters bringing a hilarious vibe to the show. Elis is relaxed and laid back with his love of Welsh football and historical communists occasionally shining through where as John is continuously up tight and on edge with his complete obsession with Queen, Frank Zappa and a host of other bands and artists. This variation works perfectly to give some opposition for them both to work against but they never let their friendship fail to shine through.
The show tends to feature Elis and John’s comedy riffing interspersed with a number of features (each with a self-sung jingle). These include: E-mail of the species – listeners e-mails are read out with comment (classic); Textual Healing/Judge Robins – a listener has a comical problem and Elis and John give advice (the highlight has to be GJohn); Keep it Session Sessions – the pair alternate to give their recommendations of more obscure artists; Winner Plays On – ongoing quiz with varying topics; Tick Off a Taste – they eat something live on air; Humblebrag of the Week (my personal favourite) – Humblebrags are sent in and the most unbelievable ones are read out. All of them have given some great moments throughout the podcasts, Farthingate being a classic where Elis gave John slightly wrong questions on farthings, an area in which John specialises, in Winner Plays On and tension ensued.
One theme that is continued throughout the shows is John’s obsessiveness. He is continually devoted to Queen, Frank Zappa, Bonnie Prince Billy, Farthings, cricket, session ales, the past and for a short time bushcraft. This is a classic target for the show’s comedy and gives a hilarious contrast to the comparatively laid back and non-obsessive Elis.
Tying into this obsession, a topic regularly talked about on the show in a way that I think is really unique is mental health. There are regular discussions about ‘the darkness’ referring to the dark thoughts and mental health issues John faces. There is a really refreshing openness to the pairs discussion of mental health and the brushes with breakdowns they have. What I really like about this is that there’s no facade or cover-up here, it’s 2 people that really mean the things they say. The openness with which they talk about these subjects that in the past and still to some extent nowadays have been seen as taboo feels far more real and comedic than if they just ignored the realities of their lives. In a strange way it also feels quite reassuring, listening, most people will find something they can relate to, at least to some extent, and it can make things feel a bit less lonely knowing you’re not the only one out there that can be obsessive or be furious at themselves for a trivial issue or overthink things to a concerning degree.
Something that this openness has led to is a very strong community for EJ & JR. Their Facebook fan page now has nearly 5000 members and is continuously growing. There are regular fan-projects as well such as some incredible drawings featuring literally hundreds of named PCDs. The community of fans feels very accepting here whether you’re a retro-oner or a one-hundred and fiver. PCDs regularly post about deeply personal issues to them on the page and the response is always massively positive. Even through the darkness it feels like there’s still a nice place in humanity when a stranger can talk about their struggles and huge amounts of responses can come in saying that they’re not alone.
You can listen to the archive of the Elis James and John Robins Podcast on Radio X on iTunes or listen to the show live every Saturday from 1-4pm on Radio X