L-R: James, Andy, Anna, Dan of No Such Thing as a Fish

There’s No Such Thing as a Fish Interview

18 January 2019 | Rosa Johnston-Flint

We caught up with Anna and James from the Fact-tastic Four to talk about their upcoming UK tour. Prepare to be amazed!

Culture Calling: What’s the show like?
Anna Ptaszynski: When we go on our live tour we have two halves, and our second half is a live recording of our podcast, No Such Thing As A Fish, which is the four of us each bringing the most interesting fact that we’ve learned that week – or that day, in the case of the tour – and then we talk about them with each other.
James Harkin: You started with the easy bit there, didn’t you Anna? We’re not actually 100% sure what’s going to happen with the first half yet. But it’ll be a scripted first half where we tell everyone what we’re up to at the moment and the best things we’ve found over a long period, maybe over the past year or so. So whatever we’re most interested in we’ll do something about that. Really the whole thing is just a massive dork-off where we try and say as many facts as we can in as short a time as we can, and our audience always comes armed with their own facts so we can chat about those as well.
 
CC: Will you be tailoring to your locations at all?
AP: We do a bit, we like to do a research trip on the day of the show and find out the most interesting things we can about that place, and bring that in in some way or another.
JH: And in the actual podcast we might have something about the local area as well – when we were in Leeds last year we discovered that the world’s first lift was opened in Leeds to transport sheep on to the top of a building.
A:P Oh yeah, we did! Loved that. Sometimes we’ll go out on location – thrilling stuff – and in Nottingham we found out that Nottingham had had to cancel a piss up in a brewery, and re-name it a piss up near a brewery, because of a bureaucratic screw-up.
JH: Yeah the brewery couldn’t get a licence so they’d had to move it to a pub nextdoor.
 
CC: Are there any places you’re particularly looking forward to visiting?
JH: We’re going to all sorts of places we’ve never been, like Aberdeen, we’ve never been that far north, we’ve never been as far east as Norwich…
AP: We’ve never been down to the southwest, can’t wait for that…
JH: Also Sheffield, where I used to live, and then of course the Hammersmith Apollo, which is going to be epic, the biggest gig we’ve ever done.
AP: There must be something interesting about all of those places (come on, Barnstaple!)
 
CC: Could you share one of your facts?
JH: My fact this week was: some baby sharks, before they’re born, peep their heads out of their mother’s cervix, have a look around, decide they don’t fancy it and then go back into the uterus. They found that out recently because a couple of researchers have invented an underwater sonograph, an underwater, um…
AP: …sonogram thing? That thing where they show you a photograph of your baby. You can tell none of us has kids. (To James) I liked seeing your face as you tried to find a non-rude word for cervix.
JH: I was going through my GCSE biology in my head.
 
CC: Cervix isn’t a rude word – it would be ruder if it were humans, maybe?
JH: You’re quite right. And terrifying.
 
CC: Are you still shocked and amazed by these incredible things you’re constantly learning?
JH: I’m always shocked by the things the other guys find – each of our facts is genuinely found by the person who reads it, and every time they send something I’ve never heard. I’ve been working for QI for about 15 years and I still can’t believe there’s new stuff every single week that these guys find that I’ve never heard before.
AP: And you don’t become immune to being amazed by amazing stuff. We were talking this morning on a radio show about light travelling and photons, and it reminded me of something that I guess we’ve known for a while, which is that the speed of light means the photons that are hitting your eye right now were travelling past Mercury five minutes ago. That’s never going to stop being amazing.
 
CC: So, for anyone late to the party, how did the name come about? Is there really no such thing as a fish?
JH: Well it depends who you speak to. If you speak to fishmongers or people who run fish and chip shops, they’ll probably tell you there is. But if you speak to some biologists, they’ll tell you that if you take a hagfish and a salmon, then the salmon is more closely related to a human than it is to the hagfish. So either, there’s no such thing as a fish, or basically we are all fish. It’s kind of a taxonomic oddity, but we really liked it and ran it as a question on QI, and we thought it’s something that just peaks your interest.
AP: Yeah, although now I’m wondering whether we should have called the podcast ‘We Are All Fish’
JH: I think my mum actually calls it that.
 
CC: Why is podcasting so popular?
JH: I think a big difference between radio and podcasts – because I’ve worked in radio for a long time, I was a producer at Radio 4 for a while – is that people have gone out to find a podcast. Rather than turning on your radio and listening to whatever happens to be on, people have downloaded it, put in their earphones and pressed ‘play’, and it makes people more attached to it. So when we go on tour, one of the best things is meeting people afterwards, because everyone wants to tell us their fact and be part of the conversation.
AP: I think people feel really connected with podcasts because it’s such a direct line between the podcaster and the listener. You don’t pitch something and spend three years in production, you just record something and put it online and it’s there. People always say they feel like they’re just listening to their mates; it speaks to that whole Social Media thing where all those barriers have just been broken through.

And why does it work so well for your show?
JH: Firstly we came of the back of a massive TV show – that always helps – and secondly we came at just the right time. Podcasts were kind of bubbling away but hadn’t really taken off, so we were there when it did. Also, Dan Schreiber and I are both radio producers, so we’d been making shows for a while, and could make it a real show; we properly edited, we made it as good as we could before we put it out. And whereas a lot of podcasts at the time were a bit longer, a bit more rambling…
AP: …someone sits in their bedroom, presses ‘record’ and then rambles for two hours…
JH: …right, so our show was a lot more professionally made than some. When you look at how well My Dad Wrote a Porno did, a lot of those guys were producers aw well so I think it was people making podcasts a bit more professional

What’s next for you, beyond the tour?
JH: We’re hoping to tour outside the UK again; we did Australia last year, so we’re hoping for Europe and maybe beyond.
AP: Yeah, we’re definitely hoping to be in Europe this year. And we’d love to go to America at some point, we’re always thinking about that. I think we just really like touring and going out there and meeting new people.
JH: And as long as people keep listening to the podcast, we’ll keep making it – the weekly thing we do is the most fun for me, so we’ll keep doing it.


No Such Thing as a Fish will be touring from February:

Thursday 28th February - Aberdeen: The Tivoli Theatre

Friday 1st March - Glasgow: King’s Theatre
 
Sunday 3rd March - Cambridge: Corn Exchange
 
Friday 8th March - Uffculme: The Venue
 
Saturday 9th March - Barnstaple: Queen’s Theatre
 
Sunday 10th March - Redruth: Regal Theatre
 
Wednesday 13th March - Cardiff: St David’s Hall
 
Friday 15th March - London: Hammersmith Eventim Apollo

Saturday 16th March - Newcastle: Tyne Theatre & Opera House
 
Sunday 17th March - Salford Quays: The Lowry
 
Friday 22nd March - Norwich: Theatre Royal
 
Saturday 23rd March - Birmingham: Town Hall
 
Sunday 24th March - Edinburgh: King’s Theatre
 
Thursday 28th March - Sheffield: City Hall
 
Friday 29th March - Dublin: Vicar Street

Tuesday 2nd April - Brighton: Dome
 
Friday 5th April - Oxford: New Theatre

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