Book Shambles is the newest incarnation of Robin Ince and Josie Long’s shambolic podcast, and it is available to you absolutely free here.
The podcast started as a six-episode series from Paramount Comedy in 2006 called Show and Tell, hosted by Robin Ince and Josie Long and featuring Martin White on accordion. It’s sometimes referred to as Robin Ince’s Show and Tell. The premise was that each guest and host brought in an object to show and share a story about it, the gimmick being that on a podcast, the listeners can’t see the item. The best episode, from beginning to end, has to be the final episode with Jason Byrne. He tells his bit about his son thinking his wife is pregnant with the reincarnation of Steve Irwin, and Martin does an even better than usual soundtrack to the whole episode. Because Ince had approached Paramount on doing a show that featured standups, the only guests in these six episodes are comedians: Howard Read, Rhod Gilbert, Sarah Kendall, Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee, and Jason Byrne. You can listen to the mp3 files on the archived page of Paramount Comedy’s website here.*
Rebranded as The Paramount Podcast and sometimes Robin Ince’s Shambles, the show shambled through another season of six episodes with comedian guests like Chris Addison (who suspicially went on to host a TV show called Show and Tell…), Robert Newman, Mark Steel, Stephen Merchant, Alexei Sayle, Barry Cryer, and Danielle Ward (subbing for Josie in two eps). Despite the name change, this season followed the same theme of having show and tell items. Stephen Merchant, for example, brought in penis salt and pepper shakers from Amsterdam. According to the Comedy Central website, “Martin [White] couldn’t take part, presumably because somewhere an accordion desperately needed playing.” Personally, I felt Martin’s removal left an unfillable hole.
Then Paramount was re-branded Comedy Central (UK), so the show became Comedy Central’s podcast and was re-named Utter Shambles, often referred to as Robin and Josie’s Utter Shambles and Josie and Robin’s Utter Shambles, for fairness sake. The Robin Ince’s Shambles season was rebranded as Utter Shambles season 1. (And yet, it is not included on the current iTunes listing for Utter Shambles. You can still listen to them on the archived page of Paramount Comedy’s website here.*) For season 2, Ince suggested opening it up to more than just comedian guests. This is where we get greats like Edgar Wright, Mark Gatiss, Billy Bragg, Terry Jones, Alan Moore, Jon Ronson, and so many more. Season 2 was ten episodes long. Season 3 was seven episodes long. Season 4 was three episodes long. A couple highlights include Edgar Wright discussing horror films and Jon Ronson and his son discussing news presenters. There is occasionally a show-and-tell element, but the main thread is usually that they go on so many tangents that they don’t have time to talk about everything they wanted to, hence the shambles. Also, Josie eats fruit on air frequently (in case you don’t catch the running gag in future installments). Season 2 through 4 (20 episodes) are available for free on iTunes.
After Comedy Central stripped their beloved 3 million+ downloaded “cult comedy podcast” from their website to focus on other things, The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome did a short-lived spin-off called Cosmic Shambles. You can listen here. The first and only episode’s guest is Professor Brian Cox. In true Shambles format, because of a schedule change, Brian had to change the time he was available and so he and Robin start the episode early, while Josie arrives on time to discover they’ve already started, and then Brian has to go, leaving Robin and Josie to carry on without him to discuss the best films of the year, and so on. (Josie has seen some good films and correctly points out that Interstellar is just a lesser version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Robin has just seen kid films because he’s a dad.)
Eventually, Cosmic Genome shifted gears to a topic both Ince and Long love: books. Book Shambles is still very much Show and Tell, as the guests are asked (when the hosts can remember to ask them) to bring in some books they’d like to talk about. Sometimes the guests are authors, in which case they talk about the guests’ own works of literature, too. Book Shambles is supported through Patreon. If you donate, you get some exclusive episodes, like a bonus episode with Alan Moore. So far, Book Shambles is on its fourth season. Is it going to go steady from here on out or more shambles? Listen here.
*Special thanks to Arnold for sending along the Paramount Comedy archived mp3 links!