It’s dark, it’s dreary, it’s hopeless. No, we’re not talking about the current political climate (though we could’ve been); it’s the newest dark comedy podcasting feature to come out of the Midlands. The Future History of the British Isles takes a satirical look at the world we live in by blowing it up and starting over, this time with a lot more murder and mayhem. Before things finally go tits up, we managed to chat with writer and producer, Hugh Dichmont. He gave us the rundown on the show, the events that inspired it and the seemingly unstoppable force of the indie podcast medium.
Your show, The Future History of the British Isles, is partway through its first season. Can you tell us a bit about the show?
It’s an apocalyptic sketch comedy show, set mostly in the Midlands. Episode one starts with Nottinghamshire voting to leave England, with the series culminating in the county sinking into the centre of the Earth as society descends into cannibalistic chaos. So, it’s quite upbeat, really.
What inspired you to produce Future History?
I mean, it’s a bit Brexity, isn’t it? I voted Remain, but was open-minded about what Leave could mean. I didn’t feel informed, and the more I read, the less I felt I understood either side of the argument. Ultimately, it felt like another distraction from the biggest news story of human history, which is the fact that we are slowly cooking our only planet. But I wanted to make that existential anxiety funny, so I have crowbarred some mentions of bums in there.
What are your main influences as a writer?
Sitcoms. Chris Morris is a major influence. I grew up watching loads of sci-fi and cartoons, and though I’m telling myself Future History is a cross between Brass Eye and The League of Gentlemen, it is probably more like Stargate meets Ren & Stimpy.
It seems that podcasts are riding high in the cultural consciousness right now. Why do you think the medium has become so popular so quickly?
It is easier than ever to record and release stuff, meaning artists can dictate their own terms, away from broadcasters’ marketing demands or box-ticking. Podcasts can be subversive in that way: as a means for one person to talk directly to lots of people, unfiltered. But also, I think they are popular because in today’s fast culture we are made to feel that every moment of our lives should be full of meaning. Podcasts give us something to daydream about on our daily commute, helping to keep our inner monkey from telling us we are dying and that our legs are too short for trampolining.
Despite effectively being about the end of modern society as we know it, Future History is labelled as a "dark comedy". How do you maintain the dissonance between the darkest and lighter elements of the show?
I think comedy isn’t so much a tool, as a philosophy for approaching life’s disappointments. In that sense, I don’t think there is much of a lighter side to Future History, if I’m honest! I paint a pretty damning picture of people, and have written to my taste, so sometimes the jokes can be quite crude or gory, but there are also a few puns in there too. A lot of the comedy comes from everyday stupidity, family arguments and office politics, set against the background of a planet slowly dying. So it’s kind of a documentary, really.
There seems to be a draw towards societal breakdown, dystopia, and apocalypse in pop-culture right now. Why do you think that is?
It’s like a pressure valve: fictional dystopias channel our anxiety. Every generation thinks it is living through the apocalypse. One day, though, somebody will be right. In that sense I think it’s important that art pokes at society’s wounds, but we can’t be complacent. I genuinely don’t think anything I’ve imagined in Future History is impossible. The bar has been set so low by the Conservatives. I mean, the government were actually stockpiling bodybags, in case of a no-deal Brexit!
Do you see Future History as a prediction? A warning? A cautionary tale?
To call it a prediction or a warning would suggest I know what I’m talking about. It’s all just a load of shallow, exploitative, lefty propaganda, with too many ****ing swear words.
The show is obviously a very dark look at our future, but being a comedy there is some levity involved. Do you think that there is hope in our future? Are you hopeful about things to come?
I think we should all be happier. Overall, there has never been a better time to be a human. Or maybe I’m just saying that because Nestlé like their victims in an addled state of self-satisfied arrogance? And where will YOU be when they drive their tanks through Market Square? On your MacBook Air, like me, photoshopping testicles onto gun turrets, you rebel you. Seriously, though, I think we can get so downbeat with bad news, that we don’t individually do more to make things better - myself very much included. The internet isn’t perfect, but am I naïve in feeling that mainstream media is slowly becoming less relevant? That can only be a good thing, in my opinion. Podcasts included.