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Co-host Dan Schreiber on the No Such Thing as a Fish Podcast and Upcoming Tour Nerd Immunity

4 October 21 interview: Lizzy O’Riordan

Founded by the QI researchers, No Such Thing as a Fish is the weekly British podcast celebrating facts, comedy, and all things nerdy. We catch up with co-host Dan Schreiber and chat about the upcoming tour, weird accents, and raising money for Comic Relief…

For any readers that might not already know, can you describe the concept behind No Such Thing as a Fish?
We’ve been going for about seven years now, originating as a kind of spin-off sister show QI. Essentially, it’s four writers from QI, sitting around and discussing the best fact they found that week. It happened because we were always sitting in the office, wondering what to do with these interesting facts that didn’t make it onto the show, so we decided to record it. 

Now you’re taking the podcast on tour. What can we expect from a podcast on the stage?
It’s a good question and one we hoped nobody would ask. On paper it sounds a bit wrong, but it actually works. When we first decided to do it, I was already doing stand-up on the alternative comedy circuit in the UK, which is a very geeky, nerdy circuit. There was this amazing mix of comedians and scientists coming up on stage and the buzz was electric, so we decided to try that with our show. We do the podcast live in the second half but we also wrote a whole comedy show for the first half, so you’re getting a full evening of stuff that’s not just the podcast. But really, it’s a nerd community - that’s what the tour name, Nerd Immunity, is all about. We wanted to celebrate nerds, so there’s going to be a lot of audience participation sussing out people’s nerdity and getting their best facts. 

No Such Thing as a Fish has been going for seven years now. How do you think it’s evolved over that time?
I mean, it hasn’t, that’s the nice thing about the format. We just start the show, say our fact, and get talking. You don’t even need a real ending, we just put some music on and go straight into the next fact. It’s a sort of bullet-proof idea because it doesn’t rely on us going on adventures, it’s just about the facts. 

I imagine you were grateful for that simple format over lockdown…
Yeah, I mean we had those basic problems of learning how to have a conversation over Zoom and lagging internet speed. Anna from our podcast was out in the countryside so there was a whole period where you could hear tractors and all sorts of wildlife. But we were very lucky, because we didn’t have to stop for even a week. A lot of shows had to shut down and we weren’t one of them. 

Have you gotten used to hearing the sound of your own voice yet?
I actually don’t mind my own weird accent. My pronunciation is all over the shop, but as a result it’s a voice I never get bored of. Sometimes I see a word I’m about to say and I have no idea how it’s going to come out – it’s usually going to have an extra R in it. I’m incapable of pronouncing ‘Covent Garden’ without saying ‘Corvent Garden’. 

We’re in the golden age of podcasts. What do you think it is about that format which works so well?
I think podcasting generally allows people to host a show really easily. It’s so great that a kid can get a microphone and make a show, it removes the elitism around being creative. With our show particularly we started off really rickety, but people enjoyed growing with us. As a result, there’s no hero worship - most people who meet us just tell us a fact or correct us on something. 

I’ve loved making comedy my whole life and I think we’ve nailed the best format for having a comedic conversation

Do listeners of the podcast often share facts with you?
Yeah, and that’s especially great when it comes to the live shows because we often get heckled with people saying we got the fact wrong. Say if we tell a fact about a camel, there is often the world-leading camel expert in the audience. 

What’s been your favourite part of working on the podcast?
I think chatting with my buddies is the best. I’ve loved making comedy my whole life and I think we’ve nailed the best format for having a comedic conversation. 

Have you always had an interest in facts?
Definitely. I don’t know where it came from because I didn’t come from an academic family and I didn’t go to university or really even properly finish high school, but I’ve always been obsessed with people doing interesting things. It began with writers, starting with fiction then moving onto non-fiction. I realised I can’t meet Harry Potter, but I can meet Jon Ronson; I can’t hang out with Arthur Dent, but I can meet Bill Bryson. I thought these non-fiction writers were like living superheroes. 

You recently did a twenty-hour podcast marathon for Comic Relief…
We’d been talking about how we would love to do something for Comic Relief pre-pandemic, but Zooming from home made us realise it was entirely possible. We followed the sun and interviewed people around the world. It would have been tough to get someone to interview at three in the morning, but that’s the morning in Australia or the evening in America so it suddenly became a really tangible idea in a way it wasn’t before the pandemic. 

What did you find most interesting about that experience?
We had amazing people on: we opened with Michael Palin, then Maggie Aderin-Pocock who I’m a massive fan of. We had a bunch of people who I’d bumped into over the years, for example Karen Gibson, who founded Kingdom Choir - they sang at Harry and Meghan’s wedding. We also had Mary Roach, who is an amazing non-fiction writer who has just written this incredible book, Animal Vegetable Criminal. It was a huge undertaking and we thought we were going to fall asleep, but that’s impossible when you’re always so excited for who is up next. 

Anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?
We’re about to start this tour and we would love to see you there. It’s a great night of comedy, which feels weird saying about yourself. The other three will give you a great night of comedy, and I’ll be there too. 

No Such Thing as a Fish: Nerd Immunity Tour is coming to Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday 9 October

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