RB: I have never yet had what I would call an unpleasant experience with a guest.
MP: I could make several recommendations. You’ve not interviewed Meg Ryan yet, have you? That wasn’t an interview; it was a collision. She didn’t want to be there, and after a while I didn’t want her to be there, either. So a mutual loathing developed. I should have got rid of her earlier. That’s the only thing I think when I watch it back.
RB: Do you pre-record? It’s the modern scourge, isn’t it?
MP: I think it is, actually.
RB: Ronnie Corbett came on Would I Lie to You? and we record a lot for that show – it’s a half-hour show but we are there for a couple of hours – and he said, “They really take a lot from you, don’t they? In the old days the money was there for preparation and for rehearsal.” Something like The Two Ronnies – and we’re not comparing like for like – but they would rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and then perform it. Now you just throw a lot of mud at the wall and in the edit hope you can make a show out of it.
MP: And I think the fatigue shows on the faces of people sometimes – the beard growth, too! They look like they need a shave by the end!
RB: The other factor with the edit is the tone and pace of the show, because it can be quite hard. Our show is only half an hour. I would like it to be longer, 40 to 45 minutes, because it’s hard to find a place for longer, slower stories. How long do you think you need to get a good interview?
MP: We did about 60 one-man shows, which I enjoyed immensely, but on average my interviews were around 20 minutes; that was the shortest we did with people – unless there was a Meg Ryan-style collision. It gives the guest time to relax.
RB: You need that time for the conversation to flow and give guests the chance to get beyond just telling you about their new film.
MP: I think that’s a bit of a red herring, actually, and I lose patience with people who ask me about that if the price of mentioning the book or film meant that you could get James Stewart on, or Clint Eastwood, it was a small price to pay. The trick is to get rid of it in the intro. I remember Bette Davis doing an interview and after five minutes she turned to camera and said, “I’ve got to tell you folks, I’m not here because I’m a friend of his – I don’t particularly know who the hell he is – I’m here to promote my book.” The poor interviewer was left floundering because whoever produced the show didn’t have the common sense to say she’s here because she’s written an autobiography. That’s all you have to do, and then she’s happy.