“Principally,” says Greg James, “we had run out of issues to speak about.”
The jovial host of Radio 1’s breakfast present is explaining why he and his spouse, Bella Mackie, determined to begin a podcast. Though it’s onerous to consider that James and Mackie, an writer and former Guardian journalist, would wrestle for dialog, their lockdown ennui has been a boon for the nation’s podcast listeners. Their show, Teach Me a Lesson, shortly rose to the high of the iTunes charts when it was launched final month, piggybacking on the development for lifelong studying that has flourished throughout the pandemic.
“There was that barely annoying development in March final yr,” says James, “of individuals going: ‘Hey, be taught a language, be taught the cello.’ However we’d like some assist with that. We wished to get some precise lecturers to place stuff into our brains and give folks some little bits to speak about after we’re allowed to enter pubs once more.” And so, throughout the 12 episodes, a distinct trainer is invited in every week to provide their favorite lesson to the pair – from whether or not love at first sight is actual, to methods to win an argument (with considered use of examples from RuPaul’s Drag Race).
Mackie describes it as “a re-do of college however extra attention-grabbing. What would occur in the event you requested lecturers to show a lesson unencumbered by the official curriculum and unencumbered by the undeniable fact that their college students are 15.” Each of James’s mother and father are lecturers, and he has all the time featured the occupation on his radio reveals – however he stresses it was Mackie’s podcast “obsession” that sparked the thought, and his perception that she may rise above the podcast surfeit.
Filled with wit and heat and with loads of nuggets of knowledge from the lecturers, the sequence has chimed with listeners. “We’re fairly invested in it,” Mackie says of their return to the classroom. “The lecturers simply can’t assist supplying you with marks, though you’re an grownup. And extra usually than not, I get extra factors than Greg.”
If Mackie slips into the function of trainer’s pet with ease, it’s a far cry from her college years. “I by no means acquired something proper, I simply didn’t care,” she says. “Now, I get to be a swotty 13-year-old. I put my hand up on a podcast. The producer has to inform me no person is watching. I’m an enormous, horrible know-it-all, and I believe the lecturers respect that.”
The primary episode asks the query, “Are folks born evil?”, the couple ribbing one another about their very own darkish sides. “I like how terrified individuals are of Bella, it’s one among my favorite issues,” says James. “She’s far more sappy in actual life. After I go away her in the morning, she’s acquired a sleep hat on …”
“It’s not a hat!”
“A bit hat to guard her hair. This drowsy factor, she’s kind of going like this,” James stops to do an impression of her smacking her lips in her sleep. “With horrible evening sweats. I name her the evening terrorist.”
“That is not a part of the interview!” says Mackie, laughing.
“Not so terrifying now, are you … she’s a lot softer and sweeter when the microphone’s not there.”
It’s this light teasing between the two that makes their podcast such an entertaining hear. Whereas each are most snug crediting the present’s success to their “actually glorious producer” and the company – “we wish the trainer to be the primary voice” – there’s no denying that followers of James’s radio present will tune in for an opportunity to get a glimpse at his often publicity-averse spouse and their private life.
“Individuals are concerned about different folks’s relationships, undoubtedly,” says James. “And individuals are actually concerned about Bella, as a result of they comply with her on-line, however she’s mysterious to a sure extent. They didn’t know what she seems like, for instance.”
“They do,” says Mackie. “Since you’re all the time making enjoyable of my voice on the radio.”
James slips into his impression of her north London drawl – earlier than returning to the topic at hand. “Folks appear to fairly like us chatting, in order that’s good. The feedback that I get on the images that I put up of me and Bella say: ‘Simply to let , Greg, I like Bella far more than you now.’ And I’m actually OK with that. I believe that’s nice. If we get to the place the place Bella sells 10m books, and I by no means need to do something ever once more, I’m advantageous with that.”
Regardless of the occasional barbs, the pair’s affection for one another is evident, each on the podcast and when speaking to them. Had been they fearful about the additional strain working collectively would placed on their relationship – particularly at a time after they actually can’t see anyone else?
“I didn’t suppose I wished to do something with you, no offence,” says Mackie. “However I didn’t have anything to do. I completed a e book, so I used to be like: ‘Properly, we may give it a go, it’s only a lockdown challenge.’ It’s not a long-term profession plan. We’re not the next Richard and Judy.”
“I imply, I’ve acquired the hair,” says James.
“Plenty of folks don’t know who I’m,” says Mackie, extra significantly. “And Greg is a really well-known determine. And I might be ‘spouse’, somewhat than author. I haven’t even launched my first novel but [How to Kill Your Family is due out in June, while her first book was the memoir Jog On], and I undoubtedly don’t need that to be a scenario the place folks go: ‘Oh, that’s Greg James’s spouse’s e book.’ I’ve by no means wished to work with you due to that. And I most likely didn’t take into consideration that after we had been recording it and simply having a pleasant time. Maybe I’ve made a rod for my very own again. However that is not a springboard. When the e book comes out, I’ll begin writing e book two, and that’s my primary focus. You gained’t see us on Celeb Gogglebox or something.”
Moreover, James nonetheless has his Radio 1 gig to consider; he has been in the studio every week all through the pandemic. “To not be a supportive spouse about it, however he actually needed to dig deep,” says Mackie. “Making an attempt to determine what listeners wished, what was the proper stability between jolly and critical, in order that when folks get up there’s a slice of normality – some sort of routine. You’ve been doing that even whenever you felt scared or barely hopeless,” she says to James. “He’s in the workplace, on his personal at 5am attempting to get this going. You’re employed actually onerous to maintain it afloat.”
“Properly, I actually give a shit about it,” James says. “I believe the listeners are sensible. You’ll be able to’t be there when it’s all enjoyable and pleased, and then desert them when it will get a bit difficult. And, selfishly, I believe I might have gone correctly mad with out that connection. I can’t watch for it to return to being purely enjoyable. I don’t need my breakfast tenure to be the person who held the fort throughout a pandemic. I would like some clear water, for everybody, in order that we are able to all simply have a pleasant time collectively.”
If and when that occurs, the interval of unparalleled closeness caused by lockdown will abruptly come to an finish for the couple – as will any ideas of one other podcast. “It’s been fairly a pleasant time to get to know one another much more,” says James.
“Yeah, it’s been nice,” says Mackie. “But when in six months time Greg says he’s occurring vacation together with his mates, then that might even be very nice.”
It appears Richard and Judy will certainly be holding on to their crown for some time longer but.
Teach Me a Lesson is out there on BBC Sounds, with new episodes launched on Mondays