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Live Chat with Louis Theroux
Monday 9th October 2000.


Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux journalist and presenter of the television programme, 'Weird Weekends', is here to answer all your
questions about his new series and past escapades!

BBC Host: Here’s the first question.

Anna Griffiths: After sharing so much with the people you interview do you not become a little too attached to their characters?

Louis Theroux: Yes I do. I find I've made friends through the programmes, and some of them I've kept up with, but unfortunately not all of them.

Chloe Whitman: When you went to the Swingers party in the last series, would you have joined in if there had been anyone there who was even remotely attractive?!

Louis Theroux: No, I don't think so, since I'm in a committed relationship with a woman in Britain.

Jenny Lewis: Is there anything that you'd want Jim to fix for you? And how about doing a documentary on David Icke?

Louis Theroux: Yes, David Icke is someone we've thought about doing and I'm keen to do a documentary with him. I'd like Jim to fix it for me to live with Michael Jackson for a week, in Neverland.

lynsey-logan: Hey Louis! When you met Eugene Terreblanche were you scared? He comes across as very scary!!

Louis Theroux: I think you could see that I was a little bit shaken up by how volatile he was. Watching it just now, my girlfriend told me I seemed to be on the verge of tears.

mandy orton: How did you manage to stay calm when facing such blatent racism, did it make you ashamed to be white?

Louis Theroux: I don't blame all white people for the racism of a minority. It's hard to know exactly how to react. I don't know what it says about my personality, but I find it so strange and interesting when I encounter racism that I have about a million questions to ask.

davey: The subjects of your programs inevitably hang themselves with their own stupidity - do you ever feel guilty about this or do they deserve it.

Louis Theroux: I don't feel all the people in my documentaries end up looking stupid - only the ones who end up deserving it. In the one tonight, it seemed to me that Dirk, the bearded gentleman who likes the Eagles, came over very warmly.

Mica: Has anyone ever inspired you during the filming of Weird Weekends?

Louis Theroux: A lot of the people in Weird Weekends have put their lives on the line in order to pursue their beliefs, even if those beliefs are strange, ludicrous or even laughable. And I can't help admiring that kind of commitment. For example, Mike Cain, in a show I did about survivalists in Idaho, was one such person. In an upcoming show about gangster rap there's a character called Mellow T who is a pimp and a rapper, and you might say a terrible person, but in a way I couldn't help liking him.

col smith: are you a Seinfeld fan

Louis Theroux: I am a big Seinfeld fan although I can't claim to be the master of my domain.

hywel: Has anyone ever gone for you physically during the years of your wild weekends

Louis Theroux: I got manhandled quite aggressively by a wrestler called Sarge. He was supposed to be training me, and ended up making me vomit. That was in an episode last year. But I've never actually been punched, not so far anyway, touch wood.

Nina: Would you say that your interview with Sir Jimmy Saville was your most monumental programme?

Louis Theroux: It's my favourite of all the programmes I've done. Next! Jimmy really liked the programme. We still speak on the phone occasionally.

Ajames: You have a very gentle style of programme making who are your journalistic influences?

Louis Theroux: As far as TV goes, my influences are people like Michael Moore, who I used to work for, Jon Ronson, Nick Broomfield, Alan Whicker. But I started out in print journalism, and I think my style evolved from who I am. It's not something I developed consciously.

Denise: Tonight’s programme was pretty serious and probably quite frightening. Was there any point where you thought your life was threatened? Will you be doing more serious documentaries in the future?

Louis Theroux: I never felt my life was threatened. I got a little nervous going to the Boerstaat party event, as I knew there would be a lot of AWB guys there, and they have a track record of beating up journalists. But as it turned out, they weren't tremendously intimidating. I think I and my crew could have taken them on! Whether I'll do any more serious documentaries in the future, who knows?

Zahida: din Are the Boers viewed as a serious threat to a multicultural South Africa?

Louis Theroux: No, I don't think they really are, and in a way that's what the show was about. They're really kind of marginalised. Even among white South Africans, they are regarded as extreme and pretty much discredited. But in an interesting sort of way, I think they do express, in a slightly exaggerated form, an anxiety that a lot of white South Africans share.

bob bebson: Off the subject, what style of music do you like, and how has this affected your views/behaviour in life?

Louis Theroux: I have very diverse musical tastes. Everything from alternative rock, R & B, rap and mainstream pop. I meant what I said in the programme about music being a way of overcoming barriers. A shared love of music has brought me closer to people with whom I probably wouldn't have anything else in common. That's why I was pleased to be able to do a show about gangster rappers, when I try and make it as an up and coming gangster.

Barney John: Louis why are you so gentle in your actions and pleasantries when your questions often make your guests uneasy?

Louis Theroux: I think it's by being gentle that you can get away with asking the questions that people are really interested in. I am genuinely curious, but I'm also naturally fairly diffident and I'm not keen to offend. I also feel that people should be accountable for the things they say and do, so I try and ask questions that I am curious about, but in a nonjudgmental way.

Craig Smith: Are you easily offended?

Louis Theroux: No.

James Fuller: Do you believe in God?

Louis Theroux: At the risk of sounding trite, life is a mystery. I'm not totally atheistic, but organised religion has no role in my life.

jolene1You seem intelligent but a bit of a wimp. Would you like to toughen up for next years programs?

Louis Theroux: Well, next week, the episode is about body building, so I do bulk up a little bit, gain a few pounds of muscle. I've been doing some sit-ups and push-ups, and I'm up to fifty push-ups, so I think I can probably look after myself. I'd challenge Jolene to a fight, I think.

Ciaran Tangent: Have you any desire to do a show a little closer to home, having tried India, and South Africa. Would you like to try your abilities in the North of Ireland??

Louis Theroux: We did start shooting a show in Ireland about boy bands. But we just found the Irish people were too nice to be very funny in a Weird Weekends context. Very sort of retiring and self-effacing.

Ann Walsh: Ever thought of doing a joint venture with Dom Jolly... i think you'd make a good pair!

Louis Theroux: I've never met Dom but I'm a big fan of Trigger Happy TV. If he's reading this, he can give me a call!

Antony Lupton: Are there any subjects for a programme that you've refused to go ahead with?

Louis Theroux: Only because they didn't seem funny or interesting enough. We did a recce on a story about elderly people who drop out and travel around the American south-west. They were supposed to be taking drugs and indulging in free sex, but they turned out to be rather boring, so we pulled the plug on it. I also wanted to do one on furries - people who dress up as furry cartoon animals and go to conventions and cop off with each other. But we had access problems.

Louisa Rowland: Have any of the programmes lead to repercussions against you personally?

Louis Theroux: I sent some of the shows to a neo-nazi who lives in northern Idaho, who appeared in the first episode we ever taped. I just thought he was a quite amusing man and wanted to get his feedback. He didn't like them at all, and when I called up for his opinions, one of his colleagues, another neo-nazi, put the phone down on me. I was a little anxious for a couple of weeks, but so far nothing untoward has happened.

Nathan Jones: Have you tried out your newly-discovered talents for hypnotism on anyone recently?

Louis Theroux: I have tried it around the office. I've tried to hypnotise people to make me tea in the morning. So far, it hasn't really worked.

Nigel Hogg: Why do you have incidental music from 50/60's playing in the background for certain scenes, is it to match your shirt??

Louis Theroux: The shirt's pretty odd isn't it? It's not so much to match the shirts, it's just music I find quite light and funny, but also catchy and enjoyable. It's lounge music. It just seems to create the right mood for the sequences, many of which are somewhat surreal.

john sims: Did you have a strange childhood?

Louis Theroux: My childhood felt as far from strange as is possible to imagine. I read a lot of children's books, and probably like a lot of others couldn't understand why I didn't have a magical wardrobe or a secret garden.

Abby Flanagan: Has your parentage helped or hindered you?

Louis Theroux: I think having a successful and well-known father has motivated me to try and be distinguished in my own field. He's never really opened doors for me, as far as I'm aware, but he's a great guy and also a big fan of the shows, as it happens.

Lizzy Martin: What is your greatest unfulfilled ambition?

Louis Theroux: I would like to buy my own house!

Gordon Wilson: Will there ever be a video or dvd released that contains the best of all your interviews?

Louis Theroux: Nothing planned, to be honest. But you never know.

Matt Crockett: What does your girlfriend think of your job?

Louis Theroux: She's right here. I'll ask her... She thinks it's very interesting but she misses me when I go away.

Angela_Savva: There must be loads of footage which you've had to cut from production. Do you have any plans to broadcast it in a special episode?

Louis Theroux: That's a good question. There's always a lot of good stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor. Maybe in the future there'll be a medium through which we can kind of put up the episodes but also include offcuts and outtakes. A sort of digital TV, video on demand type thing.

Martin Wilson: Any bits heading for Dennis Norden?

Louis Theroux: The stuff that would normally end up on Dennis Norden is usually the stuff that we like to keep in. Most of the shows involve me messing up in some way or another. Like this evening, I didn't quite keep it together when I was interviewing Eugene Terreblanche. The more embarrassing it is for me, the more likely it is to end up in the programme.

Tony Samuel: Louis, your TV roots are now firmly established and no TV station would deny you a chat show of your own - comments?

Louis Theroux: Wow, a chat show. I did once get approached to do a chat show. The thing is, what I really like doing is insinuating myself into other people's worlds, and with a chat show you're basically inviting your guests into your world. And I just don't know what my world is yet.

Matt: Debbie Harry has said that she loves you - what do you you think of her?

Louis Theroux: Debbie Harry? From Blondie? Someone told me the other day that Sting was a huge fan of the show, and then two days later called me back and said it was a mistake. I've just had to piece my world back together once. So I'll take that with a pinch of salt, I think.

Dave Whayman: Did You watch big brother? and if so would you ever do a show with Nick?, it would be so cool.

Louis Theroux: I do like Big Brother. I was very pleased the other night to meet Darren and find out he's a big fan of the series. He apparently talked about Weird Weekends in the house, but none of the others had seen the series except Anna who'd seen the Jimmy Saville special. But it was good because I actually liked Darren and felt like he could have won it. I was away shooting during the whole Nick gets expelled episode. So I haven't got a sense of how interesting he really is. But the Big Brother phenomenon and that kind of instant celebrity is definitely something worth looking into.

Andy Nelson: Which comedians do you find most amusing?

Louis Theroux: Of stand up comedians, I like Al Murray - the pub landlord, and Harry Hill. He cracks me up, actually.

Simon: Do you like Anne Widdecombe?

Louis Theroux: I'm not sure if I like her. I like the fact that she exists. The world's a more interesting place for having her around, and she's put the decriminalisation of cannabis on the agenda, which is a good thing in my book.

Oliver: Do you use the internet regularly?

Louis Theroux: Yes. I check my e-mails every day and go to visit the New York Times online and Salon, which is http://www.salon.com. We use it quite a bit to research arcane subjects.

Louis Theroux: with a final word...I'm sorry I didn't get to answer all your questions. Thanks for watching, and let's hope that within a few years we'll be able to watch TV and e-mail on the same machine and it'll be easier to receive and respond to viewer feedback. Have a weird weekend!

BBC Host: The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites, the inclusion of a URL within this transcript does not represent an endorsement by the BBC.

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