Jake Massey

10 minutes with…Dregs

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Max Dickins was a Sony-nominated presenter for Absolute Radio – until he got sick of saying boring stuff and packed it in. Mark Smith was a So You Think You’re Funny finalist in 2009 and has recently appeared on Russell Howard’s Good News. He has also worked as a presenter for MTV. Together Max and Mark are Dregs, a double-act who’ve been to the Edinburgh Fringe and beyond, getting sketches on Channel 4 and BBC 2 along the way. Jake Massey caught up with the boys to chat about their current podcast, available exclusively on Giggle Beats.

JM: Hello lads. In a nutshell, how would you summarise your podcast?

MD: The totally inane ramblings of two quite pathetic men trying to work out why the hell they are even bothering.

MS:  I would describe it as an important piece of work.

JM: Where does the name ‘Dregs’ come from?

MD: It’s what you get at the bottom of the barrel.

MS:  Yeah, my dad came up with it a couple of years ago. We used to be in a sketch group called The Leeds Tealights and dregs are the remnants of tea-lights or candles.

JM: To what extent are your podcasts prepared/improvised?

MD: They are totally improvised. I essentially write down some headings (for example “Why does Dad not return my calls?” “Tits?” “What’s the deal with biscuits?”), and we just riff off that. By riff, I mean I try and say something amusing, Mark then tells me it wasn’t funny at all, and we move on.

MS: Exactly. Max generates the vast majority of talking points and then I just respond accordingly. A lot of people say they like the dynamic of Max doing jokes and me rejecting them as if it’s an act. It’s not an act.

JM: What is it about the podcast medium that appeals to you?

MD: I used to do a radio show on proper radio and I wasn’t allowed to say anything interesting ever. I can now say anything I want. Although, ironically none of it is interesting. Audio is a really intimate medium, and I like to think listeners get to know us like mates down the pub. Also, you are much less likely to get fined for libel.

MS:  It doesn’t really appeal that much to me. But the studio is warm and I often don’t have a lot to do so it’s a perfect fit.

JM: What do you hope to get out of the podcast?

MD: Peace of mind; a girlfriend; a fan-base; material to develop on stage as stand-up. Also, it’s nice that to get the guys trapped in a studio because otherwise they wouldn’t talk to me.

MS: It’s not something that I’ve really thought about. We just do it because it’s fun. I don’t think everything has to be career minded.

JM: Do you feel that hosting your own podcast is a no brainer for comedians such as yourselves?

MD: Well, it’s certainly worked for us. We have over 350 likes on Facebook.

MS: My advice to budding podcasters makers is DON’T BOTHER, PODCASTING IS FULL.

JM: Do you find it more difficult to express yourselves individually as a duo or are you more comfortable playing off one another?

MD: The podcast has been interesting for me because I have realised the more vulnerable and honest I am, the more people connect to it – which has influenced my stand-up act certainly. There is some stuff I still haven’t talked about with Mark yet. We’ll see if I get there. Something about a patio and the summer of 99.

MS: I need a wee.

JM: Does the challenge of regularly producing new content make the podcast more taxing than performing stand-up, or is it generally much less stressful?

MD: It is much easier to bounce off people than write really funny routines. Also, you can also talk about stuff that would be beyond the pale for a lot of people in a comedy club. Some stuff I said about Lenny Henry at the recording yesterday would have had me sectioned, for example. In general I enjoy the podcast more than gigs because it generally feels like mates just shooting the shit. Although “mate” is a strong word.

MS:  I think if anything the podcast is a nice break from gigging. We can just talk shit for a while and anything that is rubbish just gets edited out. That in turn gives you all the freedom in the world. Our producer Joe is amazing and he makes it all seem professional. Poor lad. 

JM: Do you think it is necessary to have a very similar sense of humour and style when working as a double act?

MD: Oh yes certainly. But it can become a race to the bottom, as you both try and out-do each other with disgusting, nonsensical, childish drivel. You do need someone to put on the brakes, and that is more often than not Mark who will say “that really isn’t OK to say” or he will just leave the room and go abroad. Actually “a race to the bottom” is a good description of our podcast.

MS: Yeah probably, although I think it’s healthy to have different notions of what is funny. Max for example finds the bullying of the weakest members of society inherently funny whereas I do not. 

JM: What do you believe to be critical to the success of a podcast?

MD: It’s basically a sitcom, our relationship is what brings people back I think. The famous comedy producer John Lloyd described a sitcom as “two people who hate each other stuck in a room they cannot leave”. That makes sense.

MS:  I agree with Max to a certain extent but I think the most important thing is the edit. Joe Thomas is the one who holds this shit together.

JM: Would either of you claim to be the ‘main man’?

MD: No. But you have to say that don’t you?

MS: Yes.

JM: Unlike performing live, you can’t physically see your audience, so how do you envisage them?

MD: I envisage the whole of culture as one huge race to the bottom, and at the bottom is just Paul Dacre from the Daily Mail and everybody else is just surviving off his pre-cum. And we are next to him, playing the flute luring people who should know better into this intellectual end of days.

MS:  If I’m totally honest I don’t think about the audience when doing it. I think as long as we find it funny we can play the percentages and hope someone else does too. 

JM: Do you believe that comedy, like so many other facets of the entertainment industry, is becoming increasingly geared towards various online formats?

MD: I just think you don’t need to wait to be picked anymore. If your stuff is good you can find an audience. The challenge we have is to reach a critical mass where people start spreading the word. I actually think what we do is quite good so hopefully we’ll get better known soon. And then we’ll achieve our dream of being invited to present a documentary called “Tony Bullymore’s Yachting Mishaps”.

MS: Yes I do.

The Dregs Podcast is available to stream (or download) bi-weekly on the Giggle Beats SoundCloud page. Follow us: soundcloud.com/gigglebeatscomedy.