Hypothetical Series 2 - Josh and James interview

We caught up with hosts Josh Widdicombe and James Acaster to find out what Series 2 has in store.

Hypothetical Series 2 - Josh and James interview

How excited are you to get a second series of Hypothetical?

Josh: Very. We really enjoyed the first series so I was really looking forward to the second but slightly nervous as it feels like a real step up. I was really proud of the first series but you can be braver in the second series as you know what you're doing; people who are on it know what to expect and it all feels like it's an actual TV show!

James: It's such a good team and we all want to make the best show that we can so we're honest about the things to change and luckily the changes we made didn't make it worse! When you're doing a show that's all improvised you don't want to take the unpredictable, shambolic nature of it out of it. But you also want to make sure that you get as much good stuff as possible.

You two have known each other a while but this is your first show together...

Josh: Yes a decade of life! 2008 I think it was that we met, bloody hell, 11 years. It's really good because you get to work with your friends and if you can look forward to coming to work it's the greatest piece of luck in the world. Not just James but you're booking people who I can't wait to see. Comics work independently so it's just a really good time to catch up.

James: And share a few photos. It's the easiest thing to put in the diary. I don't have to worry about getting some rest before I do it!

Why do you two work so well together?

Josh: We've always found each other funny, that's crucial. All the comics that have come through with us, we all enjoy working with each other and they're the best comedians. They're generous and they want each other to succeed rather than trying to outdo each other. I think that's why we work well together on this.

James: Josh is probably the most ego-free comedian I know. A lot of comedians have a bit of an ego or otherwise are aware they have one and are trying to suppress it to not let it get in the way. But Josh is probably the only person who isn't going 'I'm the best, everyone get out of my way!' He actually has some self-assurance in his own abilities and knows that he can do it.

Josh: Whereas James has a huge ego! Actually I'm sure James would agree that if you ever go in to something thinking you're going to smash it then it all goes wrong. You always have to have a level of self-doubt.

James: And also Josh and I started at the same time; we met each other at a new act competition and we've been through a lot of the same things throughout the years. I might be about to do something that Josh has already done and I'll phone him for advice. So when you host a show together you feel like you're safe with the other person: if you say something they're not going to sit there and let it fail. It's nice that you've got each other's backs. We're not there to be the stars; that's what's also nice about this. When I'm on other shows I'm always thinking I have to be as funny as possible but on this our you're almost more relaxed because you want to facilitate other people being funny.

Josh: When you're in charge of a show, you want everyone else to succeed. I think that's the job of the hosts. Sorry if I'm not funny, I've done my job because everyone else is funny.

You do actually joke you prefer presenting the show by yourself though Josh...

Josh: Haha yes but I don't though! You do stand up on your own as a comedian when you're exposed so it's so much fun doing something where you're just playing with your mates.

James: And because it's improvised the no-prep aspect of it really lures comics in. No prep and you're away by 9pm! If it's a topical show you want to prepare some well thought out opinions rather than going in unprepared.

How did you come up with the idea for Hypothetical?

Josh: I've always fallen back on hypotheticals when conversation dries up.

James: It shows how often our conversations have dried up!

Josh: I'd always ask a hypothetical question like how much to live in a service station for a year? That was something I've discussed on tour and it felt like a fun thing to discuss on a show. It's an eternal question and game that people play. There are entertainment shows on topics or about playing a game and the most fun ones are always the ones where you're lost in the game, whether it's Would I Lie To You? or Taskmaster, things that you can play at home on Boxing Day.

James: It's taking the games that we've played with our friends our whole lives or silly things you say to each other when you're bored. Although things you might say with your mates don't necessarily work on a panel show.

There's something quite revealing about asking someone a hypothetical question...

Josh: Yes, would it be for me to say that it's the best show on TV?! There is an element of seeing different sides to people. I was sat watching Charlie Brooker with a swanny whistle giggling away - you didn't know that side to him.

James: It's quite disarming for a lot of guests so it's nice when you have people like Charlie Brooker who we've both watched on TV and looked up to for years but never met and suddenly they're a guest on the show just going with it. Not being above it but letting their guard down and having fun.

Josh: Like Jonathan Ross dressing as the Grim Reaper!

James: Some people are like, 'No I'm not doing this or dressing up as that', and he just went with all of it!

What can we expect this series?

Josh: It feels like it's freer and madder. There are great guests in the sense of returning great guests and new ones like Richard Ayoade, Charlie Brooker, Jonathan Ross and Sue Perkins. You can expect someone at the end of each episode to get very annoyed at the twist in the format that we've put in.

James: Then the new rounds like Bring Your Own Hypothetical and The Randomiser, which is a random hypothetical that even we don't know what it's going to be. And the Wall of Celebs, which has more tactics to it: the panel can choose what celebrity they'll be best at predicting their answer and that has a real play at home feel. We also have guests on the show who are on TV for the first time - there's a lot of new talent to discover.

Josh: I've found it really exciting having teams like Jonathan Ross with Maisie Adam who has only been going for three years. She's brilliant and going to be such a star, so it's amazing to plug these new people.

Which guests were you most excited about?

Josh: You don't want to name specific people but I love it when you get a team of contrasting people that are a hilarious combination. Like Radio 4's Angela Barnes, and Guz Khan, who is sitting there in a poncho. Then Tom Davis with Harriet Kemsley who is the opposite end of the spectrum. That was the most fun show of all because they were two really contrasting teams.

James: They immediately established not only their own team dynamics but also the group as a whole, so everyone has their own different characters and roles. They're the most fun moments when everyone is clicking with one another and responding in the right way. They have to go with the first thing they think of and often they go 'I shouldn't have said that, that was a stupid suggestion' but the more they go with it and build on it, they surprise themselves where it ends up.

What have you learnt about someone that you'd like to forget?

Josh: Ooh that's a good question. Ed Gamble was an interesting experience. It's the images that are created that are the maddest. Like when we had Richard Ayoade and Chloe Petts talking about mythical creatures and you end up taking things that are mad but talking about them very seriously. Big Shoe in my head was a real thing for weeks.

Who gets the most competitive?

Both: Jonathan Ross.

Josh: And Richard Osman.

James: Yes but he was competing with the people who made the show and the format as opposed to the other team!

Do you hang out off camera?

James: I've been touring all year and Josh is on tour now but 11 of us are in a text group so we can keep up to date with how each other is doing. It's nice, especially when you have a job where you're on your own for a lot of the time and not able to moan about your day in the staff room together. It's good to have a text group where you can say 'oh man that was the worst gig ever' and everyone is like, don't worry!

Josh: Yes we've texted every day for the last four years. It's probably a bit of a problem actually. The only thing you can't be positive about is your own career. Guess who just smashed another gig! That would be frowned upon.

What would your dream combination of guests be for a hypothetical third series?

Josh: Oh listing them has never once led to securing a booking so I now see it as a way of never getting them. I don't want Rob Brydon! Rosie Jones was so good on the first series and she said to me that her favourite jobs are not the first time she does a show but the second because then she knows she's done it well and been asked back. You want to ask people back that did their first TV gigs really well rather than saying now we're established, see you later!

In a non-existent hypothetical universe - what needs to happen to make the world a better place?

Josh: Start again! It's too late. You know what, I've pontificated about the world on The Last Leg for the last six years and everything I've said, the world has gone in the opposite direction. I don't think anyone is listening to me so I'm ducking out of telling the world what to do.

James: I think everyone needs to go to therapy but that means we'll all need to become therapists so that everybody can have a therapist. We're all going to have to start talking about our feelings a bit more and stop acting on how angry we are. The way our show has to work is that you have to go with whatever situation and whatever you're feeling, to follow positivity and say yes to things and encourage and support each other. And maybe the world is a bad place at the minute because they're doing the opposite of that.

Josh: Maybe if Donald Trump were to watch Hypothetical, he'd understand what he needs to do!

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