Matt Morgan: “I don’t need to sort out the mysteries of the universe.”
For some, mainly Matt Morgan Appreciation Society members (like myself), Matt Morgan will be best known as Russell Brand’s sidekick on the hugely popular XFM and Radio 2 shows. Those familiar will also know he’s the man who as a school-boy suffered a horrid but hilarious ‘pin-pinning’ (thus becoming the original victim), he who as a child believed he had a crow living in his bedroom wall, and the man who, by his own admission here, sometimes thinks about going back ‘into the shadows’.
For everyone else, these days Matt is better known for his work as a writer for TV (‘Mr Winner’ and ‘The Mimic’), broadcaster, and now the host of his own regular show. On Patreon he hosts Q+A’s with himself, publishes videos of his extreme camping trips, and broadcasts interviews with his ‘mates’. Thankfully these happen to include the likes of outdoor survival expert Paul Hayes aka Hazes Outdoors, comedian Rob Beckket, and my favorite, the often curmudgeon but always funny and frank singer-songwriter Mr. Noel Gallagher.
Here, we chat about the future of his Patreon show, the decision to make the move to paid-for media, what it’s like to be friends with and piss off the most talented Gallagher brother, and why going into baby-mode is so comforting, among other things…
Matt, on your Instagram there are some videos of you dressed as a baby. What’s that about?
That came from when I was with John Noel who was the agent Russell was with at the time. It came from was a sketch with my friend Kieron Hawkes, he directed shows like the The Mimic and Power. It was from the idea of ‘immersive’ documentaries, so it was one step on in telly evolution from Louis Theroux going somewhere. At the beginning, it was like, “I wondered if I could live as a baby. I used to do it without thinking, but as a man, can I do it now?” The point of the joke was how utterly stupid those immersive docs were. So I did one where I was an adult baby, and I went and had an adult baby experience, which is like, basically not sexual, but she [the lady providing the service] changed my nappy, she gave me a bath.
It’s pretty funny
I think I’ve always had an interest in adult babies. It’s just really funny to me. The oversized babygrows and stuff, it’s very visual. We stayed the night with her. She was saying how it’s very rarely sexual, a lot of is men with powerful jobs who get to switch off and go into infantilization. They get to go there, she puts a babygrow on them, she reads them stories, she gives them warm milk, they sleep in a big cot and then the next day, they get dressed and go back to their normal life. It wasn’t completely immersive because we were filming it but I did just let myself go and have the experience. The bit where she was reading me a story and I had warm almond milk in a thing, and the bit where she was changing my nappy, that was just a bit awkward. There was no poo involved, but I’d wee in this nappy and she changed it. Honestly, when she was reading me the story and I slept in this cozy little cot… there was something about it that was really nice.
I’m still not trying it
*laughs* At the time I remember saying to Kieron, “They should do this at spa hotels. Instead of having a massage and then some face peel or something, you should have a big nursery, where you put on a babygrow, you play with Lego, and someone reads you a story and they give you warm milk.” Like honestly, it would revolutionize the world. You’d make so much money.
The comedy world is changing in terms of what’s deemed acceptable. I remember Russell Brand comparing you to one of the men dressed as women on the old Bounty kitchen towel adverts. How do you feel about the fact that some stuff wouldn’t be acceptable these days, in comedy terms, with ‘cancel culture’ and the trans debate which is in full flow (on Twitter at least)?
Well, it depends. There’s context. I think as I remember that Bounty ad, it was part of the joke; don’t men with beards, you know, big fat men with beards look silly dressed up as women. So that was their joke. You have to be careful. You wouldn’t get away with that now, because people are so much more aware. I remember, when I was a kid and I worked in a shop as a teenager, there was a woman who came in who I previously would have said, “Oh, a bloke dressed as a woman.” But who was trans back then. I remember seeing what I think people called transvestites at the time, which was just something else. People didn’t understand did they? So transvestites are someone who has dressed up as a woman for a kink? I think it’s really important to be caring about it because imagine the shit they get. I wasa once actually writing something with a transgender character in it and I don’t think I would now, because I think…
You’re straight and male?
Yeah, because I think now it’s like, “Well, you can’t speak for them.” Which, I mean, that’s a whole other thing to get into, because then you get into, well, can men write female characters? and could an adult write a child? And that’s mental. Of course they can.
Do you think it’s important not to be going after the more vulnerable, punching down etc like to be more wary and compassionate?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve done stuff… Everyone in comedy has done stuff where you’re wearing women’s clothes if your a man or the other way round. But I’ve never blacked up, I think I would always known, “No way. Not doing that.” But that was common on our TVs not that long ago really. I think it’s good that things are changing because I’m very aware, you don’t want to make anyone feel excluded, like the idea of punching up and punching down. I think comedy’s better when it punches up because you should be attacking the people in power, not the disempowered. But then, to go back to your original point, I think that you’ve got to have compassion and I think, punch up. In the context of a stand-up gig, someone like Frankie Boyle or Jimmy Carr, you know what you’ll get when you buy a ticket. It’s not like, “Oh someone called Jimmy Carr’s on, I think I’ll go and check it out. It sounds like a light entertainment evening.” But when you get there, you know what they’re going to do. And also Louis C.K. I know he’s canceled for being a creepy sex pest, but any comedian, they stand on stage and they pick through things, do you know what I mean? They’re not making blanket statements.
You can’t stop people from being honest and going through things. Even Jimmy Carr, who’s not doing that sort of conversational comedy, he’s doing one-liners, right? But it’s in the context of his Jimmy Carr gig, and it almost goes with it that you go, “If he’s saying this joke, then he knows the power of what he’s saying, and why it’s funny is because “Oh you’re not allowed to say that.'”
You’re removed in that sense because you write for screen?
Well, thankfully I don’t have to worry about this particularly because I don’t do that sort of comedy. Everything I’ve ever written is pretty mainstream, really. And also, I’m not a stand-up, so I’m not up there saying stuff. That’s the thing. I think it’s good that people are much more aware of the idea of “who’s this hurting?” Because I think that’s important, but of course you can’t police people’s honest thoughts.
When did you start doing that whole survival type thing as a hobby? What’s the attraction to that?
One night, for some reason, I was watching this Ed Stafford show, where he goes somewhere and he’s got nothing. He’s basically naked, but as a survival expert, he quite quickly finds water, then he does shelter. And depending on the environment, basically, if it’s cold, then fire is a priority, if it’s warm, then shelter is a priority. So I was learning all this stuff. But I used to be a Scout and what I liked about Scouts was lighting fires, playing with axes, knives, but it was also controlled. It awakened something in me that was basically put away at the end of my teens. And then I think I spoke about that with Russell [Brand] – “Oh, I want to do this. I want to go camping and stuff.” And the idea of camping in this country is obviously at a campsite where there’s a shower block and toilets and all that stuff. And I was like, “Well, how do you get away from that?” And then when you look into it, wild camping in this country in illegal. In Scotland, it’s legal because you’ve got ‘Right to Roam’. But here, I mean, England’s not massive, It’s not like America where you’ve got vast fucking national parks where you could literally get lost in and die. I was like, “Oh, I want to go somewhere that’s not like, ‘Oh hello, here’s your pitch.”
Which brings us to you and Hazes Outdoors…
Yeah, he said, if you’re interested in this, I’ll send you some stuff, because he basically… Well, It can get expensive actually, because you start buying all this kit. But he sent me some stuff he didn’t need anymore. It was basically everything I needed. Sleeping bag, a folding saw, like a knife with a fire steel so you can start fires and all that stuff. Somebody else, through listening to the radio show sent me a message and said, “I’ve got a small woodland on my farm in Essex that you’re welcome to come and camp in.” So I went. I was quite to keen to do it when it was cold. I’ve been camping in Summer enough to know that it’s not very difficult. You’re not even cold at night if you’ve got a sleeping bag. So I wanted to be cold. What I was craving was the simplicity of, “I’m cold, I need to light a fire, I’m hungry, I need to cook my food.” That sort of thing, as opposed to the stresses of everyday life which are so often abstract.
It must be difficult getting used to long hours in the darkness (sorry if I sound like a therapist)?
I remember Hazes Outdoors said, “Be careful in Winter because the sun can go down very quickly.” When the sun goes down and you’re in woods especially, it’s even darker than the fields, it’s pitch black, so you’ve got your head torch on but the world shrinks down. You’ve got your little glow of your head torch, and that’s it. The first couple of times I did it I did get freaked out. You’re so freaked out by noises, and just the vulnerability that you’re out there and you think, “God, what if someone just saw my fire and my tent and came up and just fucking stabbed me through my tent.” You start thinking such mad shit. Because usually, you go to sleep thinking, “Right, the doors are all locked, I’m pretty good, I’m pretty safe.” I don’t know, it’s just really good. And it’s not survival, survival, I’ve always taken food with me, I’ve had 4G. You’re not really looking at your phone, but you can. You don’t feel like, “Oh shit. I’m in the middle of nowhere.” But it’s still good to do it. It’s still quite extreme compared to what most people would call camping.
On your video you posted recently on Patreon, Hazey sleeps on the ground?
Fuck that. I’ve got a Hennessy hammock with a bug sheet net and stuff. Honestly, I sleep in that as comfortably, if not more than I do at home. Because you’re slightly swaying and it’s like being a baby. It’s just like hanging in the air.
There’s that baby thing coming up again.
Haha – all it does is just give a bit of a reset, to go outside. You’re away from your troubles for a bit. It’s masculine in a non-toxic way, do you know what I mean? It’s not, “Oh, I’ve got loads of stress, I’m going to go and get absolutely fucking pissed and I’ll be fine.” It’s not that.
Onto the podcast and your Patreon site where you now post your content.
You’ve spoken on the Pod how Noel Gallagher was pissed off when you joked that Morrissey had died (It was, in fact, Russell Brand’s cat, Morrissey, RIP). Was he genuinely angry with you?
Yeah, he was.
What’s he like when he’s pissed off?
He swears loads. He’s up for a laugh. So I just thought, “Fuck it, this will be funny.” So I text him: “Fucking hell, Morrissey’s dead.” And he text me: “What the fuck, what, what?” Like that. He was freaking out and then he called me and he went, “Are you fucking serious, what the fuck, he’s fucking dead, he’s fucking dead?”. I went, “Yeah, he’s dead mate, he died this morning.” And he went, “Fucking what?” And I went, “Yeah, yeah.” He goes, “What? Morrissey’s dead?” I went, “Yeah, yeah, Russell’s cat Morrissey’s dead.” And he just went, “You fucking prick… Oh, you wanker… You fucking idiot, you fucking cunt, you fucking…” He just went like that and hung up. I was like, “Oh god.” And then he text me loads more swear words.
You’ve used up all your prank points on that.
I know. Afterward, I was desperately trying to think of some other famous pet. I was thinking, “God, is there anyone else I could do this to”. Like I’ll just leave it a week, and then do it again. Noel said to me later, “It really freaked me out because I had been listening to The Smiths so much. And thinking about Morrissey a lot. And then when you said that….” And then I felt really bad. I knew he’d be all right. He’s had a go at enough people over the years.
The stuff with you and Noel is all gold, really, it’s amazing to sit and listen to.
He’s good, isn’t he?
You both are. It’s purely unguarded, no PR, no bullshit, none of the usual pre-prepared answers you get with a lot of Podcasts and interviews.
Well, that’s the thing I found. The thing is, it’s like normally, and I did try and do this with the Podcast in its first iteration, which was to be like “I’m talking to people about what they find funny, and whatever.” Which was great and then, Coronavirus happened, and it was like, “I’m not going into London to do the interview.” I can’t remember who was lined up, but any stand-up comedian who’s a pro isn’t going to be totally unguarded and have a chat. They’re going to be like, “Oh yes, the first gig and, oh, worst gig of my life.” And all that shit, and I just thought, “I’m bored by that just thinking about it.”
So I just reverted to calling people I’d already spoken to and people I actually know, like Jo Lycett, Rob Becket, Noel Gallagher, and that seemed to work. And I think now actually having moved to Patreon, I’m going to impose a bit more format on it going forward, because I’ve got this little squad of people that I call… this is exclusive to some extent.
*Semi sarcastic* Ooooooooh!
It’s only me, so it’s nothing great. In the future it’ll be more like, “What have I been doing this week?” That’s the format. And in the way that a stand-up comedian will tell you a story, but then relate it to bigger things, like, “Oh, I wonder what that says about me?” And just investigate things a bit. Basically, if Noel was on that week, I’d have four things that I’m going to be talking to him about. “Oh, I got my patio done, and I had to talk to the builders. And how do you feel, like being working class? And then, when a builder’s around your house, what do say? Hello, mate, do you want a cup of tea?” Or are you awkward or whatever. That sort of thing really interests me. What I hate is artifice. You know like these podcasts where, and I’m not judging them, but if it’s like… I don’t know, they’ve got such a format, the person is a slave to the format.
Like I was saying, so many other Podcasts have that banal nature…
Yeah and also, that a lot of those things, you can only have that guest on once because you’ve applied the format to them. “What are your favorite sporting moments in your life, or whatever?” And then you can’t come back on in three weeks’ time and say, “Oh, I’ve got seven different ones.” I could think of formats, but if it was like, “Okay, you’re allowed to pick one footballer, one musician…” All those variations on parlor games. It’s your ideal dinner party or whatever. And I just think that won’t work because it will just fall apart so quickly. So that’s what I’m going to do. Like, ‘What have I been up to, what have I been thinking about this week, what have we done this week?’ and if there’s a guest or not, because I quite enjoy doing them on my own and it seems to work.
They do work, even the ones on you do on your own.
It’s weird, isn’t it? Because it doesn’t bring the mood down if you’re having a laugh. I think that stuff needs to be handled properly, you can’t just be flippant about it. So that’s the weekly podcast. And Noel can fit into that, because I can just tell him what I’ve been up to and he’s… the thing with Noel is, he never… he’s similar to Russell in the way that he’ll never dry up. He’ll always have something to say about a subject. And also, to be honest, his fucking anecdotes are star-studded, because of the life he’s led. So he’ll just be like, “Oh, I was with Paul Weller and McCartney.” and you think, ‘Fucking hell’.
You were talking a few weeks ago about the chance of you and Noel doing a regular thing together. Is that still a possibility – like a co-host situation on a show?
Yeah we have been talking about it, because he’s got his studio, so he’s got a brand new studio that he’s built himself, it’s just for him basically, and he was like, “Oh we should do something regularly.” So I guess he meant we should sell a podcast, do it for someone, like Spotify or something. And that would be a regular podcast. So I’ll carry on doing my Patreon podcast and that would be a second thing. What’s been interesting about it, what everyone seems to have realized, like even doing this call, it’s like, we don’t need to be in the same place to record. Or to do anything really. I’ve been amazed. That’s why I’ve moved really, because it’s like, “Oh shit, I don’t need a studio. I don’t need to go in and use a studio, I don’t need to even go to meetings.” Me and Noel could potentially do something where we’re at our houses, but we do something regularly.
On your move from the ‘Funny How?’ podcast and taking your content over to Patreon, you obviously did it to make more money which is common sense. On the original setup, did you try to sell it in any way, or was it just not a viable option really?
I was doing it with Global so then it’s on Spotify, iTunes, and all the main places. Basically, you do it and then they sort out the advertising and they sell advertising if they can, and then the ad split is negotiable but basically starts at 50/50. So you provide the content, they provide the advertising and you take half the money each. And so it makes some money like that. But I think Coronavirus did affect things because people weren’t buying new cars, people weren’t going on holiday, people weren’t buying high street fashion stuff, because they couldn’t and so I think a lot of advertisers just pulled their ad campaigns. So that didn’t help. I don’t think that was the complete problem. With podcasts you have to accept that it won’t make much money for the first six months or a year. I was sort of okay with that at the beginning, but then when I saw how much it was… I was just like, “Really? This is almost not worth doing for the hassle.” And I’d quite happily just disappear back into the shadows and do my writing and stuff, but I was quite enjoying doing it and it was going down well. I didn’t want to just walk away from it. I looked at different options and found you could use Patreon to boost your income by doing extras. I just thought I should take the risk and just go completely on Patreon. You do lose people. You lose numbers, but the people who are left are actually paying you instead of going for advertisers, so in terms of how much of my income it takes to do it, it’s much better.
Maybe more work or expectation?
I think it’s a little bit more work because I feel like I’ve got to provide, not just podcasts, I’ve got to do… I’m doing extra bits and video and stuff. Yeah there’s more expectation, and also, you go, “Well, these people are customers now, they’re not just getting it for free.” So I’ve bought some equipment now and I realize it’s not just audio. It will include video as part of it.
You seem like quite a laid back person. Is that a fair comment?
I suppose I am laid back in some ways. But I can get really fucking angry.
I’ve been listening to you for a while, going back to the radio show days with Russell Brand. You’ve always seemed like the kind of calm, quiet voice of reason?
Yeah, I suppose, but then you’re forced into certain roles aren’t you, by the person you’re with? With Russell, I’m naturally going to become the straight man to someone that mental. When I say mental, now he would look at me and think, “Fucking hell, you’re mental.” He’s extreme in whatever he does, so now he’s an extremely spiritual person. He’s weird, Russell, he’s not just like, “Oh, shall we have a cup of tea and a sit-down?” It’s like he’s always intensely up for something. And he’s on this big sort of journey to work out what this all means, this life and stuff like that.
I just think I’m sort of vaguely interested in spiritual stuff and whatever, but I don’t have that yearning that Russell has to understand the universe and stuff. I sort of feel like I’ve worked my version of it out when I was about four. And I’m just coasting on whatever I took life to be at that stage. I think I’m much more practical. Like now I’ve moved house, I’ve been camping, I’m swimming in the sea, I just think that’s enough for me. I don’t need to sort out the mysteries of the universe.
Onto Withnail and I. Allow me to self indulge. I adore that film, and you’ve spoken of your own love of it on your shows. Do you remember when you first watched it?
I remember when me and a mate Rich were around 15, in the days of VHS. Back then, there was basically four channels. And I used to stay up late to find boobs in a film. It would be like quick, record them, yeah, Channel 4, late at night, usually some sort of vaguely artistic thing. We were really bored, I think my parents were on holiday and I’d been allowed to stay in the house.Rich went through tapes desperately looking for something to watch. And my mum and dad had accidentally recorded it… So we fast-forwarded to the end of this film hoping there would some boobs, so tragic, and then that music starts, King Curtis. We hadn’t tuned into the comedy at all, we thought it was a serious film, and we were watching a bit going, “This is fucking mental.” And then the bit that really, really made me laugh was when they sit a chicken on a brick in the oven. And also the line, when he says, “Kill it before it starts making friends with us.” It’s so ludicrous, that idea. It’s a clever idea but worded like a child, ‘making friends with us’.
Years later I thought about it and I never knew what it was called. I just remember this mad fucking film, with a chicken sat on a brick and these two blokes. And years later when I went to university, somebody said, “Withnail and I.” And it was like, “Oh my god, I watched it. Oh, fucking hell.” And then when I watched it then, I was like, “Oh this is a comedy, this is hilarious.” I thought it was some mad thing on a VHS video, with no boobs.
“I mean to have you even if it must be burglary!” – What’s your favorite line from the film?
Let me think, best line? Well, there’s a couple, God there’s so many. Once you start thinking, you go, “Fucking hell.” But like I really liked the bit where he [Richard E. Grant] says, “There must and shall be Asprin.” Because it’s perfect for his attitude to life. He’s so entitled that because he wants it so badly, he can will it into being. “There must, and shall be Asprin.” And I love those sort of characters. I like it when he’s talking to his agent: “How dare you, fuck you.” He’s such an arsehole. I do think about the line, when he goes, “This is really a rather groovy long white hat.” Or whatever he says, and they go, “It’s a wig.”
Yeah. They were talking about a judge and some hat, and Danny the dealer says, “No, man, this was more like a long white hat.”
Fucking brilliant. I’ve watched it so many times, but by talking about it now, because I couldn’t remember the lines around that, so I clearly need to watch it again. But, fucking hell, it’s just so good.
Lest there’s anyone reading this who would like tips on becoming a writer or at least practicing as such, what are your own regimes in terms of working. I myself find sitting up really late with some wine as the only good time to work.
Well, my natural instinct is like you said, same as you, stay up really late. It feels like in the daytime, not just because the doorbell’s going and stuff… It just feels like the world is alive. And then once you get into the evening and the night, it feels like the world shrinks down, and you can think clearly. That’s how I am. A lot of writers, like the majority of writers, when you read books about how to write or you read articles about the process, honestly 90%, will say “I get up at five, I’ll be at my desk, and I do four rounds of writing before…”. What the fuck? I’ll never be like that. I’m never good in the morning. And I come alive at night. So I don’t go to bed until late, and I could never get up early. But there’s other people who stay up late, but then the thing that fucked that up was having kids.
Of course, your wife must be great in that sense?
Well, she is pretty understanding, but then one of the reasons we’ve moved is because I need an office. I need a room to work in. Before it was in our bedroom, and then we had two children, so they all end up needing a bed, a bedroom obviously. So I’d sort of out-bred myself office wise. I get up for 8.00, 8.30, 9.00 o’clock now, which is fucking way better than 11 or 12 like I used to. And I haven’t tested it since we’ve been here, I haven’t had a real deadline where I’ve got to get something done, but I’m much more comfortable at night. My wife’s understanding. She can get up with the kids, and if I get up later on, I’ll do the end of the day with the kids, like bath time, bedtime, and stuff like that. It imposes structure, and I think structure is actually quite useful but I’ve not mastered it. I don’t think I ever will. I’m really bad at being my own boss.
People can impose structure on themselves, but the problem with me is, I am me. I don’t know how people act like, “Come on, back to work, you” to themselves, because then I’m just like, “Fuck it, I’m not feeling well, I’m just going to sit down.” I’ll keep going back to it and there’s nothing happening, and then suddenly I’ll hit the theme of something, and you look up and it’s like four hours later, and you’ve done loads of work. With writing there’s deadlines, there’s money involved, there’s people saying, “Did you get that thing?” So I can’t’ just float around and go, “No, no, the sun is too low. I can’t write today” because I wouldn’t get paid ever.
If it’s not happening, it’s not happening and then when you try and force it, you just make a mess…
Yeah. I actually thought that I would pay for a service where you tell someone what your deadlines are, what work you’ve got to do, and then they basically call you in the morning and say, “Get up.” And then they say, “At the end of the day, send us what you’ve done.” You could make millions from self-employed people just running a self-boss service where you phone them up and say, “Right, can you email us everything you’ve done today?”… because then at least I’d fucking think, “Oh shit, I better do this.”
Yeah, there would be pressure on you to things done.
It would probably work for a week and then I’d think, “Hang on, I’m paying them to do this. Fuck off. They’ve got no power.” Do you know what? It should work like you’ve given them your credit card details and if you don’t hit your deadline, they charge you. Because then you’d be like, “Fuck.”
That might actually work.
Mate, you can have that.
So I’ve got a man-baby pamper business in hotel spas and I’ve got another one where you get charged if you don’t meet deadlines…
Mate. I’m full of good ideas.
Matt, thank you.
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Check out Hazes Outdoors
Noel Gallagher doesn’t need any plugging but check his latest here