EPISODE 301: nudity = death

October 30, 2014 by
Olly hanging out with his taciturn pal David Bowie at Rock Circus

Olly hanging out with his taciturn pal David Bowie at Rock Circus

After the special guest-laced thrills of AMT300, we’re back to business as usual in Answer Me This! Episode 301:

Subscribe to AMT! on iTunes listen to the MP3 through your computer soundcloud-icon our podcast feed on Libsyn Share with Facebook

In which we mull upon:

The Rock Circus
that man who got locked inside Waterstones
the Chippendales
the Dalai Lama vs the Spice Girls
Powell’s City of Books vs The World’s Biggest Bookstore
The Mall
moussaka + stripping
population signs
Bucky balls
animatronic Tim Rice

Plus: Olly is on equal celebrity footing with Jason Donovan; Helen would LOVE it if you could chip in for the Radiotopia Kickstarter (read why here); and Martin the Sound Man brings physics into coin design, because anything and everything can be made less fun with physics.

Along with every episode, there’s a Bonus Bit of Crap on the App, so get it for your iDevices, Android and Windows gadgets. And if you want to get 10% off our benevolent sponsors Squarespace.com for a year, deploy the code ‘answer’.

We’ll return with AMT302 on 13th November 2014, so in the meantime, listen to The Media Podcast hosted by Olly, hear Martin sing on his new album Through Intermittent Rain, and most of all, send in your QUESTIONS, for without them, AMT would be a nullity without your questions. Call the Question Line on 0208 123 5877 or Skype ID answermethis, or email answermethispodcast@googlemail.com. And do make our acquaintance at facebook.com/answermethis or twitter.com/HelenAndOlly.

Ripping off our tops, coating ourselves with baby oil and dancing our way out of here,

Helen & Olly

••• AMT301 Child-Friendly Rating: 68%. Gentle swear-wise, but discussions of racy topics including the Chippendales, Hooters and the Queen’s arse. •••


taking leave

October 29, 2014 by


Draw close, AMTpals, for Anonymous in Whitehall needs our assistance:

I am a mid-level functionary in Her Majesty’s Government who is about to go on a ‘sabbatical’ to recover from various mental health issues.

Although I’ve been open about this with my closest friends, I can’t face the endless questions from my family and people at work about why I am suddenly going to disappear for six months. Being a faceless bureaucrat I am rubbish at creativity, so have failed to come up with a believable cover story that won’t need much work (or elaborate photoshopping of holiday photos) to maintain once I return.

So answer me this: how can I explain disappearing for six months without tying myself in a Gordian knot of lies?

Anonymous, you already answered your own question: ‘sabbatical’. What more do you need? That’s an academic-sounding term for ‘six months of sitting around in your pants watching Netflix’*. When you say ‘sabbatical’, nobody is going to then assume you spent that time doing something exciting, otherwise you would have told them about that exciting thing. (Even though Netflix IS exciting. It’s like a plane’s seatback entertainment system IN YOUR OWN HOME!)

If you really require an alternative, then there’s the old standby ‘gardening leave’. Which is shorthand for ‘Don’t ask’. Also, Anonymous, I wonder whether you might be worrying unduly that your absence will be remarkable: even without the mental health issues to deal with, many government employees need to GTFO every so often.

Readers, if you have relevant experience that can help Anonymous, please share in the comments.

*AKA “Self-employment: the low patches”.


first book

October 29, 2014 by



Bibliomanes, Jordan from Texas needs your help:

I have a nineteen-year-old friend who says she has never read before in her life. I am an avid reader (currently reading three books plus listening to Manchester’s biography of Churchill on audiobook) and this baffles me.

However, she has recently expressed an interest in starting to read and I want to give a recommendation which won’t be so tough as to put her off reading, but isn’t going to get her into the habit of reading shit books.

She likes the horror movie genre and my friend suggested Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, but looking into it, it’s a bit too “psychopath masturbating to films of himself murdering families” for me to comfortably recommend it to a pretty girl I’m interested in.

So answer me this: do you have any ideas?

Readers, I’m turning this questions over to you. Recommend the ideal book for this woman, that will not only fan the flames of ardour for reading, but for Jordan himself! Because while Jordan is a reading zealot eager to convert the uninitiated, we can all see what he’s really up to…


rubber soul

October 29, 2014 by


Gordon has written in to expand upon a point Jesse and Theresa Thorn touched upon in AMT300:

In AMT300, you had James from Glasgow ask about how to hide his rubber fetish collection from his girlfriend when they move in together.

I think he’s asking the wrong question.

If he’s hiding his fetish, he’s hiding something important about himself, and he’ll be lying to his girlfriend. Trying to hide something in a relationship is never good. Then think about the fireworks that will result when the girlfriend finds out – because she will. It’s practically impossible to keep something like this a secret. Whilst he’s trying to hide it, he’ll always be worrying that his girlfriend might find it.

He needs to have a chat with his girlfriend over his fetish. Is it the whole fetish that she’s against, or just the quantity of his collection? Also, if they’re moving in together and his girlfriend is not into latex, when does he expect to indulge his fetish? Whilst they’re living apart, James can go back to his place and indulge himself in private. But living together, there will be little alone time in their shared flat to indulge.

He needs to resolve this before they move in together.

I speak as someone who’s gone through this – and the arguments and break-ups that ensued.

So take it from Gordon, James: the couple that rubberizes together stays together.



Radiotopian ideals

October 27, 2014 by

Radiotopia backer


Gather around, friends, for I have exciting news:

In January, I’ll start making a new podcast with Radiotopia, home of such audible excellence as Love+Radio, Strangers, Theory of Everything, and, of course, AMTpal Roman Mars‘s 99% Invisible.

My new show will be all about those precious moments of AMT that we know as “Why is [a thing] called [a thing]?” ie odd phrases and etymology and all sorts of linguistic fun. I’ve been wanting to make it for years, and now is my chance, if…


Radiotopia manages to raise $400,000 in its current Kickstarter campaign.

For my show – along with The Heart and the brilliant Criminal – is what is known as a ‘stretch goal’. They’ve already reached their target to keep the current Radiotopians afloat for another year, but need to raise more in order to greenlight further projects: because making podcasts costs, and to read me wanging on about that particular matter, click here.

So, if you like podcasts and you want to support independent audio creators so they can keep making them, please do chip in. Even $1 (£0.62) is good! $5 (£3.10) is even more good. I could go on.

(And if you spaffed money donating to that that bloody potato salad Kickstarter, you have no excuse not to give a little to something that will result in a year’s worth of top-notch audio entertainment, rather than a forkful of a prosaic foodstuff that goes rancid after two days.)

Click here to donate to Radiotopia’s Kickstarter and support independent podcasters so they can independently podcast!

NOTE 1: This show is not instead of AMT; I’ll be making both! But I’ll be able to be a FULL-TIME PODCASTER, after eight years of trying to fit it around enough paid work to survive. Joe Richman of Radiotopia’s Radio Diaries puts it: “Most people work to get paid, we get paid to work.”

NOTE 2: If you donate, you’ll be funding me making a new show; you’re not funding Answer Me This!. If you feel particularly stirred to contribute to the AMT coffers, then buy some of our albums and classic episodes from answermethisstore.com, or pay a pal through PayPal.

As a stereotypical Brit, I find directly addressing money matters to be excruciating; therefore I will now wrap up the cashchat so I can curl up into a ball and rock back and forth in a dark room.

- HZ

PS Here’s an interview I did with Roman earlier this year, shortly after he launched Radiotopia, in which he talks about the ethos of the enterprise and why podcasting is so super:


Thursday Listening Party

October 23, 2014 by

On the Thursdays we don’t release a new AMT, we crank up the spoken word audio and have a Thursday Listening Party.
Click here to attend all previous gatherings.

Shhhhhhhhhh!!! Keep the noise down, people, I’m trying to have a quiet nap here… Not because I’m still recovering from the AMT300 rager (though I probably am, a bit), but I just got back from a Very Exciting Podcasting Trip Abroad and now am in a jetlagged fugue state. So have a listen to the AMT300 bumper bonus track while I just rest my head on the keyboard for a few minutexcnxgnxjvcvxddsdsdddddddddddddddddd

Wake me up for an episode or two of Radio 4’s 21st-Century Mythologies, which in classic ‘Only on Radio 4′ tradition manages to perform such feats as linking Roland Barthes with screw-top wine. The episode comparing the Kardashians to Ancient Greek gods is particularly priceless. “Physiological paganism” is rarely a phrase the tabloids use when writing about them.

Heal Thyself, a little series about self help by Robin Ince, has made me heal my sleepy self quite a bit, so mission accomplished, Robin. [nods off again standing up]

It was impossible for even me to nap through the Dinner Party Download bonus podcast. Warning: severe bawdy talk!

What else would you recommend to distract me from the mallets of jetlag whacking into my skull? Recommend shows in the comments, please!

Tune in to our various other gigs:

Olly’s on LBC every weekday 1am-4am. Keep pinching yourself to stay awake and join him.
I host the monthly Sound Women podcast, and the latest episode is all about my fantastically irresponsible career path: freelancing.
Martin the Sound Man makes numerous other podcasts, including Brain Train about clever things, The Global Lab about cities and stuff, and The Sound of the Ladies music podcast.
AMT episodes 1-170 and the special AMT albums are all available for a piddling little price at answermethisstore.com, and if you buy any of them you’re bankrolling the podcast, for which we are extremely grateful.
Catch up on AMT299 and the episodes preceding it.



October 16, 2014 by


THE DAY HAS ARRIVED! Answer Me This! Episode 300 is here, in all its tricentennial glory!

You’ve deluged us with questions about AMT300, for example:
“Will it be your last episode?”
“Is it going to feature Gerard Butler and be directed by Zack Snyder?”
“Did you guys ever…you know…?”
“Is it possible to polish a turd?”
“Yeah but seriously guys, is it going to be your last episode?”

Discover all these answers, and many more surprises, by listening to the episode right now via one or all of the following methods:

Subscribe to AMT! on iTunes listen to the MP3 through your computer soundcloud-icon our podcast feed on Libsyn Share with Facebook

Don’t read below this point if you don’t want spoilers! Listen to the episode first, then come back here and revise its contents.


On the slate for AMT300 are such topics as:

our alternate realities if AMT had never existed
evidence of our life of crime
long-term relationships
bumhole problems
mashed potato vs nutmeg
Peter Jackson vs Raymond Carver
nasal honking
hiding your rubber fetish gear

And the wonderful special guest answerers bending their wisdom to your questions are:

Adam Buxton, the man who made us want to do this podcast. He doles out excellent advice on giving your children The Talk, ridding your kitchen of mouse turds, and changing your whole life to avoid minor annoyances. Enjoy more of Adam’s work on YouTube, on Twitter, and at live shows including BUG.

Sarah Millican, who even manages to make questions about anal fissures sound charming and wholesome. It’s a gift! Her new DVD Home Bird is available for pre-order; she’s writing for the new online magazine Standard Issue, and she dispenses Sarahmillicandour at twitter.com/SarahMillican75.

Jesse and Theresa Thorn, the first couple of podcasting, the power behind the Maximum Fun throne (at MaxFun, they record everything sitting on thrones). Tackling questions upon Americana and parental embarrassment, it’s a rare treat to hear them on a podcast together – but it’s a regular treat to hear them on their own podcasts, which include One Bad Mother, Bullseye, Jordan, Jesse, Go!, Judge John Hodgman… Yeah, it took us nearly eight years to churn out 300 podcasts; they probably do more than that a month. And just in case you needed even more podcast-related excitement on top of this, it’s MaxFunWeek right now, so you can have maximum fun with other podcast aficionados around the world.

Josie Long, who delighted you in AMT84 and returns to do the same, on such matters as losing your virginity, beating procrastination and Lord of the Rings – the latter with the help of her boyfriend Simon of the Picturehouse Podcast. We hope this important matter doesn’t come between them… As well as seeing Josie on stage, you can hear her on her Lost Treasures of the Black Heart podcast, and the new series of Radio 4’s Short Cuts.

Tony Blackburn. TONY. BLACKBURN! Answering YOUR questions and sounding off about wandering eyes, Hobbits and nutmeg! He was the first voice on Radio 1 in 1967, and he currently has shows on Radio 2, BBC Berkshire, BBC London, BBC Three Counties, KMFM, Magic…phew! Switch on a radio, and Blackburn will probably be talking on it. You can also read him at twitter.com/tonyblackburn.

AMT sibling Andy Zaltzman and his Bugle cohort John Oliver, offering advice on christenings, garlic and hanging onto a long term relationship. You can see Andy on tour with his show Satirist for Hire, and you can see John presenting Last Week Tonight on HBO and/or approximately fifteen times a day in your Facebook feed.

Today’s new email jingle is by the Hackney Colliery Band – because there are few things more stirring than a brass band. To see them live and listen to their records, including their new EP Common Decency, visit hackneycollieryband.co.uk.

Our special guest answerers supplied such a lot of marvellous material, there’s a bumper tricentennial Bit of Crap on the App today – extra questions about tattoos, pineapples, balloon animals, taramasalata, adventures, wedgies, and there’s even a cameo from AMT190 superstar Jon Ronson. The app is available for your iDevices, Android or Windows playthings, but since it’s an ‘appy day, you appless can also stream or download it via SoundCloud. Or just play it here:

We could not have done these 300 episodes without you, listeners: without your attention; without your support, financial and emotional; and particularly without your questions. Please keep sending those in: call the Question Line on 0208 123 5877 or Skype ID answermethis, or email answermethispodcast@googlemail.com. And do celebrate with us at facebook.com/answermethis or twitter.com/HelenAndOlly.

Thanks so much for joining us today! We’ll be back with business-as-usual non-landmark AMT301 on 30th October 2014.

Helen & Olly

••• AMT300 Child-Friendly Rating: 1%. No way. •••


The scales fall from our eyes, and eggs

October 15, 2014 by



Kodi and Matt write:

We are on a long road trip, and the other day while in New Mexico or Arizona on I-10, we were in a gas station and saw rattlesnake eggs for sale.

Why would you buy rattlesnake eggs? What purpose would they serve?

Also, a note on the packaging said to keep cool to prevent hatching. They were on the counter in a hot room.

Firstly, what purpose is served by almost any souvenir? I never got any use out of the gold plastic gondola from Venice or the tiny furry drum from South Africa or the kangaroo scrote purse from Sydney. The rattlesnake eggs are on sale so that you can buy them, dump them on a shelf at home, then wait for someone to say, “What are those?” whereupon you say, “Rattlesnake eggs!” and they say, “Ooh! I hope they don’t hatch!” then you carry on watching Take Me Out.


Here’s the real sting in the tail:

Rattlesnakes give birth to LIVE YOUNG.

Which means…


Pull a handbrake turn, zoom back up the I-10, and launch a full inquiry at this gas station. You clearly can’t trust their tourist tat, so what else are they fraudulently selling? Their ‘gas’ is probably watered down Bisto.

On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about that hot room making those fake eggs hatch.


Wendy house

October 15, 2014 by


Mark is full of questions today:

We’ve just put up a playhouse thingy for our nipper* and wonder why they are called Wendy houses**?

From Peter Pan, innit. After Wendy [SPOILER!] is shot upon arriving in Neverland:


*Also why are kids called nippers?

‘Nipper’ is old slang for ‘pickpocket’. Because all children are THIEVES.

**Ours is on the allotment and is officially a Wendy shed to get it past the committee.

Your secret’s safe with us, Mark.


get a mouthful of Ole Man

October 15, 2014 by


Many of you already think Olly Mann is a bit of a dish, but listener Matt has sent confirmation:

This is a dish served in a restaurant called Angelica Kitchen across the street from where I live.


Technically I think the accent makes it not ‘Olly’, but I like to think of it as Olly when I’m waiting for takeaway listening to you.

Good enough for me! Now keep an eye out for dishes that sound a bit like the rest of the AMT crew – Melon Salt-spam, Martin Ostrich…


hitchhiking tales

October 14, 2014 by



In AMT299 we revealed how, in the matter of hitchhiking, none of us have ever given or received. But Jezz has written in with first-hand tales from the road:

Back in the early 1990s I spent about a year in total (over 4 years) hitchhiking around Southern Africa, Europe and Asia. During that time I had some lifts with some very interesting people, including a wealthy witch doctor from Lesotho.

The place where my girlfriend of the time and I got the strangest lifts was during our 3 weeks in Turkey. Whilst there we got a lift off a school bus full of children and a speedboat (we were trying for a car, but the speedboat did the trick). But the strangest of all was when a fire engine stopped for us. They told us to get on quickly (we did), and just few miles later we were told to get off quickly again (we did). We then watched the fire engine turn down a side road towards some smoke in the distance!

The easiest places to hitchhike, in my opinion, are Turkey, New Zealand – where there are no towns, and friendly people, so when you get picked up, you will usually go all the way to your destination – and Japan, where the locals don’t understand the rules. I once got a lift just outside the place where I was living, and was taken for about a 2-hour ride to the city I was intending to go to. When I was dropped off, I asked my lift where they were heading to next. It turned out that they were only planning to drive around the corner, and so had done a 4-hour round trip for no reason, other than that was where I said I was going to.

One last point: I got my first post-university job from hitchhiking. I had a 2-hour lift in France with an English guy, who turned out to be a metal trader. By the end of the lift, I had a job, and got to travel around the world on business trips – and also led me to getting my longest ever hitch of 13 days, when I went from the UK to Almaty, Kazakhstan to buy some Indium, but to have the experience of seeing Russia along the way. This was back in 1994, and it was a *very* interesting time to do that route.

Does anyone else have happy hitchhiking stories (ie ones which didn’t end with them being murdered by Rutger Hauer) to share in the comments?

And does anyone else feel, like me, that they’d rather pay to travel via some other method just so they don’t have to make chat for four hours with a stranger.


get some ink in your pen with Viagra

October 14, 2014 by
Is that a pen in your pocket, or...

Is that a pen in your pocket, or…


Simon in Elephant and Castle writes:

In AMT299 you spoke of a Rohypnol tea towel, and Olly mentioned medical trade shows. As the child of a medical professional our home was often filled with promotional tat from conferences my mother attended, including two Viagra pens.

My mother used to crack out one of these pens (the more chunky one as I remember) to sign cheques with when doing the weekly shop, something that caused great embarrassment to my elder sister. My mother found this hilarious, and at the time I thought it was because of the branding of the pen, but now looking back I can only think she chose this pen on purpose, as there is nothing funnier than an embarrassed teen.

That is true! Do you have your own surefire technique for making your teenage offspring cringe – or have you been the teenage victim of a parent’s mischievous mortification? Please let us know in the comments. In a few short years, I’ll be the aunt of teenagers, and I want to be fully prepared.



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