Naturally, I was a little sceptical about how the Tealights podcast would pan out when it was first announced in November. I wasn’t sure how sketch comedy would translate to this new form, but from the first episode my faith was restored. The Leeds Tealights Podcast, brought to our ears by Ben Williams, Archie Osmond, Emma Dodd and Kieran Price – and produced by Sammi Willetts – does exactly what it says on the tin: it brings the brilliancy of Tealights to a new platform.
This podcast is a strong, creative reaction to the times. With only three episodes out, the group are already getting into the swing of things. The show is recorded virtually via Zoom from each member’s bedroom (and Dodds’ lounge), and follows a loose structure of conversation topics, games and sketches. After reflecting on their rejection from Leeds Student Radio, the first episode jumps straight back into the Tealights rhythm so it feels as though, despite a different medium, we’ve picked up where we left off. Osmond raises a great question within the first three minutes: ‘at what point does a podcast become the radio, and at what point does radio become a podcast?’, leaving us with much to think about. With every episode, too, the group members inventively introduce one another, mostly in poetic form, which gives an insight into their brilliant team dynamic which makes the show work so well.
I was mostly intrigued to see how the sketches would translate into podcast form, having been to the two most recent live shows where physicality was half the comedy. While the timing was sometimes slightly off given the fact that they were recorded remotely, I was not disappointed; as imaginative and creative as ever, I was often laughing out loud, despite not being stood in a crowd. A highlight so far is the ‘doctor’ sketch from episode one, which displays the hilarious chemistry between Osmond and Williams, something I’ve noted in every live show I’ve seen, and it is a credit to them for maintaining that just as strongly here. In my previous reviews, too, I mentioned that ‘new additions’ Price and Dodd were coming into themselves, but it doesn’t feel right to call them new additions anymore – they’re just as quick, witty and confident as Osmond and Williams. It’s also great to see running jokes are already forming as well, such as the elaborate way that Price pronounces ‘podcast’, as it shows that the Tealights haven’t lost confidence and brings with it a lovely sense of familiarity.
A real benefit of the podcast is that it opens up new opportunities for the Tealights. One key difference between stage and podcast is that no one is coming on and off stage, meaning all four members are bouncing off of each other, which makes for great listening. Alongside sketches – at which this group is extremely well versed – are quizzes, news sections, ridiculous conversations and anecdotes from members’ personal lives (including a story about Price and his grandfather which I’m not sure how to reflect upon in words). In episode two, ‘Ben’s Biggest Hero’, the group interview Francis Drake, the sea captain from the 1500s, and give us the latest news: Emma locked her front door, and Archie is halfway through his multivitamins. In episode three, we discover that Tealights has one American listener, to which Ben poses the water-tight argument: ‘Oasis, could they break the US? Arguably no. Have we? Arguably yes’. They also interview each other to make sure they’re fit for living together next year for Edinburgh Fringe, with an intense discussion surrounding sleeping arrangements. There was also a warmly welcomed nod to The Scribe, described as Leeds’s only and therefore premier poetry magazine – thanks guys!
This mention of Edinburgh Fringe was so refreshing and positive to hear amidst all the Tier 4/Christmas drama announcements over the weekend. What’s also refreshing is the way the Tealights make light of a difficult situation. Without minimising the impact the pandemic has had on the world, this is a space where we can laugh about the ridiculousness of it all. Williams’ quiz, ‘Tier 3 or made up place?’, during which they had to guess whether names of villages were invented or genuine Tier 3 areas, was brilliant. Also, ‘The Vaccine Zone’, where the group told us what they’re most looking forward to post-inoculation, was really funny, with answers ranging quite drastically from ‘having a shower again’ to ‘never washing my hands ever again’.
It seems that The Tealights Podcast gets stronger, more creative, and funnier with each episode. The only real downsides are out of anyone’s control: we don’t get to visually watch them on stage, and you don’t have a crowd of people laughing with you in The Library Pub’s Lending Room. But despite the difficulties this year has brought everyone, and certainly those in the performing arts, Tealights have excelled themselves with their initiative here. And when performances start again, I don’t think that means the podcast needs to stop.
The Leeds Tealights Podcast is available on Spotify.