Comedy has always been a pursuit with low overheads and, if recent awards are anything to go by, it's now become something of a cottage industry. Last November Ashton and George, two teens who broadcast from their bedrooms, won the inaugural MySpace Comedy Award and on Monday [11 May] Helen Zaltzman, a freelance journalist, Olly Mann, a former TV producer, and Martin Austwick, a medical physicist will find out if their podcast "Answer Me This", recorded in Zaltzman's front room, has landed the much bigger gong of a Sony Radio Award.
Since January 2007 "Answer Me This" has tried to answer various burning questions from their listeners. Are humans the only living things to get grey hairs? Why was baby put in the corner in Dirty Dancing? And is it easier to be a boy or a girl? Quite often real, scientific information is imparted, thanks to the deliberately echoey interjections of soundman Austwick. But for the most part the emphasis is on warm, witty banter, broken up by jingles recorded by comedians including Josie Long and Joanna Neary, and songs written by Austwick, on a "wikipediaful" of subjects.
The podcast started its ascendancy early in 2008 when the trio made an assault on the Luxembourg iTunes chart by recording a show there. The subsequent publicity and a host of other PR wheezes saw the podcast enter the top 10 of the overall iTunes chart in February 2008 and be named iTunes podcast of the year that December. Mann and Zaltzman have since become regulars on Steve Wright in the Afternoon on BBC Radio 2 and The Richard Bacon Show on Radio 5. A Sony Award would be the cherry on top of the achievements of this charming podcast. Whatever the result, the trio have made lounging around an art form.