For the last 7 years or so, I have listened to the Nerd Lunch podcast every single week. It, and its now semi-defunct sister podcast, The Atomic Geeks, have always been my favourite podcasts. And I listen to a lot of podcasts, so it shows just how highly I rate them.

Nerd Lunch just get me. It’s like they make their podcast just for me. Their content is right bang in the centre of my wheel-house (and “in my wheel-house” is a term that I learnt from Nerd Lunch). After 7 years of hearing these guys talking in your ears you feel like you get to know them quite well. That’s a one way street of course, but I’ve still had quite a bit of communication, with Pax in particular, over the years and would definitely call him a good ‘internet friend’. 

One thing about Nerd Lunch that I’ve always hugely respected is the fact that on every single episode they invite a guest on to share their chat. Often it’s someone they’ve never had on before. I find that very welcoming, very open and very generous. And they have now built up what they call their Fourth Chair Army, which is a fine collection of decent, entertaining and very interesting retro/pop culture loving people that they have had on as guests and it’s been great to listen to this army grow over the years. Kudos to Nerd Lunch for nurturing this community. Their generosity and openness has created many friendships amongst this Fourth Chair Army and several other podcasts off the back of it. I consider this probably their biggest legacy that they’re leaving behind when they decide to hang up their podcasting microphones. 

And bad news, they’re deciding to hang up their podcasting microphone soon! It will be very sad when this happens, but after nearly 8 years I think they deserve a break. But as the clock is now ticking they are trying to bring on some guests that they haven’t managed to have on during this time. I’m a pretty tough guest to have on because I’m based 5 hours ahead of them, in the UK, and it majorly messes with their podcasting routine, but the great news for me was that they wanted to try to get me on before they wrap up, and were willing to change their hours to get me on. Appearing on Nerd Lunch really has been a retro bucket list item for me so it was very exciting to have been asked.

But let’s backtrack a bit. Over the last few years, as my Retromash ‘brand’ has grown, and I’ve had some interaction with the Nerd Lunch crew online, a part of me has often secretly wondered if there was a possibility that they might invite me on. Pax did actually invite me about 2 or 3 years ago to join an episode doing a drilldown on NWA, but I just didn’t think I was quite expert enough to be able to participate on that one, although I loved listening to it. But the other part of the equation was that I would be very nervous to be invited on, because of my stutter. So on one hand I was hugely excited to be invited onto my favourite podcast, but on the other hand I was hugely nervous.

If you’ve listened to the podcast interviews I’ve done previously on Retromash you will have heard me briefly mention my stutter on there. The only reason I did audio interviews in the first place was because Alex Cord (Archangel from Airwolf) asked me on Twitter if I would like to Skype with him. You can’t say no to that! But my stutter used to be pretty horrendous back in the day. I couldn’t get a word out in several situations and I would avoid any words or situations that I found hard. It’s a constant stress, when you’re afraid of speaking, and it’s only through years of hard work that I have managed to learn to speak well and stop avoiding things. When you avoid things you become more scared of them. When you face your fears head on, the fears diminish. I’ve had to work on my speech like an athlete working on a sport for a number of years and the hard work pays off. At the top of my game I can be a very good speaker and I have practiced public speaking techniques that many non-stutterers don’t get the opportunity to practice. But, again like an athlete working on a sport, you need to keep up the training or you can slide backwards, and right now I’ve not been working on my speech as much for the past 2-3 years. Just life and work and kids etc getting in the way of my normal routine. In the same way that I’ve not been running or exercising as much in general either during the same period. Stuff getting in the way and I’ve been quite slack all round. But there was no way I was going to avoid appearing on my favourite podcast and getting to speak to these guys in the flesh (on Skype). This was one challenge I wasn’t going to avoid. My speech used to hold me back in life but I now try to control it rather than it control me.

I was very nervous though. My speech is often a concern but I try not to make a big thing about it, although it’s good to get the elephant out of the room early. It’s a huge thing to me but I’m sure most people don’t care about it. And rightly so. It shouldn’t really be an issue for other people, but on a podcast the worst thing is radio silence, so I felt I needed to mention it at least. And I was also worried that my Wifi would cut out too as it has been playing up lately! I had rehearsed a little intro explaining about my stutter and also explaining that my Wifi has been a bit sketchy lately, but in the heat of the moment I stupidly forgot to mention the bit about my Wifi having been sketchy, so the Wifi comment that I do make comes a bit out of the blue. I was nervous, and it probably comes across, as my speech isn’t as good as it normally is, it’s very rushed, and I’m not an experienced podcast raconteur like these guys. I felt a bit overwhelmed when I first joined the Skype call as I was the new guy in the room, so I was pretty quiet until we started recording. But I have to say, once we got into the actual podcast recording, all of the guys were so generous with their responses. It was a real ‘yes, and…’ sort of vibe, where whatever you say, they all agree and then add to it. They help make your (bad) jokes work, and don’t allow any tumbleweeds. Everything I said was met with hugely warm and encouraging responses. They nurture a very positive podcasting environment there. Very welcoming, very generous and very supportive. Fantastic podcast hosts all round. I can’t speak highly enough of the atmosphere they generate. This was all a fantastic speaking experience for me and I really enjoyed every minute of it. That’s partly why I’m making such a big thing about my speech here, so that I can highlight what an easy atmosphere they create on the podcast.

The sad news was that CT was not going to make it. That was a real shame as I have admired CT for a long time, for everything he has done on the podcast. But the fantastic news to counteract that was that he was going to be replaced by not one but two people, Christian Nielsen and Shawn Robare. If I could have picked two other guys to podcast with it would have been these guys. I have spoken to Shawn quite a bit on Twitter and Christian follows me on my personal private Instagram. It was really great to hear that I would be on the podcast with them.

Our task was to create a heist team using characters from pop culture. This is the sort of geeky thing that I absolutely love doing, so it was right up my street. I spent the last month eagerly watching or rewatching heist films and scouring my retro lists to get inspiration for who I could pick. I put a few standard choices in there but also wanted to mix it up with a few randoms for a bit of fun. These guys are all now very experienced podcasters, and it shows. I was finding myself coming up with great amusing replies several seconds or minutes after the fact, or even later that evening, and kicking myself that I hadn’t thought of them earlier, but I’m sure that improves with experience. It was just great fun all round. A few times I almost felt like I was just listening to another episode of Nerd Lunch and I nearly forgot that I had to speak too. Interactive podcasting! When Pax closed off with “Qapla’” it was weird to not hear the closing music right away. Great to get a sneaky peak behind the podcasting curtain.

By my own high personal standards my speech could have been better, but trust me, it could also have been a lot, lot worse. And even worse than that, I could have refused the invitation altogether and totally missed out on the opportunity. And the good news is that I enjoyed it so much that I want to make the most of any future podcast opportunities I may get anywhere (and also try to organise the other interviews I would like to do for Retromash) and so I have vowed to get back working proactively on my speech and my general wellbeing/exercising etc (which always has a knock on benefit to my speech). So thanks Nerd Lunch for giving me this opportunity, which ended up giving me back a passion and a goal to become a better speaker again. It’s exactly what I needed. It was the perfect mix of fun and challenging.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and it helped to further cement several friendships and I’m very proud to now be considered part of the Nerd Lunch Fourth Chair Army family.

Thanks Pax for the invite and to Jeeg, Christian and Shawn for all your support. And thanks Pax for the awesome Proclaimers audio drop!

It will be a sad day when Nerd Lunch wraps up for good, but at least I can now say that I was a part of it.

You can listen to the episode here or below.