The Bugle: Bullshit Coming Direct To Your Ears
The Bugle podcast covers all the important news topics of the day with all the irreverence that it deserves. Andy Zaltzman, John Oliver, and a merry-go-round of guest hosts take us on satirical tour of politics, sport, celebrities, waffles, and flamingos. Oh, there’s also puns, puns, puns.
So…what’s it all about?
I write this review of The Bugle the morning after spending the evening with its host, Andy Zaltzman.
Now I usually follow the rule that ‘a gentleman never tells’ in these situations, but I’ll make an exception in this case. Andy Zaltzman is over-eager and confident lover who will undoubtedly leave you with a smile on your face.
I should reiterate that when I refer to ‘lover’ in this situation I am of course assuming that you follow the typical, if unconventional, practise of engaging in a constant stream of comedic bullshit, an unusual fondness for puns and satire, and the obvious clever linguistic display of never-ending names and ‘facts’. Oh, and also a routine involving a cauliflower and Donald Trump. Call me old fashioned but that’s the way like it.
The Bugle podcast was one of the first podcasts I ever subscribed to back when I was barely into my thirties. Its prominence at the time came from the fact that it was usually found on every recommended list in every paper, magazine, and online podcast-suggesting receptacle. It was the podcast to go to for all fans of comedy and cutting-edge satire. Its hosts of the time were, the aforementioned, Andy Zaltzman and some other guy called John Oliver. Both have gone on to superstardom (cough), if you average out their respective careers. *Note: there’s another form to that equation that is not as complimentary to one of The Bugle’s original hosts.
The podcast, according to a popular online encyclopaedia (never say I don’t do my research), originally started on The Times Online website in 2007, before branching out on its own in 2011. It’s not exactly clear why the obviously popular podcast was ever let go by The Times Online at this time I’m sure it had nothing to do with the two hosts of The Bugle frequently railing against the papers owner and conglomerate multimedia behemoth, Rupert Murdoch and the News International organisation, when they became embroiled in the phone hacking scandal in the same year. Clearly, it’s a mystery that will never be solved.
The Bugle’s motto, or basic descriptor, is ‘Audio Newspaper For A Visual World’ and it sets out a clear indication of the irreverent style that would become its hallmark. Every week the hosts cover the relevant and irrelevant news stories from around the world in their own distinctive ways, and the Bugle came at a time when the world was ripe for satire. George W Bush was the US President, Labour was well into its decline switching from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown, Iraq and Afghanistan were still headline making, and the world was beginning to pivot to the lunacy that would eventually bring us Brexit and Donald Trump. Andy and John, and Bugle producer Chris Skinner (Fuck You Chris!) took up the baton and gave us a welcome and humorous take on the news that has endured to this day.
What’s good about it?
John Oliver may well be the one who got the glory; a spot as a correspondent and presenter of The Daily Show, his own weekly HBO show in New York, a role in a couple of Smurf films, and regular appearances on US Nightly chat shows.
However, it’s Andy Zaltzman who is the hero of The Bugle. At this time, I’d like to borrow some of the descriptors from his beloved cricket to describe the guy who has been the only constant throughout Bugle history. Zaltzman can be seen as either the competent allrounder, someone who is rock solid at all comedic and satirical forms that will never let you down, or he’s the nightwatchman, a lower order comedian who steps up the order to take us to the end of play. I’m going to stop now before I exhaust my clearly limited cricket knowledge.
That the last description could come across as a low-blow for someone I’m clearly trying to champion, but it does feel like a good way to define his efforts to keep The Bugle going when it became clear that John Oliver’s priorities has changed with his success. The introduction of revolving guest hosts can lead to mixed results (Have I got News For You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks) but Andy’s flexibility has allowed the nice mix of comedians – including Nish Kumar, Alice Fraser, Anuvab Pal, Al Murray, and his sister Helen Zaltzman – to fairly seamlessly bring about the return of The Bugle in the ‘fourth’ season in 2016.
His comedy style is traditionally something that will divide opinion. If you don’t like rambling made up stories, historical connections or observations, and humorous sounding names then you may struggle to warm to him. However, his greatest comedic talent has been to embrace the ‘art’ of the pun. You’ve not lived until you’ve experienced Andy Zaltzman deliver a ‘pun run’- a linked stream of bullshit that unleashes a multitude of puns that will either leave you laughing or begging him to stop, as many of his comedian co-hosts will attest to. You may not enjoy everything that he delivers, but you have to be impressed by his commitment. He’s the Brigadier of Bullshit, the Manifestation of Mirth, the Protector of Puns, and he’s the hero we all need in this crazy, crazy world.
What’s not so good about it?
One of the few things that do occasionally let The Bugle down would appear to have originate from the loss of John Oliver. It became apparent that there was a need to reach out to guest hosts that would allow the podcast to maintain its connection to the large US market, which John Oliver undoubtedly did throughout his time on the show. The introduction of Wyatt Cenac and Hari Kondabolu bring an obvious connection to the US, but their appearances lack the necessary familiarity that is apparent between other guest hosts and Andy Zaltzman. Listening to their appearances, there seems to be an obvious confusion at many of the unusual deviations taken by Andy throughout the show. The introduction of live Bugle shows has only served to highlight the need to maintain a connection between Andy and the guest hosts as these events benefit from them all being in the same location. Consequently, these live Bugle shows have added a new dimension to an already successful podcast.
The Fuckeulogy – term coined by John Oliver in honour of the death of Osama Bin Laden, and later used for Colonel Moammar Gaddafi and Kim Jong Il.
The Bugle in Live in Australia – Andy tavels to Australia to do a Bugle Live Show with Alice Fraser, Tom Ballard and a returning original producer Tom.
Olympics London 2012 – a run of episodes commemorating and immortalising the London 2012 Olympics, and the feel good feeling that came along with the event.
LMFAO Eulogy – a personal favourite moment in which John and Andy react to news that the party rocking LMFAO were calling it a day. A sad day indeed.
Finally…why is it in The Rotation?
We’re living in a world in which the news is frequently becoming more absurd and infuriating day by day. This is the world we now live in. A world where the blurring of reality and entertainment have merged to become almost indistinguishable. Remarkably, it’s now fallen to the satirists and comedians of the world to do the job that the news media should be doing. Whilst The Bugle contains its own version of ‘fake news’ for entertainment, it still covers the important stories of the day with more credibility than most. It’s also ridiculously funny at the same time. What’s not to like?