Celebrities line up to take part in Michael’s new podcast – My Time Capsule
Actor, comedian and singer Michael Fenton Stevens has launched a new podcast which invites celebrities to choose five items to put into a time capsule. Michael’s old mate, Frank ‘Scoop’ Baldwin, the publisher and editor of My Sevenoaks Community, chatted to him about how he came up with the idea
As a young boy I used to perform in holiday camp talent competitions with Michael Fenton Stevens. Michael went on to sing on two chart hits – one in the UK and one in Australia – and has become a well-established comedian and actor… I didn’t!
It was almost a case of like fathers like sons as Michael’s dad Harry and my own dad Freddie worked for the same law firm, but in their spare time also performed together in charity variety shows all over London and the South East raising thousands of pounds for different causes in the process.
I often joke with Michael that he wouldn’t be where he is today had it not been for me helping to hone his stage skills while we sang tear-jerking renditions of Edelweiss from the age of eight – but in reality Michael was always destined for the big stage.
He has been a serious actor in such things as the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Helen Edmundson’s Queen Anne, Coronation Street and Eastenders, but is better known for his comedy performances where his radio and television roll call looks like something out of a Who’s Who of situation comedy.
On the radio you will have heard Michael on The Archers, and Radio Active – which was later turned into the TV comedy show KYTV – and he has also appeared in Only Fools and Horses, Drop the Dead Donkey, Mr Bean, One Foot In The Grave, My Family, and New Tricks, to name but a few. More recently, fans of Benidorm will remember him playing Sir Henry. Locally you will see him playing the Dame in the annual pantomime at the E M Forster Theatre in Tonbridge.
But it is this breadth of his radio, television and theatre experience that has enabled Michael to compile a contact book full of celebrity names, many of whom are now his friends and they have been only too happy to take part in his new podcast ‘My Time Capsule’.
The podcast almost didn’t get off the ground. Michael said: “My son John was the one who kept pushing me. But I used to say to him ‘I don’t know what a podcast is’. So, he made me listen to some to show me how basically it is just people chatting. And I thought ‘I can do that’.
“I should have started when John suggested it about three years ago as podcasts were just starting to take off and he recognised it was going to be the next big thing. No one was doing them then but now all the big comics are doing it.
“After we launched My Time Capsule John texted me to say that we were number two in the comedy podcast list behind ‘Off Menu’ by James Acaster. We had almost 100 reviews from people saying how much they enjoyed it. James Acaster had 270,000 which made me realise we are still building our audience!
“Therefore, at first I am talking to well-known celebrities but eventually I hope that the concept of My Time Capsule is strong enough that I can interview people who are not necessarily well known but have great stories to tell or are experts in their chosen field and are fascinating to listen to.
So where did the idea for My Time Capsule come from? Michael said: “I wanted a device where people could talk about special things in their life which is how we came up with the idea of a Time Capsule. They can put five things into it but one of these has to be something they are embarrassed by or want to get rid of. For example, I would put in the straw boater my dad used in his performances as it reminds me of him, rather than putting my whole dad in! So, it could be a little thing that triggers all of the memories.
“The time capsule isn’t a specific size but some people I have talked to get carried away. Actor Anthony Head wanted all the memories of his children in his Time Capsule instead of just one thing as he said he wanted their entire lives so he could go back and do everything again with them. He got completely obsessed with preserving his entire life. Craig Ferguson, the host of The Late Late Show in the US before James Cordon took over, wanted to put the whole of America in!”
Other ‘names’ Michael has already interviewed for My Time Capsule include Stephen Fry, Rebecca Front, musician Rick Wakeman, Mark Gatiss from a League of Gentleman; Rufus Hound, Anthony Head, In The Thick of It’s Chris Addison, Rev Richard Coles, Griff Rhys Jones, and Richard Herring to name but a few. David Baddiel has just recorded an interview which will be broadcast at a later date.
Michael continues: “These people do interviews all the time but it is usually when they are promoting something or pushing a show they are in, so they talk about their experience of making say a film or a television series.
“But My Time Capsule gives them a chance to talk about more personal things and memories. For example, Stephen Fry talked about when he was a boy and he revealed a lot about his background when he first moved up to London that many people will not have heard before, including when he went to prison!
“Stephen has 17 million followers on Twitter. With that many followers, he could charge a lot of money for promoting things, but he doesn’t. He just gives his own views on things. But Stephen also observed that although we now all have mobile phones, people don’t talk on them, they just send texts. The idea of putting a phone to your ear seems to be long gone.
“It has all changed dramatically since I started in entertainment back in the 70’s There was no such thing as social media then but now people build a whole career around it and become famous for just being on social media.”
Michael regrets he did not get to interview Tim Brooke-Taylor. He said: “I had contacted Tim the day before he died. Coincidentally Rick Wakeman had also just put me in touch with Roy Hudd, another great name from the past I would have loved to have chatted to who has now sadly gone.”
We have already mentioned Michael’s chart hits, but do you know what they are? He was one of The Hee Bee Gee Bees, a parody of the Bee Gees, with Angus Deayton and Philip Pope. Their first single ‘Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices)’ reached number two in the Australian singles chart.
But what was his number One hit in the UK? Here is a clue. You will never have seen him sing it? This is because Michael sang lead vocals on the ‘The Chicken Song’ from the satirical comedy television programme Spitting Image in 1986.
Maybe Michael would put The Chicken Song in his own time capsule? But would it be a memory – or something he wants to get rid of..?
* My Time Capsule was launched in April. To listen to any of the episodes so far, and to subscribe, go to: