Alan Maguire is co-host of the new Roast Chestnuts podcast, alongside Jeanne Sutton, in which the hosts watch and then discuss made-for-TV Christmas movies (“you won’t have heard of any of the films we’re covering”).

Alan, who also co-hosts the Juvenalia podcast on the HeadStuff network, set up the popular Twitter account Not The RTÉ Guide – and is “finally” doing stand-up comedy, a dream he’s had since he was twelve. We caught up with him to find out a little bit more about this strange but incredibly alluring project…

A few months ago I happened to see a tweet about Hallmark Christmas movies and the idea for the new Roast Chestnuts podcast popped into my head fully formed. The idea was very specifically ‘a Christmas movies podcast with Jeanne (Sutton)’ not just ‘a Christmas movies podcast’ because Jeanne was so smart and funny as a guest on Juvenalia, the other podcast I co-host. Luckily Alan Bennett at HeadStuff made them both happen.

Jeanne Sutton co-host of Roast Chestnuts

There’s really no way of knowing if your subject is too niche until you actually start making a podcast. In general though, a good rule of thumb is to think to yourself: “would I listen to ten episodes about this thing?” Is there enough depth in the subject to sustain your own interest, let alone the interest of potential listeners?

Good, distinctive artwork is so important; bad or lazy artwork is a good indicator that a podcast is not worth your click. Dee McDonnell did the artwork for both Juvenalia and Roast Chestnuts and her work adds so much personality to our brand. When we were setting up Juvenalia, Dee sent me three versions of the artwork and I made a mock-up of what each one would look like in Apple Podcasts before I made a decision.

Christmas TV movies operate outside the rules of normal movies; they mostly follow a very comforting pattern. They have one, maybe two, familiar faces and everything will be all right in the end, and there’ll be a Christmas tree and a kiss. There are so many of them and we just wanted to give them the attention that they don’t normally get because they’re in the shadow of their big sibling, Christmas films that got a cinema release.

I try not to over-prepare because I want the podcast to feel like a chat between friends. I watch the film, taking as many notes as occur to me. Almost every made-for-TV Christmas movie is 98 minutes long so that’s handy. I try to read a little bit about the film and the actors but there generally isn’t much for these kinds of movies. It’s generally about 2-3 hours prep in total.

You won’t have heard of any of the films we’re covering but we’ll be tweeting the details of each one before every episode so you can play along at home. The craziest one, and the one I’m most looking forward to, is Undercover Christmas where a detective has to bring a witness home to his parents for Christmas and pretend they’re a couple, to keep her safe from the mob.

Alan Maguire

The HeadStuff Podcast Network is doing really important work in creating an independent avenue for creators to get into podcasts. There have been independent Irish podcasts for years of course but Alan Bennett has really gone out of his way to find and develop voices that just aren’t in the media at the moment. I owe him and HeadStuff a lot.

Alan Maguire is a host on the HeadStuff podcast network. HeadStuff founder Alan Bennett will be speaking at Publish or Perish: The Content Conference on November 10 as part of our podcasting panel, along with Elaine Buckley and Dil Wickremasinghe. Click here for tickets to Ireland’s first dedicated conference content and further information on all of our speakers.

You can follow Alan Maguire on Twitter here

Subscribe to Roast Chestnuts on iTunes here