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After a decade, TWIOAT is coming to an end (Image: Tina Tiller)
After a decade, TWIOAT is coming to an end (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureFebruary 18, 2024

How the Worst Idea of All Time became the best idea of the decade

After a decade, TWIOAT is coming to an end (Image: Tina Tiller)
After a decade, TWIOAT is coming to an end (Image: Tina Tiller)

The comedy podcast in which Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery watch the same bad movie over and over again turns 10 this month. As the duo tell Stewart Sowman-Lund, that’s precisely the right time to end it.

Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery are nestled in the branches of a rather impressive looking tree in Auckland Domain. Among the roots below sits fellow comedian Abby Howells, engaging in a surprisingly earnest interview about her life and career. Earlier, in another tree in a nearby part of the Domain, the comedians did the exact same thing with broadcaster Matt Heath. “What do you think of our tree?” Batt asked Heath, sincerely, before taking a swig of sauvignon blanc from a plastic wine glass. The comedians look relaxed and happy – perhaps because they’re now free from a burden that’s been hanging over them since 2014.

It’s almost exactly a decade since Batt and Montgomery, now well-established fixtures of the local comedy scene, first picked up a microphone and started recording their internationally-renowned podcast The Worst Idea of All Time. While they’re popular in New Zealand – they just hosted a live podcast at Auckland’s Q Theatre, and Montgomery is booked to headline the Civic Theatre in May – the pair also count celebrities like Taskmaster’s Greg Davies and recent Emmy winner Ayo Edebiri (The Bear) among their global listenership. 

Speaking over coffee in central Auckland, both make clear that while this iteration of the podcast has now come to an end, there is no intention of bringing their comedic partnership to a close too. They’d simply like to set their minds toward new and less time consuming projects – among them the aforementioned Podcast in a Tree. 

The Worst Idea of All Time – or TWIOAT – was a fairly accurate name for a podcast that involved its hosts sitting down to watch and review the critically derided Adam Sandler film Grown Ups 2 every week for an entire year. If they weren’t in the same city, or even the same country, the “project”, as they refer to it, had to continue. That might mean one of them watching the film on a phone in an Airbnb in Edinburgh while the other grappled with time zone differences back in New Zealand. 

“When we started, we were 24-ish, had huge amounts of time in [our] life, weren’t beholden to anything, and so it made sense to disrespect ourselves in the way that the podcast required,” explains Montgomery. “As time has passed and our lives have filled out, for that to be the way we’re spending our time together… it was becoming more draining than the value of what we were providing.”

The Worst Idea of All Time: The early years (Photo: Supplied)

As with most podcast origin stories, Batt and Montgomery’s is a humble one. The pair recall sitting side-by-side in the lounge of a Grey Lynn flat on a stifling summer’s day. Their microphone was facing the wrong way. “At that stage I hadn’t yet added the sound booth, which was a piece of cardboard in a V-shape that had some egg cartons taped to it to help with deflection,” says Batt. It’s a typically New Zealand set-up, and while the podcast quickly found itself a predominantly American audience, it remains a typically New Zealand podcast. “We didn’t know if it would make it to five episodes,” says Batt. Montgomery adds: “The graveyard of comedians with four episodes of an unreleased podcast is very overpopulated.” 

Montgomery attests the show’s global success to the fact it was a pair of New Zealanders reflecting back American culture. In the same vein as Flight of the Conchords, for example, the idea of two New Zealanders attempting to digest and explain America is appealing to Americans, and part of what makes the show work. That and the pair’s instant and obvious chemistry.

Two things happened in quick succession during the podcasts’s first year that helped it grow beyond something listened to by a small handful of locals. The first was a shout out from American comedian Paul Scheer on his movie podcast How Did This Get Made, which Batt refers to as a “spiritual” parent of TWIOAT due to its similar focus on terrible movies. That led to a frontpage story on Vice. Montgomery recalls being “obsessed with stats” and watching the listenership tick up in real time as a result. “Everything we have is to do with those two things,” says Batt, to which Montgomery chips in: “and talent”. 

What followed was a decade of further self-flagellation, beginning with weekly watches of Sex and the City 2 – slightly less hated than Grown Ups 2, but definitely not good – in 2015. Season three saw a slight change of tack: the Zac Efron drama We Are Your Friends which, Batt says, was made with “sincere effort” and so made it a leftfield subject for the podcast. In season four, the duo returned to the comforting embrace of Sex and the City – this time the first film (which they had never seen despite having watched the second 52 times). 

There were memorable miniseries along the way, like a week spent watching the 2019 musical Cats every day at the cinema and reviews of Sex and the City sequel series And Just Like That. The most recent – and final – full season was dedicated to the Fast and Furious saga, watched in reverse order and with the number of watches corresponding to the number of the franchise (F9 nine times, F8 eight times, and so on). 

A pilot for a video spinoff was even shot for YouTube, but it wasn’t picked up for a full run.

So why end the podcast now, a decade on and with an international fanbase that is arguably more devoted than its local one? Both comedians are candid about the mental toll that comes from subjecting oneself to a terrible film on repeat and when you’re trying to maintain an otherwise healthy lifestyle. “I feel genuinely it did impact my mental health,” says Montgomery, admitting it was very much a self-inflicted toll. “It created a knot of dread… about finding the time to do it, or fitting it in when you’re really busy with your family, or other work.”

Batt says that the personal impacts of the podcast were fine at first, because at least they were funny. Grown Ups 2 was “taxing in quite a raw funny way”, he says, while Sex and the City 2 proved “the most psychically damaging”. But things are different now. “Now, it’s like, it is mentally stressful for unfunny reasons, which are that we’re in our mid-30s with families and careers and it’s hard to do the admin of that,” says Batt. “That’s not a funny stress.”

Along the way, the duo have had some close encounters with those involved in the films they’ve been dissecting. Someone who worked on Grown Ups 2 once sent them a message basically saying “who the fuck do you guys think you are”, says Batt. But neither are worried about pissing anyone off, and in fact would be honoured to find out that Adam Sandler or Sarah Jessica Parker had ever tuned in. That’s because they are confident that the butt of the joke has never been the filmmakers, it’s always been themselves. 

Guy Montgomery and Tim Batt: Calling it quits (Photo: Supplied)

“From day one the whole DNA of this podcast has been that the punchline is not the movie, the punchline is us,” explains Batt. “The joke’s on us, it’s our fucking dumb asses who decided to watch something 52 times. That’s what differentiates it from an actual bad movie review podcast which is not something I have any interest in doing… we’re going ‘we are the idiots’.” 

And so, after a decade, the “project” has reached its conclusion. Allegedly, anyway, because this isn’t the first time the comics have claimed they’ll stop putting themselves through this creative trauma. But, if they are to be believed this time, it truly is the end. “Ten years is such a beautiful place to say thank you to the format, thank you for your service, and… no more,” says Montgomery. “I think I would feel discomfort or fear if this had kept going. Ten years is a long time in a life – especially if you’re 10.”

The final season formally ended with a live screening of the first Fast and Furious at Avondale’s iconic Hollywood Cinema. But the pair weren’t quite finished. They had one more treat, saved for an audience at Q Theatre last weekend. It was a return to the very beginning: Grown Ups 2, one last time. 

It was the first time either of them had seen the film in a few years, and while they were both celebrating the end of the journey, Montgomery was prepared to say he’ll probably end up seeing Grown Ups 2 again one day. They even seemed to enjoy watching the film, or at least found it somewhat comforting. 

The true testament to the podcast came from a show of hands when asked who in the room had never watched Grown Ups 2 but still paid to come to the live podcast. Most people in the room put their hands up. “You watched it so we didn’t have to,” yelled one patron.

That they did – more than 52 times. 

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