Hi Reddit. Louis Theroux here, ready to answer all your most pressing questions about my new show Forbidden America, my career, the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met.

I’ve been making documentaries for 25+years from Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends to Forbidden America and it’s allowed me to travel the world and meet so many interesting people. And yes, you may also know me from my ‘Jiggle jiggle’ rap over on TikTok or working with Jason Derulo.

If you’re in the US or Canada, you can watch my series 'Louis Theroux: Forbidden America' on BBC Select: https://bit.ly/3y3hAKo

PROOF: https://i.redd.it/d6ophx0tj1r91.jpg

Edit: Thank you all so much for joining me today - I really appreciate all your questions!

Comments: 1559 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

iwishmynamewasbrian1280 karma

Is there a time when you've been on camera and truly afraid for your safety?

BBCSelect3821 karma

People think prisons are dangerous and they may be but not for tv presenters (in my experience). I’ve been most afraid of animals and chimps in particular. Joe Exotic once told me he didn’t mind getting in a cage with a tiger too much but that he would never climb in a cage with a chimp. “They’ll rip your arm off and beat you to death with it,” is how he described it. Thanks. I’ll pass.

cmm0549965 karma

Hi Louis. In your 2003 documentary “Louis and the Nazi’s” you spent a good deal of time talking to the notorious neo-Nazi Tom Metzger. I noticed throughout your time with him you keep prompting him to invite you to stay the night in the guest room of his house and he keeps declining. What was your motivation behind trying to stay the night at his house?

BBCSelect2040 karma

That’s funny. It was 2003 and I had just made a series about UK celebrities in which I’d stay overnight at their houses. So I kind of had that format in my head. Also, I thought it was funny to push for intimacy in a slightly tongue in cheek way and to be rebuffed. I enjoyed the awkwardness of it.

headphonesilence846 karma

Louis, I've been loving Andrew Callaghan's work and I feel like he's definitely inspired by you. Who are your inspirations and current favorite documentary makers, and what makes them stand out to you?

BBCSelect1534 karma

There are so many amazing doc makers doing stuff at the moment. I obviously have a soft spot for the first-person more gonzo style. Werner Herzog was an inspiration back in the day, Jon Ronson, Nick Broomfield. Molly Dineen. I really enjoy Nathan Fielder’s work and in particular the long form one he did about a Bill Gates impersonator looking for his lost love. It’s more in a prank mode than strictly doc but that’s what makes it so brilliant.

ToRecordOnlyWater811 karma

Hi Louis, are you sick of the Jiggle Jiggle song yet?

BBCSelect2387 karma

No! It’s too short to ever get sick of it. What is it - about 15 seconds long? For me this was the summer of Jiggle Jiggle. I never dreamed I’d be considered relevant by the under tens.

ManUtd1994723 karma

Have you ever regretted anything you’ve made or looked back and thought you misrepresented it?

BBCSelect2743 karma

I look back at some of my early pieces and there is sometimes a note of judgment in the voiceover, which i don’t like. To be honest, most of my regrets have to do with my hair and my sartorial choices in the nineties. Or a tight jumper I wore for one documentary which showed the outline of my nipples.

KingofManners637 karma

We’re you surprised to find out Megan Phelps left the Westboro Baptist Church or could you sense she would eventually leave during filming?

BBCSelect1632 karma

I was surprised. Mainly because I knew how close she was with her mum and how secure she was in her position there. I though Jael Phelps might leave. And then she ended up marrying a British guy who watched my show and emigrated to be part of the Church. That features in the third Westboro doc we made, Surviving the Westboro Baptist Church. So it turns out I’m not just a journalist. I’m also a matchmaker.

NomenNescio13621 karma

We all know you've at times (read: often) found yourself in peculiar company for your work. Are there any subjects you've tried to make a documentary about, but found yourself completely "rejected" by them (for lack of a better word), with nothing to show for it?

BBCSelect1124 karma

I’ve definitely had my shared of rejections. Kanye, Charlie Sheenn (DM me if you’re reading this). I spent six or seven days filming with Ike Turner and he pulled the plug.

Miserygut603 karma

Hi Louis! Where did you learn your style of interviewing?

I'm always surprised at how pointed you can be with your questions and somehow the person you're interviewing doesn't respond defensively or negatively!

BBCSelect1664 karma

I didn’t really learn a style. I just tried to ask about whatever I was curious about. I think I’m still learning to be honest. I still get it wrong and I’m very thankful that we have an editing process that means when I get it really wrong we can cut those parts out and I get to look like I’m more competent that I actually am

rw43508 karma

is there's anything you would like to make a documentary on that you haven't had the opportunity to yet?

is there an event from a documentary you've made that really sticks in your mind?

thanks for everything you do, i'm a big fan!

BBCSelect1309 karma

So many things. I spent a long time developing an idea related to ISIS and Islamist radicals and it fizzled out. Another one to do with high-conflict divorces.There are many forms of abuse that are culturally tolerated but which it’s hard to get inside and document. One of the strangest films I’ve seen in the last 10 years was called The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, which was about semi-hidden world of child abuse.

LocoRocoo388 karma

Have you ever considered doing an episode on the whole anti vax movement? I’d be interested to see how QANON in particular really seeped into so many everyday families without people realising.

BBCSelect855 karma

Anti vax is interesting but there’s a risk you end up giving them an uncritical platform if you’re not careful. There were a couple of terrific QAnon podcasts. Hunting Q or maybe Finding Q? Also, Gabriel Gatehouse’s The Coming Storm. I totally recommend both of them. The whole QAnon phenomenon is so weird and fascinating. It overlaps a bit with parts of the Forbidden America episode on the far right.

subtitlecomedy309 karma

Do people seem different once the camera switches on or do you just always have it running so they feel comfortable with it? Thanks for all the amazing work!

BBCSelect671 karma

It varies but early on in TV, when I was at TV Nation, Michael Moore’s policy was to have the camera running when you arrive and more or less keep it running, so there is no sense of people being “on” or “off”. I still try to stick to that, though it isn’t always possible.

Hartifuil304 karma

Hi Louis, I'm a huge fan.

Is there a reason your work has been broadly apolitical? Do you avoid politics to avoid bias, or do you just feel it's better left alone for some other reason?

Edit: I was thinking mostly along the lines of UK politics, though obviously you've covered extremists (black and white supremacists) in the USA.

BBCSelect729 karma

I suppose I’m more interested in the human condition in a deeper sense that I am in politics. Stories that involve deep angst - the contributors at loggerheads with themselves or with the wider world in a primal way.

JamesBeeby99281 karma

Hi Louis,

Do you have any pointers for young Journalists looking to dive into the ever changing media world? In what ways would you say it is different now to when it was when you were starting out?

P.S I wrote my university dissertation on you and would love you to read it!

BBCSelect682 karma

The great thing about the media landscape now is that you can make your own films with just a phone and edit it on a laptop and upload it to youtube. The barrier to entry is so low. FWIW I started by doing print journalism - I was living in NYC. Some friends went to work for Michael Moore at his show TV Nation and they got me an i/v with Michael. And it went from there. And thanks for writing your dissertation on me. I’d enjoy reading it if you want to reach out to me - I’m pretty easy to find if you look up my production company Mindhouse.

Forty6230 karma

Hi Louis. Thanks for doing the AMA. I’m a big fan of your work.

Has your increasing “fame” or notoriety had an impact on your filmmaking?

In your recent documentary with the alt-right movement in the US, it seemed to me like many of the participants were in it to increase their own profile, rather than contribute to the discussion. Would love to know if you agree, or if that type of worry impacts your subject matter.

BBCSelect506 karma

Interesting question. I used to think I had to have a low profile in order to fly under the radar. But these days I’m easily googlable and in some ways it creates a more interesting dynamic. The far right guys in Forbidden America filmed my encounters with them, which could be a little off-putting but it also gave the interviews a strange charge, and it also meant I could see what they were saying about me after I’d left - in their online broadcasts - and then I could feed that back into my conversations with them. The whole top-down media model is disrupted and in some ways it keeps mainstream journalists more honest. A great example of this was the whole tit-for-tat between reporter John Sweeney who was making a program about Tommy Robinson and the counter-strike that Robinson made with his documentary about Sweeney.

snoogadie212 karma

Who was the first person you ever interviewed professionally?

BBCSelect856 karma

My first job in journalism was on a paper in San Jose called the Metro. I was working as an intern but they let me write short articles. And the first story I did was about a Jamaican psychic who was predicting an Earthquake that would hit the Bay Area. This would have been 1992. He claimed an accuracy rate of “99.9 percent” for his predictions. I liked the humility of him not claiming to be infallible.

Spinck01203 karma

Hi Louis,

For your show 'Forbidden America' and 'Louis and the Nazis', you managed to speak to many far right extremists. I'm a journalism student and have found it hard to interview these people as they usually aren't too loving towards the media. How do you manage to find these people and get them to speak on camera?

Thanks in advance and love your work!

BBCSelect394 karma

It isn’t easy but you just keep asking and keep trying and hopefully if you spread the net wide enough you find people who will speak to you. We had similar issues in all different worlds. Black nationalists in NY. The Thai “mail order bride” industry. Hunting lodges in South Africa. Ultra-zionist settlers in the occupied territoris. To be honest, in the big scheme of things, right-wing extremists have been relatively accessible.

Shippior163 karma

Hey Louis. What is the hardest thing you have ever done for one of your documentaries?

BBCSelect477 karma

The most embarrassing was probably having to sing for an audition for a Norwegian cruiseliner. I sang so badly it was excruciating. I was naked in a porn film for an episode of Weird Weekends but that was fine. I didn’t even mind being bullied by wrestlers at the powerplant that much in another WW episode. But that audition still makes me cringe when i watch it.

Candid_Airport_9808123 karma

What's your favourite sandwich?

BBCSelect466 karma

I love a good banh mi. With fresh coriander and really fresh baguettes. At home, a cheesy pita pocket with salsa.

jusbrowsin104 karma

Hey Louis. Any plans on doing a deep dive into Bitcoin?

BBCSelect314 karma

Crypto is fascinating. I haven’t really got my head around it. I just saw the Kim Kardashian pump and dump was in the headlines. Maybe something about influencers and crypto? Or the story of the Satoshi guy who supposedly invented blockchain?

isleisfullofnoises84 karma

If you could ask the people you interview only one question, what would it be?

BBCSelect237 karma

How are you doing?

lisa-jazz9951 karma

What's forbidden America about?

BBCSelect167 karma

Three American worlds that are associated with social risk or social stigma - adult film, the far right, and gangsta rap - and how they’ve been turbocharged and inflamed by social media.

LilPeepis4 karma

Hi Louis,

Big fan of your work.

Does the fear of cancel culture affect your work now? Would it stop you doing pieces similar to weird weekends?

BBCSelect43 karma

I tend to see a lot of what’s described as “cancel culture” as an understandable impulse to try to police the way vulnerable or relatively less powerful people are portrayed. It wasn’t that long ago that mainstream media figures were routinely racist and sexist on TV. So we’ve come a long way. I think I’ve been able to show in these new Forbidden America shows that there are ways to cover inflammatory material in a way that doesn’t just platform them. And I get my share of criticism and I don’t always get it right and that’s fine.