“I used to be quite successful, but I’m not any more.” The comedian and performance artist Kim Noble tells us this repeatedly in his meandering and miserable podcast series, Futile Attempts (At Surviving Tomorrow). After he “kind of sort of had a breakdown?”, Noble is starting again “right at the bottom” with a podcast, like “every other loser”. Throughout the series, Noble tries to find out “what makes life worth living”.
But this is not a podcast like every other loser’s: instead of a grumpy comic monologue, Futile Attempts is a bold mix of documentary, fiction and meta-satire. There are scenes of Noble chatting with his mum in the kitchen; offering lemon drizzle cake to a cult leader in a London shopping centre; on the phone to bemused customer service reps at Natwest and Netflix; and, in a more disturbing scene, asking an elderly woman working in a church if he can put up a poster clarifying that he did not sexually assault a five-year-old girl with a Meccano piece.
Sonically, it’s almost disorientating, as the audio producer Benbrick (aka Paul Carter, the co-producer of the equally inventive Have You Heard George’s Podcast?) juxtaposes an eerie, spacey soundtrack with Noble’s flat, monotone narration and chaotic field recordings to create an uneasy collage of textures and tones.
Noble worries about how he will produce enough content for ten episodes (all are now available on Spotify, released weekly on other apps), and whether, with its bleak reflections on depression, remorse, fear and loneliness, the podcast is funny enough to earn its place in the “comedy” section. Yet Futile Attempts (as you sense Noble well knows) is not unsettling for its willingness to plumb uncomfortable topics, but for the ambiguity it deliberately cultivates, and the games it plays with seemingly unsuspecting and unconsenting members of the public.
Scenes veer from obviously fictional (a conversation with God, played by Julian Barratt, who Noble eventually starts referring to directly as Julian) to obviously real, but sometimes hover somewhere in between. It’s never clear to what extent Noble’s character is a performance, and whether the participants in his unique brand of dark almost-comedy are in on the joke.
Podcast apps / Spotify