FYIG Chats With Hosts of CBC’s Personal Best, Rob Norman and Andrew Norton

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Tell us a little bit about ourselves.

I’m Rob Norman – a comedian, improviser, and writer.  I work with Andrew Norton a radio producer, and documentarian. We’re both very tall. Andrew is taller than I am. We both have beards.  Andrew wears glasses. I have VERY GOOD vision.
 
What did you two do before deciding to dive into the podcast world?
 
Andrew has always been involved with podcasting. He studied at Transom and has produced stories for 99% Invisible and a weekly podcast for Greenpeace called Completely Optional Knowledge.
 
I came from TV. I used to work on a sketch show called Sunnyside. It was very popular with critics, not so much with audiences. But I loved making that show.
 

How did you two meet and decide to start “Personal Best”?

I was doing storytelling shows around Toronto about a home invasion I survived, and Andrew approached me to make a video of the experience (I guess he was adding stuff for his demo reel). When we filmed it, we spent the whole shoot talking about podcasting, our favourite stories and interview techniques.
 
Personal Best
 
Years later, when CBC was soliciting pitches for podcasts – I called up Andrew … because he was the only person I knew who made podcasts.  
 
How did you guys come up with the concept for this podcast?
 
We sat in an Espresso shop in Andrew’s neighbourhood (both of us were too polite to tell the other we don’t drink coffee). I pitched him an idea for a podcast. Andrew did not like it.  But based on that idea, we retrofitted it into something that we both liked. The name “Personal Best” was inside joke between Andrew and his wife about attempting something and underperforming – but it still being YOUR world record.  
 
We had to ask her permission before we used it as the name of our show. So it was a real collaborative effort.
 
What’s your favourite episode been so far?
 
That’s such a hard question.  It’s like asking “Which of your children do you love the most?”
 
But the episode I’m most excited for folks to hear is “Yours in Trial and Error and Error”.  I really just want people to experience how weird things got and then explain to me what happened.  
 
In the episode, a poet wanted to get better at cooking, so he took up a very strange correspondence with the God of Cooking.  I don’t want to ruin what happens next. But it got very weird …
 
What’s in store for season 2 of “Personal Best”?
 
Lots of personal and intimate stories!  Season One felt like each episode was carving out what we wanted to say, and what were the limits of the show.  There was something very nice about the earnest exploration in Season One.
 
By Season Two, we knew what the show was.  And that allowed us to be more specific with the kinds of stories we wanted to tell and how we decided to tell them.  Although Andrew and I aren’t ever the focus on the episode (it’s always about the guest) I do see a lot more of us in these episodes, and the themes we chose to focus on this season.
 
If you listen very closely, you can hear two tall guys trying very hard to make sense of their own lives through each of these stories.
 
Do you have any plans to branch out and create other podcast series?
 
Right now, I don’t think I could imagine making another series. I need to lock myself in a room alone for a couple of weeks.
 
But after that sure! Coming from TV – everything takes sooooo long to make. There are so many steps and so many people.  I have an animated series that’s been in development for 5 years. I don’t think it’s ever coming out.
 
Podcasts you can have an idea and start tomorrow.  I love that about podcasts. Our production team is three people.
 
What advice do you have for aspiring podcasters?
 
Anyone can make a podcast. That’s the good news. The bad news? Anyone can make a podcast.  The challenge is no longer JUST about making the thing – it’s about finding creative ways to make yourself (and your stories) stand out. 
 
What are your lives like outside of the podcasting world?
 
Andrew spends most of his time playing recreational softball.  I spend my off-season doing comedy tours and traveling.  
 
Let the readers know where to find you online.
 
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