Louis Theroux on dealing with haters and being told he is bipolar

13 May|Tom Hodgkinson

Louis in his Harlesden garden by Chris Floyd

Congratulations to Louis Theroux for his appearance on Desert Island Discs and for winning a BAFTA. Here are some choice extracts from the interview we did with Louis Theroux for the Idler issue 48, published in January 2016. Photo by CHRIS FLOYD. Come and see Louis live in conversation with Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson at the Idler Festival, 12-14 July, 2019.

Louis on Jimmy Savile:
I had the idea of doing a programme about Jimmy Savile. I met Jimmy Savile, he was pretty weird. I had the sense the he had a sort of secret. I kept in touch with him after we filmed; I continued trying to figure out what his secret was. We drifted out of touch, he died, he was celebrated. He was unmasked as a sex offender and then he became one of the most evil people who ever lived. I went from being that guy who was possibly too hard on Jimmy Savile, to the guy who was being not hard enough on him.

Louis on dealing with haters:
Just ignore it, what else can you do? Actually, you should embrace it, not just ignore it. You’ve just got to understand it could just as easily be you attacking them, or attacking yourself. Having come up in journalism, I dished out my share of snide remarks. You know, I sharpened my claws on other people’s hides. I don’t just regard it as necessary evil, it’s more a case of the ecology of life, that we sort of feast on one another’s entrails.  And they usually do have a point. In general I think the people who are critical are at least as right as the people who are full of praise. It’s a cliché that you learn more from your critics than your fans, but I think there’s something in that. A bad review can be a tribute, you know a sign of people paying attention. I don’t love it though.

Louis on being diagnosed with social anxiety disorder:
I know that I’m a little bit awkward… I think I have social anxiety. I did a thing about medicated kids in America. So I did a session with one of these pill-happy psychiatrists, and he said: “With you I would probably diagnose social anxiety disorder, and mild bipolar. And I’d put you on an SSRI and probably a Benzodiazepine and that would probably really help you.” And I was like “That’s really weird!” – this wasn’t just some random guy saying it, this was a professional, qualified psychiatrist diagnosing me with these things and saying he would put me on medication for them. It was totally baffling to me that I might have any kind of mental problem. But having said that, I do get anxiety about making social arrangements, I mean, I’m a total stranger to myself, in many respects. I’m conscious that I’m not a kind of ‘Alpha’ person.  What they call the “executive function” in the brain, that part of the brain that is decisive, proactive, bossy – that part’s quite small in my brain. The anxious, insecure part is probably more developed, so when I go into situations, I naturally sort of slipstream behind their personas.

Come and see Louis live in conversation with Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson at the Idler Festival, 12-14 July, 2019.

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