Interview

From the US to the UK: An Interview with the Host of The Arun Mehta Show

In November 2015, it was announced that Nickelodeon had green-lit a new Hey Arnold! TV movie, which turned out to be none other than the long-awaited and highly sought-after The Jungle Movie. Shortly after the news broke, my renewed interest sent me on a searching spree for interviews featuring the series creator, Craig Bartlett. I ended up finding an incredibly informative interview he did with Arun Mehta, who hosts his own talk radio show from Manchester in the United Kingdom. Each week, Arun and his guests share their opinions on the latest news in entertainment, politics, sports and more. Read on to learn more about The Arun Mehta Show.

How did the idea of starting your own topical talk radio show first come about?

Back in 2006, I was going to college to earn my Foundation Degree. Word was going around that a community radio station (known as North Manchester FM) was looking for presenters to do shows. I was going to the same building at the time, and in 2007, I decided to try out. After weeks of training, I was given the 8-9PM time slot to present and produce a boxing/pro-wrestling show. Soon that evolved into producing an African music show, after that an afternoon women’s chat-show, and finally in 2008 a news and politics programme that would become The Arun Mehta Show. Funny enough, where I ended up wasn’t supposed to be named after me, it was supposed to be called “Hear Me, North Manchester!”. However, the woman who did the voiceovers wasn’t given the show title and only my name. The rest is history!

What was it like recording the first episode?

Hell! *laughs* Originally, North Manchester FM only consisted of two rooms in The Manchester College. A break / meeting room and “The Cupboard” which was the studio. It got hot in there because of the equipment and the small amount of space we had. Also talking to hundreds of people across several regions of Greater Manchester is a daunting task for somebody with autism, and a speech and language disorder. On top of that, the trainers and producers were constantly overseeing everything during our initial launch.

How would you describe the evolution of your show from your first episode to where it is today?

Going from terrestrial radio to a syndicated podcast was a pretty big change. Before you had to worry about producers, regulators and just staying within the audience demographic. Now I walk into my studio at home and I’m the boss. Though honestly, I do miss being part of a large team of other producers and presenters because it was like having a second family. Thankfully now I have my co-host Patricia Miranda and the broadcast team. So, things are nearly like the old days except the leadership comes from myself.

What do you find the most rewarding about hosting your own talk radio show?

Just being able to do it. When you’re told from the age of three that you have various neurological disorders that affect your communication that can really set you back. I’m thankful for everybody that have supported me throughout my childhood years and continue to believe in me to this day. I have friends from school who can’t quite believe that I do this.

You cover a wide range of topics on your show, from politics to sports to entertainment to current events. What have been some of your favorite topics in recent years?

I guess in the terrestrial years was covering the rise and fall of the UK Liberal Democrats. I was a member of the political party between 2005-2012. The party swept up a lot of support after its opposition to the 2003 Iraq War, and then lost it all after they went into coalition with the Conservative Party in 2010. Watching it all build and collapse from the inside gave me good insight and coverage. I decided to resign from the party in 2012 because I wanted to concentrate on fully on revamping The Arun Mehta Show to what it is now. Today, I have listeners on 5 different continents, and the Lib Dems have lost most of their seats at local, national and European level. I think I made the right decision. *laughs*

During the BlogTalkRadio days, the election of Barack Obama was a highlight. I was probably the only British voice at that time talking politics on the station, and being a foreign talker on a predominately conservative, right-wing New York City station wasn’t comfortable to say the least. Alas, I said my piece on the election whether they liked it or not.

Podcast-wise, I think I would be lying I said Save TJM wasn’t the highlight. The Hey Arnold! fans really championed the cause and every Hey Arnold! related episode of the show would be our most successful. I think Craig and myself are still in a state of disbelief that this whole thing happened! *laughs*

How do you typically prepare for your show each week when it comes to researching articles and clips? Do you stick to subjects that interest you, or do you actively seek out the latest news topics you know will make for good discussions?

I speak to my friends on social media to see what they’re interested in. I’ve always been kind of a “word on the street” kind of reporter. I sort of detest the idea of just following whatever CNN wants me to think about, and that’s why you’ll never see them as a source on our show. Though there will always be those moments from the BBC when somebody thinks it’s clever to balance an entire garden shed on the top of their car while driving. *laughs*

I try my best to stay out of my comfort zones, but the stupidity coming out of the White House and Nickelodeon rising from ruins always seems to bring me away from challenging myself with other topics. Obviously, any topics that affect many of our listeners (Net Neutrality being one) make it into the discussion.

Your show is also extremely collaborative as you have different guests on each week to engage in lively debates and share their opinions on the topics you present. Are there any discussions in particular that have stood out to you?

Back in the day, I always debated politicians and campaigners to the point where I was calling them out on their BS. Unfortunately, when you do that the likelihood that they would come back to you becomes very slim, and I probably burned a lot of bridges doing what I did. But I felt a responsibility to my audience at the time and did what I felt was right.

Every Craig Bartlett interview is a highlight for me. The fans always seem to make them unique through their questions they want to ask him, and it always leads to a great conversation. We both love doing it and may it long continue into the future.

Josh and myself always have differences on stuff such as religion, politics and even the live-action Disney remakes. Our conversations and debates are always fun.

You are, of course, a huge fan of Hey Arnold!, and you’ve interviewed a few of the voice actors on your show, including Justin Shenkarow (Harold), Olivia Hack (Rhonda) and Jamil Walker Smith (Gerald). What were some of the highlights of getting to talk about one of your favorite shows with people who worked on the series?

Jamil and I love talking politics. Also, for a bit of fun, I pitched up a part of Jamil’s voice to show everybody he can still be Gerald. Justin and myself have had a lot of fun during the Save TJM campaign. Though he couldn’t say too much for obvious reasons, so we just had a laugh with reaction videos. He also hosted one of the Hey Arnold! Anniversary Shows. Olivia is wonderful to talk with, and she’s also very passionate about social issues and politics. We also had some fun with Anndi McAfee, and I believe she also likes to listen to the show from time-to-time, which makes me happy to know. She entertained me in my youth, and now I hope I’m returning the favour to the best of my ability.

You first interviewed Hey Arnold! creator, Craig Bartlett, in 2011 and have now interviewed him on seven separate occasions thus far. Can you share a bit about the progression of these interviews as an annual staple of your show? What are some of the most memorable moments for you?

When I first interviewed Craig, I was very nervous as you could probably tell, and I also let some of my political combativeness got in the way of the discussion. But he was happy with it and neither of us at the time imagined that Hey Arnold! was going to come back anytime soon. We enjoyed our conversation so much that we decided to give it another run the year after. During the production of the 2012 show, I decided against just asking him whatever I wanted. I felt a bit selfish having Craig all to myself. So instead I opened another email account on my server, and asked fans to submit questions. The show when we finally got TJM greenlighted was a standout moment. Just looking back at everything we had done to that moment was incredible.

As you’ve mentioned on your show, you joined the Facebook group dedicated to saving Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie back in 2009. What has the journey meant to you over the years now that TJM finally exists?

It’s one I’m probably going to tell my Grandkids about. *laughs* Who would have thought this was possible? (except the HA! Fans of course) but there is this amazing sense of victory in it all. We went from cancelled to 2 hours of TV, and now a possible 6th Season of the show!

Do you have a favorite scene or quote from TJM?

“I think your heart is more pure than you know.” Or if I’m feeling silly, “FREE THE ANIMALS IN THE ZOO!!!” *laughs*

Is there anything you would’ve changed about TJM or something you wish had been included?

In my version of TJM, Arnold would have been accompanied by a mercenary played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. La Sombra would have been a former member of the Green-Eyed People seeking revenge by stealing the Corazon. Mile and Stella would not be asleep. Instead they would have been trapped in the jungle with the Green-Eyes still continuously trying to find a pure for the sleeping sickness. And Arnold’s friends, the Green-Eyes and the river pirates would have had a massive brawl at the end for the Corazon. My version would have been drastically different and I’m planning to make a video about it somewhere down the line.

Would you say The Arun Mehta Show has brought you closer to the HA! fan community?

For sure, and I hope I’ve repaid my friendship to the HA! Fandom by continuing to speak about Hey Arnold! And interviewing Craig on an annual basis.

What do you hope for the future of The Arun Mehta Show?

Who knows? One day it was a boxing/pro-wresting show on a small community radio station, and today it’s a podcast going out to over 100 countries across the planet. Will I go back to terrestrial? Probably not, unless it was syndicated across multiple stations across the world.

Right now, we’re going through reformatting the show and a bit of restructuring, but I’m not able to say what we’re going to be doing next.

Before we finish up, how about a few HA! scenario questions for fun? Here’s one to start it off: Who would you prefer to travel with, Stoop Kid or Pigeon Man?

Probably Pigeon Man. I like to think he has more trusting of people than Stoop Kid. Stoop Kid seems more interested in harassing people rather than hanging out with them. *laughs*

If you had to live with one member of the boarding house, excluding Arnold, which tenant would you choose to live with and why?

Pre-TJM, I’d probably say Mr Hyunh. His back story is so interesting, he espiers to be a great chef and he’s a great country singer. I don’t see many negatives in that. Also, I’m sure he’d get on with me just fine because, unlike the other boarders, I clean the lint out of my dryer. *laughs*

If you were a new kid who’d just moved to Hillwood, which of Arnold’s classmates would you befriend?

The popular answer would be Arnold or Gerald, but I’d love to hang out with Helga. I’m a huge fan of pro-wrestling, and back in the 90s, I would have loved to geek-out with her about how much we’re looking forward to WrestleMania!

If you could only watch one season of HA! for the rest of your life, which one would you choose and why?

I’ll be honest, that’s a hard question and answer will probably keep changing. *laughs* All the seasons have their pros and cons… but Season 4 does have Parent Day, which then inspired future events so I’ll probably say that one.

If you could give Helga one piece of advice, what would you tell her?

“Never Lose Hope!” 🙂

And finally, what HA! quote do you use as words to live by?

“Never Eat Raspberries!” *laughs*

You can follow The Arun Mehta Show on his website as well as on YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. Here’s to more entertaining discussions, and who knows, maybe we will one day get a new season of Hey Arnold! No matter what, we will “Never Lose Hope!”

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