Can Blindboy be considered the ideal podcaster with his unconventional approach of wearing a bag on his head?
Blindboy states that his curiosity from childhood has remained with him throughout his life. He expresses a constant desire to learn and question everything, always wondering about the reasons, methods, and possibilities.
The unending inquisitiveness is the reason why The Blindboy Podcast has become immensely popular in the audio world. Created, recorded, and produced by a single person in Limerick, it is released on a weekly basis with consistency, attracting up to a million listeners every month from all over the world.
The person responsible, known as Blindboy or Blindboy Boatclub, is a successful writer with popular books like the recent Topographia Hibernica. He conceals his true identity by wearing a plastic bag over his head, a practice he will maintain while traveling for his live podcast this year.
In a world filled with never-ending true crime and repetitive celebrity shows, The Blindboy Podcast stands out as a unique and refreshing source of diverse topics. From Irish and Greek mythology to mental health, history, art, academia, and politics, this podcast covers a wide range of subjects for listeners to explore. Each episode delves deep into intriguing topics such as the colonial origins of the popular pumpkin spiced latte and fish fingers, the evolution of bootcut jeans, and the surprising connection between Baileys and an 18th-century satanic sex cult.
Blindboy has a unique and gentle speaking style, achieving a blend of passion, intelligence, humor, and sincerity. He refers to his podcast as a “hug,” providing a moment of peacefulness amidst the constant noise of social media. Each episode has a casual and unscripted feel, resembling a conversation or essay, yet Blindboy incorporates well-thought-out theories, connections, and allegories. Despite the meticulous planning, he aims for a natural flow and doesn’t want the listener to be aware of the behind-the-scenes work. In his own words, he wants to avoid revealing “the hand that’s gone up Kermit the Frog’s arse,” and instead wants Kermit’s voice to be the focus.
Since starting his podcast in 2017, Blindboy has consistently released a new episode every week. It typically takes him four days to produce each episode and he takes this responsibility very seriously. He even joked that the only reason he would miss an episode is if he ended up in the emergency room. The podcast has become a routine for many listeners, who listen to it while walking their dog or while enjoying a cup of coffee at a cafe. One listener even shared that their mother now refers to taking a bath as “having a Blindboy” because she plans her weekly bath around the podcast. Blindboy finds great joy in creating the podcast and never takes its success for granted.
Blindboy rose to fame in his early twenties as a member of the comedy hip-hop group, the Rubberbandits. In 2010, the duo, consisting of Blindboy and Mr Chrome, gained widespread attention with their song “Horse Outside” which has since amassed 22 million views on YouTube. The catchy pop tune poked fun at the boy racer culture and featured the duo attempting to impress a bridesmaid at a wedding by declaring “forget your Mitsubishi … if you want a ride, I’ve got a horse outside.” Although it reached number two on the charts in Ireland, narrowly missing the Christmas number one spot, the song’s success led to opportunities for the pair to work in television.
They created satirical sketches and shows for RTÉ, wrote and starred in a Channel 4 comedy pilot, and wrote and narrated the ITV2 series The Almost Impossible Gameshow. The success of the latter led them to do something similar in the US, and they were commissioned to make two seasons for MTV. “It went out for one episode and was so bad it got cancelled,” says Blindboy. “I became toxic waste!”
Blindboy continued to work within the conventions of the industry – well, relatively speaking for a man with a bag on his head – making shows for the BBC such as the documentary series Blindboy Undestroys the World. But the longer he stayed in that environment, the more he began to realise he needed to create something outside the confines of traditional broadcast media.
According to him, the model is somewhat flawed. As time goes on, you come to understand that your creative freedom is limited because ultimately, it depends on what the channel and the commissioner want. The commissioner’s main focus is on ratings, which in turn affects the need for advertisers. Therefore, within the confines of traditional TV and radio, there is not much room for bold creativity.
He is now fully supported by listeners through Patreon and has stopped participating in the industry. “I simply decline now,” he explains. “I reject one TV show each month, I swear. I am aware of the drawbacks of that system and I recognize that no matter how great my initial concept is, it will become subpar in the end.”
Blindboy has created his own unique world, where he can freely pursue his interests without worrying about their popularity or relevance. He explains, “I don’t focus on which episodes perform the best. I simply follow my inner desires. The last thing I want is to conform to certain standards in order to gain listeners. That would mean sacrificing authenticity and potentially promoting toxic viewpoints just for the sake of generating discussion. I refuse to do that. If I want to create a podcast about the inside of a tennis ball, that’s exactly what I will do.”
This is not an exaggerated instance used for comedic purposes, but a real-life experience that reflects Blindboy’s upbringing. According to him, he is neurodivergent and has been diagnosed with autism. As a result, his time in school was unpleasant as he was constantly told to sit still, be quiet, and stop asking so many questions. He would often receive punishment assignments for disrupting class, and these assignments would involve writing a lengthy essay on the inside of a tennis ball.
This experience only heightened a sense of curiosity and amazement in a young Blindboy, which now forms the foundation of his successful podcast. He reflects, “That essay wasn’t a punishment for me. It was the best and most enjoyable task I could have been given. I used to love being in detention, writing away – so what was considered a punishment for a typical student was actually a source of motivation and success for me.”
Blindboy’s curiosity for knowledge often caused difficulties when he attempted to maintain traditional employment. He was let go from a call centre after printing out 93 pages on the office printer about CIA involvement in crack cocaine smuggling. “People tend to label me as eccentric,” he explains. “But I am content and successful in my own way. I embrace life fully. Any challenges I faced were not due to my autism, but rather because the system was not designed to accommodate it.”
He adds, “I would have excelled in school if I could have self-taught using books and not have to sit still. Being able to walk around while listening to Slipknot may sound like a punishment at Guantánamo Bay, but it would actually help me learn and excel greatly.”
After being diagnosed, the bag he wears on his head has gained a new significance. He explains, “The bag serves multiple purposes. Primarily, it gives me privacy and also serves as a form of performance art to challenge the idea of being overly serious. However, since my diagnosis, wearing this bag allows me to maintain a normal, structured, and peaceful lifestyle as an autistic individual. This is not just my preference, but it is necessary for me.”
In the future, he is strongly committed to using the carrier bag as a form of “autistic protest.” He now has even more certainty in this decision and explains, “I am taking a stance as someone who is neurodivergent and refusing to conform to the social expectations in neurotypical society. I refuse to change my appearance or behavior to make others comfortable. I am proud to be different and wearing a bag on my head is a statement of that. Instead, I invite you to focus on my art, which I believe speaks for itself.”