Louis Theroux, the renowned British documentarian who has been a staple on U.K. TV and radio for more than two decades, is set to deliver the 2023 James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, the flagship address of the Edinburgh TV Festival.
While he’s arguably best known in the U.S for his 2015 documentary feature My Scientology Feature (in which he’s seen in several comical altercations with church enforcers), Theroux has been a cult figure and beloved interviewer in the U.K. since the late 1990s for his BBC doc series including as Weird Weekends and When Louis Met…, shows that saw him cover off-beat human experiences as well as hard-hitting subject matters. In his trademark style, Theroux has explored the world of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, plus porn stars, survivalists, swingers and neo-Nazis, and has spent time with several noted individuals (most famously Jimmy Savile, several years before his death and subsequent dramatic fall from grace over allegations of multiple sex offenses).
More recently, Theroux has become a major player in the podcast arena thanks to his Spotify show The Louis Theroux Podcast, launched during the pandemic and in which he interviews various guests from across the cultural and media landscape.
Theroux’s MacTaggart lecture will reportedly cover the challenges facing broadcasters in the multi-platform universe, how he has maintained longevity and relevance in broadcasting after 25 plus years, and the reasons for both fear and optimism in a world beset by populism, social media, AI, and virality in all its forms.
“I am beyond thrilled to be asked to deliver this year’s MacTaggart lecture,” he said. “The old Chinese curse runs, ‘May you live in interesting times.’ But I also believe interesting times – to those of us whose job it is to report on them and reflect them, while also providing an occasional distraction from them – can be a blessing. The many years I’ve spent reporting on the fringes have been an ample education on the nature of human psychology and the strange place the world now finds itself in. I look forward to sharing some insight into what I think I’ve learned.”
Theroux joins a prestigious lineup of former MacTaggart lecturers, with previous speakers including Michaela Coel, Ted Turner, Armando Iannucci, Rupert Murdoch, Dennis Potter, Jon Snow, Dorothy Byrne, Elisabeth Murdoch, David Olusoga, Jack Thorne and last year’s speaker, Emily Maitlis.