Louis Theroux’s Interview Technique

1. What words would you use to describe Louis Theroux’s questioning style? 

One word that stands out when you see what people have said about Louis Theroux after he has interviewed them is how naive he presents himself when he asks them questions, which quickly becomes apparent when you watch him in his many documentaries.

The faux-naïf persona he presents is deceptive to the interviewee because it will make them feel like they have to tell him everything from the basics, which is an advantage for the viewer as they will get the clearest picture of the subject that they are talking about.

His style overall seems to be a hybrid of two styles as at some point in the interview he will switch from asking the more “naive” questions to asking questions which will put the interviewee uncomfortably on the spot.

2. What types of questions does he use?

Initially he will use general, open questions which will get the interviewee to give the viewers an understanding of the subject they are talking about, but as the interview goes on, Louis will start asking more direct and quick fire questions which he hopes will lead the person he is talking to into giving up all the information they can, especially in subjects such as drugs and religious extremism.

3. How would you describe his approach to creating rapport with his interviewees? Give at least two examples…

In the “Fresno” documentary when he is hanging about with the ex-crystal meth dealer, Kevin, and his friends he seems to almost endear himself to them just by being polite and not overly questioning what they do around him, but instead, takes an interest. For example, when one of them starts smoking meth, he tells him that he “should be challenging” him and telling him not to do it, but instead, asks him if he feels any different.

With the couple addicted to meth that he interviewed, he built his rapport with them by allowing them to show him around their home and show him the things that the wife had made herself, and generally just listened to everything that they said to him with genuine interest, and asking them a few off topic questions.

4. If I asked you to identify the key elements of his interview style, what would you say they are? Give examples of how he drew responses, reactions and information out of interviews.

He can identify the weaknesses of the interviewee and can prod at that subject until they open up. One example of this is the female who is arrested towards the start of his “Fresno” documentary, who breaks down and opens up to him when he asks her about her three children.

He also puts people uncomfortably on the spot so that they have to explain themselves or/and their actions. For example when he put Kevin on the spot because he allowed his children to be around him and his friends using meth, or when he was talking to Leanne at the recovery centre and questioned how she couldn’t stick out her addiction for her wedding day.

5. How would you describe his body language in an interview situation? Do you think this is deliberate?

When he was with Kevin and his friends, he seemed pretty relaxed on the outside, even asking if he could sit down at one point. I thought it was deliberate as he even admitted at one point then that he felt a bit “awkward”. I feel like if he shown that he disapproved of their actions, then they would maybe be offended and would be more hesitant to share information with him.

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