Freelance Journalist Interview with Shem Pennant
The busy, multitalented and renowned (according to the Hebrew meaning of his name) Shem serves on TwinGeeks with brother-in-technical-dorkery Sebastian De Latour, and also provides LatestGadgets with reviews of up-to-the-minute doohickeys (according to the thesaurus when looking up the words 'latest' and 'gadgets'). We spoke to him about geekery, zombies and Zelda.
There is also a fun quiz for all you gamer geeks out there as part of this interview today: which three games are referenced in the questions? Answers will be revealed at the bottom of this page. Your prize for three correct answers… some cake?
Without further ado, let's geek-out with Shem.
About your journalism
Greetings, Shem! Tell us what you write about, and where are we likely to see your work?
Consumer tech, mostly – although I fancy myself as a musician and filmmaker (stop rolling your eyes) so things that touch on that are always welcome. And comedy. I can drone on for hours about comedy. You can see tech video reviews I do on TwinGeeks and read my stuff on LatestGadgets. My comedy makes it onto the occasional sketch show.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I once translated a manga version of the Bible (specifically, the Tower of Babel) from Japanese to English. That was my second favourite day of work after writing for The News Quiz for a day. Tech-wise, I really enjoyed putting together these 'Best of the Gadget Show' and 'Best of GoodWood' videos.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love to look at the intersection between technology and comedy – how people like, say, Chris Gethard at UCB are innovating or the podcast scene that is blowing up in LA right now on channels like Earwolf and Nerdist.
As the Twin Geeks at TwinGeeks, what upcoming game releases are you and Sebastian de Latour really looking forward to at the moment?
Seb is probably on the edge of his seat about some sort of Magic: The Gathering collection. I’m far cooler and just want the Secret of Mana to hit the iPad.
As the deputy editor for LatestGadgets, what gadgets couldn’t you live without?
I don’t want to say my iPad/iPhone – although I do struggle when I leave it behind. I want you to think I’m interesting! So I’m going to say my Native Instruments Maschine – it’s pretty much a USB interface masquerading as an MPC and is great for throwing together quick bits of music for videos. And it works with a great little iPhone app.
Which do you get the most enjoyment out of, your video work or writing?
That’s like asking which baby I prefer. Although that’s something my mother never struggled with. I love writing and feel a bit freer to be irreverent and funny. I do most of my video work single-handed, so by the time I’m done shooting, colour correcting, editing, musically composing and voiceover work, I’m a little too worn out to be witty. So, writing. But I'm happy to do lots of video work (to anyone reading).
About you and PRs
Where do you source ideas for articles?
My inbox, generally.
How can PRs be useful to you?
Filling my inbox!
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
My inb… well, I love a constant stream of emails. Phone calls, less so.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Useful! Send me on more! Seriously, it's very good to be hands-on with a product and speak to people that can answer awkward questions. That's the most important thing – I don't need to be dazzled with spectacular venues and performances, just time using great products and talking to people who know what they are doing. But please feel free to dazzle me with spectacular venues and performances. And if you want to fly me to CES, I'm not going to stop you.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Don’t be so scared about going “off message” – it’s nice to interact with a human being and some of my favourite PRs are charming people who aren’t afraid of an affectionate, good-natured dig about a product or brand. When human beings recite press releases to my face it's a little off-putting.
Do you tweet? Why, why not?
I tweet the occasional joke or musing under @each1teach1 but I try not to let it dictate my stage material too much. A joke about MC Hammer and iPads might 'blow up' on Twitter, but it's unlikely to do very well in a comedy club full of normal people. But if a witticism about Zelda does occur to me, it's the perfect place.
Have you ever taken an arrow to the knee?
In a disciplinary sense? Like an arrow that had misbehaved at school and needed to be corporally punished? No, no. This isn’t the 50s and we don’t treat arrows like that any more.
If you had to hang out with a Creeper, Ghast, Zombie or Skeleton, which would you go for?
I only know what 50% of these things are. I'm officially old. What a way to find out. In that case Skeletons, I guess. I could tell it one of my rib tickers.
Which do you prefer, plants or zombies?
I really, really dislike zombies. It's an overused punchline in modern comedy and I have long-predicted the "Zombie Apocalypse Apocalypse" where society implodes after too many people continually reference the Zombie Apocalypse. So, plants.
Aside from geekery, what else do you like to do with your spare time?
I study Chinese and Japanese and love films from both those cultures, so I love watching those. And, unlikely as it sounds, I’m also a capoeira instructor so can often be found cartwheeling around East London.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
Make a short Jackie Chan-style action comedy and actually pay the people involved.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I'm just on the last pages of 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman. I love it and I've been boring everyone I know with what I've gleaned. I'm a guy to be avoided at parties.
Shem Pennant: avoid this man at parties.
So, gamer geeks…did you get the three games?
Skyrim: The Elder Scrolls (I used to play Skyrim, but then I took an arrow to the knee)
Minecraft (Creepers, Ghasts, Zombies and Skeletons can all be found and fought in Minecraft)
Plants vs Zombies (you get the picture)