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This article was written before tonight's 'A Different Brain' was broadcast, obviously.
Will Smith, Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Rosa Parks, MLK- the list of American national treasures seems to be endless.
Obviously there can be some debate on what constitutes something to be a national treasure. A quick Google search will tell you that National Treasure is 1, 'a 2004 American discovery/adventure/heist film produced and released by Walt Disney Pictures.'
Or 2, 'National treasure can be a shared cultural asset, which may or may not have monetary value; for example, a skilled banjo player would be a Living National Treasure. Or it may refer to a rare cultural object, such as the medieval manuscript Plan of St. Gall in Switzerland.'
Here though, we will discuss the latter, rather than Nic Cage's escaping hairline. Although it can also be argued he is a national treasure.
I'm not sure anyone has ever said, 'oh you know Tom PullDaString, the skilled banjo player, yeah he's a national treasure.' But regardless, Americans have an infinite list of them yet we are much more reluctant to use the title. I'm not sure why, we have loads: Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, JK Rowling, Sir David Attenborough. The list is probably just as fleshed out to be quite honest.
But what about Louis Theroux? Surely he ticks all the right boxes... He's polite, no-one enjoys a rude celebrity in 2016, why do you think we all love Ryan Reynolds and roll our eyes every time Bono opens his mouth? Because U2 are shit? A valid point but Ryan Reynolds also starred in Green Lantern, R.I.P.D. and The Proposal. Also don't trust anyone who says 'City of Blinding Lights' isn't a phenomenal rock song.
He's also extremely awkward, almost virginal on occasions yet he manages to be probing and direct at exactly the same time. It's a real talent, if only it used it in a way that made people open up to him about controversial subjects in documentaries or something... I jest, the man has pretty much over the last decade created his own genre of documentary and we can't get enough of them, even though they always leave us feeling vulnerable, exhausted and terrible afterwards.
I can't think of any recent TV shows that have drew conversation on such a unanimous level as last month's Drinking To Oblivion and tonight's A Different Brain other than Game of Thrones. Since 1998 the man has explored the world of porn, come very close to being beaten up for not telling racist Americans if he's Jewish or not, entered a demolition derby and just about everything in-between.
Oh and of course he started his own Dirty South rap group.
He has for the most part, made the factual documentary cool, and in doing so attracted the interests of legions of young people who would probably usually turn a blind-eye to this stuff. In the past 15 years he's graduated from being the funny geek who spent weekends with hypnotists, UFO enthusiasts and Goldberg, to a maker of important and demanding investigations. And he also grew a beard that made people question if they did indeed fancy Louis Theroux.
45 today. A little older. A little beardier. #birthdayshirt pic.twitter.com/AhjgGYEOTw
- Louis Theroux (@louistheroux) May 20, 2015
And to be fair to him, it was a solid beard.
But the best thing, the absolute best thing about Louis Theroux and I don't think this can be disputed is his unwavering desire to talk about the elephant in the room. Talking to The Guardian about the time he went to a Miami mega-jail he was told repeatedly that the big rule is no snitchin', so Theroux asked "'I hear someone was stabbed in here last week.' And there's 20 guys around me going: 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' And I go: 'Well who did it?' I'm still going to ask it, and they're still going to say: 'For fuck's sake, that's the one thing we never say, don't you know anything?' Sometimes I'll watch a whole prison documentary and they're asking what the food's like, how long has the guy been in for, where does he sleep? No! You ask what he did, and why he did it. That is the elephant, that is what's screaming to be asked. Then you can worry about the food."
Louis Theroux is everyone's favourite friend who isn't afraid to call bullshit, even if he should just keep his mouth shut. You know he might get battered and make the whole situation extremely volatile but you wouldn't have it any other way.
Words by Matthew Cooper
Lead Image Credit: Getty
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