Andrew Cotter talks to us about his unexpected pandemic pivot away from sports commentating and how he is set to become an author of a doggie trilogy!
Here at Doglife360, we could not have been more thrilled for the chance of having a lovely chat with Andrew Cotter, with the newly crowned ‘King of Labs’ social media sensation and bestselling author of one, soon to be two, best-selling books,
Formerly known to the general public as the successful and recognisable voice of sport on the BBC, most notably tennis, golf, rugby, Olympics and the Boat Race, Andrew catapulted into the mysterious and strange world of social media phenomena when the pandemic hit. Or, to be more specific, his gorgeous dogs, Olive and Mabel, took their places in this exclusive club, and Andrew went along for the ride.
It all started with an innocent Twitter video featuring his two Labs eating their breakfast with hilarious commentary from Andrew.
In less than a year the lovable duo has notched up over 50 million views on Twitter and YouTube, made countless TV appearances, gained a devoted following, featured in Andrew’s bestselling book “Olive, Mabel & Me: Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs” plus they’ll be the protagonists in a follow-up book set to be released later this year!
On hearing Andrew’s comfortingly familiar Scottish lilt, my first question, of course, had to simply be: “What gave you the idea for the first video?”
Andrew comes across as super-humble and down to earth and he’s more than a little bemused by the sheer explosion of attention he has received since the first video featuring Olive and Mabel went viral. “It all started when all the sports work disappeared because of the pandemic,” explains Andrew. “I sent out a lighthearted tweet. I’m a sports broadcaster with nothing to do, so all I’ve got left to commentate on is my dogs eating their breakfast. It was sort of a throw-away tweet and I had no idea it was going to become such a thing. After the first one got about 10 million views, everyone started asking, where’s the next one”
Little did he know, the combination of his unmistakable voice and distinctive style of commentary together with the beauty of his two faithful dogs emptying their breakfast bowls with enthusiastic Labrador gusto, would capture the hearts of the nation and lead to an avalanche of follows, re-tweets and hashtags multiplying at breakneck speed.
He explains how shocked he was as he watched it all unfold, and his surprise when the demands came in for follow up videos! His next video which featured Mabel, the adorable yellow Lab, standing in a pond, was met with an even higher response and the stage was set…
“When I sent out the second I thought, there’s no way this one will get as many views.. And then it got 21 million!” More videos followed showing the dogs doing dog things with a hilarious voice-over commentary from Andrew.
But then the style switched. “I realised I couldn’t just keep commentating on the dogs because eventually, I would have to go back to work, commentating on serious things, and I can’t be the joke commentator. So that’s when I had the idea to do different things with them, and almost make little sketches which is where the idea of the zoom meeting came from. A lot of people say it is their favourite video. I began putting dogs in human situations and seeing how the strangeness of our lives would be even stranger if dogs were in them. Comedy of the surreal. It’s fun, it’s an escape and it’s what we’ve all needed over the last year.”
This new “sketch show” format inspired by cartoonist Gary Larson, was met with joy and millions of likes and so the journey for the lovable new social media superstars continued.
“We all talk to our dogs,” says Andrew. “My favourite part is when our dogs are looking at us, and we’re talking to them as if they understand us and we understand them and making that connection. They may not really understand, of course, but it’s all about just making that connection.”
Andrew has always been an animal lover and grew up with dogs of various shapes and sizes. But Olive was the first dog he owned himself, as an adult. Named Olive, because as a pup she looked like a little round black Olive, he says she was the perfect pooch.
Andrew and his wife, Caroline, had set criteria for dog names. They decided that names should be two syllables to be able to call them efficiently, and also, following recent trends, they had to be traditional old lady names. Mabel obviously also meets with this criteria and adorably, her name means ‘beloved’.
Olive is the senior of the two dogs and has a naturally calm disposition apart from a number of little neuroses that Andrew writes about in his book. His anecdotes make for laugh-out-loud moments for dog owners who can relate to the hilarious way our dog's brains work. Mabel is a more sensitive character who needs constant attention and cuddles, which is not too difficult a task when you look into those adorable big black eyes.
Olive, Mabel & Me: Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs, has accrued over 2,500 glowing 5-star reviews on Amazon alone. Initially, I thought perhaps the reviews were overly generous as it is rare to see such a large amount of positive recommendations in one place, but when I found myself giggling and smiling and snorting with laughter, it was obvious the reviews were all absolutely justified. I just loved the book.
Andrew claims he is not a terribly confident person, so he wasn’t expecting success from the book. "I wanted it to be a book you could read and enjoy as a dog owner with all the silliness, strangeness and love that’s there.”
Andrew knew the people who followed Olive and Mabel would be interested in reading the book, but he wanted it to have a wider appeal and entice those who had never seen the pair’s hilarious antics. He didn’t want to take anything too seriously and so he wrote a gloriously natural portrayal of what it’s truly like to be a dog owner and the book is achieving huge success. It's even selling well over the pond, having only been slightly tweaked to satisfy the US palette. Obviously, dog humour is something the UK and US can agree on and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one thrilled to hear that Andrew has committed to a follow-up.
“I’m writing the second book just now. Everything you would want to say about owning a dog is in the first one, so this is definitely a sequel, not a duplicate. The first book ended in September last year and since then so many things have happened. So the sequel will be a study of our lives, trotting through the strangeness of the pandemic and lockdown life. Throughout this last year, I started to keep notes in a diary so the book will be in diary form. It should be out in October and may even be the second of a trilogy!”.
When I asked if the fame has gone to Olive and Mabel’s heads, Andrew chuckled. “If they knew, then it would definitely go to Olive’s head and Mabel would be slightly frightened by it. They’re both lovely dogs, so kind, generous and friendly. Both have very different personalities. Olive is calm and a little more aloof, but that’s relative in labrador terms. But Mabel just wants human contact all the time.”
The lovable Labs have been rewarded for their endeavours by plenty of walks along the beach, which is their most favourite place on earth. “It has to be the beach. The smells, the sea, the swimming … chasing balls. The beach is almost certainly their favourite place.” And Andrew has been rewarded by being able to escape to the mountain tops of Scotland with his two most precious adventurers wrapped up in their winter coats, following him to the tops of the world to the snow-covered peaks.
So are Olive and Mabel are always two very good dogs? “They are certainly not saints," says Andrew. "I get so frustrated. They have selective hearing, eating grass or sticks or whatever else when we’re out on walks. The only thing that works is biscuits. I don’t think Mabel knows her name or if she does, she certainly chooses to ignore it sometimes. But I wouldn’t want them to be perfect, they’ve got character.”
With typical tongue-in-cheek humour, Andrew insists he has kept a firm grip on the pair's exposure in the media and that he is protecting them fiercely to "retain their pure innocence and untarnished characters". Olive and Mabel are truly part of his family and he and his wife Caroline dote on them. They live a truly fabulous dog’s life.
My favourite line in the book is Andrew’s observation that “Labradors see the good in every situation. They don’t dwell on negatives and they enjoy life to the full.” I couldn’t agree more and will definitely be living a more “labrador” existence from now on!
Well done Olive & Mabel!!
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