It Burns

The Scandal-Plagued Race to Breed the World’s Hottest Chilli, An Audible Original
Narrated by: Marc Fennell
Length: 2 hrs and 52 mins
4.2 out of 5 stars (8,166 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Silver Narrative/Documentary Podcast Trophy at the 2020 New York Festivals Radio Awards
Nominated for the 2019 Rose D’Or award for Audio Entertainment

Please note: contains mature themes and graphic imagery.

Written and hosted by Marc Fennell, It Burns is the story of a 10-year scandal-plagued international competition that will take listeners from the Australian Coast to South Carolina (via an Indian Research Facility).

It’s a war filled with larger than life characters. There will be sledging, accusations of cheating, theft and performance enhancing drugs. And allegations that Australia was cheated out of a Guinness World Record. In the process of charting the scandal-plagued race to breed the world’s hottest chilli, the audio documentary lifts the lid on the subculture of ‘Chilli-heads’, hardcore chilli fans spread across the globe who compete in chilli eating and breeding competitions.

The internet is filled with videos of grown men being reduced to tears by a square millimetre of chilli. The docu-series asks: what motivates someone to breed and eat a demonic nugget that is so hot it no longer has flavour? At what point does this stop being cuisine and start being an endurance sport?

This humorous series shows that all this has never really been about chilli. It’s been about how people use pain to shape themselves, define themselves and make themselves feel alive.

©2019 Audible Australia Pty Ltd. (P)2019 Audible Australia Pty Ltd

Our favorite moments from It Burns

Ed is an addict.
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Marc is hospitalized because of a chili.
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Ted and Ed used to be friends.
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  • It Burns
  • Ed is an addict.
  • It Burns
  • Marc is hospitalized because of a chili.
  • It Burns
  • Ted and Ed used to be friends.

Winner of the 2020 James Beard Award for Best Audio Program

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About the Creator and Performer

Marc Fennell is an interviewer, documentary maker, host, and author. He has worked with the BBC, Showtime, Triple J, Monocle, Network Ten, ABC (Australia), SBS Australia, Fairfax, Foxtel, The Sydney Opera House, and Red Bull TV. Marc hosts the national current affairs program The Feed for SBS Australia. Based in Sydney, he has reported across the US, the UK, France, and Asia. Marc’s one-on-one interviews (including Al Gore, Tom Cruise, Julian Assange, and Jennifer Lawrence) have generated over 25 million online views and three United Nations Peace Media nominations. Marc has also fronted both live forum shows and documentaries on Torture Therapy, Sex in Japan, the Hillsong Church, child poverty, and Hong Kong billionaires. Marc presents the award-winning ABC (Australia) podcast Download This Show, which airs across multiple ABC Radio networks and the ABC News Channel. It won iTunes Australia’s Best New Podcast (2012), IT Journalism Gold Lizzie Award (2015), and Best Technology Podcast at the Australian Podcast Awards (2019). Marc has written two books and can also be heard regularly filling in on the top-rated ABC Radio Sydney. He is the Creative Director of the nonprofit group Media Diversity Australia.

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What listeners say about It Burns

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting but not entertaining.

This book starts with a warning about nature content and ends with a PSA for a suicide hotline. Not what I expected from a book about the wired and dark stories behind the search for the worlds hottest chilli. The interviews storytelling and production are excellent! But I expected the story to focus on the strange rather than the dark. The author goes deep into the darkness of hotpeppers exploring overeating, bullying, alcoholism, SM, and self-harm. He labors on his dark vision and tries to pull a message of hope out at the end that doesn’t quite make it. This a good thought provoking broadcast, that should be heard,by some, but it is NOT a fun romp in the wild world of Hot Peppers. Reader be warned this audio may cause indigestion!

41 people found this helpful

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I liked this book EXCEPT for...

...the damned background noise making the narration difficult to hear. This is a recurring issue with many of the free Audible originals. Audible, please just stop it!

87 people found this helpful

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  • MG
  • 06-11-19

about so much more than just chillies

This is such a great listen. The whole chilli thing is great but it's about so much more than just chillies. it's about the human soul, and pain, and addiction. So good.

24 people found this helpful

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Pretty interesting...a bit long for what it was

This was unexpected. It's not even remotely an audiobook. It's a mini audio documentary in the tradition of "This American Life". I did enjoy it but found it a bit too long for what it was - a fun yet soulful exploration of the strange, surprisingly drama filled world of super hot chili pepper eaters and growers. Though I appreciated the host's willingness to dive to the core of his relationship with food as an anchor for his journey through the landscape of spice addicts, the endless pop psychology got tedious. One thing I was impressed with was the host's charm and undeniable gift for interviewing and bringing out the deepest parts of his interviewees. I listened to this because it was free this month. I enjoyed it, but simply wished it was a bit shorter. Thanks, Mr. Fennell. This was fun. P.S. Before this, I fancied myself an aficionado of spicy peppers and salsa. After this, I realize I'm not even an amateur.

29 people found this helpful

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Listen and salivate!

I came across this Audible Original when Audible offered it to members as one of their "choose two free" titles and after listening to the 5 minute sample, where the author interviews his own mother under mild protest while she's eating, I wanted to hear more of what he was going to say about hot chili peppers. I liked his easy-going, playful voice and I found his Australian accent to be quite charming. I'm a novice hot pepper eater, happy to brighten my meals with ground red chili pepper, or habanero Tabasco sauce, and always black pepper too, so I was curious to find out more about the world of spicy peppers to open my eyes and expand my knowledge and deepen my understanding. What a fascinating topic it turned out to be! I learned a lot, and I might now go ahead and sign that waiver form at our local BBQ joint in order to get them to unlock their prized bottle of super-hot pepper sauce (which is kept under lock and key in full view!) and give it a try. I feel emboldened now. The local restaurant in question is called Firefly's, in Marlborough, Massachusetts, USA in case anyone reading my review is curious to do it too! It was a very enjoyable 3 hours of listening and I recommend it.

13 people found this helpful

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Good, but not great

Don't get me wrong, the content is good. The topic is intresting. The production value is great, but it is one of those Documentary through a journey in my life- kind of documentary. Like: "This is a heavy book about the Black death that tore through europe during the middle ages, but first we will go back to my childhood". If that's your thing, you're in for a ride.

12 people found this helpful

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It's not just about the pepper

Overall, I enjoyed this audio book. The interview with the Dominatrix could have been trimmed down to the "why"some people like pain vs. providing a detailed description of her "sexual pain methods" (those can be mentioned in a book meant for that topic). Similar with the "F Bombs"...they're not needed and could have been "beeped" - the listener could still understand what was happening as one's imagination would have filled in the gap. This is not an audio book meant for listening in the car on a family trip.

5 people found this helpful

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A world I never knew of

interesting journey into the world of hot chili peppers and egos, I had no idea this world even existed. I don't think I can ever look at my humble little jar of hot sauce the same again after this. wish it were just a tad longer, maybe a little less music, felt a little like an NPR radio hour, but the subject was very interesting.

3 people found this helpful

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Medium Heat

This is a decent and interesting story that exposes a part of society and history I never knew existed. Overall a very well produced piece.

6 people found this helpful

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The Blazing Hot Truth About The Hot Chilli-Pepper

WHO KNEW... the good flavor, the bad people, ang the ugly truth of it all? Great Docu-story. When is it going to be on Netflix?

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-28-19

Genuine and curios

well presented, curious and a genuinely good listen. surprisingly open and very entertaining. the author exposes his own self and connects with the people in the story in an open and honest way

4 people found this helpful

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  • Sonja Wapstra
  • 04-26-19

Not into chillies but...

Not into chillies but it was very interesting... the reading of it and interviews were great.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 04-27-19

A Random Read that has jumped to my Top 10

I did not seek out this book. I got it as a gift and I’m so happy I did. The information within probably not a mainstream idea. But the meaning of the journey will resonate with ANYONE who has the fortune of listening to it. I highly recommend this book.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Georgina D
  • 05-11-19

no no no

Did not like this storyline at all. it may suit some but not me sorry.

2 people found this helpful

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  • rhewi
  • 05-02-19

HOT HOT HOT

I really enjoyed this production. It was a bit more of a podcast style than an audiobook but it was highly engaging. Marc Fennell was a great presenter/narrator and really brought this story to life. The narrative was really interesting as we met some really intense characters with heartbreaking personal experiences who find solace in this chilli head community. It's an exploration of a subculture I didn't know existed. I am also now annoying people with chilli facts left right and centre :)

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-26-19

More than chillies!

Touching, psychological, funny. Mark was brilliant. Left me thinking about life. An enjoyable book .

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-26-19

Unexpectedly entertaining

I went in nor knowing what to expect, but happy to try a free book. I would definitely recommend it for a quick little trip into the world of competitive chilli eating.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • kk.ausbooks
  • 04-25-19

Fascinating and compelling

This is like a car crash. You just can’t stop watching (or listening in this case). Fascinating look into the underworld of hot chillies (who knew), which is really much more about humanity and communities

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-24-19

great audio story with easy to listen aspects

thought it was well produced and a great listen on the way to and from work. hope there is more in the pipeline from marc fennel as I will one of the first to purchase.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-29-19

Lies, scandals, frenemies....

For someone who is allergic to chilli I found this so addictive, great story and wish there was more!

4 people found this helpful