Oh Podcasts, Why Do You Hurt Me So?

In the past I’ve never been much of a podcast listener.  Much more of an audiobook or music guy in the car.  But I had a bunch of driving to do for gigs last week, so I thought I’d give a few a shot.

Pretty sure I’ll be back to being an audiobook guy again soon.  90% of the podcasts I’ve been listening to are headache inducing.  Now, keep in mind, I’m listening to those classified as “comedy”.  I put that in quotes, because I’m hard pressed to find the comedy in a lot of them.  And I’m not fishing around in the ether.  I went to iTunes and download a bunch of the top rated shows.

Picture this… A morning radio show with no budget.  Or maybe a bullshit session with your friends over a beer at your house, where everything is funny, but if you try to tell the story later it inevitably ends with “well I guess you had to be there.”  That’s most comedy podcasts.  And I was there listening, and it still wasn’t funny.

Good lord, one of them had 3 guys that constantly talked over each other.  Couldn’t understand what was going on half the time.

As any comedian will tell you, there’s a difference between telling a funny story and riffing with your friends in the living room, and actually creating professional comedy.  That’s why you constantly some poor schmuck whose friends told him he was hilarious at parties bombing on stage at any given open mic night.

But many of those same comedians are doing the same thing with their podcasts.  And some of these people, no kidding, I absolutely adore on stage.  Some of the funniest comedians I know.  And the podcast turns into, “Well, we’ve got an hour of talking to do.  Let’s just keep talking.”

One reason I’ve never done a podcast of my own is because I’m just not opinionated enough to fill an hour of jabber every week.  It takes me two years to write and hour of comedy and a year to write 4 or 5 songs.  That’s because I throw away A LOT of material before it gets near a stage.  I wouldn’t be any less picky with a podcast.  But I don’t think one podcast a year would be a big hit. 🙂

And now there’s the phenomenon of live podcasts done at venues.  Essentially people paying to see a few people sit around and shoot the shit for an hour.  On other words, these comedians have taken what used to happen backstage before and after the show and actually make money with it.

I’ll admit, they are good at developing their communities.  Catch phrases galore and plenty of inside jokes and self-referential stories.  People get hooked on that and don’t realize that there really isn’t much of substance happening.

Strangely enough, the two comedy podcasts I’ve found that I actually like so far, have very little comedy in them.  but they don’t attempt to.  Marc Maron’s WTF podcast has amazing interviews with a variety of comics.  For me, as a comedian, it’s invaluable to hear interviews like this.  He gets deep into their careers and psyche to see how they came to be where they are.  Fascinating, and rarely a laugh.

I’m also enjoying Adam Corolla’s podcast.  Also not funny, though they often try.  Corolla has created his niche as they guy that can expound upon just about any subject for a few minutes and sound like he knows what he’s talking about.  Even if he doesn’t.  He’s the Cliff Claven on broadcasters.  It’s what everyone else is trying to do and not achieving.

So they’re not all bad.  But a lot of them are.  And these are people that are making at least part of their living doing this.  So my lesson learned is that just like the music charts, sifting off the top is a shallow experience with not much quality.

Next I’ll be getting out of the comedy listings to see what else if out there and hope for something useful.  Not giving up yet, but boy those audio books are looking good again…

Phil Johnson

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