Saturday, September 11, 2010

Top 10 Best Guests to Have on a Comedy Podcast

In no particular order here are the ten best guests I've heard on comedy or interview comedy podcasts ever and the guests I would do anything to get on my show if I had one. All of them have at least B list or above notoriety and each and every one of them will put your podcast on the top of the download chart. If you line up all ten of these in successive weeks, you may have to start hiring help just to deal with the clamour of advertisers wanting a piece of your time (literally). Remember, podcast community, this is just guests. I'm not saying anything about regular cast members on shows. That will come later when we have more regular cast members on shows (or at least more regular cast members on shows other than just David Feldman's Comedy Podcast (a very good show with a very good regular cast)).

 Adam Savage
Yeah, the mythbuster guy with the red (partially singed off) hair. This dude is funny. He's got a thousand stories. He's ratings gold and he will work hard to make the podcast great. Something that not all comics or celebs can or will do is work with the host. Most of the people on this list not only do it, they excel at working with the host, they go out of their way to help out. They (these top 10) are, as Adam is, gifted intellectually. They may argue that they are not (false modesty) but they, to a person, are razor sharp and lightning fast. They (and again I mean this of Adam and the others) appear to read the other people on stage with them very well. They pick up what's going on and immediately get on the same page. They also, and this is especially true of Adam Savage, can speak extemporaneously and at length on many subjects, make it funny, interesting and fill up some time. Adam Savage is a great "get".

Thomas Lennon
Best known as Lt. Dangle on Reno 9-1-1 (try not to call it Reno 9-11 in front of him), Lennon, has written and performed nearly everywhere, for nearly everybody and every studio. (Yeah, I'm exaggerating, but the guy has done shit tons of stuff). This is another guy that gets your premise, even if you just made it up, and can run with you at top speed to the end of the bit even if neither of you knows where it's going and he will make it funny. Lennon pops up on a number of podcast on the circuit in the same way that folks with movies coming out hit the talk show circuit. Lennon is comedically generous and will go to whatever extreme is necessary to help you flesh out your impromptu bit, supplying either new ideas to it or riding with you on yours. He seems fun to work with and from what I've heard on podcasts and read, he's willing to show up with not much warning. A guy who is this good and will bend a schedule to help you out is priceless.

Doug Benson
Some of the people on this list have podcasts of their own but that doesn't mean they can't guest somewhere else, now does it? Doug host the podcast fav "Doug Loves Movies" (reviewed in this bog previously) and is known as this generations pot comic by some. He's really more than that. He's funny, he's quick witted (even stoned) and he brings his A game to the mic every time. Also, Doug works all the time. He does road gigs several days a week. He does his own podcast at least once a week (unless he needs to can one for upcoming schedule conflicts. He does other podcasts fairly regularly. He does the Benson Interruption (a show that has been picked up by Comedy Central for sometime later this year) and he does TV and movies. If he didn't smoke as much pot as he does, it is entirely likely that Benson would just fill every spot at every Laugh Factory, Yuk Yuks and Comedy Store. But he's a great guest because he brings the funny. When he's not being funny he's reasonable and articulate and most of all, he knows what damage a bad guest can do and he'd never do that to you.

Jon Hamm
Yep, that Jon Hamm. Madmen Jon Hamm. Who new he was funny? Well, apparently everybody in the stand-up union because they all seemed to know him and no one was surprised when he started popping up on podcasts and killing . When I say killing I don't mean outright laugh your ass off and choke on your vomit killing but great "guest" killing. Guest killing is supportive, brings ratings, is entertaining, engaging, pleasant, personable, has stories worth telling.  Also, if you do a live podcast in front of people, you could do worse than to have one of the best looking men in Hollywood on your show. He's a veteran of many media; stage, Silver screen, small screen, computer screen, improve, etc. He can handle himself and he can lend a hand. He's nearly egoless and still thinks of himself as trying to make it so there isn't a lot you could throw at him that he wouldn't do because he had to protect his image.

Paul F. Tompkins
PFT is everybody's go to guest in the podiverse. He will show up early and stay late, help write the bits and probably take tickets at the door. Tompkins has been quietly building his following through electronic media for the better part of the last 20 years (he is often credited with being the first to use Twitter to fill a comedy club and his on line presence has consistently been, since before everybody else was doing it, the place to find him, his gigs and his peeps gigs. His community circle includes pretty much everybody in the business. He can open, he can middle and he can headline and I suspect that if you need him to deal with the lighting guy he can do that too. He recently started his own podcast (which is strange considering he's been first in so many other things) but that hasn't stopped him from becoming a regular on the podcast wheel. He would be, in 1970's terms, the center square on Hollywood Squares. He's always there, he's always plugged in and ready to go and he's always a good guest,.. count on it.

Craig Ferguson
Let me preface by saying I dig Craig Ferguson. I like his style, his attitude (or lack of an "attitude"), and I get his funny. He's also, such a big name now that getting him on your show puts you on the map is one move. If you can hang with him, you're pretty good. If you can't keep up, he'll help you and slow down. He won't step on your lines or bust your joke but that's to be expected from a pro. Better than all the other reasons, Ferguson is wild, a little crazy, a lot funny and just exactly the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with (if he still drank). Since he's a TV host, he can feel your pain as the host of your own podcast and he will bail you out of jail if you talk yourself into it. @Craigyferg, his twitter name, isn't cowed by taboo, can drop an F bomb with the best of them, but doesn't rely on foul language when funny ain't happening.  You want this guy on your podcast. You need this guy on your podcast.

Greg Proops
Universally recognized as the King of improv, Proops has headlined both the British and American versions of Whose Line is it Anyway, and worked in every improv club and with every improv troop in this country, most in Canada and many in England. You will not put him in a position where he can't box his way out of it and make it humorous. Some of the best comics are very smart and the best of the best improv folks have encyclopedic knowledge from which to draw and they do so with such speed that, regardless of funny, it is amazing to see in process. Good news for your fledgling podcast. If you get Proops, you'll be able to get most of the rest of the folks on this list simply because you can say, "Proops was on last week and he loved it, had a great time and the audience loved him."

Kevin Smith
Kevin has his own podcast. In fact, as of this writing, Kevin has his own near network. He's spun off 5 or 6 podcasts from Smodcast, including Tell'em Steve-Dave, Jay and Silent Bob get Old, Blow Hard with Malcolm Ingram, Hollywood Babble-On, Highlands: a Peep Hold History and God only knows what. There's also a whole line of online animations of smodcast snippets put to flash animation. In his spare time Kevin writes and directs movies, goes mobile with the smodcasts and appears on other people's podcasts.  Did I mention that he owns and runs his own theater (the SmodCastle) in (or near) Los Angeles. If anybody knows how to be on a podcast, it's Kev. The only one of his pods that hasn't been number one on iTunes is peephole and it got close. Though Smodcast proper was a little funnier before Kev started smoking so much dope, it is still 10 times more interesting than your average podcast.  All of the outside podcasts he appears on are all better for his being there. He will work hard to make it move and even if the funny is scatological, it is still funny.

Tom Arnold
Some people roll their eyes and moan when you mention Tom Arnold. They have an idea in their heads already about what his story is, what his style is, what, in fact, he is. (Kinda how I react to Todd Glass) But they're wrong. Here's how I know; Everybody would love to book Tom for their podcast and he's a go to guy on TV talk shows when other folks don't or won't show up. If that many people want him, book him and or try to book him, he's got something going on. Tom Arnold will quite literally give himself a heart attack trying to make his segment on your show fun, fast, entertaining and human. And, contrary to what somebody else might have told you, he doesn't do it at anybody else's expense. I've still never heard him say anything about his former wife Rosanne Barr that was negative that didn't also come with an explanation and a bag full of caveats that made her actions, words or position seem absolutely reasonable in the situation. Tom is an every man except he's funny. He's the guy you invite to the BBQ because it just wouldn't be as much fun without him. He might spill some shit, it might get noisy or messy from time to time and he might even take over your duties as the burger flipper, but you will have a good time and that,... is a great guest.

Kevin Pollak
Another guy with his own podcast and spinnoffs but who has made the rounds of the podcast circuit, Kevin Pollak is a seasoned pro stand up, actor, writer and director. He's "A" list and he's as deep as he is funny. As a bonus, if things start slowing down, he knows every old joke in the book and does flat out the best voice impressions in the business. (I want to see him in a Walken-off with Jay Mohr and Christopher Walken). If he's on your show, you won't have any dead air.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Podiwan Review 16 - David Feldman's Comedy Podcast

On the surface of things, this article is the review of David Feldman's Comedy Podcast, but for this particular review I'm going to vary the routine a bit by also revisiting an artist that I said not such great things about previously.  And here's why.

I was at the airport picking up a friend the other day and while I waited I was listening to David Feldman's Comedy Podcast.  I was listening to the 7/13 episode titled Comedia Del'Farte.  It was good, not the best he's done but pretty much OK and his cast of supporting funny people always make the show better than the sum of its parts... more than just a stand up podcast.  I dig their effort and the "Let's Put on a Show!" style of performance and the "let's smear boogers on the Mona Lisa" mentality.  I have a couple favorite episodes and I'll get to them in a few minutes.

Anyway, Del'Farte ran its course and since I have several Feldmans in the queue, the next one started:  the 7/12 episode with Todd Glass.  Many of you will recognize that I didn't review Todd favorably the one and only time I included him in this blog.  That was when I reviewed Jimmy Dore's show "Comedy and Everything Else".   I mostly liked Jimmy's show but I didn't dig Todd.  In fact, if you read that review, you'll kinda see that I never really have dug Todd.  I felt like Todd was a conversational bully using noise, bluster, machine gun chatter and backhanded slights to control every single moment of any show that involved him.  It was a giant "look at me" fit in the middle of somebody else's birthday party like you might expect to see in a 12- or 13-year-old ADD who skipped the Ritalin for a few days.  Granted, that last bit, or the need to exhibit that particular part of their inner beast, describes 95% of all stand ups.  But Todd just gets under my skin in a way that no other comic seems to.  Worse than that, he breaks the cardinal rule of comedy. He isn't funny.  Or at the very least, not very often.

You can pretty much do anything you want as a stand up.  You can be a racist dwarf-tossing transgender Nazi who likes to mow down bunny heads using an old John Deere 325 riding mower with a satanic goat skull as a hood ornament... as long as it's funny.
Everything else is crap.

So, I'm at the airport, waiting for my friend at the wrong baggage carousel because he's coming in from Houston instead of his usual Chicago, and David Feldman introduces Todd Glass.

I admit it.  I rolled my eyes a little and sighed just a little out of reflex.  I'm human,  I have a preconceived notion of what I can expect from Todd Glass.  I understand that a lot of people find him funny, but for me, Todd pushes all the wrong buttons. And yeah, that feeling probably affects the way I perceive his humor.  I come to the table with an idea that I don't like broccoli.  It doesn't matter that somebody poured cheese over it or dipped it in ranch dressing or gold or the filtered pee of 15 virgins, I'm not gonna like it and I know that before I taste it and even if it is well done by everybody else's standard, I'm still going to say no thanks. 

So yeah, I feel this way.  I hate like hell that I have prejudices that color my opinions, but I do.  I'm human, shoot me.

The show starts, Feldman does his written material.  There's some yuks and twitters in the crowds.  He introduces the folks who are normally there and then he brings on Glass.  And for the next 10 minutes, Glass steps on every joke anybody else tries to make.  He verbally bullied his way into nearly every second of the segment and he essentially hijacked the show.  I should mention here that Feldman's show is mostly scripted like an old time radio show but there are times when they depart from that,... (those times seems like they are when Feldman and company know that a guest won't or can't follow the script.)  At those times they just try to have a conversation.  With Glass, good luck having a conversation.  It's just him, rambling, throwing jokes that don't work, explaining why we're not smart enough to get the jokes and how nobody understands lighting in restaurants but him. (yes, lighting.  It seems to be a recurring theme with Glass.)

I felt bad the first time I said that Todd Glass rubs me the wrong way.  Maybe I was being unfair saying that he's irritating, pompous, overbearing and just flat out unfunny.  But after listening to him screw up 10 minutes of somebody else's podcast, I think I was right.  Todd Glass rubs me the wrong way.  He's pompous, overbearing and just flat out unfunny.  I've learned my lesson.  If I don't want to come away from a podcast grinding my molars and thinking up new ways to say I don't enjoy Todd Glass as an entertainer I should avoid listening to anything with his name in the title or credits.

OK, there.  Done.  I've said all I will say about Todd Glass and I'm hopeful that I've actually typed the name Todd Glass for the last time.  Now I'd like to tell you about David Feldman's Comedy Podcast and my favorite one or two episodes.

First, the show is an ensemble.  Feldman is the lead; it's his name on the marquee, but David is helped quite a lot by his merrymaking minions, Alan Chapman (musical director and comedy songwriter/singer), Eddie Pepitone (sidekick/flunky/resident punching bag), Stefanae (yes, stef uh nay) Zamarano and Jim Earl.  Others who also contribute regularly (as part of the Clutter Family) are Rick Overton, Jimmy Dore, Jane Edith Wilson and Ron Babcock.  Each week, one or two guests add their voices to the scripted portion of the show as well as a possible interview segment.

As far as the written part of the show goes (and this is for both the cold open by Feldman and the scripted multi-character segment for the cast) the jokes contained therein aren't usually the kind that if you read them on paper you'd laugh out loud.  You might say to yourself, "That's funny."  You might smile a bit or let out a small heh heh.  What makes this show laugh-out-loud funny for me, and what brings me back every week, isn't the "ripped from the very old headlines" stories that are stuffed to overflowing with double entendres and homocentric potty humor.  It's the voices.  The often deadpan sound of a cold reading from the guests who laugh in their lines, the voice of reason and calm that comes from Feldman reading meta jokes he isn't completely convinced about, the whiny snagglepuss of Alan Chapman as David's "wife" in their crossover (home life/podlife) relationship and finally, and most importantly, the completely manic histrionics of Eddie Pepitone.

Ah, Pepitone.  In this show, used in this way, he is genius.  I'm convinced (but just barely) that he should not carry his own show.  30 minutes of straight Eddie would border on too much Eddie,  but in this show, he is the topping that turns soft serve into a sundae.  Without Eddie, you've got ice cream.  Everybody likes ice cream, but I really love a good sundae.

My two favorite shows so far were almost 100% scripted plays.  The first was when guest Patton Oswalt appeared.  The show was a send-up of 70's sitcoms.  The gag was that Patton, as a kid, had starred in a show called "Patton Pending".  This show was "blow Pepsi out your nose" funny in multiple places and Peppitone played the part of a wizened, forest-dwelling uncle dispensing advice and odd suggestions to the young Patton ( but I swear that for at least a week I thought the part had been played by Richard Kind).  I nearly peed my pants at one point and I hadn't done that since I saw the mime telling the eponymous joke in Paul Provenza's movie "The Aristocrats" start to work over the small imaginary dog in the act.

My second most fav was the Changeling episode with Paul Provenza as the Chief of Police.  Rather than a child being abducted, it was Eddie the sidekick.  The super effective, talented and well loved replacement Eddie (following the plot of the movie) was nearly as funny as the real  moronic, oafish and odorous Eddie. It wasn't pee-my-pants funny, but it was well-written, mostly well-performed and had those moments during the play when the actors crack each other up that I've always thought allows the audience into the joke as conspirators rather than as mere spectators and makes the entire experience more than just watching a funny skit.

I wish more podcasts were like David Feldman's Comedy podcast.  I think episodic, podcast teleplays (podiplays? pladipods?)  are liked by people who look for podcasts to listen to.  Such shows could potentially do that thing that advertisers sooooo slobber for, namely, bring receptive listeners back to the same place over and over again and make them great targets for commercials.  The first show that I want that to happen for: "Patton Pending".  I know it's a send up "one-off" show, but I want to hear as many episodes of that show as they can write.  But next time I'll pee before I listen.

My rating scale
Is this podcast entertaining? - Yes, oh yes
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – I do every week
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – Without reservation

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Podiwan Review 15 - Comedy Film Nerds

The Comedy Film Nerds are Graham Elwood (@grahamelwood) and Chris Mancini (@myopicprod).  They're comics and filmmakers and they do a podcast that involves both of those things.  Graham and Chris invite a (usually) well known comedian or new media personality and then they discuss movies (new and old), DVD releases, trailers, movie posters and pretty much all things movie.  Since the podcast runs about an hour, they also horse around a little and talk about friends, other stand ups, places they've worked and the state of comedy in general.  Though they aren't always funny (who among us is) they are generally good tempered, quick witted and willing to participate in bad puns, anecdotal meanderings and the occasional sidebar that could take a while to know if it will pay off or not.

There are only about 16 or 17 shows available for download at present so the show is basically new.  Based on that newness and without checking dates (or generally doing some homework) I'd have to say that this show is very much like Jordan, Jesse, GO! coming out of Canada.  JJG has over a hundred shows and Comedy Film Nerds is a near copy except that they discuss movies as a focus and JJG does so only occasionally.  Both shows are hosted by two stand up comics.  Both shows have guests from the stand up community.  Both shows feel very much the same in their conversational style (though you have to get used to the "ahboots" with JJG).  The biggest difference other than the focus is that Comedy Film Nerds is funnier and more entertaining.  I've laughed while listening to CFN but I have not done that with JJG.  And without making this review too much about Jordan, Jesse, GO! (too late) I would say that even if JJG isn't particularly bad, it isn't particularly good either. It's listenable and mild but not really engrossing.  You can listen to it on a drive and it won't draw too much of your attention away from driving, but it isn't so boring that you fall asleep and kill a family on vacation unlucky enough to be in oncoming traffic.

Back to Comedy Film Nerds.  OK, usually the best parts about most comedy podcasts are the guests. This is especially true of CFN.  Though Graham is consistently entertaining and funny, he's better with a funny guest to bounce with.  The show has hosted a fair number of big names in it's short run including; Paul F Tomkins, Doug Benson, Mike Schmidt, Chris Hardwick, David Feldman and Jimmy Dore.  That's a pretty nice list of friends and an impressive list of guests.

While reviewing movies, trailers, directors, and whatever else is connected to moviedom, they recognize no sacred cows which is a little strange given that they are also acclaimed film makers (Oscar nominated I believe as well as Smithsonian recognized).  You'd think that if they had hopes of getting something into production any time soon, they might be a bit more politic about the things they say, but, refreshingly, they are not. Either they don't care who hears it, or they're unaware of how many people DO hear it.  CFN has been, since its first episode, in the top downloads list on iTunes for comedy podcasts.  Some of that is due to the dismal pickings for new comedy podcasts, but also certainly, some of it is due to the show being entertaining.

I only have a couple of gripes about the show at this point in their development.  The first gripe is that it took them so long to figure out that they needed to have a guest.  Without a guest, they are just exactly as boring as Jordan, Jesse, GO! With a guest,.. funny.  Without,.. boring.  With, Funny.  That's a lesson to everybody else.  Know it now so you don't have to stumble on it later. 

But they know it now so let's judge them now.

First gripe and this is admittedly picayune; in every show so far there have been conversational strings or moments that just drag on and on  and on and on before they find a way out.  I feel their pain and understand that sometimes it is hard to recover from a dead end.  I would only suggest that they see it sooner and bail rather than sticking with it until the bitter end we all see coming.  Second gripe; the sound quality was a little poor until they just recently got a sound board  and some better mics in the "world headquarters and garage" studio.  If I was going to do a podcast with more than one person speaking, the first thing I might consider after I found a person to the be the "other", a guest for us to talk to and a place for us to do that, might be a decent sound recording set up including multiple mics, a multichannel board and a way to keep the outside noises,... outside.  Other than that, I have no complaints.  It ain't the funniest thing on pod, but it is worth listening to.  And the line up of guests puts it on my list of weekly "listen-tos".

My Rating Scale
Was I Entertained? Yes, usually.
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? Yes, probably.
Will I recommend this podcast to a friend? Yes, most likely.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Podiwan Review 14 - Never Not Funny (Pardcast)

Never Not Funny with Jimmy Pardo is, as the title suggests, never not funny, or at least not very often not funny.  Jimmy's podcast has been called the holy grail of podcasts and essential listening for podcasters and civilians alike.  Without offending our brothers in the middle east, Jimmy's show is the Mecca that stand-ups turn to face everyday.

Hmmm,. too much hyperbole? 
OK, so the show isn't going to cure cancer or create world peace.  I don't even think it's the best podcast on the net (though many other people do), but I do like it and here's why.

Jimmy is funny. Usually
Jimmy has great guests who trust and respect him. Mostly
There is such a back log of shows to listen to that you could listen for a long time without running out. Definitely

Here's what I don't like.
If you want to hear the whole show, you have to pay actual money. I know,.. it sucks.  I'm poor and I don't pay for podcasts. I'm just not going to do it. Even if I had money, just on principal I'm not going to pay for pod. And yes, I know that since I only get to hear 24 of the 90 minutes the show usually lasts that I'm missing a lot of show.  Does Jimmy have a right to try and make a living?  Yes.  Does he have a right to monetize his show the way he wants to? Yes.  Does this model suck? Yes. He's right and it sucks.  Both are true.

Hey, Jimmy!  Find a fucking sponsor or twelve.  Don't tell me you can't find somebody to foot the bill for the show because you want to be offensive or use colorful language.  SModcast is sponsored by Fleshlight for god's sake.  Mike Schmidt has some programmer in the UK sponsoring segments of his show and nobody says fuck more than Mike (somebody call Guinness and we'll check).  Enough people listen to Never Not Funny (NNF) that you can support ads.  If Howard Stern taught us anything, he taught us that you cannot offend advertisers.  You mention their names and they get business.  Even if you say shitty things about them.  Even if you mention horrible stuff before and after their ads.  NNF reaches a lot of people.  You can do ads.  Stop with the fucking memberships for listening to the whole show.

Other than that, maybe this show is the holy grail of podcasts.  Every stand-up in the business does this show.  Most people who listen to comedy podcasts listen to Never Not Funny and Pardo is generally regarded as one of the funniest hosts and quickest wits behind a mic. The show is considered a "Must-Listen" on every list of the best podcasts (some people may be copying the lists instead of doing the work, but...)

The Jimmy Pardo style of interview isn't groundbreaking.  It's just comics talking.  Jimmy asks some set up questions but mostly they talk. And yes, Jimmy can talk too much.  It sort of goes with the territory.  He wouldn't be a stand up if he didn't like to talk and tell jokes.  He doesn't often step on his guests but when he does I have felt the urge to reach through my ear buds and put my hand over his mouth until the guest has finished a complete sentence.  Just one complete sentence would be enough.  But Pardo's mind moves at a higher pace than many so I can see that he sees the end of the statement coming and just jumps to it rather than wait the 2 or 3 seconds it'll take to get there naturally.  I do it too. I understand it. But that doesn't make it easier to sit for, but sitting for it is easier than waiting for a slow mouthed guest to finish (I'd step on them, too). In the end, it's a matter of style and that's a style I can live with because I do, every day.

My rating scale

Is this podcast entertaining? - Yes
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – As soon as I run out of Nerdist and the Bugle
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – I have and I will

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Podiwan Review 13 - Bill Burr's Monday Morning Podcast

I've been putting this one off for a while now. There are several reason for it like; I blew out my knee and I wasn't feeling like writing a review, or I keep looking for new podcasts that I like and end up spending a lot of time going back to old fav's because I'm not liking many lately, but most of all, I didn't want to judge Bill Burr's Monday Morning Podcast too soon or too harshly.  Like another review I posted recently, I wanted to like Bill's podcast because I've liked his stand up act.  Mostly he's funny.  Usually, he's acerbic.  And absolutely always, he's a pissy Irish guy from Boston or Philly or some such place with a fuck load of drunk Irish guys picking fights with non Irish types and generally pissing on stuff because somebody else likes it.  Don't get me wrong, I don't mind that part of it.  The truth is that sometimes I like that, ..sometimes.  I'm not Irish (much), but I am pissy most of the time and I like to see others with my affliction just so I don't feel so alone on the planet.

But his podcast is not his stand up and I'm not reviewing stand up.

Bill does his podcast, as the title suggests, Monday morning.  Since he's a comic, his weekends are filled with stage appearances around the country doing an act that he admits is filthy and can run towards mean.  Most of us know what Monday morning feels like and I assume that it's worse for a guy who works late nights in places filled with drinks, drunks, smoke and assholes.  On Monday morning, he's back at home and he does the podcast with every bit of that weekend effecting his mood and demeanor. 

The "studio" for his recording is his apartment and I assume that since he occasionally mentions that he's walking around that he's just plugging a wireless head set mic combo into a computer and recording like that.  That's as tech as it gets.  The sound quality is mostly OK though sometimes the levels are off but this is the wild west in podcast years and though some may have big fancy studios, most have a room, a mic and a computer,... so Bill is right on par.

Bill's show is a one man dialog.  Just him, no help, no guests, no regulars, no callers. Sometimes its a rant.  Sometimes its a diatribe and sometimes, sadly, it is simply a waste of time.  By Bill's own reckoning, some shows are shit and he's fighting internally with whether or not to keep it or erase it and start over.  I listened to 5 shows (picked randomly from the list available on iTunes) and in two of those shows Bill tells the listener several times how sucky the show is and how much he wants to start over and how many times he already has.  In a third show that he didn't like he kept saying how tired he was  and used the shortage of sleep as an excuse for why he thought the show was so bad.  Hint: If you want people to like something, don't tell them how bad it is.  Tell'em you're on fire and this is the greatest shit since shit started coming in brown tube shapes.

Thing is, though, it wasn't as bad as he kept saying it was, except for the fact that he kept saying it. It wasn't good, but it wasn't the horrendous crapfest that he kept telling me it was.  The complaint had that irritating whininess that you sometimes hear from somebody who's good at art saying to anybody who is in the room how they're no good at art and it sucks and they don't really like it and waa waa waa and,... you know what?  I don't give a fuck.  If you don't like it, don't show anybody. If you show it, accept that it might die on it's own but it could be great.  So Bill, if you don't like the podcast, erase it or archive it for later so you can use it for ideas or inspiration or whatever, but really, stop the fucking complaining about how bad the podcast is.  Let the listeners judge it on their own.  As a listener, I judge that that is the worst part of your podcast.

Most of the other shows I listen to and review are group efforts or buddy shows.  Some have guests, some have games, etc.  The only other one man show I've listened to enough to review is Mike Schmidt's 40 Year Old Boy podcast.  They're a little the same thing but mostly not.  Mike's is a stream of consciousness monologue with the kind of hyper enthusiasm that borders on mania and Bill's is a guy talking to a headset while his energy is low on the Monday after a weekend of shows.  Mike's is self loathing humor (emphasis on humor) and Bill's is self aggrandizing venting with not much in the way of humor (considering that he's a comic).  Mike will tell a story including every single painful detail in tangents and asides while maintaining the through line of the story and I listen intently to every syllable with interest and laughter.  Bill tells a bitch fest about another comic that pisses him off for not following the unwritten rules of stand up or some guy carrying a purse (man bag) and getting made fun of by large drunk Irish pricks who might fight at any moment (but don't) and I find it hard to care because the more I listen, the more I think of Bill as a racist, homophobic, misogynist who I would find it difficult to stand and converse with for more than a few minutes without just telling him to fuck off. (for the record, I'm white, straight and married with kids).

In the second half of each podcast, Bill answers viewer email and gives advice.  On five shows out of five, the letters were from dicks asking dicky things in dicky ways and Bill's advice was perfectly suited to that audience, that level a maturity and that point of evolution.  In real life, I avoid people like this because it's just too hard to keep from saying how disappointing they are as humans.  This is the group that Bill appeals to in the podcast.  I don't know Bill so this is just a guess based only on listening to 5 recordings of him talking to a mic on Monday morning, but I'd say his demographic is spot on.

Of course, as I said earlier, it isn't all bad, but even the stuff that wasn't bad, wasn't particularly good.  That isn't reason enough to listen when there are other choices  (even limited choice is choice) available.  If you're really into Bill Burr, there's only one Bill Burr podcast on Monday Morning and you can get it at iTunes or Bill's website.  However, if you have a standard that includes being genuinely enthusiastic about listening to the show then this probably isn't the weekly feed for you.

  Usually, when asked for advice about what to do with a life, a wizened elder says follow your passion.  It's why writers write, singers sing and artists art.  They're driven to it.  They would do it even if they weren't getting paid.  Comics are the same way. They need to get up on stage and do that thing called stand up.  It's cathartic.  It's standing in the glow of love. It's adulation and high wire walking rolled into one.  It's a lot of things and different to all, but they all need to do it.  I don't think Bill needs to do the podcast in the same way that he needs to do comedy or in the way that the Chris Hardwick (@nerdist) needs to do his Nerdist podcast or @KevinPollak needs to do his chat show.  These guys, and others like them, are driven to do it. They need it and even when it isn't going well, they love it, try to save it, fix it, turn it around and make it entertaining. They fight for it and they never tell me how much it sucks.  I'm not really sure why Bill does the podcast.  I don't think he enjoys it.  It doesn't seem like he's having fun or that he really has stuff he needs to say to listeners, issues that need expressing, open wounds that need to be cleaned.  In fact, I get the feeling that when he gets up on Monday morning, there's a voice in his brain saying, "Crap.  I have to do the fucking podcast again."

So Bill, I'm letting you off the hook.  You don't have to do it if you dont' want to.  This is America and everybody has the right to not do a podcast if that's how they feel.

My Rating Scale
Was I Entertained? mostly not
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? no, not really
Will I recommend this podcast to a friend? only if I bump into a person in that demo.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Podiwan Review 12 - Adam Carolla Podcast

The podcast universe was made for Adam Carolla.  When CBS let him go he hit the ground running and hasn't looked back.  My numbers may be a little off but as I heard it, the first three days of his podcast had 100,000 - 250,000 and 500,000 downloads respectively.  I don't know what his numbers are day to day but let's say he competes with networks and gets an audience share that would generate enormous advertising dollars in any major US market.

OK, so Carolla is big time radio talk come to pod.  He was personally anointed by Howard Stern hissef as the heir to the throne when Stern headed to Sirius. He gets whoever he wants and says whatever he wants on his show, in his studio, which is in his world.  Being a force of nature, he's a dominating force in any conversation. He's also typically funny (though not funnier than his stand up guests) and he has an opinion about everything.  I know that  last one sounds like I'm saying something bad about him but I'm not.  The fact is, everybody has opinions about everything.  It's just that most people don't express every opinion without regard to collateral damage.  Most of us can't do that because collateral damage would blow back on us.  You can't scare Adam with that because he's pretty genuine when he says he couldn't give a rat's ass.  He has a trade.  He was in construction once.  He can fucking do it again.  So if the most you've got to hang over his head is that he may have to actually work again for a living, you got nothing.

So what about podcast?
OK, it's a lot like Stern's old show, Stern's new show and Carolla's old show on CBS.  You get a lot in the way of opinion, ranting, pontification and story telling.  I like the story telling and the opinionifying, and I understand the pontification as I'm prone to that as well.  But unlike Stern's rants, Carolla's rants are the kind that if I was in the room, I'd actually be afraid of some shit hitting the fan.  He's a big guy (yeah, I know, Stern is tall, but he doesn't come off as "Big") and he has some crazy in him.  I'm 6'2" and go 235.  I can make with the loudness and the posturing that makes people cringe and find a place to hide and I know how easy it is to go from feigned anger as a comedic device to full on wide eyed, spit spraying crazy in the blink of an eye (a crazy eye).  Apparently, so does Adam.  During one of the shows I listened to recently, Adam  was happily tooling along in a low key rant about the Santa Barbara Parking Police (meter maids) and how one particular meter maid interrupted a short segment on KTLA's local news and started writing tickets for about 10 cars.  OK, it was clearly a stupid thing for the lady to be doing but the more Adam went up the food chain on this situation the louder he got until as he's short stroking the process for getting a ticket dismissed, how much it cost, how long it takes and how nobody is every going to do that so they just pay the fucking ticket and that's how Santa Barbara gets you.  At this point, Carolla is foaming at the mouth and screaming for this woman to be crucified.  He may actually be fomenting a crime if one of his listeners decides to "rid me of this turbulent priest".  (Too literal?  OK. Carolla says, not actually meaning it, that somebody should do such and such about this woman and somebody, a listener, a fan, thinking Carolla's serious and will really appreciate and reward such a thing, does thus and so to the meter maid.)

So that's my only knock on Carolla; the ranting.  I'm not fond of it in any radio or podcast when it turns to the scary anger type of thing. Going on a tear is good radio.  Drilling home a point like Lewis Black is funny, but crazy is just scary and it usually makes people step back.  The air waves and the Internet streams have enough of that from the fundamental righties and lefties.  For folks in the middle, which is mostly where Adam seems to be, we don't need so much vitriol to make the point of pointless frustration and stupidity in our social machinery.  Luckily, it is a place not often visited by Carolla.

Adam is a good interviewer in that it doesn't really seem like an interview so much as a conversation.  I've said this before and it seems to be a consistant theme with me.  I'm not fond of "interviews" since anymore they seem to be soooo prepared and predictable.  The big name shows use a formula that works for the networks because it delivers nice little bit sized chunks of TV that can be book ended with commercials.  The segment producers asks the guests before the show what they want to talk about and the host works from that list. That way, the guest has prepared stuff to talk about already vetted and ready to go.  It's canned, it's boring and we've all heard it enough time to feel it coming from a mile off.  Then we tune out and go to a far away place in our thoughts.  Which is kinda not the point.

So it's refreshing that Adam doesn't do that.  I don't know if that was a conscious decision or if, since he'd really rather not do the prep work, Adam just wings it.  Either way, it's all same same for me.  At least we don't get some SNL cast off saying, "So, what's this I hear about you and the Santa Barbara Police Department?.." setting up a story for the guest to do in 3 minutes and then break for a commercial.

As far as guests go, every actor with a SAG card or stand up who has done a 30 minute set at the Laugh Factory or musician who's band has sold a million copies of something has been on the couch with Adam.  I'm sure he has a list of "gets" that he'd like to fill and hasn't yet, but seriously, if you can think of their name and they do radio chat type shows, he's probably had them on.  Shows range a bit, time wise, but usually run about 90 minutes and he does 4 or 5 shows a week. Some of the podcasts available on iTunes are just the guest segments of some shows so they are obviously shorter.  Also, there are times when Adam and crew aren't there and a friend sits in.  Those days are usually treats for the listener.  These folks are doing Adam's show they're not Adam Carolla so I'm not reviewing them. (but, just so you know, my favorite was Larry Miller.  Kevin Nealon was a close second.)

The regulars on the show and in the studio are; long time friend and partner in crime Bryan Bishop and, the one time host of "While You Were Out", Teresa Strasser.  Bishop is a capable side kick and foil for when guests are either late or missing or Adam just wants to hang for a while.  Strasser, as the news girl, provides conversational fodder ripped from today's headlines.  Both Bryan and Teresa are there to help fill up the air; they do a fine job of it and complement Adam's style.  But really, without Carolla, nobody would be listening these cometent but average two people.  I'm sure they're nice people but really, they just carry the water while Adam carries the show.

My Rating Scale
Was I Entertained? Yes, most of the time
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? Yes, I listen to several shows a week
Will I recommend this podcast to a friend? I have and I will

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Podiwan Review 11 - The 40 Year Old Boy

The 40 Year Old Boy Podcast is billed as a stream of consciousness rant or maybe it's a spewing or perhaps an exorcism.  Stream of consciousness doesn't even come close to describing what Mike Schmidt (@the 40 year old boy) is doing.  I've listened to several of the podcasts that Mike has available on iTunes (all from season 3). It looks like he does these weekly and  I'm pretty sure he does this instead of therapy.  Clearly he needs therapy but luckily for us, he does it publicly. 

I don't know that I could take being around Mike every day or all day or any more than the 90 minutes that his show lasts but for that extended time that I've got him in my ears, it is non stop follow the bouncing ball in a room full of bouncing balls and mouse traps and rattle snakes and the occaisional hand grenades.  He calls it random bullshit and I can't argue with him but it is entertaining random bullshit. 

Mike has no filter on his internal monologue.  Everything becomes external just as soon as it's generated.  I'm trying to imagine Mike's filter and I picture it like this; There's a screen door on the back of an old house in the country and nobody lives there anymore.  The wind and the animals have been abusing this building for years and now the door swings freely on the one remaining hinge, smacking the door frame with a loud swak when the wind is just right.  And the screen on the door is now just remnants of screen around the edges of the frame with a gaping hole right through the middle.  That's his filter; a sad, useless remnant; a reminder that some people, in fact most people, have these filters but Mike's no longer keeps the flies, or even the livestock from entering the kitchen and crapping all over the place.

In a recent episode that clocked in at the normal hour and a half, Mike covered just three subjects: an English contortionist and escapologist who was staying with his producer and resembles Russell Brand,  being called a pig while eating at a Denny's after helping a friend move apartments, and going nuts at a post office and then returning minutes later to get the correct package.  All of these things are connected in one long evacuation .  Don't ask me how they're connected but take my word for it, they are.  And in the telling of it, I can't say that I recall Mike ever taking a breath.  I'm pretty sure he'd need an internal oxygen supply or to be a practitioner of circular breathing in order to do that much talking without stopping for air.  I talk a lot and really fast and I can't do what he can do.  It's like crack talk from beginning to end.

I listened to three 40 Year Old Boy podcasts over a period of a few days. They are the kind of podcasts that you can put down for a while and then come back to later when you've got the time.  You'll pretty much remember where you were and it doesn't make a lot of difference anyway.  The story Mike's telling is waaaay not the point.  The way that he's telling it is the thing you want to witness.  It's like when I was a kid and my dad would take us to the carnival.  His favorite thing to do was to head for the side shows and stand there watching and listening to the barkers and pitchmen.  It was an art form that amazed and enthralled him.  My dad couldn't explain it anymore than I can explain why I can stand dumbfounded, staring off into nowhere with ear buds in my head while I try to follow Mike through this week's therapy. It's kind of a train wreck or a public hanging or like poking a dead animal with a stick.  You can't say why you're doing it but that's not really gonna stop you either.

If I had to pick something about the 40 Year Old Boy podcast that I didn't like it would have to be the girl squealing with delight in the background throughout the entire show.  I assume that the female in question is Lili Von Schtupp, Mike's friend, producer and the creator of her own adult based shows and podcasts.  I'm glad that somebody is laughing for Mike as there is no audience during the recording and I think he needs the feedback to fuel him as he drives to, over and through the comedy.  But the laughing, crying and squealing  is constant and quite often inexplicable.  Not everything is funny and certainly not funny enough to make me pee in my pants or stop breathing or have the sort of seizure that this woman is clearly having.  What's worse, it's annoying.  It's distracting and from time to time, I found myself drifting away from what Mike was saying in order to concentrate on the histrionics of Ms Von Schtupp. Some of the laughing is ok just not all of it. Obviously, she's hitting the bong a little too hard but maybe she could just leave the room once in a while and let the listeners have a break from the cackling sobbing giggle from the girl in the corner. 

My Rating Scale
Was I  Entertained?  Yes
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast?  Yes
Will I recommend this podcast to a friend?  You bet.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Podiwan Review 10 – Joe Rogan

This review was posted 5/21/10.  A newer, more up to date review was recently posted on 6/18/11. READ IT

Let me start by saying that in general I like Joe Rogan.  I've seen him do his stand up live and I've watched him on comedy central. I remember him from NewsRadio and his color commentary for UFC MMA fights.  Joe puts on a good show.  He writes good bits and there is an economy to his stand up that bespeaks a guy who has honed his craft to the point where he doesn't make rookie mistakes.  It isn't always laugh out loud funny but it usually comes from a reasonable point of view and there is humor to be had.

That being said, I was really disappointed in the Joe Rogan Podcast.  It wasn't often funny and it was almost never anymore interesting than listening to a couple of guys talk about shit.  Any two guys about any kind of shit.  No real point, no real direction and the only point of view seems to be "The Vast Conspiracy" that Rogan subscribes to that involves just about everybody from the government, to corporations, to individuals, to cabals of every size, type and description.  It was really sad that the only times these conversations became even remotely interesting, Rogan was driving at high speed into tin foil hat territory with a death grip on the wheel and his eyes set to "crazy wide".

Readers of this blog may remember that when discussing Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier's SModcast, I described it as just two guys talking about shit.  The enormously important difference between Rogan's podcast and Smith's SModcast is that Smodcast is funny through and through, interesting front to back, is usually about something.  Also, and pretty damn importantly, SModcast steers clear of "bat shit crazy".  Rogan's show is or does none of those things.  My brain hurt when I got done listening to the last one.  I'm at the point now where I kinda doubt I will ever have interest in listening to Rogan's podcast again.  However, if you are the kind of person who subscribes to every wacko conspiracy out there and you don't require a logical through line on your commentary, you will probably like this show.

Rogan has 21 podcasts posted on iTunes and I listened to 5.  I really wanted to give him a chance.  I really wanted to like it because I like him. But the podcasts were, at best boring and at worst cringe inducing and made me question my opinion of Rogan in general.  It reminds me of the early days of cable access when anybody with a camera and a basement felt like they could make a show even if they didn't have a point of view or anything interesting to say.  A lot of those shows just weren't worth doing.

And this isn't to say that Joe doesn't have a point of view.  On the website for his podcast he blogs well and often.  Sometimes it's funny (he is after all a comedian) and sometimes it's a full blown rant, but there's always a point of view.  And that adds to my disappointment and confusion about his podcast as the show was just stoners being boring, ill informed or crazy.

On a technical note, Joe has audio/video equipment and computer hardware/software issues.  Some of the difficulty stems from the fact that Mr. Rogan may be smoking just a little too much pot to be fully functional.  Also, it may be that he just doesn't give a shit.  He seems to have all of the microphones, computers, cameras and streaming software he needs and his friend Brian Redban is usually there to help with it all.  But even together, their grasp of the tech isn't really up to snuff when something goes wrong (and something went wrong on nearly every show I listened to.)

My Rating Scale
Did I enjoy it - BIG NO
Would I listen to the next one - Seems unlikely
Would I recommend it to a friend - nope, sorry.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Podiwan Review 9 – Fitzdog Radio

Fitzdog Radio is Greg Fitzsimmons (@GregFitzShow) done from the Fitzdog studios in Venice, CA (his garage, I think, but that’s kinda normal for podcasters). I first heard of him listening to Marc Maron. I don’t know enough about their history together and I’m not all that interested but I think they used to work together and do not or cannot anymore. Since Marc was on a satellite radio show, I’m gonna assume that Fitz was too. Feel free to correct me at any time and I’ll update this blog. But I ain't doing homework.

Greg is a better interviewer than Marc Maron mostly because I think he listens to what the responder says and he may even be interested in the response (or at least he can fake it with a Porn Star) whereas I’m almost positive the Marc Maron couldn’t give a shit what the answer is since he’s really only waiting for your mouth to stop moving so that he can start his again. (and you know, as long as it’s funny, it’s OK, even if it is insensitive and rude.  Funny is king. ) Anyway, this isn’t about Maron. Greg isn’t always funnier than Maron but he is a better interviewer and he has better manners.

One knock on the show is a technical problem.  The compression they're using in post is making the sound tinny. That won't make a big difference to most, but I work with audio sometimes and it matters to me.  I think they need to back off the compression just a bit and fix the levels in his little studio (garage) so that the sound doesn't bang so hard. Another knock is that the sponsor plugs for go on for way too long.  I understand that the show is free and the reason it stays free is advertisers and keeping the lights on with sponsor money is as old as radio so one can't really knock it too much.  Just, let's try to keep the plugs shorter than full on bits.  Also, Fitzdog is looking at going to a pay for play format like some of the other podcasters trying to find a way to monitize the medium.  There are enough free things to listen to for me to stay filled up so, if it goes that way, Fitzy would lose me, but he has enough loyal followers that at least he could pay his rent.

All 44 episodes of Fitzdog Radio are available for download at iTunes. There is a new ep every week and the shows are variously from 25 to 55 minutes. The current library of shows only goes back to last August (when he discontinued working with Maron, I think)

Is this podcast entertaining? - Mostly
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – depends upon the guests listed
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – considering it

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Podiwan Review 8 – Comedy Death-Ray Radio Podcast

Comedy Death-Ray (CDR) co-creator Scott Aukerman started hosting "Comedy Death-Ray Radio" on Indie 103.1 as a weekly radio program.  Aukerman interviews many of the comedians who regularly appear in the live CDR shows. These one-hour broadcasts are later archived as podcasts that are available on iTunes. The show is a virtual who’s who of stand up comedy, comedy writers and new media comedy producers. If they’re in the business, they’ll end up on Aukerman’s show. Since the sit down interview is done in a studio, there is no audience interaction, it’s just one-on-one with the guest(s).  Occasionally co-hosts, like Aziz Ansari(@azizansari) show up and help out. CDR Radio shows are decidedly low-key, unlike the live Comedy Death-Ray Show’s held at the UCB in LA which are raucous affairs with interplay between audience and players. Because the radio interview is done live on Indie 103.1, Aukerman is able to take phone calls and web questions for the guests.  That's almost never funny (but that's not exclusive to this show).  It's a device as old as talk radio and really just helps to burn time and move things along when the host runs out of convo.  It feels a little lazy but everybody does it so I can't really hang Aukerman for it. 

Usually, when I select something to listen to and it has the word "Comedy" in the title, I’m leery about actual the actual comedic content in the same way that I doubt a place called "tasty food".  Funny folks don’t usually have to title their projects with words like funny or comedy. So I went into CDR with a little chip on my shoulder and expecting disappointment. I listened to three shows (my minimum for a review). Show 35 with Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon and Brett Gelman, Show 21 with Chris Hardwick, Charlyne Yi and Seth Morris, and Show 2 with Aziz Ansari and Kevin Nealon.  All 3 shows were funny and engaging (except that Charlyne Yi was kinda odd, maybe stoned of just not my flavor of weird).  But, I was left wishing that it had been, oh, I don't know,... more.  It was like ordering desert in a restaurant known for really good deserts.  It comes to the table, looks great, has all the right parts to make it perfect.  There's room in my stomach for more food, I'm in the mood for desert and I eat it with gusto.  But when I'm done, it was just a desert.  Is that a shortcoming with me or the show?  Hard to say. CDR Podcast has all of the right cream and chocolate jimmies in the right places.  The crust is well made and the filling is professionally created.  But I've eaten truly spactacular deserts before and I was hoping for more.

My rating scale
Is this podcast entertaining? - Yes, I admit it, I was entertained

Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – I have more, I'll probably listen
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – I guardedly mentioned it to one friend

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Now This,... about That

I originally intended that my reviews of podcasts and other new media material would only include shows that had been created exclusively for web distribution (as opposed to shows that were produced for TV or Radio and then ported to podcast). Well, that sounded like a noble idea at the time and I’ve made serious attempts to find those kinds of shows. But here’s the rub; most of the "web only" material is either not worth listening to or it is delivered as snippets of stuff and used as inducements to purchase expanded media. (There’s a lot of that.) Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais and even John Cleese are more worried about monetizing their pod contributions by releasing tasty bits and then selling longer pieces. It’s their right. It’s their stuff. And all of them are making a ton of money. But I’m not paying for pod.  If I ever have a budget for paying, maybe I’ll take a look at them and let you know. I think it’s safe to assume that all three of the ones just mentioned would be funny and entertaining, but don’t assume that all of the ones you have to pay for are funny just because you paid for them. Caveat Podae Emptor. (pod buyer beware)

I will continue to look for the funny.  And, since I personally find it more frustrating than entertaining to listen to short stuff, the reviews I do will be for shows or casts that run at least a half hour.  I'm going to, for the time being stay away from anybody who does a 4 hour "Drive Time" show every day.  I'm not interested in Morning Zoo radio and I hope you're not either. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Podiwan Review 7 – WTF with Marc Maron

NYC to Southern California transplant (and soon to be moving back to NYC) Marc Maron is completely neurotic. Not in the socially crippled and emotionally dysfunctional manner of Woody Allan or George Costanza but more like every other person you know who has one or two issues, except that Marc has all of them. As fodder for his WTF podcast, whatever issue Marc is currently stressing over you can be sure that he will rant on it for as long as necessary to make sure that every last drop of festering ooze is expressed. The points are usually cogent, coherent and well written (or at least well organized) and sometimes while not outright funny, they are at the very least amusing. Recently he has been proactively trying to be a “better human” so many of his issues come with the caveat that this is "his problem" with the world, not the "world’s problem" and he has to do a better job of dealing with it. During the opening portion of the show while Marc is monologue-ing, don’t expect a lot of laughs but do expect that you will recognize his talking point as relevant to your life. As soon as he finishes that you’ll get to hear from his guest.  Sometimes the guests are in his home studio but more often they are interviewed remotely via studio hookup or telephone. His connections in the comedy world allow him to grab fairly high profile A and B list comics for one on one interviews that don't seem like interviews; they're just conversations. Depending upon the chemistry it can either be very funny or downright painful but the balance almost always tips towards entertaining. After the guest interview, Marc calls his father, a practicing physician in New York. The father son banter is refreshing in that these two guys who seem to genuinely like and respect each other and only happen to be related.

70 episodes in the library averaging about an hour each, all available at itunes and and you can follow him @marcmaron.

My rating scale
Is this podcast entertaining? - Mostly
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – 50/50
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – not yet but probably someday

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Podiwan Review 6 – The Bugle

The completely funny faux news style banter fest and one-upmanship contest of the Bugle is to podcasts what the Daily Show with Jon Stewart is to basic cable. And that is completely appropriate because one of the stars of the Bugle is Daily Show Senior British Correspondent, John Oliver. Together with his buddy across the pond, Andy Zaltzman, the Bugle buggers politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Oliver works from a studio in the US and is forbidden to leave until his visa is processed. Zaltzman is at the Times Studio in London. But it feels like they’re in the same room with each other as they try to crack each other up while reading news break downs and cultural reportage through a filter of satire and FU commentary. It moves very quickly and you may find yourself re-listening to make sure you didn’t miss something. My favorite of the two is Oliver because he makes me laugh more, but I’m pretty sure that Oliver’s favorite of the two is his podcast partner and school days friend inasmuch as Zaltzman is fully capable of causing Oliver to blow milk out of his nose with a bawdy metaphor or prolonged description that goes so far down a very wrong road that Oliver very nearly stops breathing.

I follow British politics and several news and political humor (humour) podcasts so I’m not as lost as some might be at times as the show spends about half of the time submerged in British and World politics/popular culture.  The average American seems to be less than interested in knowing what happens outside our borders or anywhere for that matter.  But the Bugle is a good way to get some news on the world in teh same what that the Daily Show has become the number one news source for most folks in the 25 to 39 demographic.

 There are 113 podcasts in the library but currently only numbers #85 through #113 are available for download at iTunes but all 113 of them are available at the Times Online.

My rating scale
Is this podcast entertaining? - Yes - quite
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – Yes, oh yes
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – 3 Times, just today.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Podiwan Review 5 – Nerdist

The totally plugged in and constantly available on every podcast known to man nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick ( @nerdist ) is a charming host and an expert snark. He knows everybody in the business including Weird Al Yankovic @alyankovic and Thomas Lennon @thomaslennon (Officer Dangle from Reno 911) and, 'get of gets', he got Stan Lee on a recent podcast doing a Q & A at the NAB in Las Vegas. He does especially well with quick witted people whose minds are razor sharp and amphetamine fast and willing to go way down the path to make a premise pay off. EPs run about an hour and are sitting in the living room comfortable with one or two guests.

True to Nerdist ideals the talk centers on tech but quickly devolves to comedy, popular culture, food, pitch meetings and the issues of writing comedy. My favorite episode was Adam Savage @donttrythis from the Mythbusters TV show. This EP was done in front of a live audience (at UCB, I think) and Savage did his first ever stand up and killed. I was never not interested. Least favorite was the Muppets. It seemed staged (duh) and lacked the rapier repartee that I enjoy most about Hardwick.  However, it was interesting enough to listen to all the way through.

Hardwick also tours doing stand up, recently opening for Joel McHale (the Soup). There are days when the nerdist earns the Explicit warning label at iTunes willingly using marine style language to bludgeon the conversational subject into submission, but mostly, his command of the language allows him to work only slightly blue. He’s a sharp guy and the podcast educates and challenges the listener.  Then, as a payoff for the work, it also makes you laugh.

There are only 14 podcasts in the library at this point, but the venture is new and a fresh podcast goes up every week. Sometimes there's an extra bonus podcast.  All EPs are available at iTunes and on the Nerdist website.

My rating scale
Is this podcast entertaining? - Yes
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – Yes
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – Regularly