Friday, May 11, 2012

The Podiwan Review 22 - Superego Podcast

Comedy podcasts, thrown in a large container and shaken for a while, stratify into aggregate groups. The vast majority of podcasts are essentially a comedian or a comedian and his or her friends, sitting around and talking. The next largest group is that first category but with guests. The smallest fraction of the comedy podcast world is made up of produced shows... which is a shame because they are some of the best. Superego Podcast: Profiles in Self Obsession is one of the best of the best. Superego (@gosuperego) is an edited improv podcast that is so funny that I have, at times, found it difficult to breath or maintain urinary control. The only problem with this podcast, as far as I'm concerned, is that the shows are too short and there are too few of them. Each podcast is roughly half an hour in length and there are 17 shows in a season. Superego is currently in the middle of season 3 except that the troupe has recently been busy trying to make a living and have had less time to put out much more than a few short specialty episodes (joint efforts with the folks at Thrilling Adventure Hour).

The framework for the podcast is psychological case studies and the main performers are casts as mental health professionals. Well, not so much cast as photographed. The improvised sketches don't actually center on a psychosis. They're just funny, but they're introduced as a syndrome, malady or affected disorder and the characters in the given bit are, at least for comedic purposes, within the definition of that disorder.

Superego members (Dr.)Jeremy Carter, (Dr.)Matt Gourley, Mark McConville and Jeff Crocker improvise and then edit down bits to 3-5 minute chunks of pure lunacy. They regularly revisit sketch topics and characters that have previously produced comedy gold. To date, those mines are still producing. My personal favorites include Shunt McGuppin, a country music legend with no filter on his monologue, Maggie the GPS voice with too much emotional investment, Dueling Announcers Bruce" the Throat Hume" and Ed "the Inflection" Oliva, Imogene Kanouse aggressive horn-dog with a throat buzzer, Rev. Leroy Jenkins, Hart and Sole - Wrestler Voice Over Guys and the conversational Cylon Warriors from the 70's version of Battlestar Galactica. I can't list all of their sketches and characters as favorites as it defeats the concept of favorites, but honestly, I haven't heard anything from them that wasn't funny or that I wanted to skip over to get to something else.

As stated previously, Superego Podcast is edited improvisation. That description bears discussion in that it goes to the heart of why this is both polished and wildly creative. The Superego group will begin with a basic premise, start the recording and then just riff. They may have a few lines or gags that they want to hit on the way through, but mostly it is stream of consciousness. There are other improv podcasts out there and though they are often funny for long stretches, they also have those moments that, as a listener, you wish they might have skipped, and as artists, you can bet they would have preferred to cut out. Those others are "produced" shows and I appreciate their risk taking and basic comedy chops, but, the thing that sets Superego apart is that they go back into the recording and cut out the fluff, the crap and the unfunny. They make it tight. So tight, in fact, that it is often hard to breathe and one might have to go back and re-listen to catch everything. The editing genius of Matt Gourley, who also edits other podcasts such as Judge John Hodgman and The Sound of Young America, is the secret ingredient that makes this podcast more than just funny people having fun and sharing it. It becomes comedy art.

The list of comedic talent that lines up to work with this group is truly impressive. Giants in improv as well as some of the best known standups, writers and personalities come out of the woodwork to get into a sketch with Superego. Here's a short list (well not really short but it is impressive): Patton Oswalt, Jason Sudeikis, John Hodgman, Drew Carey, Greg Proops, Paul F. Tompkins, Andy Daly, Colin Hanks, Steve Agee, Julie Klausner, Joe Lo Truglio, Rich Sommer, James Urbaniak, Jesse Thorn and Mark Gagliardi.

The dearth of podcasts that go beyond sitting and talking, even among funny people, requires that when we see something as wonderfully creative and funny as Superego, that we make absolutely sure the word gets out. I don't think there's an immediate chance of this podcast going away, but people who want good podcast programming from talented people need to support this kind of show to make sure that there is always a place for it.

I can see no shortcomings to this podcast other than that they just don't make enough of them. Also, inasmuch as I'm happy to enjoy several episodes in a row, they could go longer on each episode without offending this listener. There are 3 seasons of shows to work your way through, so those new to the podcast won't have to suffer shortages until they are well and truly addicted.

My rating scale
Is this podcast entertaining? - Yes. To the point of asphyxiation.
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – Yes, almost as soon as it plops.
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – Yes, whenever I can.

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