“A drum circle with a CB radio”: 19 lessons from the L.A. Podcast Festival

“A drum circle with a CB radio”: 19 lessons from the L.A. Podcast Festival

It was only a matter of time. Everything else has a convention/festival, so why not podcasts? The medium is a decade old at this point—enough time to show some staying power but also for the novelty to have worn off. For some (especially media companies), podcasts have proven too expensive and labor-intensive, but for others, particularly comedians, podcasting has been a revelation. So it makes sense that comedians would organize the first podcasting festival: Dave Anthony (of the Walking The Room podcast), Graham Elwood, and Chris Mancini (both of the Comedy Film Nerds podcast) started the Los Angeles Podcast Festival last winter with a Kickstarter campaign to cover facility costs at the Sheraton Delfina in Santa Monica. Once that succeeded, the rest fell into place, and the event grew to include a couple dozen live podcasts, a handful of panels, and a stand-up show (held across the street at Santa Monica High School). The A.V. Club was on hand to check it out, and here’s what we learned.

1. Podcasting isn’t about washing dishes. As The Long Shot’s Jamie Flam asked co-host Amber Kenny about the dishes stacked in her sink, co-host Eddie Pepitone interjected, “Holy shit, I cannot believe how trivial this is,” he said, rubbing his eyes in exhaustion. “How can we suck the life out of a story about doing the dishes?” added co-host Sean Conroy. “What if this was what podcasting was all about?” said Pepitone. 

2. Podcasting is about disgusting conversations. During Walking The Room, guest Wil Anderson described how his old podcast, TOFOP, was dominated by discussions of hypotheticals, such as, “What if your cum could cure all diseases?” “That’s the foundation of podcasting,” said co-host Dave Anthony. “Two dudes sitting around asking questions about what if their cum could cure something.”

3. A podcast is “a drum circle with a CB radio,” according to Ken Stryker, Graham Elwood’s character who’s a retired police chief working out his anger through live poetry. 

4. A Pandora/IMDB for podcasts is coming. Matt Belknap of Never Not Funny and ASpecialThing is part of Art19, a service, currently in beta, that offers access to a curated library of podcasts, talk radio, and comedy. It also includes a database that catalogs a person’s podcast appearances, sort of like an IMDB for podcasts.

5. Having Paul F. Tompkins as a guest will make a podcast successful, said Earwolf Media co-founder Jeff Ullrich during the “Growing Your Podcast” panel. “That rule doesn’t apply to my podcast,” Tompkins responded.

6. Podcast fans are dedicated, sometimes bewilderingly so. Just ask the woman with the arm-length Uhh Yeah Dude tattoo. 

7. Walking The Room is “a unique celebration of sadness,” according to Marc Maron. And how. Even though co-host Dave Anthony originally conceived of the idea for the LA Pod Fest, he and co-host Greg Behrendt spent much of their show dismissing podcasts outright. When Anthony mentioned having a podcast, Behrendt quipped, “I have feet—at least they’ll take me somewhere.”

8. A five-person Doug Loves Movies panel is asking for trouble—especially with Dave Anthony, Marc Maron, Zach Galifianakis, Todd Glass, and Steve Agee, and especially if it’s recorded in a high-school auditorium where no one can hear each other. What followed was the most hilarious Doug Loves Movies episode that will probably be unlistenable for people who download it. Much of the action is visual, no one can focus, and even though the guys pick out nametags, they never make it to the Len Maltin Game. A couple in the audience used their baby for the nametag, so naturally Anthony chose it. “If I win this, I’m going to take it home and raise it like a chicken,” he said. 

9. Walking The Room fans wear clown pants. Maybe it’s time to bring the podcast to the Gathering in 2013?

10. The best moments can be the ones that aren’t recorded. Dan Harmon delayed Harmontown for nearly half an hour (to give people watching The Todd Glass Show time to make it), and some of the afternoon’s funniest moments came while he, co-host Jeff Davis, and guest Steve Agee killed time by goofing around (abetted by a bottle of Ketel One that was on the stage with a bucket of ice). Harmon did some hilariously caustic, Tony Clifton-esque crowd work, and Agee performed a funny, Vaudevillian stand-up routine set to music queued up by Davis (with a little shuck and jive after each punchline). By the time Harmontown started properly, Harmon and Davis had established a good rhythm, as Harmon detailed complaints that make him sound like a bad person, and the explosive orgasms the jets in his bathtub gave him. 

11. Superego is funny at any hour. The sketch podcast was saddled with the unenviable 11 a.m. slot on Saturday, but produced one of the funniest hours of the festival with an assist from Paul F. Tompkins and Colin Hanks.

12. Tom Lennon lost much of his hearing “in the ’90s through some combination of drugs and Fugazi.” During his appearance on Who Charted? he dished about the many films he’s made with writing partner Ben Garant, like The Pacifier, which was written for Jackie Chan, who’d wanted “a Sound Of Music where I’m Maria.” They landed the Night At The Museum script because the studio had them under contract for a sequel to the Jimmy Fallon/Queen Latifah film Taxi, but had to figure something else out when that film flopped. Hosts Kulap Vilaysack and Howard Kremer prepared a list of Lennon and Garant’s five top-grossing films, which Lennon called a “witch hunt,” because most were critically panned or outright flops. “I call it a witch hunt, but it’s actually just my credits,” he said.

13. Although iTunes has 300,000 of them, there aren’t too many podcasts. As Tompkins noted in the “Growing Your Podcast” panel, no one ever complains that there are too many TV shows, and those are a lot harder to avoid than podcasts. It’s incredibly easy not to listen to podcasts—“Millions of people do it every day!” added Ullrich.

14. Jackie Kashian of The Dork Forest once hosted at Deadwood-themed LARP party at her house. That’s some next-level nerdery. “There’s Trekkies going whoa,” joked Graham Elwood. Kashian left early on Saturday to attend a D&D session.

15. The Bitter Buddha has given Eddie Pepitone a big head. The fantastic documentary about him has earned the comedian some modest acclaim, so naturally he’s now “too big” for small shows—possibly including the small crowd that watched a live taping of The Long Shot. Pepitone joked that he gets annoyed if someone doesn’t recognize him at Ikea. 

16. Greg Behrendt using a Bill Cosby voice to explain the Holocaust = hilarious. In a weekend full of funny people saying funny things, Behrendt may have topped them all. “There’s this fella,” he said. “He puts the JEWS in the OVEN!”

17. The word “monetize” makes Jackie Kashian want to cut herself, but she does spend about three hours a day working social media. That came out during the “Podcast Marketing And Social Networking” panel, where moderator Chris Gore described his convoluted system as “a circle jerk of social media all cumming on my face.” 

18. Aisha Tyler wore a blue blazer during her first stand-up gig. “Who am I, Ellen?” the Girl On Guy host exclaimed as she and guest Ryan Sickler, comedian host of The Crabfeast podcast, traded stories of their first gigs. Sickler grew up in Baltimore, which prompted Tyler to recall a visit to the set of The Wire, where some fake gunfire from a scene was met with real gunfire.

19. Lizzy Caplan used to make out to The American President. The actress had (has?) such a crush on Michael Douglas that she’d have the movie on while making out with boyfriends as a teenager. These are the kinds of confessions Janet Varney elicits on The JV Club, along with Caplan’s short-lived ska fandom and embrace of straightedge in high school (even though she didn’t quite understand what the black Xs on her hands meant).

Filed Under: Comedy, Deadwood

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