Friday, May 10, 2013

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE COMEDY PODCAST

I'm no comedy nerd. I know it's a terrific time to be one. There's so much stuff to laff at on the internet – YouTube channels, media empires, podcasts, stand-up, sketch and so on – that it's gotta be impossible to pull the gold from the rough and feel like you've definitely hit paydirt. Unless that's all you want to do, of course. Like a lot of folks, I have to divide my cultural enrichment time between many different forms of low and high culture (music, books, film, websites and so on), all of which are more readily available, and in heaping quantities, than at any point in human history.

There's also the quality aspect to think about. Put bluntly, most "comedy" sucks, and there's plainly too much of it. Even for the funniest among us, it's nearly impossible to be funny all or even most of the time – or, more germane to today's topic, even within a single 1-hour podcast of your own making. I've tried out a bunch of them over the last couple of years. It has become quite the thing in comedy circles to have your own podcast. It's a low-cost way to stay creative and sharp, as well as to experiment, brand and market yourself, and get yourself inside the logrolling community of "comedians interviewing other comedians". Just look at Mark Maron, they all say. (I haven't heard them say this, but I can imagine them saying it). Maron's got his own TV show now, which rose out of podcast he records in his garage. Perhaps there's even hope for Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio on that front.

Anyway, the list of comedy podcasts I've tried, and then abandoned, is quite long. Some, like Maron's, aren't really even comedy podcasts – they're interview podcasts with people from across the cultural spectrum, a la FRESH AIR, with a funnier, albeit more annoying, host. I still listen to his "WTF", depending on the guest, so he doesn't count. I used to really enjoy "MIKE AND TOM EAT SNACKS", but then I got tired of Michael Ian Black's relentless snark and declining hit/miss ratio. After this year's annual San Francisco Sketchfest, which featured a ton of "hot" comedy podcasters from around the country recording their shows live, I decided to try every single one of 'em out. I learned that most comedy podcasts are awful.

The worst – I'm talking so unfunny that they were switched off and deleted from my device within minutes of pushing "play" - were RONNA & BEVERLYSUPEREGO and COMEDY BANG BANG, the last of which made me want to slit my wrists.Tolerable ones included POD F. TOMPKAST, YOU MADE IT WEIRD and a couple of others I deleted anyway. For a short time I was into WALKING THE ROOM, with longtime comic Greg Behrendt (saw him live at least twelve years ago) and Dave Anthony, before becoming frustrated by their eternal bro-dom, constant stepping over each other's lines, the desperate search for the joke in everything, and Anthony's misanthropic persona, which is of course part of his schtick, but it's pretty wearing if you try and listen to it once a week. There were others as well, but I truly have forgotten their names.

And then there was one! One comedy podcast that I embraced from the get-go, have listened to every week for months now, and which I thought I'd tell you about in case we somehow have the same sort of comedy DNA and laugh at the same ridiculous things. This one's not even rip-roaring, over-the-top hilarious, but I can't stop listening to it – and I have, at times nearly run my car off the road with snorting, tearing laughter. Really! It's called THROWING SHADE. Erin Gibson and Brian Safi are a hell of a team. The show's ostensibly about "issues important to ladies – and gays" (and "heterosensitives" like me), and in many ways, it is a very socially progressive, vaguely political show that calls out idiocy from homophobes and sexists in no uncertain terms. What it's really about is these two – a woman and a gay man – riffing off of each other, playing weird personas, and having the sort of amazing, rapid-fire, brainwave-to-vocal-cord joke transfer that every one of us wishes we had.

When they're not funny, they're still funny. Or they'll just sing nonsense instead, at which point they edit their music in, and the "bit" or "segment" is over. Brian likes to play up his queerness into a frothing, stereotypical mess, just to get a reaction out of Erin (for instance, a loudly declaimed, "Ooooooo-ooooooo!", said in the gayest voice possible)  – and she'll snark her way around whatever he's talking about, usually with about 800 obscure pop culture references, just to piss him off in the rare moments when he's trying to be serious. In fact bizarre pop culture is big in both of their worlds, and for me anyway, it's totally funny. Shoebox Greetings is big. Brand names of 80s and 90s products are big. 


It's hard to even describe "Throwing Shade" effectively, other than to recommend it and hope you enjoy it. I know for certain that well over half of you will hate it the way I hate most of the other comedy podcasts, and I'm under no illusion that it's anything but an acquired taste. I'm even gonna go see them do their thing live next month, and if I survive that and still listen to their show afterward, I'll let ya know.