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Comic Relief: Comedy Podcasts Are Great Company for Hours Spent in the Garden

Comedy podcasts are the perfect listening for long hours in the garden. Comedy podcasts are the perfect listening for long hours in the garden.


In this brave new digital, on-demand, custom-built, democratized media future, the once intimate, now omnipresent field of podcasting has grown faster than dandelions in a sidewalk crack.

A little more than decade ago, when the iPod was just a slowly growing bulge in Steve Jobs’ mom jeans, nobody could have imagined that a whole new zero-budget medium was going to take over our collective hard drives and dwindling attention spans. And no group has jumped on the format faster than comedians, with various comic casters creating many of the most downloaded podcasts in the world.

Just seven years ago, the most notable voice in podcasting was Adam Curry, that cheese-dick with the poofy shoulder pads and even poofier hair who was most notable for doing intros to Whitesnake videos on MTV in the ’80s. So prominent was Curry, an actual established media professional in this vast new wasteland of freeform creativity, that he was known as Podfather, a title that was only sometimes intended ironically. But pioneers often get slaughtered, and Curry proved just about as bland online as he had on the boob tube. Still, the seed had been sown, with truckers, trannies and stay-at-home mommies now able to make their own audio journals and spill their guts to anyone with a broadband connection and enough downtime to listen.

The real podcast era started in June 2005, when iTunes added native support for podcasting. Soon the big boys saw a reason to dip into the kiddy pool. The poster boy for the digital migration was Adam Carolla, the slacker-era wiseass who co-hosted the radio and MTV show Loveline in the ’90s and Comedy Central’s The Man Show with Jimmy Kimmel in the early ’00s, both programs that were basically podcasts before the format existed.

Carolla now supports the whole Ace Broadcasting network of podcasts, which includes shows from famous funny friends like Penn Jillette as well as less humorous people like Carolla’s dad. And Carolla is not alone: Lots of folks are building their own audio fiefdoms outside the governance of the mainstream media, including Kevin Smith and his stoner-friendly Smodcast network and high-energy super-dork Chris Hardwick, whose massive Nerdist Industries is expanding faster than the Borg conquering a planet.

So we now have an incestuous circle jerk of blathering funnymen who share topics and trade talent like kids swap Pokemon cards. A single guest, say hipster documentarian Morgan Spurlock, can be heard gradually making the rounds to plug his new flick from one podcast to the next, just as surely as stars hop from couch to couch on the late-night TV circuit. Everyone in this cozy little universe seems just a step or two from everyone else, and they use each other to grow their fan bases.

Comedian Todd Glass, who has his own podcast and regularly pops up on a dozen other shows, choose Marc Maron’s highly influential WTF? podcast as the place to publicly come out of the closet, a bold move that felt both sincere and sort of calculated. Maron’s podcast has become so popular that he now has a book coming out as well as a TV development deal — circling back to the mainstream media of yesteryear. But that’s the state of podcasting today.

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A clip from a live version of WTF with Marc Maron, featuring the incomparable Eddie Pepitone.
Last modified on Friday, 10 August 2012 15:39

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