Entries in beginnings (5)

Tuesday
May082012

Beginnings Makes It 50 With A Stellar Live UCB Show

The Wrestling Team, AKA comedy duo Mark Bisi and Andy Beckerman, reached 50 episodes of their slow burning and loose weekly podcast, Beginnings. To mark the occasion, the show is recording its 50th episode live at UCB East tonight in New York City. The live show features a stellar lineup of guests, including Rachel Dratch, Jon GlaserLeo Allen and musician James McNew. Quite a lineup and definitely worth checking out for those in the area. The duo have a few live podcast recordings under their belt and continue to push their show to new formats and audiences - always great to see (and hear!).

Click here for tickets to the show at UCB East.

You can check-out their site for more information and past episodes.

Tuesday
Apr172012

Plop of The Week: The Long Shot #504

When does "this week" become "last week" but still written from this week? When you're sharing some podcast love a few days late. I'll continue to be in charge of The Long Shot  fan committee and after a few weeks of others in the Splitsider comedy podcast rounder-uppers stealing my Long Shot thunder, I chose the personality overload show as my Splitsider comedy podcast pick. No Eddie Pepitone this week but the three remaining hosts and guest Beth Stelling more than make up for it. Lots of fighting, shooting-of-the-perverbial shit and awkward moments. Just how I like my audio entertainment. My write-up for Jesse Fox Splitsider "Week In Comedy" podcast round-up:

This week out, The Long Shot foursome is missing their angry clean-up hitter, Eddie Pepitone. No need to fret, the M.I.A. co-host ends up making way for a particularly raw and loose edition. The best host in podcasting land, Sean Conroy, along with his eager cohorts, Amber Kenny and Jamie Flam, welcome sarcastic but earnest guest, comedian Beth Stelling into the fold. Stelling’s an easy match for the group, sliding right in with the over-sharing and fun bouts of self-hate. Her aloofness and playful prodding of a particularly feisty Conroy is all charm. Honesty is always one of the greatest feats of The Long Shot crew. Long running inter-group commentary and back-and-forth between the hosts is also special stuff. Both are in full effect thanks to a delightful Conroy/Flam dust-up over “enchantment” of all things. Both Kenny and Flam continue to bring life to proceedings with their dual threat of youthful sincerity and ridiculousness. It’s a treat to hear the gang’s animated talk of lottery winnings and much more. The now long-running series is really beginning to benefit from its longevity and camaraderie, showing off a lived-in charm and a willingness to engage with each other in both familiar and new ways. It’s like hanging out with a great group of friends, albeit a slightly messed-up group. It’s podcasting, we should have it no other way.

Here's the complete list of episode picks from the Splitsider crew, lots of new off-beat shows this week:

Beginnings #46 – Dan St. Germain
Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin - Kristen Wiig
How Was Your Week? #57 – Chris Parnell, Jon Daly
The Long Shot #504 "Enchantment vs. Football" – Beth Stelling
Throwing Shade #24
WTF with Marc Maron #269 – David Cross
The Dana Gould Hour # 5 "Conspiracies!"  - Eddie Pepitone, Matt Weinhold, Mike Murphy
The Mutant Season #24 – Pete Holmes

Honorable mentions from the group include: Best Show on WFMU (Chris Elliott, Jason Woliner, Jim Gaffigan, Marc Maron), improv4humans #21 (Stephanie Allynne, Allan Mcleod, Joe Wengert), It's That Episode # 13 (Adam Pally), Mike and Tom Eat Snacks #54, WTF with Marc Maron #268 (Jon Glaser) and You Had To Be There #58 (Jim Gaffigan).

Friday
Nov042011

Plop of The Week: The Long Shot #405

I admit. I'm squarely positioned in The Long Shot's corner. The off-beat and fun podcast foursome always seems to deliver the goods and stand-out versus a lot of the other chat show offerings. Their latest episode sees Marc Maron visiting the gang. We chose Ep. #405 for our choice for favorite comedy show/episode for this week's Splitsider Week In Comedy Podcasts. The recap:

This time out, The Long Shot showed off what it does best – keeping it real and raw. It’s a “very special episode” complete with meltdowns and personal attacks…and an apology to a guy named Stu. Marc Maron highlights with a deadpan nonstop deconstruction of Pepitone. He uses a line-by-line reading of the definition of “narcissism” to get at Pepitone. He “misses the real Eddie.” Conroy and Maron again rehash their past failed TV show working relationship. The grudge that only one of them remembers. There’s a discussion of stealing, including Maron explaining his grocery store/stevia stealing past. Good girl Kenny still feels bad about her stolen car joy riding past. There’s a great “checking-in” segment featuring Flam’s start-and-stop Rick Fox anecdote – which, of course, leads to a very fun Pepitone rant about “what’s wrong with the world.” Kenny’s down in the dumps and Pepitone swivels between interrupting and offering up encouragement. The advice is more funny than functional. Pepitone hilariously segues from Kenny’s dismay to his own rambling story of his fun experience at a Basset Hound Picnic. Which basically means Pepitone describes what a Basset Hound looks like. A classic Conroy and the gang get-on-Pepitone’s-case segment ensues. The hosts’ eager tangents and constantly undercutting one other continue to make The Long Shot a comedic step above most chat shows.

      

Earwolf takes charge of most of the Splitsider list week this week out. The full list:

Beginnnings #34 – John Lee
Earwolf Presents: Gelmania – Tim Heidecker
Comedy Bang! Bang! #129 – Brett Gelman, Jon Daly, Allan Mcleod, Neil Campbell
The Long Shot #405 – Marc Maron
Professor Blastoff #27- Robert Ike III
Totally Laime # 91 – Rachel Bloom

Honorable mentions: The Gentlemen's Club #121 (Jeff Ullrich), The Todd Glass Show #14 (Rory Scovel) and You Made it Weird With Pete Holmes #2 (T.J. Miller).

You can check-out the full Splitsider post here, complete with everyone's recaps/reviews.
Sunday
Jul242011

The Earwolf Challenge Recap - Week 2: Theme Music & Intros

The gap between what you think you’re creating and what you’re actually creating never ceases to amaze. You may think you have a perfect understanding of what you’re trying to do, backed by the advice of someone who seems to know what they’re talking about, but somehow, in the course of realizing your vision, things don’t go quite as planned. It only takes a slight creative misstep to stray from yesterday’s good idea to the stickiness of today’s mess.

These close calls kept coming to mind, time and again, while listening to the first two episodes of Week 2 of The Earwolf Challenge. For the first proper challenge of the competition, host and head judge Matt Besser tasks the contestants with crafting the perfect theme song and intro for their respective shows.

Episode 2.1

Monday’s episode is full of brief but interesting conversations on the nature of theme songs and show introductions, specifically regarding the purpose they serve. Besser’s advice gets more and more focused as the episode progresses, until by the end he has a pretty succinct bullet-point list of what a good intro should accomplish.

  • Bring up the energy.
  • Let the listener know what the show’s about.
  • Get the audience on board right away.
  • Remembering even casual decisions about what elements to include will be interpreted by the audience as significant, deliberate choices.
  • Choose music that clearly says something about the hosts, the episode, or the show.
  • Get in and get out.

Listening to the episode, I can almost see the contestants nodding along in enthusiastic agreement as Besser helps them develop a rough map of where they’re going. Some have previously established theme music and intro sequences. Some don’t. But every conversation ends on a positive note. Besser is admirably quick to point out he and the judges aren’t asking them to fit into a mold, but to simply take in what’s been discussed and make the best intro sequences they can. And this certainly seems to be happening. From Elizabeth Laime’s plan to only make a few tweaks to Totally Laime’s existing intro to Brett Hamil’s amazement that Ham Radio has “made it nine episodes in without ever having to address this,” shows the contestant-host back-and-forth flowing in a positive direction.

Episode 2.2

Jason SklarJimmy PardoAll of which makes Tuesday’s episode that much more perplexing.

For Tuesday and Wednesday’s Besser is joined by Jimmy Pardo -- or Pardeaux, if you prefer -- and Jason Sklar, two well-known and successful podcasters who should be familiar to just about any fan of comedy podcasts. (Where is Randy Sklar in all this? I like to imagine him scratching forlornly at the studio door.) Pardo’s Never Not Funny was among the first wave of podcasts, and relatively few in the podcasting scene can match his experience. Conversely, the Sklars are only now just hitting the 1-year mark on their weekly Sklarbro Country. There’s an obvious care and attention to detail put into every episode that belies their still brief podcast run.

Choosing Pardo and Sklar as the first guest judges is setting the bar pretty high. And it makes for a pretty brutal judging episode. While Pardo and Jason readily appreciate the quality of the more complicated entries, most notably those from Left Hand Radio, The Fort and the aforementioned Ham Radio, they, to put it bluntly, don’t actually like most of them. And nobody is better at letting you know he doesn’t like something than Pardo. Sklar brings up a great point not mentioned in Episode 2.1: your listeners will have to live with your intro every single episode. “Shorter, tighter is better,” Sklar says. Basically sums up the entire week’s challenge.

Personally, I agreed with just about everything the judges offered up. After my potentially prudish poo-pooing of “questionable language” in last week’s episodes, I felt a little vindicated when Pardo repeatedly voiced the very same opinion. From Ham Radio’s racism-skirting joke about “thick black ladies” with “ghetto nails” to Television Zombies’ off-putting F-bomb. Pardo didn’t like it. My problem isn’t a delicate sensibility. It’s these attempts at edgy humor are going for the easy laugh. It’s the same reason (future guest judge, I presume) Paul F. Tompkins says he tends to shy away from profanity in his own work. He wants to know the audience is laughing at his material, not at the presence of a bad word.

The clear frontrunners after Tuesday’s episode are Totally Laime, The Bob and Dan Cast and The Little Dum Dum Club. What do these intros all have in common? They’re all short, punchy and give you a good feel for the show.

Episode 2.3

Everyone else gets pretty low marks from the judges. On Wednesday it's The Fort, Left Hand Radio and Beginnings ending up on the bottom. The judges can't always agree on what puts them on the bottom. Based on the week’s challenge, they're all solid choices. I'm disappointed to see one of my predicted front-runners, Left Hand Radio, wind up in the bottom three. Though, I can't argue with the judges’ reasons.

   

In the end, Beginnings meets its Earwolf Challenge demise. The judges' overall rationale, one that will no doubt come up time and again in the weeks to come: the show just isn't ready for prime time. If Earwolf's going to commit to producing the winning podcast for the next year, they're not going to want to take any chances. Especially when there are still strong contenders in the field. Beginnings hosts’ decision to broaden the scope of the show’s theme and their contention they're “nobodies” (a pretty major slip-up, if you ask me) reveals these podcasters are still feeling things out. Really, this challenge was never about music and an intro. It was about seeing how well the contestants know their own shows and how adept they are at communicating that understanding to the audience.

Speaking of feeling things out, I enjoyed hearing Besser’s decision-making process as he puzzled through how he'd announce the eliminated contestant. Ironically, nearly all of the music cues for the various segments in these episodes went on way too long.

Each week, in memoriam of the eliminated podcast, I'm going to listen to one of their episodes. This week it's you, Beginnings. We hardly knew ye.

Monday
Jul182011

Earwolf Challenge Recap: Meet The Contestants Part II

Five more Earwolf Challenge contestants!

Television Zombies

Jeff, Chris and Chuck love TV -- good TV. The kind of TV for which geeks like me buy T-shirts. The hook of this bi-coastal podcast is simple: They watch TV and talk about it. Sometimes Chris interviews television celebrities. Comedy is a by-product of their geeky conversation.

  • Intro Clip: Brett’s nebbishy introduction is interrupted by what sounds like a 1930s-era gangster, a network goon, and Andre the Giant -- all played by Brett, of course.
  • The Good: I love that Jeff differentiates between “geek” and “nerd.” Good on you. His justification differs from mine, but I appreciate the pedantry, nonetheless. These guys clearly know their stuff and probably have discussions about Venture Brothers and Fringe I’d enjoy. I respect them for giving up on V and The Event.
  • The Bad: The elephant in the room, as Frank points out, is that this is not a comedy podcast. It’s a TV-oriented pop-culture podcast. What’s more, these guys are artists, not comedians. Doug Loves Movies gets away with it because the movie angle is a gimmick to let Dough Benson and his guests crack wise. I get the feeling these guys are more interested in sticking to their premise. A feeling that’s born out by their reluctance to “waste time” with bad sci-fi TV. Talking about the good stuff doesn’t usually lend itself to comedy. Talking about the bad stuff? That’s another story. Also, recording via Skype means that the production values aren’t going to get any better.
  • Overall: As a geek, I generally like and can relate to these guys, and wish them well. As a reality-show blogger and prognosticator, I don’t see them going far. It’s a “comedy podcast” competition. Besser wants them to be themselves instead of straining to be funny, which only confirms my doubts.

The F Plus

A dozen people with ridiculous names do...something? After listening to their intro clip and interview a few times, I still wasn’t sure how to contextualize “We read things on the Internet aloud.” So I broke an unspoken rule: I listened to a bit of an episode (the excerpt on their Earwolf page). Five minutes later, I still wasn’t entirely sure. The clip is apparently “a reading,” but most of it just sounds like banter. They’re reading discussion forum posts, I guess? I ended up going to their website and can now confirm that, yes, each episode is organized primarily around reading questionable forum posts on odd topics.

  • Intro Clip: A brief overview of the “reading things on the Internet” hook by 25% of the cast. A mundane pun is met with disproportionate outrage. The phrase “We’re not here to make friends!” is used, which is easily the funniest bit of the intro.
  • The Good: I’m not bothered the intro alone isn’t enough to tell me what they do. Is it weird-subject investigation, à la The Complete Guide to Everything or Professor Blastoff? Or just laughing-at-weirdos mockery? I might be one of those weirdos. They to know what they’re doing and built enough of a following to justify a live show in Minneapolis. With about 70 episodes completed, the experience is there. Besser is extremely positive about their group. And that one guy has a pretty awesome voice. Producer Frank praises their format and proficiency with it.
  • The Bad: On some level, I’m worried one of these days I’ll hear them reading something I wrote on some lonely corner of the Internet. To be honest, I also find them a little annoying. I can’t be the only one, right? It all feels a bit inside, like hanging out in a room full of strangers whose conversation is one big reference you don’t get. Maybe it’s they seem to be trying so hard to be funny with Besser. Maybe it’s nerves -- they sound much more relaxed in the Earwolf page clip. They have the same inherent low production values as TV Zombies, chained as they usually are to Skype. Here’s something very real and concrete, though: one of them loves terrible puns. And Earwolf already has pun-master Scott Aukerman.
  • Overall: Despite my vague, whiny misgivings, Besser really likes these guys, especially that one awesome voice guy. So, they’ll probably do well.

The Little Dum Dum Club

Tommy and Karl talk to their fellow Australian comedians and occasionally snag a famous one from abroad, like Paul F. Tompkins or Greg Fleet. Only Tommy shows up for the interview, explaining that he’s out of town while Karl’s back in Melbourne (so... shouldn’t Karl be the available one, then?). He and Besser spend most of the interview discussing the history of “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and the Australian comedy scene.

  • Intro Clip: Tommy and Karl riff on their show format and explain that “dickhead” is an Australian term of affection.
  • The Good: I have to confess my bias here. The Little Dum Dum Club is the only podcast of the 10 that I’ve actually listened to. I downloaded their interviews with Paul F. Tompkins and Marc Maron a few months ago and really enjoyed them. The hosts are funny, disarming and genuine. And the fact they’re basically just starting out in their comedy careers gives them a perspective I don’t hear that often on comedy podcasts. Plus, they could expose Earwolfers to a whole range of Australian comics they might not otherwise encounter. Tommy and Besser have a good rapport, for what it’s worth.
  • The Bad: The flip side of interviewing so many local comics, mostly ones they already know, is that it might be a hard sell for non-Australian listeners who’d rather hear an interview with, say, Sarah Silverman. Moreover, expanding their comfort zone and interviewing bigger celebrities (their phone conversation with CBB semi-regular “Weird” Al Yankovic last month touched off all kinds of schoolboy skittishness) would mean a lot of phone or Skype interviews. Looks like I keep beating this low-production-value-thing into the ground. Experience may be an issue, too. They’ve been at it for less than a year.
  • Overall: Still, I’d really like to see these guys stay in the competition for awhile. They just seem nice. And adding The Little Dum Dum Club to the line-up would let Ullrich and Aukerman rename their network to Earwolf International.

Beginnings

Brooklyn comedy duo Wrestling Team (Andy Beckerman and Mark Bisi) interview comedians and other creative-types about the creative process. It’s both a sketch show and an opportunity for them to learn more about their craft and creativity in general. Andy, Mark and Producer Frank share in relaying the most unremarkable French fry anecdote imaginable. (The bag of fries was full of fries!)

  • Intro Clip: Andy and Mark introduce themselves as a multi-threat comedy team who aren’t above partaking in a good old-fashioned joke-about. They ramble a bit about the roots of comedy in personal pain, then... kinda...fade out.
  • The Good: It sounds like Andy and Mark have a pretty unique angle on comedy dissection. They position themselves as students trying to learn something about what they do instead of knock-your-socks-off comedy cut-ups. They’ve interviewed some Earwolf regulars in the past year or so, including James Adomian and...uh...does Rich Fulcher count? A comedy team since 2003, their longevity bodes well. Producer Frank likes how earnest ways. Me, too.
  • The Bad: My only real concern is during the course of that intro clip and 10-minute interview, it’s hard to get a sense of their humor, their hosting skills or the typical episode format. And, hopefully there’s less French fry stories on the horizon.
  • Overall: I like their angle: a little like WTF with Marc Maron. But, instead of trading war stories with their guests, they’re just looking for guidance.

Left-Handed Radio

“Five sensitive artists” from New York sketch it up with a sketch load of sketchy sketch. It’s a sketch show, is what I’m saying.

  • Intro Clip: A very well-produced clip package, some of which is very funny (Love in the Time of Cholera as a sitcom) and some of which isn’t so much (loud people shouting). It clearly conveys what the show is like: “rolling through the dial of your own car, home or combination car/home radio.”
  • The Good: Great production values, a sketch team that sounds very comfortable working together. Even though they don’t do sketch live as a group, which seems crazy. There’s a strong sense of direction, too. Their intro clip is one of the few that actually made me laugh. Besser and Producer Frank agree they’re strong sketch writers. Frank compares Left-Handed Radio to Robot Chicken but means it as a compliment.
  • The Bad: If that intro clip was their best material, this has the potential to be one uneven show. Granted, I’m willing to bet a lack of context for their intro clips is probably responsible for some of the weakness there. Fair enough. Perhaps, it’s a lack of awareness about their own show that lead to the random over funny editing decision.
  • Overall: These guys are real contenders. I look forward to seeing what they come up with every week.

Bonus points to every podcast whose intro clip wasn’t just a montage of sound bites from previous shows. I definitely appreciate shows the effort that shows like The Complete Guide to Everything and Ham Radio put into creating something new specifically for the Challenge. I will also set aside bonus points for Left-Handed Radio. Their intro was basically a clip package, but it was a very well-produced clip package. And the clips generally served the purpose of introducing the cast and explaining how the show works. Well done.

This isn’t to say that, for example, Totally Laime didn’t put work into their clip-tastic intro. Of course they did. I just dig the original stuff.

Here’s my chief concern with The Earwolf Challenge as a reality show: editing. Reality shows are all in the editing, to the extent that there’s a very distinct grammar of reality-show editing that can be read like flash cards on the screen. “Oh, he misses his kids? Well, he’s either going home or winning. No middle ground for that guy.” It doesn’t matter what show it is, from Project Runway to The Fashion Show. Editing makes the reality.

Without that precision editing -- based on these episodes, it seems like there’s virtually no editing at all -- I question whether The Earwolf Challenge will remain entertaining from start to finish. I’m betting the challenges and guest judges will make or break the show. We’re just starting out. We don’t have the challenge and host details yet. I’m withholding judgment.

Speaking of judgment, how will this all shake out? I’m notoriously bad at these sorts of guessing games, but, setting my own biases aside, I’d bet that the final three will consist of The F Plus, Left-Handed Radio, and.... let’s go with Ham Radio. If I had to guess which three podcasts will be the first to go -- an unhappy guess! -- I’d pick Television Zombies, The Little Dum Dum Club, and...The Bob and Dan Cast? Nothing personal, guys. If it were up to me, you’d all win.

Next up: The first challenge! Someone gets eliminated!