Since I last blogged on the topic of Australian comedy podcasts I’ve subscribed to every single one I could find, in total around 25. The majority have a “sitting around having a chat” format, and almost all of them shit. Listening to these shows is a bit like having no choice but to overhear an increasingly obnoxious pub conversation in which a small group of blokes in their early 20s are loudly making each other laugh with their stupid, and not really that jokey, views on politics, society, sex and women. If you’re part of the group it’s probably funny, but to everyone else it sounds like what the adolescent Eddie McGuire would sound like if he was putting together a podcast with some mates from uni. Except 15 times worse.
Not that the one or two podcasts I found in which a couple of women yammer on are any better, in fact they’re just as bad, as is the one podcast featuring anyone openly gay (Josh Thomas & Friend, as covered several times on this blog). Sure, there’s less sexism, racism and homophobia in these shows, but being from a historically downtrodden sector of society doesn’t help much if you’re as unentertaining as everyone else.
The key problem with chat-based podcasts is that those involved think that all you need to do is sit in front of a microphone and talk, and if any of your colleagues have laughed at what anyone’s said at any point, that you’ve produced a comedy. Fair enough if you’re just recording something to share with a few friends, but if you’re making the show public and hoping strangers will subscribe, you need to step up. Considering whether anyone other than one or two of your mates would sit through more than an hour of you crapping on would be the first thing to do. Finding someone to be on your show who is capable of making strangers laugh would be another.
The shows that get this even slightly right are few and far between (as well as a blessed relief for anyone who’s volunteered to listen to them), and so I might as well name the best ones here:
Nonstopical: In 2006 and 2007 comedians Andrew McClelland, Courtney Hocking and Lawrence Leung made 25 shows in which they had a natter about matters topical. Their chats are punctuated by short scripted elements, and there’s a ropey How Green Was My Cactus-esque serial at the end of each episode for, well, the hell of it, presumably. Despite the (relative) age of the shows, the majority are still available. Whilst not brilliant, they’re funny and interesting enough to keep you listening, and if you enjoyed Lawrence Leung’s series Choose Your Own Adventure, it’s fun to hear what he did beforehand.
Chris and Maxie Fight Global Depression: Last year Chris Leben and his friend Maxie made three podcasts in which they chatted about life, love and lots more. Again, it’s not hugely hilarious, but the show’s got an unpredictable energy to it (often a good sign in a comedy) and the pair are witty and entertaining enough to suggest they have some kind of future in comedy. Maybe.
The Vinyl Lounge: Those of you with keen memories might recall this story on Media Watch a few years back concerning Net FM’s show The Vinyl Lounge. The first extract from the show quoted in the Media Watch story happened to be in one of the first podcasts of The Vinyl Lounge that I listened to. In the Media Watch transcript it seemed tasteless; in context I found it funny. On the surface The Vinyl Lounge team seemed like the sort of people whose work I wouldn’t enjoy: blokey blokes expressing their politically incorrect views. But while kinda extreme, they’re more Derek & Clive than Andrew Dice Clay, and if you don’t mind that kind of humour, you may be pleased to hear that their podcast features four years of highlights from their Net FM show – enough to keep you laughing, and possibly a little outraged, for ages.
Next time in “The wonderful world of Australian comedy online”: scripted podcasts (yes, there actually are some).