Mike Flinn (@realmikeflinn) isn’t just a podcast producer and engineer; he’s also an avid fan of the form. “My Pod Week” recaps and reviews the many varied comedy podcasts Flinn listened to or attended live tapings of during the previous week. Enjoy!
I’ve enjoyed Dana Gould’s podcast ever since its 2012 debut. Episodes are released about once a month and have gotten much longer than an hour. The show is well crafted and designed like an arctic ice breaker, unsinkable. Dana greets the listener with an intro and then rotates between two sets of discussions. The program begins with political satirist Barry Crimmins and John Ennis, a cast member of Mr. Show with Bob and David, and a regular on The Dana Gould Hour. Together they cover Ronald Reagan’s America and the resulting tidal wave of mentally ill homeless that are a lasting part of his legacy. They also discuss the ugly truths about the leaders of the Catholic Church, and how every Pope sits on treasure and secrets like a dragon. Then the show transitions to a live segment recorded at the Eureka Theater during San Francisco Sketch Fest with comedian-author Sara Benincasa and actor-raconteur Stephen Tobolowsky. The topic is fear. Sara explains her agoraphobia and panic disorder and how she is able to treat it. If you are not familiar with Sara Benincasa she is probably winning Twitter as you read this, so seek her out. Dana had to deal with some crippling stage fright earlier in his career, “The club owner said, who’s on stage right now? And I went, no one.” Steven Tobolowsky has cheated death more than a few times. It doesn’t get much closer to eternal slumber than a broken neck. Stephen did it in New Zealand or as Dana calls it Middle Earth. For more on those near misses check out his excellent podcast The Tobolowsky Files. And now for my favorite segment, bizarre history. Sometimes it’s conspiracy, sometimes urban myth, but almost always it’s true facts that got lost in the tides. I can’t hear this part without picturing Gould as Rod Serling introducing an episode of The Twilight Zone. No one can ever be as cool as Serling was, but Dana shares a similar delivery. Something about the tone of voice is saying “I’m not here to frighten you, but this is the truth, and it may blow your mind.” Starting at the 1:34:50 mark, it’s the strange case of Tod Browning, director of the 1932 film Freaks. Browning was a rich and successful man with the heart of a carny, and this passion project of his featured real side-show performers. I’ve been aware of this film for years without knowing much about it and I’ve always been afraid to watch it. After hearing Dana’s description, I’m still afraid.
Comedians Margaret Cho and Jim Short have a good thing going. Never mind what you thought you knew about her, never mind the reasons you love her or don’t love her, this is a podcast that you should try. Margaret and Jim got together with Ngaio Bealum to talk about the San Francisco comedy scene in the early 1990s. That scene gave us too many great comedians to list here, but a few of my favorites include Marc Maron, Blaine Capatch, Brian Posehn, Dana Gould, and Patton Oswalt. These are names that I’ve trusted for years to pick me up when I’m down. Bealum and Cho first met as teenagers at a party in the Haight-Ashbury district. Ngaio, a cannabis activist and self-proclaimed “Kronnoisseur,” had a few great weed-related stories about Greg Proops and the late Mitch Hedberg. Cho and Short make a great team and have had some fascinating interviews with authors, artists, filmmakers, and musicians. Sometimes it’s just Margaret and Jim out on adventures like Episode 35, The Spa Incident, and Episode 57, The Investigation (that one was spooky — you’ve been warned).
I would watch The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson with my grandmother. She really enjoyed that show, and even though most of the jokes were over my head I liked staying up late with her and seeing what all the famous TV adults were up to. Mark Malkoff is a New York comedian who formerly worked for Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. On The Carson Podcast, Mark talks with people that worked with Carson, appeared on the show, or were influenced by him in some way. Former guests of the show include Dick Cavett, Martin Mull, and Bob Einstein, aka Super Dave Osborne.This episode featured Carol Burnett. She gives Mark a great interview about her relationship with The Tonight Show, meeting Johnny for the first time, and the amazing comedic timing between them. Burnett gives us some of her off-screen moments with Carson and draws distinction between the man and the host. His private life was private, at least as much as it could be given his status. Carol describes him as funny and charming, “…but, he wasn’t ON all the time, he never was.” She also describes him as quiet and reserved. In addition to her personal anecdotes about working with Carson, she shares a story at the 20:10 mark about meeting a 17-year-old Vicki Lawrence after receiving a fan letter. Lawrence was cast on The Carol Burnett Show not long after. If all of this was before your time, I urge you to give this podcast a chance. Some of the biggest names in American comedy had their careers launched because of Johnny Carson.
Mike Flinn is a podcast producer/engineer based in West Hollywood, Calif., for All Things Comedy. The views expressed in My Pod Week are purely his own.