Most comedy fans in Los Angeles, and hardcore comedy fans in other places, know who Scott Aukerman is, if not for his past work as a writer on Mr. Show, then definitely for his current activities producing the weekly Comedy Death-Ray show at the UCB Theatre, as well as a weekly live radio edition of CDR. He's also a main brainiac behind the delightful Between Two Ferns series with Zach Galifianakis.
But it's on the Internet's digestible form of radio, podcasting, where Aukerman is looking to make his next mark. Earlier this year, he and Jeff Ullrich launched their own podcast network, Earwolf, based out of their own studios not far from the UCB Theatre in Hollywood. So far, they produce weekly episodes of CDR Radio with Scott Aukerman, plus The Sklar Brothers in Sklarbro Country. CDR Radio made headlines last month when virtually everyone in the media heard frequent guest Galifianakis comment on filming a movie and linked it to the protest over Mel Gibson's proposed cameo in The Hangover 2.
I sat down with Scott Aukerman and Jeff Ullrich during my recent visit to Los Angeles to chat about their endeavors with Earwolf.
How did Earwolf come about in terms of expanding Comedy Death-Ray Radio to something more?
Scott: I met this total weirdo…
Let the record show a hand went up.
Scott: I met Jeff and he had a dream, and I said, it sounds crazy. But so crazy, it just might work. No. Jeff had this whole big idea to do all this stuff and it sounded, you know, I've always been kind of half-performer and half-businessman myself, so it sounded like something no one was really doing. Which I always like to get into areas like that, where no one else is. I mean, Comedy Death-Ray, the live show, got started because no one was doing a live show in L.A. Like no comics wanted to take the time to put up a show. Most comedians basically, they want to perform on someone else's show, and don't want to put in the time to creating something, which is, you know, because they're usually spending all their time writing great comedy. And I don't do that. I spend half my time not writing great comedy, and the other half, also not writing great comedy. But, yeah. I think it's just we have this idea to get into a place where no one else is and just try to plant our flag.
So Jeff, what is the grand idea that you brought to Scott?
Jeff: It was more of a mindset of, a podcast network essentially is Comedy Death-Ray live. It's Scott putting in all the work, so that anyone who wants to perform can just be funny and go to a show and have a great platform to do it. We're basically replicating that within the podcast network, because so many people who could do a great show don't know the first thing about any of the audio equipment, or how to edit any of their audio files, and they don't know how to get a web presence. They don't have the time to maintain relationships with their fans. They wouldn't know the first thing about how to build a store, monetize it in any way, or go out and get advertising money.
Jeff: So my thing with Scott was, he's already the perfect kind of partner. Because he's got a really successful show as a launching pad. Plus he has a business sense, and he knows how things need to work. When I was doing business management, and one of my clients introduced me to Scott, and I was really excited about getting into the creating of something. Because the people that I worked with loved creating things. They didn't care so much about their taxes. So I thought, if I'm going to work with these people, I'd rather do it with something fun that they can be engaged in. Scott was perfect for that. The goal was to say hey, let's provide some leadership in this community of everyone who's trying to do the same thing. I talked to a guy. A real nice guy. I won't say who, told me he does his show out of his partner's closet, because that's where the sound is the best.
Scott: They need to come out of the closet.
Jeff: And just like, they have a good show, really nice guys, but you have all these people…
Scott: I know that person. I met that dude. Who was it?
Jeff: Do you want me to say? Dave Anthony, and Greg Behrendt (Walking the Room)
Scott: Yeah, yeah, because the sound is only good in there.
Jeff: So anyway, the goal simply was to provide the infrastructure, the technology, and the platform, so that it'd be like CDR live.
Scott: Thanks, professor.
Jeff: You do what you do, you show up, and that's that.
And Sklarboro, did they already have a concept and they came to you, or did you seek them out?
Scott: They were one of the very first people we talked to about this, and they were our first choice to do a show. Because they have a lot of radio experience, which I know about. And anytime they're on my show, I felt like bad that they were only part of my show, that I would have other guests on, because they could do their own show themselves. They fill in for Jim Rome all the time. And with them, they could hit the ground running and not have to do five shitty shows like I did, right off the bat. They were strong from the get-go.
And in terms of expanding the network, are you already flooded with requests by people to join Earwolf?
Scott: Yeah, a lot of people want to join Earwolf. Now we're just focused on producing the content ourselves. If there is stuff out there that we like, we'll definitely think about adding them.
Do you have a goal in terms of how many shows you want under the umbrella, or is it unlimited?
Jeff: Yeah. I mean we went through 43 different ideas a couple of weeks ago.
Scott: It's really, do we like it? And do they want to do it? Do they have time to do it? Can they, are they committed to doing it?
You told me earlier about the fact that even though they're audio now, they're also being filmed for the future.
(laughter) Jeff: You did tell him that already.
Please confirm for the record.
Scott: I can neither confirm nor deny that.
But what was it you were telling me about how podcasts will soon become something different?
Scott: I was just talking about how podcasts can be anything. A lot of times, people aren't thinking of podcasts. Right now, basically if you're a comedian doing a podcast, you get together with one of your comedian friends, you talk for an hour to another comedian. I think the future is going to be…and that's mainly because most comedians don't have the resources or the equipment to do anything more with it. But what we're trying to provide is an infrastructure so you have the ability to produce something greater than that. I think in the future, you're going to see way more produced shows, and people trying harder. I mean, look at Pod F. Tompkast. It's like, he puts a lot of effort into that show. With a real studio. You're going to see a lot more of that stuff.
One thought on “Scott Aukerman and Jeff Ullrich on creating Earwolf and what it means for the future of comedy podcasting”
Interesting stuff. In Cleveland, we started podcasting a live weekly open mic back in January and it’s kind of grown and changed each week. The room was always one of the better places to perform around the area, but now it’s got a personality of it’s own and has really developed into more than a standard open mic.
The podcast is called Chucklefck (https://www.facebook.com/chucklefckpod)
The first season ran thru July, when cohost Ramon Rivas (https://www.twitter.com/ramonrivasii) moved to Chicago. A few episodes were recorded after he left, and one episode was conducted by him while he was in Chicago.
The second season is going to be uploaded soon. It begins with the Ramon moving back from Chicago and ends when Jim Tews (https://www.jimtews.com), the original host of Chucklefck, moved to NYC.
With him gone, most of the audio capabilities are gone with him, so we’re thinking of doing a weekly youtube series in lieu of the podcast for season 3.
Glad to see other more established folks are also tinkering with the medium.
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