4th Annual LA Podcast Festival Shows That Podcasts Are Only Getting Bigger
Photo by Liezl Estipona
If you would have asked pioneering podcasters if they would have entire festivals dedicated to celebrating people recording audio shows without restrictions to time or content, they might have had to give it a thought or two for quite some time.
Yet, today is International Podcast Day and the LA Podcast Festival, in its 4th year from the efforts of Dave Anthony, Chris Mancini, Graham Elwood, and Andy Wood, had flocks of people, mostly not from LA, flood the halls of the Sofitel in Beverly Hills yet again.
To give you an idea of the scope and fervor there (a whole documentary Earbuds on podcasting screened several times and, above all, what happened there, here’s a rundown of our experience over the three days that LA Podfest was running:
-At Greg Fitzsimmons’ Fitz Dog Radio, Greg has a segment “Overheard” where he shares some of the more fascinating things he’s overheard throughout his daily life. At the festival, he invited the crowd to get in on the action and one guy said he overheard someone say they just went to the bathroom next to Jen Kirkman, who just finished up her own podcast. Turns out that the person overheard was in the crowd and stepped up to the mic to hilariously tell the whole story. It’s a great, positive example of how technology, specifically podcasting, has brought people together.
–Walking The Room, TOFOP, and Never Not Funny show that Dave Anthony, Greg Behrendt, Wil Anderson, Charlie Clausen, Jimmy Pardo, Matt Belknap, and Pat Francis are the “Lords of Hanging Out”. For their hour plus blocks, all three podcasts showcased how what would equate to comedians hanging out a bar or diner with each other can exhibit artistry and draw big crowds.
–The Todd Glass Show done live at the LA Podcast Festival is the one of the best examples of controlled chaos. There are multitudes of musical themes played by a band with Todd Glass based puns and bits, call backs to bits, and explanations and re-explorations of those call backs and bits all being held together by Todd Glass’ undeniable, infectious joie de vivre. This year was no different with the multiple plays of an old timey, yet explicit song by mischievous engineer Jake Adams.
–The Thrilling Adventure Hour from Ben Acker & Ben Blacker is proof that the ‘old dog new tricks’ maxim is tiresome when it comes to podcasting. Through and through it’s an old-time radio play, complete with original songs that also often delves into meta and self-referential humor. For LA Podfest, the story followed one theatre company trying to beat out another theater company for funding for their next production while sneaking on to a boat all while singing slightly esoteric songs throughout. Having a stellar cast including Paul F. Tompkins, Marc Evan Jackson, Autumn Reeser, Craig Cackowski, Janet Varney, Annie Savage, and more makes it even somehow more of a delight to watch.
–Paul F. Tompkins had three podcasts, including his very own podcast, at LA Podfest in which he got to showcase how many gears of funny Paul truly has. Between Spontaneanation, Superego, and Thrilling Adventure Hour (three of the funniest podcasts around), Tompkins got to improvise, sing, act, interview, riff to the joy of many in attendance. It’s almost as if Paul could run his own network.
photo by Liezl Estipona
–Patton Oswalt got to inject the perfect amount of joke spice while physicist and cosmologist Sean Carroll talked about the mysteries of the universe on Probably Science with Andy Wood and Matt Kirshen. Podcasting is one of the few worlds where such a thing would get to happen.
-With the live experience adding a whole new element to podcasts, there is constant sense of wonder while all the shows take place since you kind of have no idea what’s going to happen. In two cases, Paul F. Tompkins and Jackie Kashian fell while getting situated on stage and The Long Shot Podcast had drop-ins from mystery guests Eddie Pepitone (a former Lo Sho Po host), Dave Anthony, and Kashian who all pretended that were from such non-sensical places like Lower Cresenta and Southern Northridge.
Photo by Liezl Estipona
-At this point of time, Jen Kirkman has a case of vocal nodules, which she is undergoing a rigorous regimen to cure. As a result, her time that she’s allotted to speak on a daily basis is incredibly limited. Thankfully, she used that time to break down the ridiculousness of going through this process in the LA Podfest edition of her podcast I Seem Fun, which felt all the more precious for how limited it was.
-Podcasts that lean more on the informational side of the medium like Maximum Fun’s My Brother, My Brother, and Me where absurdist questions like hiding an ungodly amount of number of bananas from your parents are answered by family with a slight degree of seriousness were also packed and full of raucous laughter. The presence of comedy even encouraged something as educational as Stuff You Should Know to come with an entire episode of facts that you probably didn’t know about comedy legend Rodney Dangerfield like he’s beef with AMPAS to join their ranks.
–Greg Proops, per usual, showcased his seemingly limitless depth of knowledge on both his own podcast Smartest Man in the World where his feats of cultural reference acrobatics can entertain both the initiated and uninitiated alike. He even got to do more of that going into classic cinema as a guest on Jackie Kashian’s Dork Forest.
-Bridging the gap of free form radio and podcasts, which is arguably its successor, Marc Maron invited free form radio legends Jim Ladd and Frazer Smith on to WTF. You could tell that they enjoyed the lack of restrictions of time and language and also gave a great insight into what audio with no one really baring down on you from decades ago was like.
photo by Liezl Estipona
-Podcasts also give a great look into niche topics/subject matter/worlds/sub cultures that many wouldn’t otherwise delve into. Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds’ The Dollop that discussed the assassin of Lincoln’s asssasin, the expert riffing on various movie trailers between Doug Benson, Chris Mancini, Graham Elwood, Dave Foley and Suzy Nakamura on Comedy Film Nerds, and Erin Foley’s back-and-forth about fantasy sports with Jeff Garlin on Sports Without Balls were all a great showcase of just that.
-If you’re down for getting into Inception level layers of silliness, Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport put on a clinic with the live episode of their Hollywood Handbook leading their guest John Gemberling through different universes of podcasts that they were pitching to start their own rival podcast festival.
-Podcasts from across literal oceans were also featured showing how far the medium of podcasting has reached. Filip & Federik has two foreigners that fascinate themselves with their take on the world, which consisted of theories on why there’s a roundabout in the middle of a straight road in Siberia build under the reign of Stalin. The Worst Idea of All Time showed the effects of the human mind of Guy Montgomery and Tim Batt who went from watching Grown Ups 2 every week for a year to watching Sex and the City 2 every week for a year. It shows how amazing the mind is in concocting theories when subjected to a movie that’s pretty much panned across the board.
Keep track of LA Podcast Festival as they’re only planning on making it bigger next year.