Sometimes, being predictable can be good. That was the case at the 2015 LA Podfest as one of the best things that could be said about the many great shows performed from Friday night to Sunday night was that they lived up to their own standards. Performing podcasts that are often recorded in studios or homes in front of large audiences in hotel ballrooms could understandably change a podcaster’s approach, altering what makes their podcast so enjoyable. For some, live podcast performances are not new, but virtually all the acts I saw at the festival were able to stay true to their form and produce shows that their fans have grown to love. Here’s a recap of the predictably great shows I saw on Sunday.
Hosts Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam joked that their show, the aim of which is to help you get ready for a weekend dinner party, was more appropriately a hangover remedy since they were performing at noon on Sunday. Despite the odd hour for the show, Gagliano and Newnam were quickly into their familiar formula of jokes, interviews, music and advice. Guests included a trio of fellow podcasters including Ann Friedman (writer and host of Call Your Girlfriend), Paul Scheer (actor, comedian and co-host of How Did This Get Made?) and Aisha Tyler (actor, comedian and host of Girl on Guy). The highlight of the show was the etiquette advice portion in which Scheer and Tyler handled questions from the audience with varying degrees of politeness.
After finishing her guest appearance on The Dinner Party Download, Aisha Tyler walked over to the next ballroom to do her own podcast, Girl on Guy. Tyler admitted up front she was working on very little sleep after a whirlwind week of work and having just flown back from New York, but nothing about her performance Sunday afternoon seemed sluggish. Tyler interviewed comedian and former cast-member of Saturday Night Live Horatio Sanz about his life and career as an improviser and actor. Cloaked in the story of Sanz’s life, however, were fascinating insights from both Sanz and Tyler on their philosophies on creativity, individuality and self-confidence. Anyone going into the show for a laugh got the bonus of a very thoughtful, open discussion between two very likeable, relatable people.
From thoughtful and reflective, I next went to the loud and hilarious Never Not Funny, hosted by comedian Jimmy Pardo and show producer Matt Belknap. Pardo and Belknap were joined by their regular supporting cast, Eliot Hochberg and Garon Cockrell. The gang put on their normal show, using anything as comic fodder, from recent headlines (the clock kid) to the story of when Jimmy realized that Bill Maher wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. Pat Francis, stand-up comedian and longtime friend of Pardo’s, joined as the show’s guest and did perhaps the most unlikely bit for a podcast: puppet work with a Donald Trump puppet. Francis also received an urgent phone call about his cat during the show, which then led into possibly the funniest moment of the show as Pardo sang Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” backed by Belknap’s sounds of an actual cat hacking on a furball.
The night and festival closed with a show from the podcast veteran team of Superego. Members Jeremy Carter, Matt Gourley, Mark McConville and Paul F. Tompkins put on their fully improvised comedy podcast before a room of festival-goers looking to squeeze one more laugh out of the weekend, and the guys did not disappoint. Chris Tallman, who regularly appears as a guest performer on the show, joined the Superego team on stage as they ran through a list of fan-favorite sketch premises, like The Legion of Doom, Lefingwell Grocers and Reverend Leroy Jenkins. At times, the team delivered the material as smoothly as if it had been scripted, while at other times they lurched and grasped for the next idea like marathoners grasping at water cups while running. It all came out as funny and punctuated the festival with a big laugh.
The 2015 LA Podcast Festival is now over, and despite its online streaming issues, it did not fail to deliver a dizzying assortment of shows, a truckload of laughs, and too many memorable performances to recount. 2016 cannot come soon enough.