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Episode 3.3 — Concept & Content: Day 3

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I have to say I was a little put off by Matt going on about Brett's sketch commenting on hack comedy. Maybe the sketch had just hit a nerve for Matt, but I disagreed that Brett shouldn't be making fun of other comedy/comedians. His material seemed way more light-hearted than Matt was criticizing him for, and it seemed ultra harsh to me. I know I am not a professional comedian, but I didn't necessarily have a problem with the topic. I think the real problem with the sketch was more with the presentation/execution and having the audience be on board for a game show, and then starting out with 30 seconds of stand-up. I was also surprised that they decided to let TCGE go after all that. Overall though, there was a lot of great constructive criticism from PFT and Jesse too, so I guess it all balanced out.

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I think someone has already noted this, but i feel like the negative criticism of the Ham Radio sketch was largely an emotional response. I've never listened to the podcast myself, so just based on the two minute sketch, it was very frustrating to listen to "you shouldn't make fun of comedians" over and over when i found the satrical point was to mock the comedian who was bashing "the hack". Having said that, i think Jesse made a great point about radio audiences being lost easily, and I agree that the clip in question was a poor choice because the judges are comedians. Even if the comedy judgement was only in there to serve a judgement on comedy critique, the latter judgement isn't inherent to the listener, and if the listener is offended or distracted by the former part, they could easily miss the the message.
Now, I have to ask, will there be a popular vote aspect further down line? I'm just curious, I think there are good things and bad things that come with the popular vote, but, ultimately, isn't the question really 'will there be listeners?'

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I took Brett's sketch in pretty much the exact same way that the judges did. I was actually pretty shocked that he chose to submit that, knowing that it would be listened to by professional comedians because I understood the joke there, and the layers and I was slightly offended by it and I am by no means professional or a comedian. I think Besser was pretty spot on in what he said about it. Until you've created something of your own and proved yourself it's pretty uncool to shit on people who have. If Brett had more merit badges on his chest maybe that sketch could have worked a lot better, but it would still be risky. It was alienating to both "hack" comedians and to "bitter" comedians and also to anyone who can empathize with either which is a lot of people, and if your premise starts off by alienating people your punchline better be good enough to bring them back around or all you've done is alienate people. I think there's a lot of potential in that show, but I don't think it's all there yet.

I have a related problem with TVZ, who in the fairly limited clips I've heard and their discussions, seem pretty negative about stuff. That negativity may spring from fandom to some degree but I have a really hard time listening to it. Negativity is fine to listen to when you agree with it but as soon as you disagree with something then it just feels like you're being called an idiot for liking something. Positivity is much easier to listen to even if you disagree. I haven't listened to a full episode of TVZ, so I don't know where their balance is. I just think it's something to watch closely.

Anyway I'm really enjoying the challenge which is surprising for me since I don't tend to go for the reality competition shows. So good on everyone who is involved in putting it together and competing in it.

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I really love the conversation going on in this thread. Something that I've seen echoed by several posters that is especially impressive and comforting to me is the emphasis on positivity. I agree with many of you in that I'd rather hear comedy stem from celebration rather than the breaking down of something. I can certainly get my snark on, but my sensibilities are less Gawker and more HelloGiggles if that makes sense (it probably does to one person). Something that I enjoy about Earwolf programs is that even when it approximates negativity it doesn't become judgmental or hateful. HDTGM generally stays more in the "HOLY SHIT" range than the "THIS SUCKZ" and Who Charted is 1 part "Who listens to this??" and 9 parts "What would you do if your kid changed his name to Afrojack?". I'm glad that this quality is being noticed and valued by other listeners.
Now off to listen to Belle & Sebastian and talk about sunshine...

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I'm the "one person" that gets Caroline's Gawker/HelloGiggles comparison. (I win!)
I wholeheartedly agree with her point regarding positive podcasts on Earwolf. Let's face facts folks... haters gonna hate. But I like that, for the most part, Earwolf podcasts don't do that. Which is why I appreciate that when there was an uncomfortable joke or two thus far on the contestants' submissions, the judges pointed it out.
I also agree with some of the other comments regarding Matt's "emotional response" toward Brett's clip. The feedback's fine, but it probably could have been said in a shorter, more concise note. It's nice that the shows are getting a little shorter as they go on, and I'm sure that is partly because there are less contestants now. I think a 20-30 minute episode is ideal for this show. And, luckily, those minutes have been chock full of discussion, and not Ryan Seacrest-esque manipulating of people's emotions.
By the by, everyone has left very interesting comments thus far in this forum. I'm really enjoying reading the exchange. It's gonna get cutthroat once we start defending our favorites!

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I have a feeling if "The Complete Guide To Everything" took the advice of Matt & the judges, their show would be just like Professor Blastoff, and I doubt they would have won the one year contract at Earwolf. Even as it stood, their concept was pretty similar, so I think they never stood a real chance.

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@Brendan - Just to be clear, each and every show has a chance to win. There is no agenda. Matt has complete autonomy and the guest judges are just that, guest judges with their own opinions. I don't like the idea that there is some "producery" bullshit going on here, it couldn't be further from the truth. We invited each show to compete because we thought it was possible they could be a good fit for Earwolf.

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TVZ is by far not out of all the judges expertise. MC Matt Besser himself has repeatedly shown an affinity for TVZ through his interviews. He's a sci-fi man.

Thanks for all the awesome comments! @Frank Capello and I are super pumped that you're all so pumped! Everybody's pumped!

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I really enjoyed that Paul F. is so prevalent in the podcast world he'd already been on most of the shows he was judging. I feel it's only fair for the competition for him to guest on any of that remain. (that is, they have not been destroyed by his hilarity. Think about it.

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This week also won me over for the F+, I was a little skeptical of the premise originally, but It cracked me up. I think though I have a weakness for any show where the hosts are laughing. Do you think I just crave human connection? This started out as a comment on the show but now I'm worried I have emotional issues.

Anyway, love the show! Keep it up!

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I agreed with the chaps that the Ham Radio sketch didn't land like it was meant to and LOVED how they articulated their thoughts on it but their critique made me WANT to hear from Brett about why he'd made the decisions the judges raised questions over. This was the first time I've heard Brett but I didn't hear any disrespect in his responses, just the desire to explain where those decisions - however misguided they might've been - had come from. I support that expression because it's intriguing. I'm not a comedian or podcaster myself but that nuts and bolts stuff fascinates the bejebus out of me.

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I have to say I am really enjoying this contest. I am being exposed to a lot of things I have never heard of for example killer apes biting dicks. I really agreed with the judges yesterday about the lack of females in the podcasting world. I love the Totally Laime podcast not just because Elizabeth is a female but she is funny! As they said on Day 2 she is laid back and I feel like I am listening to someone's funny conversation (like when you are at the bar and you are listening to the people next to you) rather then someone screaming at me like some of the other podcasts. Also, I always know what she is talking about where with the other podcast I was a bit confused at times. KEEP IT STRONG TOTALLY LAIME! Oh and I agree Ham Raido has got to go

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I like Ham Radio!
I wish there were a way to hear more of his show... I wonder if the two minute time limit is hurting his chances.
Oh well, we'll never know.

Really interesting show this week, everyone!
(I don't know what's coming up - I'm listening to it as a fan like everyone else)

I think, instead of there being nine losers, there will be ten winners - I have even been on one of these podcasts (I think), and I still have never heard of any of them. Looking forward to hearing more!
SA

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This will be like the tenth different "Brendan" commenting on this thread. There are more different Brendan's on here than members of Left Handed Radio and F+ combined.
A couple things stood out this week to me....
First, I felt the 2 minutes limit was such a HUGE advantage for the sketch shows because their format is geared much better for complete thoughts/ideas within that time limit. Going into this week, I was really down on Left Handed Radio and more excited about the Fort/Hamm Radio. After the clips for these shows, LHR definitely made me rethink my favorites. Their submission was so much tighter and more enjoyable than the other two. My initial perception of LHR was that of an annoying group of thespians sitting in the corner practicing over-the-top characters and wishing they were more popular....I was wrong and hope to be continuously proved wrong in further episodes.

Second, I was pleasantly surprised by the Bob and Dan cast clip. I feel they have the most potential growth and feel their charm might overcome their lack of raw comedic talent. I felt the two early front runners, TL and TLDDS, submitted material that was predictable, but above average nonetheless.

I'd like to say that this competition has been a great success so far and I hope that the contestants stay positive through criticism and near certain elimination. All of them, regardless of the commenting public's taste, should get huge props for subjecting their self expression to the judgement gauntlet....that alone puts them in a class by themselves.

Lastly, to comment on the small controversy...Jesse is actually the perfect judge for this show and I strongly disagree with the notion that he was too harsh. His style of humor created some really funny moments during the haze of seriousness. I thought he was the first judge (I loved the others, don't get me wrong) that was not delivering his criticisms with kid gloves and covering them with excessive fluff. I think Jesse's voice is the real reason people tend to get that judgy feeling. His pipes are nearly tone perfect and he enunciates flawlessly. There is a small ounce of jealousy built up every time I hear that damn perfect radio voice.

Brendan L

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-- I agree with Scott that there may be winners within the losers. The only show I knew before the contest was Totally Laime but this round alone made me want to hear more Left Handed Radio and The Complete Guide To Everything. LHR's Salad Horse sketch totally won me over and it seems everything TCGTE were bagged for not having (setting up the absurd tangets with real knowledge first) they actually do in real life but just didn't include it in their 2 minute clip. They might have been cut but apart from Salad Horse their Bigfoot Butler riffing was the funniest thing in the whole round.
-- Also agree with Brandan that Jesse Thorn is a perfect judge for this thing and that the fact he was delivering his criticisms without kid gloves is actually a sign of respect for the people he's addressing.

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If you guys liked the Left Handed Radio content, you should check out our latest full episode that just dropped this week. I'm pretty sure it's my personal favorite of what we've made so far, and a solid gateway episode, especially if you liked Salad Horse. Thanks for all the kind words and Brendan L., I'm happy to have "turned" you. Just like gay people do!

Oh and as far as I'm concerned, Jesse and Paul were fantastic judges, and Jesse's dissertation on the nature of audio's strength and weaknesses is required listening for anyone working in the medium. I won't say goodbye to TCGTE, but I will say good journey. They're great guys who will have no problem continuing to be great.

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@JeffUllrich I wasn't implying any intentional impropriety about The Complete Guide To Everything's chances. "Producery bullshit" never entered my mind! I just meant that if the judges are looking for a podcast that offers something different than other podcasts, like they've said, then TCGTE would draw comparisons to Professor Blastoff. I feel they'd have to execute the concept better than Prof Blastoff just to have a chance. And the comparison wasn't immediately apparent, so I understand that it wasn't intentionally set up to fail. It's just that the concept for both shows is so close, you'd have to think there'd only be room for one of them on Earwolf.

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The Television Zombies and The Dum Dum podcast seem to be the most amusing. I guess they have the least to lose by being eliminated because I don't think this contest is going to make or break them- they're both so good.

(they really brow beat the shit out of that guy who did the hack-comic sketch didn't they? ROFLMFAO.)

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I was hesitant to wade in here but I've been lurking on this great discussion, and since I got a coveted Aukerman endorsement I'll go ahead and chime in.
For starters, I'm a working comic who middles in a lot of shitty Indian casinos, Tribble runs, etc. and I can't count the number of times I've had to follow some hack who just got done killing with his 10 minute Schwarzenegger closer that he's been carting around for the last 20 years. Then I gotta go onstage and try to squeeze laughs from my urbane, original (hopefully) observations to a bunch of drunk folk who just got done baying for Arnold. Not complaining, just describing. It's not a unique situation, but it is one I personally experience often enough for it to be a thing, so to say I don't have enough "merit badges" really doesn't register for me. I often use my podcast to grapple with situations that occupy my daily thoughts, this was just one of them. I wrote this after I did a show in a shitty Indian casino with a host who had 5 minutes on Chinese shopkeepers and a big Schwarzeneggar closer.
The idea for the sketch was to flip the script and come up with a scenario in which the "hack" was the one most deserving of compassion, and the "bitter standup" (stand-in for me) was the asshole. If you ask me, it was an exercise in compassion, not hater-hood. I thought that starting the clip with such a long stretch of "hack" material would make the audience hate the "hack," thus making the revelation that he was a dying man more poignant. I didn't realize that would make the intended audience hate me instead. Big miscalculation, obvs.
That being said, it really was a "bad song choice" as Matt said. It was partly chosen based on the time limit, and yes, partly because I thought a comedy-centric crowd would get it/enjoy it. I'm sure plenty did.
And I don't think the guys were being too rough, although I could see how people would think that. These guys are total pros and just getting to hear them talk about the medium in such detail and proximity is a master class in podcasting, for me.

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- I started listening to The Challenge through TCGTE, but I'm also a huge fan of Earwolf, Maximum Fun and PFT. I've been listening to Tim and Tom since podcast 1 (where the audio SUCKED and there was a third person, who may have been killed off). Really sorry to see them go. I also knew they were going to be a tough sell, based on their "Beat Wikipedia" premise, because that's rarely what the podcast actually is.

- T&T have a tendency to completely lose track of what the topic is for their show, and this is exactly why I listen to them (and also for Tim and Tom Solve Your Problems, probably the best podcast segment ever (besides the What's Up Hotdog Memorial Plugs). In my opinion, the best part of the show is the first 15-30 minutes when they talk about nothing. They are very funny and they play very well off each other. They work the best when they are antagonistic/argumentative which didn't come across at all in the clip they played. Most of the episode is riffing on inane topics and about 15-20 minutes is actually about the topic (which may be a bad thing to other people, but that's why I love the show). There's a great sense of spontaneity in their conversation. Their show is much more free-form than Matt and the judges were led to believe (which I have to say is mostly Tim and Tom's fault for leading them astray and not picking a good clip to play).

- The name of their show is really a small part of their podcast, and they rarely use the "beat Wikipedia at its own game" conceit. It's more of an excuse to complain about certain topics (which don't have anything to do with the main theme of the podcast) within each themed episode, like Starbucks customers/baristas and teenagers. Some of their greatest episodes are very loosely themed, like HaircutCast, where they talk about bad haircut experiences they've had. They didn't really get across to Matt and the judges that they aren't a fact-based podcast like How Stuff Works and How to Do Everything, or even John Judge Hodgman (sic). In fact, they usually say something like "If someone used this episode as a guide to ___, they would be horribly misinformed."

- Also, if Tim and Tom are reading this, you should have picked something from the Loch Ness Monster episode. That podcast was the closest you've ever come to the title of your show, and it was also hilarious.

- I hope this whole essay doesn't come off as jerkish, I just wanted to explain their show better than they did on The Challenge. Good luck to all the other podcasts!

- Also, constructive criticism for the Earwolf Forums: It would be great if we could space between paragraphs!

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-- See, I like your illumiation of the behind-the-scenes of your sketch Brett and I understand the reasons for your creative decisions absolutely and I don't have even a quarter of the talent you showed even in that sketch which unfortunately didn't end up firing on all cylinders. I heard enough there with what you did to understand why Scott raised his voice in support of you, and if Scott is in your corner you must have something, because that guy has pretty impeccable taste.
-- I didn't mind as much as the judges that you were taking a shot at hacks but I thought the other notes they gave were so smart that I fell in love with those guys all over again. The two best notes I thought were, (1) that working on your own - or at least without having outside ears and voices give you smart and honest feedback - will mean you're always at risk of having a gap between how you intend the work to be received and how it is received, and (2) Jesse's comment that when working with audio unfortunately you need to simplify and stick to proven structures much more than with video because of the relatively limited amount of information that can be conveyed moment to moment. I thought the script-flipping was cleverly written but maybe just a step too clever for the non-visual medium.
-- Also, I agree with Matt that writing and reading on the forum would be nicer with line breaks between paragraphs.

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-I can’t believe Besser’s criticism that Brett can’t take a note and that there was too much “push-back” on the criticisms. Re-listening to the comments for Brett, it seemed like he barely got in a word edge-wise with Jesse’s comedy-del-arte anecdotes and weird hat-lady comparison. Were some of Brett’s responses edited out? Because, when he agreed that “it was clearly a bad choice” that doesn’t sound like he wasn’t listening to the note or being confrontational to me. It’s also really duplicitous to ask someone to “defend themselves” and then rail on them for making “too many excuses”.
-Perhaps the most relevant interchange with regards to “push-back” is Besser’s claim that Brett was “acting like we didn’t get the joke when we did get the joke”. But Besser’s first critique was that “making fun of hacks is kind of hack”. Brett subsequently clarified that the target of the joke wasn’t the hack, but the critic. This clarification was a totally reasonable thing to say given the intial critique. If this is what qualifies as “too much push-back” then I am afraid that the Day 3 of the Earwolf challenge will turn into everyone just saying “yes sir, yes sir” to all the critiques. I think it would be more interesting for people to more rigorously defend their choices, but I guess that won’t happen because future bottom 3 dwellers will be too scared to be accused of "not being able to take a note".

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Hey, it's ol' knucklehead here, chiming in to clarify what I think the criticism of @Brett Hamil 's sketch was...

- Let me first clarify by saying I like Brett. I am rooting for Brett. I expect Brett could win this whole thing.

-But I also was similarly turned off by his sketch selection. Why?

-Okay, let me try to explain...

-Seeing a lot of comedy at the UCB here, I see young comedians bringing up "hack comedy" all the time. They bring it up so often, you'd think it were a thing the general public cares about, and that they all could agree is a terrible problem in our society. These are usually young comics who haven't figured out what they want to talk about themselves yet, so they use it as a crutch, like ironic racism or puns (in other words, the very same crutches I use).

-Whenever I see this, I'm usually disinterested and zone out, and wish they would talk about something they really cared about. I don't know, maybe that IS the thing they really care about, since comedy can take over your whole life once you start doing it. But I don't think most of them see a lot of hack comedy around them. After all, they're mainly performing at open mics and the UCB, two places not known for performers of the usual definition of "hack" comedy.

-(Side note: I don't like the term "hack" very much. It's too easy. If you care about comedy, there are shades and levels that are so interesting to dissect than just generalizing someone as such. I've seen people level the accusation of someone being a hack many times, and quite often they don't even know what it means. They're just calling someone that whose jokes they don't like very much. But that's just a pet peeve of mine...)

-Now, it sounds like Brett is around shitty omedians a lot, from his description of middling in casinos and whatnot. So he is definitely coming from a place of experience. And, in any case, the point of his sketch was all about skewering the other guy- the guy who was upset at it, right?

-I think the point the judges were trying to make was not that Brett didn't have the right to take potshots because he hasn't paid his dues enough to make fun of other comedians. They were trying to say he doesn't have the right because he hadn't ENTERTAINED US with several minutes of his OWN comedy yet. Brett literally started the sketch with about a minute of "bad" comedy. This is generally uninteresting to me, and probably to the judges.

-I was super excited to hear whatever Brett considered to be one of his really great sketches, so I could get a good idea of what his style is. I found it very disappointing that I didn't get that opportunity. So that's what I think Matt meant when he said "bad song choice." He could see the talent, and could tell that Brett is good - it's just he didn't care for the tune Brett was singing.

-Now, don't cry foul and say I'm being a hypocrite - after all, yes, I was on a show starring the guy who played Blueberry Head. I've taken potshots at everything from bad improv to a comedian whose style I didn't care for.

-But I should've been focusing my time instead on writing something funny myself.

-The best analogy I can come up with is - I was listening to Ben Folds's (otherwise perfect) record "Rockin' The Suburbs" the other day. And whenever that song comes on, I always skip it. Why? Because i KNOW Limp Bizkit is shitty - that's why I'm listening to Ben Folds!

-I look forward to next week, and expect to hear Brett knock it out of the park. And good luck to all the contestants! I'm enjoying this show.

-SA

-PS - now that I'm on an explaining jag, let me tell you all the REAL reason I changed the name to Comedy Bang Bang. Oh shit - I'm out of space.

-PPS - If you think Ben Folds is just as shitty as Limp Bizkit, please don't open an account just to log in and start calling me a pussy.

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