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Episode 5.3 — Using the Guest: Day 3


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#1 Earwolf Admin

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 11:01 PM

We don't love doing it, but we have to eliminate yet another podcast. Matt, Howard, and Marc call the three lowest performing shows and one must leave. Keep up with our eliminated contestants on the Earwolf blog, and join in on the discussion on our forums.



#2 astralweeks

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 11:55 PM

Sorry TV Zombies. Use the constructive comments to build a beautiful podcast house.



#3 Julia Hays

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 03:16 AM

I agree with the judges' decision this week. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the Television Zombies is still pretty poor, which ends up being distracting. I also think the clip they selected was confusing; they were jumping from topic to topic without giving the listeners' a chance to catch up. Best of luck to the TZs with their show!



#4 Mark Thompson

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 04:09 AM

Getting a little sick of Totally Laime getting a free pass from the judges every week. Their last two submissions have been awful. I found it especially annoying that the judges this week grilled Bob & Dan for several minutes about their hokey non-original drive-by questions when Totally Laime used a very similar (and less interesting!) device last week, and skated by with barest criticism, if not praise. The fact that every judge so far on the show has apparently DONE the Totally Laime podcast also annoys me. If they're so established that they can get any alt comic they want on their show, and they're so well regarded in the podcast world already, why are they even in this contest? I'd rather this competition be about giving more raw yet original concepts like F+ or Hamm Radio a shot then validating some vanity chat show that has absolutely nothing to distinguish them from any other chat show podcast. At least the Little Dum Dum Club have Australian accents (and are entertaining). I guess I see why the judges fawn all over Totally Laime, since they all apparently know the hosts, but I don't get the love for them I've seen on the boards. Do you all just like really bland chat shows, or are you just that easily influenced by what the judges say?

I was sad to see TV Zombies go this week, although I think it was the right decision for (some of} the wrong reasons. Their sound quality HAS been poor throughout, and I can't deny that the segment this week was lame. However, despite some backpedalling and efforts to say "it's more than that", it seemed like Kremer and Maron based most of their decision on the fact that they don't like Sci Fi.

Finally, I'm glad on Tuesday that Kremer finally said, "can I ask what this show normally DOES?" after hearing several podcasts with absolutely no introduction. Besser's approach seems to be that the segments themselves should grab you regardless of context, which would be fine if this were radio. But as Jimmy Pardo pointed out the first challenge week, no one downloads a podcast without having SOME idea of what the show's about. F+ was definitely hurt by a lack of context, which I thought was unfair. Had the judges known ahead of time what their gimmick was (as we did), it would have been much less confusing. Besser is doing the shows with actual original concepts a disservice by throwing them to the judges with no setup. Lesson for you remaining podcasts: include a short synopsis of your show's format with your weekly introductory blurb, cause you'll get no help from Besser!



#5 Sam Murden

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 04:38 AM

First Post! Hoorah for registering!

I've more or less just lurked in the past couple of weeks listening to Besser and the judges listen to each of the podcasts and I've found a common complaint:
F Plus are a great podcast (I've been a fan of theirs for several months) and I don't think the performances that they are putting in are bad, but like Zombies, it comes down to audio. In reality, all F plus is is people reading articles off the internet through various programs. As much of a fan I was of F Plus, I expected them to be eliminated this week not because of audio issues but because it was always unclear as to what they were reading from. It was never specified, at least to my knowledge.

Having said that though, I highly agree with some of the above comments that say that Besser needed to at least give a listen to these podcasts before making the judges listen to them. He's been on the right track of asking: "what do you think this podcast does" and similar questions, I'd just like a little more of a clarity on his side.

Apart from that, it was sad to see Zombies go and I can almost promise you that if the F Plus smash the next challenge theme out of the ball park, they are gone.



#6 Jason E

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 06:45 AM

I don't want to be mean, but I wonder how long The Fort can possibly skate by. The medusa sketch was lame, and the Planet of the Apes Who Bite Dicks Off sketch was the least funny segment on the Challenge so far, by far. It seems like they need to have Matt Braunger on every week to insulate them from the lameness of their sketches.

TV Zombies was a weak link and now that they're off, I expect competition will be more intense, especially with TL flubbing it this week. I think Left Handed Radio is a good pick for the next frontrunner - the orb sketch was pretty good, and Earwolf would probably like a sketch podcast.



#7 Jeff MacDonald

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 07:15 AM

I agree to an extent of what mark said about Totally Laime although I would have put it more delicately. I disagree that Matt is doing a poor job though; I find him to do a good job of defending podcasts when the judges seem to have criticisms that shouldn't apply because of the content or theme of their show. I could also do with more Announcer Matt throughout the show cause he does that amazingly.

To re-iterate in a different way about Totally Laime; it is frustrating to hear someone like Marc talk about how he thought the segment was weak from TL, but then give them a pass because he thinks their show is funny on the whole. I realize this competition was set up to be totally unbiased, but I think some bias has snuck in with TL and I would like to see some hosts that have no idea what TL is and give a judgment free of unintentional bias.



#8 Jeff Ullrich

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 08:08 AM

Warning - This post is going to come off as both defensive and harsh...because it is. I love the challenge and especially the board activity. It's great to read what everyone thinks. But I have a few things to get off of my chest. 1. It is unrealistic to expect the judges to listen to any of the shows before they get there. We are very fortunate that all of the judges take the hour to commute round trip to the studio and also spend 2 hours recording. 3 hours for free from people like Howard and Marc is very generous. On the weekend (we record on Saturdays) no less. When they aren't otherwise on tour working their asses off. I'm not going to send them a file and say, "Please spend another two hours listening to samples of these 7 podcasts." They would tell me to go fuck myself, and rightfully so. That doesn't even include Matt, Frank and Peter who do WAY more work than anyone else. I doubt many accountants would be willing to work for free on Saturday. 2. Yes, we could and maybe should explain each show to each judge, but again, that's prep work they don't have time to do or keep straight, or it makes the show 10 minutes longer which, believe me, would piss most people off. We already require quite a time commitment. If you want the best in the world as judges, you have to accept the limitations. Otherwise, you'd get very different judges who would not be able to offer the same high quality insight that has made this show great. 3. There is no bias in favor of Totally Laime. Maron has been on the show, yes, but he doesn't listen to his own podcast, much less anyone else's. I know this for a fact. And they are not "friends". TL is in LA and people do their show. They are not friends with any of the judges. I agree with everyone else that this was not the best week for TL, but I still laughed more than most of the other submissions. I don't think there has been any "free passes" and it pisses me off that it was suggested. 3a. We went through a million podcasts before we chose these ten. In a perfect world, we would have discovered the genius of the guy living in his parents basement in Cleveland. Great story. But guess what? He either doesn't exist or isn't interested in being on the challenge. So we picked the best 10, not the most obscure. I'm 100% sure that has made for a better show, even if TL isn't "raw". 4. To say "Earwolf would probably like a sketch podcast." is insulting. This show is about itself; pushing into new ground and having fun along the way. With integrity. I'm not looking for a new show out of this, we are rewarding the winner with a spot in our network. Big difference. If it were the way you suggested, this Challenge would have been run VERY differently. I have no say in who gets eliminated each week and we're going to welcome the winner, regardless of the show format. Because it will be funny and they will have won. 5. Let's not forget this is a competition with rules that each contestant must follow. Is it perfect? No. I came up with the challenge concept and most of the challenges and I stand behind them. What other competition only makes each contestant submit their specialty? You don't see people on Top Chef who do great Italian refuse to make Thai food. That's part of what stretches each contestant and makes for a more interesting show. The contestants knew this before they signed up. Okay, I could go on but I'll stop. I care a great deal about this show and just want to make sure everyone here understands why things are the way they are and know that a TON of time was put in to thinking this thing through.



#9 Rutabaga

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 08:33 AM

At this point, the F+ knows they are confusing. I agree with Mark above that they absolutely need to be using that intro 15 seconds to setup what they do more generally to prepare the guest judges. This is what they said to intro their clip this week:
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“Hello professional comedians! For our guest segment we invited New York comedian Lou Fernandez. Lou hosts his own podcast called Lou Reads the Internet and like the F+ he takes great joy in reading horrible things that he’s found. In this clip he talks about how our two shows are different.”
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Then in the clip it repeats that the guest is Lou Fernandez a New York comedian with a show that is similar but darker called Lou Reed's: The Internet. The intro was almost completely wasted, and then Lou doesn’t even really talk about how the shows are different for more than one sentence, so even I was a little confused. Three Challenges in row with the same “we were confused” note every week. It is really up to them to figure out how to stay in it at this point. I don’t think the Challenge needs to change parameters because they can’t figure out how to fit in them. That’s part of the challenge! I thought their content was very funny this week, but they need to be able to convince the judges of that too.
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I was really hoping following the judges’ comments that Bob and Dan were going to say, “Oh, but Dan Telfer does 10 minutes in his act about the difference between rubber and Mylar balloons.” I don’t really see how their bit was anything like Laime or Totally from the guest’s perspective. One had the guest riffing for 10 seconds about nothing and the other basically required them to just answer yes or no as fast as they can (I could do that!). The fact that Dan Telfer was an excellent guest and played along perfectly doesn’t mean the bit will work with everyone (what Marc Maron was saying), and they certainly wouldn’t have even played the clip if it hadn’t worked out perfectly. If Telfer had just answered “rubber” there would have been zero funny. It would have been a travesty if they eliminated B&D because of it, but I think the notes were interesting.



#10 Daniel1326657706

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 08:53 AM

Personally, as a listener I do have the context of what shows are and I have yet to come to much of a different conclusion than the judges, except for a couple of times where I dislike something more intensely than they seem to. Adding context doesn't make a bad clip suddenly good, it may make it slightly less bad but most of the criticism still applies.
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Second, and most of this is directed at Mark, people like Totally Laime because it's a good podcast. If you don't like it that's cool, but most of the criticism seems to amount to the same thing as not liking a great band simply because it is no longer obscure. I don't think they've gotten any free passes, their clip this week had some problems, but was still noticeably better than several other submissions and was both funny and revealing.
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Thirdly, fitting any of these podcasts into categories and then dismissing them because they're in those categories seems especially silly to me. It's like saying, "oh that show is a sitcom and aren't there enough sitcoms around already." Just because a show has a guest on and then talks with the guest doesn't make it the same as another show that has a guest on and then talks with the guest. There may be some much more specific points that can be analyzed and compared but the sweeping categorization just doesn't do it for me. Uniqueness is great, but uniqueness alone doesn't make it good. Some really great things come out of using a classic formula but doing it really well.



#11 Dirk

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 09:15 AM

Fucking sucks man. I really like television zombies. I wish you could have nuked f plus or totally laime.

That said... totally laime SHOULDN'T WIN

Matt's Awesome. Totally brutal with those guys... don't remember verbatim....

Marc: wow... they don't usually even have guests...

Matt: Well they could say they don't usually have ANYTHING... so then EVERYTHING is a stretch...



#12 JW Buchanan

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 10:56 AM

I resented that Bob and Dan were criticized by the judges again for not having "a hook." So far, they've shown probably the most variety in their recurring segments: Answering Yahoo questions, Desert Island, Illuminati or Not?, and whatever they called this thing they did this week. I just don't understand how a big unifying theme, like being a podcast devoted to the lighter side of bike repair, would be better than what they've been doing so far, except you'd be able to describe it to someone in one short sentence (which: Who cares?).
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I think commenters are going a little overboard with their criticism of/rooting against Totally Laime (and their tinfoil hat theories about shadowy forces conspiring to do ...something something), but I do think "Totally or Laime" was unjustly praised. And if there's one thing I know from watching a decade's worth of reality competition shows, its that audiences crave fairness. They will turn on a contestant (even a contestant that they love) in a second if they perceive bias. Now you have to create an arc where Left Handed Radio gets cocky and throws a drink in Totally Laime's face, so she can win back our love!



#13 Bucho

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 11:30 AM

@ Jeff: "Yes, we could and maybe should explain each show to each judge, but again, that's prep work they don't have time to do or keep straight, or it makes the show 10 minutes longer which, believe me, would piss most people off. We already require quite a time commitment. If you want the best in the world as judges, you have to accept the limitations. Otherwise, you'd get very different judges who would not be able to offer the same high quality insight that has made this show great."
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I'm on record as loving The Challenge warts and all Jeff, but on this point it should be noted that it was the great Wee-wee himself who finally blurted out "Can I get some effing context up in the hizzy?!?" Or words to that effect. The judges WANT context. It's no fun for them to be lost and what the listeners seem to be really really loving is when the judges get what the contestant was going for and can give insightful notes because of that.
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I don't think it would extend the show by 10 minutes for Matt, a very capable, ariticulate host, to bring each contestant's clip in front of the episode's judges with a simple intro to help the judges not feel disorientated. And like Mark said above, Jimmy Pardo commented early on that no one downloads a podcast without having SOME idea of what the show's about. How long does it take Matt to say, "Next up is The Fort. They're a sketch show."? Or "Let's hear this round's entry from F Plus. Their show is based on the hosts reading out funny things they've found on the internet." I think 10 minutes is an overestimation, and if Wee-wee is anything to go by, it'd make the judges happier, not pissed off, to get that kind of info.



#14 Naylor

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 11:44 AM

Agreed with the decisions this week, I've not been the biggest fan of Television Zombies and a Sci-FI discussion podcast just doesn't quite feel right for Earwolf somehow. I don't expect the judges to listen to all of the podcast's beforehand, but I do think it would have been better if Matt had just briefly summarized the podcasts to the judges beforehand, He usually ends up having to do that after the clips anyway, so it wouldn't add actually be decreasing the length of the podcast and wouldn't be taking up as much of the judges time.
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I understand why from a judging perspective it seems a good idea not to give judges any prep, but as a listener it isn't very interesting to listen to judges say "so wait, what was that?" and then hearing Matt having to explain it to them again. It's fine the first couple of weeks because I still haven't memorized everything myself, but by this point you just wish the judges would already be up to speed.
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But as I say I also understand the advantage of not giving the judges any expectations, so maybe the way you do it is better, I don't know.



#15 Zach Moffatt

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 01:12 PM

I'd say @ Bucho and @Jeff. I think the challenge is going smoothly. This is certainly uncharted territory, and I think the the producers have done an excellent job. Right now I think it would be too late to try to integrate something like explaining to the guests who the contestants are. I think that Matt is leaving that to the contestants in their intros.

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I do feel though that the guests judges are having a hard time nailing down what some of the contestants shows are about. It seemed like this was a bit tiresome for the F+ in particular, but I guess that's what comes with having a podcast that is unique and can be difficult to explain.



#16 Clint F

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 01:29 PM

I really think it's going smoothly so far also. I can see both sides and I think there is some validity to both. I can see why it's beneficial to the challenge for the judges to go in cold but I can also see how it's a detriment. I can see how some might get annoyed by having to hear the same question asked and answered every judging episode. I also think the podcasts should accept the responsibility of making sure their intro covers it if necessary. A simple solution may be just to print a little cheat sheet for your judges that gives a super brief summary of each show. That way as they are listening to the submission they can look at the sheet and answer whatever basic questions they have on their own.



#17 Delicious Mediocrity

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 02:22 PM

I agree that the Challenge's format it's self needs to be tightened up a bit. Each challenge needs to be defined in detail before hand as well as the criteria for how the clip will be judged. Also, the judges need to be given a brief synopsis of what each podcast is about. I think just doing these simple things will help the contest go smoothly and make it an easier listening experience for the listener. Basically, this podcast needs to take some of it's own advice here and there.

However, even with it's flaws I am really enjoying the show and I feel that the weakest submission was voted off every week.



#18 Mark Thompson

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 04:02 PM

To Jeff's points: I don't think ANYONE expects the judges to listen to the podcasts ahead of time (I certainly never suggested that). And I'm sure we all appreciate that they're giving up free time to do this. However, it's ridiculous to suggest that summarizing the format of the shows before you run the clips would add "10 minutes" to the run time. As others have stated, Besser spends a good deal of time explaining the format to the judges AFTER the clips, usually resulting in a lot of extraneous "Oh, THAT'S what that was about" kind of talk. The not-explaining thing is clearly NOT designed to save time (it clearly ADDS time), but rather a policy to let the judges hear the clips to see if the show format would come through on its own. Besser pretty much says as much in the first few weeks of the challenge. However, as has been discussed previously, not all formats work when taken out of context, and while that may be a weakness for a radio show, it's not for a podcast. If you're going to judge everything by chat show standards, you should have restricted the entries to just chat show podcasts. It's unfair to those with original premises to have no prior explanation - which the judges would obviously prefer (and which the target audience will almost ALWAYS have). If you're going to stubbornly cling to this silly policy, I suggest the podcasts that aren't chat fests follow my advice and include a brief format description in their introductory remarks so they don't unfairly lose points.

I didn't say that the Totally Laime hosts were "friends" with the judges, I said they KNOW them, which they obviously do. And while I don't believe there's a conscious bias, I do think that KNOWING someone is enough to create an UNconscious bias. If you've worked with someone before, however briefly, and they show up for a job interview with a bunch of other applicants, they CLEARLY have a leg up if you have a favorable impression of your time spent with them, as damn near EVERY SINGLE JUDGE indicated they have. I'm sure that all of the judges are absolutely bursting with integrity, but claiming that all the judges APPEARING ON THEIR PODCAST doesn't create an advantage for TL is asinine. As far at the "free pass" business goes, well...we've heard the judges criticize some other podcasts for not having a hook. What exactly is TL's hook? Their self-proclaimed mission statement is that they ask stupid questions. Wow, that's some powerful kind of hook right there. And back to my original point about the brow-beating Bob and Dan took for their drive-by questions, while that Totally or Lame shit got roses....seriously? I know that Matt Gourley and Paul Scheer are two different people than Howard Kremer and Marc Maron, but c'mon. The TL bit got framed as silly fun, while the B&D bit got framed as uncreative laziness. And I DEFY you to tell me that Totally or Lame shit was funny.

I think it's pretty clear that I don't care for Totally Laime (although I'd be happy to discuss it further with anyone who still has lingering doubts about how I feel). I'm certainly biased against chat shows, which are a dime a dozen on the internet, and Totally Laime brings absolutely nothing new to the table. However, I think my observations of the competition so far are vaiid. Do I think the contest is rigging in favor of TL? No. Do I think they've been unfairly handled with kid gloves while other podcasts were not? Absolutely.

Finally, I'm not suggesting that Matt, or you, or anyone else connected with the show is doing a bad job....I'm just expressing my opinion on the contest to this point. If I didn't find it worthwhile, I wouldn't be listening, and I surely wouldn't be commenting.



#19 Brendan H

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 04:56 PM

I don't usually read all the posts so I don't know if all of Jeff Ullrich's comments are excessively harsh or not. Certainly he has some valid points. But I think some of the comments against Totally Laime are due in part to the fact that they have been talked about as being the frontrunner. I think it's natural for people to comment on them because of that. The responses probably aren't proportional to the praise, but that's the nature of message boards, isn't it? Again, I'm not defending the comments since I haven't read them all; I'm just trying to put them in context.
The fact that the judges may have appeared on Totally Laime or Little Dum Dum Club does mean that they know more about those shows than the other submissions, so their shows probably do have a bit of an advantage simply by the judges knowing more about them. But those shows have the most straight forward concepts in that they are interview shows, so they're easier to understand even if you haven't heard them before.
I'm wondering if Totally Laime is also drawing more criticism because they have a lot of guests that people have heard of. You'd think that would be a clear positive, but I think there's a backlash because people may think the show relies on the guest more than the hosts to make it funny and interesting. I'm not saying that's my opinion, since a bad host can ruin an interview and make funny people sound unfunny. But it could lead some people to think "If the [so-and-so] podcast had guests like Paul F. Tompkins and Marc Maron, they'd be just as good or better than Totally Laime!" Again, not my opinion, but I'd bet more than one person here has thought that.



#20 FunnyName

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 05:45 PM

I think Matt is running a fair contest and I don't think the judges have showed any bias toward TL or LDDC. I've listened to all the challenge episodes and never listened to any of the contestants outside of Earwolf, and those two have clearly been the cream of the crop.
In my opinion, except for the LDDC, I think this week was particularly tough on the judges because all of the entries needed improvement.
The contestants need to work on the 15 second introductions; it is critical to set up their bits. A better intro will help the judges gain some perspective when dropping into the podcasts.
So far, I've LOL'd the most with TL, but I love LDDC's authenticity and chemistry. At this point, my vote goes to LDDC.
Thanks for the great podcast!
Drew