I listen to several different comedy podcasts. Most, but not all, normally use a studio-based format, while others use a live-audience format, recorded at some sort of comedy club.
Sometimes, a studio-based podcast will do a special episode in a live-audience format. They usually present this as if it were a special treat, but I often don’t like the live episodes as much as I do the studio episodes, because the live episode usually has a different and unfamiliar rhythm. (And yet, I have no problem with the podcasts that use a live audience as their regular, week-in week-out format.)
The comedian Paul F. Tompkins is involved with several different podcasts of his own and is also a frequent guest on other podcasts. Tompkins created and plays H.G. Wells on the hilarious Dead Authors Podcast, in which he interviews other deceased authors (as played by various Wikipedia-crammed comics and actors).
But one of Tompkins’ newest efforts is Spontaneanation, a unique podcast with a two-part format. In the first part, Tompkins interviews a podcast guest, usually a wide-ranging conversation which brings up funny stories from the subject’s past and childhood. Then, in the second half, Tompkins and a team of improv comics create a sketch which takes place in a setting which has been suggested by the interview guest. They try to be as funny as possible and also to work in callbacks to funny moments or anecdotes from the interview segment. My description probably isn’t doing the show justice; it needs to be heard to be appreciated.
Anyway, Spontaneanation is normally studio-based but this week has a live episode. In spite of the reservations cited above, I thought this was one of the funniest they’ve ever done. The reason is Tompkins’ guest, Scott Aukerman, who hosts “Comedy Bang! Bang!” both as an audio podcast and an IFC television show. (Aukerman is also one of the proprietors of the Earwolf podcast network, which distributes “Spontaneanation.”) Aukerman is hilarious as an interview guest – subverting the normal interview process with weird diversions and character moments. Tompkins (who must have been absolutely delighted) keeps making remarks about how far the interview has gone off track.
Usually, the guest isn’t part of the improv sketch, but in this case Aukerman stays on for the improv segment, and deservedly so. The result is just hilarious – although not necessarily safe for work or young children. You can listen to it here: