Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Podcasts by Maximum Funsters


In my column on Experts and Intermediates, I introduced the genre designation "Two Twentysomething White Guys", by far the most common format in podcasting. I think I can dial it in even further: "Two Twentysomething White Guys B.S.ing About Culture" (TTWGBAC) sounds altogether more descriptive. In this first installment of my destined-to-be-epic series of Podthoughts on podcasts made by Maximum Funsters, I give you two new additions to this proud tradition.

From Max Funster crazyforswayze comes the just-about-weekly Stop Podcasting Yourself [iTunes link], starring Vancouverite twentysomething white guys Graham Clark and Dave Shumka. (How to tell them apart: Graham sounds weirdly insincere, while Dave sounds weirdly sincere.) Amid a sea of TTWGBACs, the program's geographical grounding makes it stand out: the hosts routinely discuss such distinctly Canadian things as MuchMusic, ugly people on television, public transportation, and aspiring to be a mailman. They also discuss such distinctly Vancouverian things as being accosted by junkies and enviro-proselytizers on every square of the sidewalk.

To Americans, most Canadian stuff feels civilizedly bland, sort of pleasantly inferior, but that's not the case with Stop Podcasting Yourself; it's pretty solid, not that it entirely skirts the standard suite of new-TTWGBAC issues (about which more below). It's already being embraced on the forum as, and I quote, "comedy gold", and blindsiding bits of top-flight humor scattered through the first nineteen episodes stand in evidence. Example: a guest who's planning to cross Canada by Greyhound, when asked why he opted not to hitchhike, replies that he's "not that cool." Graham adds, "And you don't want to be that raped."

Also of note is the show's heavy use of segments, each of which has its very own jingle. Now that's production value. The concepts of these segments vary widely in workability — "Overheard" is a bottomless well of goodness, "Pop Rocks Minute" is a valiant effort, "Celebrity Odds" plays the dangerous game of trading solely on ridiculousness — but that's balanced out by the fact that turnover is high. Even the shortest-lived segments — and here I'm thinking of the likes of "Paxton or Pullman" and "Blanchett or Winslet" — are just about worth the shot Graham and Dave give them.

From Max Funster Semisorick comes The Internet's Maximum Potential [iTunes link], where the TTWGBAC phenomenon comes straight outta Milwaukee. In a slightly-more-frequently-than-weekly free-form discussion — a very, very free-form discussion — hosts Drew Steck and Rick Katschke (how to tell them apart: Rick sounds a lot like American Movie's Mark Borchardt) wend their way around such cultural events of our time as the Sex and the City movie (I feel the need to point out that one of the hosts claims to have watched every episode of the television show, and also claims heterosexuality), Phantom Planet's live show (apparently, it sucks), and Alice Cooper's Starbucks patronage. The guys also occasionally lapse into sports talk; having never heard of sports, I feel unqualified to comment, but I thought it was unusual enough to make a thing of.

Because it's almost ten installments newer than Stop Podcasting Yourself, I have commensurately less to say about The Internet's Maximum Potential, suffice to say that I've heard some promising stories and exchanges. For instance, in the third episode [MP3], one Maximum Potentialist, a film major, recalls a dopey, garrulous dorm-mate who was hell-bent on bringing The Giver to the silver screen. That or making a movie about how Holocaust-like genocide could happen today, but it wouldn't be set in an African country — that doesn't sound realistic. (Maybe that doesn't translate well to text, but you should hear Rick tell it. Or Drew, I forget.)

As with any TTWGBAC, the listening experience improves as you get to know the twentysomething white guys behind the mics. Thus, there's a pretty serious time investment required, but the returns on that time increase. For the first episode or two, you'll always be like, "Who? What? Which one's talking? Why are they talking about this? Was that an in-joke?" But the disorientation always subsides. Put in the work on TTWGBAC-listening, and sooner or later you'll have a large stable of twentysomething white male perspectives with which to compare notes on what's going on in the worlds of film, comedy, and old Third Eye Blind albums.

I have only one recommendation for these TTWGBACs: nobody's forcing you to go the whole hour, so you can stop recording before you run out of steam or edit the show down down until it ends before you run out of steam. It's admirable to want to give the listener all the material you can, but there's something to be said for leavin' 'em wantin' more, even if that means a shorter podcast. This will also minimize the number of what I call "So... yeah" moments — any podcast-listener knows them all too well — and when those hit the cutting room floor, everyone wins.

[Tough but fair freelance Podthinker Colin Marshall hacks under the cyber-handle colinjmarshall at gmail. Discuss Podthoughts here, or submit your podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]