Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The Paul Goebel Show"

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There was once a Comedy Central show called Beat the Geeks, where contestants from all walks of life would test their knowledge of popular culture against that of one music geek, one television geek and one movie geek, plus a fourth spot filled by a series of more specialized geeks. An imbalance resulted from the fact that Joe Average tends only to know one or two particular musical genres intimately and doesn't see many movies. What J.A. does think he knows, however, is television, given that he's been habitually devoting his evenings to it for ten, twenty, thirty years, and thus feels pretty secure in his televisual scholarship. Despite how frequently he was challenged, however, the TV geek still routinely laid the smack down with his vast knowledge of the vast wasteland.

That television geek's name? Paul Goebel. Though Beat the Geeks now sleeps with the Tituses, the self-described King of TV now rides high on his very own eponymous podcast [iTunes link]. The sound quality is iffy, but the setup is tried and true: using the standard format employed by Never Not Funny, among other shows, Goebel and his best bud Jim Bruce bring in a different guest (usually a comedian) every week and, together with this guest, be it Mike Schmidt, TV's Frank, Graham Ellwood or whomever, bullshit about culture. (For hardcore Podthinkers, yes, this makes the program a bona fide TFWGBAC, where the F is for fortysomething.)

Bullshit is the right word to use, too, because boy, these guys work blue. In the first handful of episodes I heard, Goebel and co. had rousing discussions about running away from a threesome while crying, how to most politely handle the situation when the girl you bring home turns out to be a man, and the joys of jumping to bed with 40-year-old women of various ethnicities after getting a vasectomy — or after telling them you've gotten a vasectomy, I'm not sure which. Its essentially a bunch of early-middle-aged guys — sometimes a woman shows up — hanging out, cursing like hobo sailors and accusing one another of homosexuality. A real lunchtime-at-the-job-site ethos, except sometimes Goebel's little kids will wander into the room and ask Dad when he's going to be done. Oh, and Goebel teaches Sunday school sometimes.

Since this is the King of TV's podcast, it's only to be expected that the best and worst of lineups past and current come up frequently, but this is by no means a show primarily about television. Your Podthinker doesn't even own a television and can still find plenty to engage with. The guys toss around opinions about all forms of media, the Most Important Election EverTM, Bruce Willis' daughter, the term "butterface" and the vagaries of the comedy world. Whether a listener will like the show comes right down to whether they like Goebel and his coterie and consider their rough-hewn straight talk to be just what the world needs, or whether they think the crew's deeply unsavory and representative of everything wrong with the world. But either way, it's pretty hard to argue with how funny it is when Jim "mashes up" two pop culture concepts (e.g., the Monkees and Monk or American Idol and an actual car idling), acts out the combination and makes Paul and the guest guess what he's doing.

Vital stats:
Format: TFWGBAC
Running since: June 2006
Duration: 45m-1h45m
Frequency: just about weekly
Archive available on iTunes: way too little

[Freelance podthinker Colin Marshall asks if you've paid your respects to David Foster Wallace. If you ask him at colinjmarshall at gmail, he'll say he has. Suggest a podcast for Podthoughts here, or submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]