Have comedy podcasts overtaken the standup album as an important step in building a comedy career?
In May, Adam Carolla announced on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” that his daily hourlong audio podcast, “The Adam Carolla Show,” had officially broken the Guinness world record for most downloaded podcast: more than 59 million downloads since its debut in March 2009. That’s the record for all podcasts, not just comedy ones.
Meanwhile, Comedy Central superstar Daniel Tosh’s new hourlong standup special, “Happy Thoughts,” is one of the top-selling comedy albums on iTunes but doesn’t even rank among the 5,000 bestsellers of all recordings sold by Amazon. Indeed, “comedy” is just a hard-to-find subsection of “miscellaneous” recordings on Amazon.com. The only standup recording in the top 10 of the online retailer’s list of most popular comedy albums is Doug Stanhope’s “Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere”; the rest of the top 10 is oddly dominated by “Glee” compilations and classic film soundtracks.
The live album was at one time the definitive work that a standup comic could share with the world to broaden his or her audience, increase earning potential, and possibly gain attention from film and TV industry deciders. That was before cable channels, MySpace, YouTube, and now podcasts changed the way comedy content is created, distributed, and enjoyed.
“An album used to be a statement that could last a comedian several years, and that was the only thing you would hear from them,” said Scott Aukerman, a former writer for “Mr. Show” and the host of “Comedy Bang Bang: The Podcast.” “You would be so excited because it had been two or three years since their last special or their last album, and there was no other way to hear what they were doing.” Read the rest of this entry »
Step 4 in the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program—after admitting that one is powerless over alcohol, professing belief in a higher power, and making the decision to turn over one’s life to spiritual guidance—is to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Even before he made a commitment to sobriety in 1999, Marc Maron, a standup comic who combines the in-your-head neuroses of Woody Allen and Larry David with the in-your-face attitude of Richard Pryor and Iggy Pop, had already spent years doing just that on stage, baring his soul to comedy club audiences with brutal self-awareness, vulnerability, and rage. He says his favorite type of laugh is one that sounds like it really should be a cry.
Maron, 47, started his comedy career in the mid-1980s in Boston and moved to New York City a few years later; he is considered one of the founding fathers of the alternative comedy scene that began in the city in the early 1990s. He has taped standup specials for Comedy Central and HBO, spent time on the road hitting comedy clubs across the country and performing at festivals around the world, and even scored a small role as “Angry Promoter” in the 2000 Cameron Crowe film “Almost Famous.” He has released three comedy albums; his 44 appearances on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” is a record for a standup comic.
But after more than two decades “in the trenches of comedy,” as he calls it, Maron’s career had grown stagnant. By 2009, he was referred to as a “comedy veteran” and a “legend” but was struggling to sell tickets to his standup shows. The comedian reluctantly returned to Air America, the left-wing political talk radio station where he had hosted the early-morning program “Morning Sedition” from 2004–2005, to co-host a weekly hourlong video webcast called “Breakroom Live.”
“I had been fired from them two or three times,” Maron recalls. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with them, but I was in the middle of a divorce, and I was about to lose everything. That job really just got me out of my divorce without losing my house.”
“Breakroom Live” was canceled in the middle of the year, finally ending Maron’s contentious relationship with the now-defunct network. “They went broke again, and I was in trouble,” he says. “I was un-bookable; I couldn’t get any road work. I was washed up, my friend, and I had no real plan. I thought, ‘I built it, and they’re not coming. So what the f— do I do now?’ ” WTF, indeed.
Maron was at a turning point in his career. He just didn’t know it at the time. Read the rest of this entry »