A comedian craving intimacy might want to consider becoming a podcaster. “[The audience knows] you a lot better,” says Marc Maron, 50, who has helmed the twice-weekly WTF since September 2009 and announced in December it had topped 100 million downloads. Each show averages about 80 minutes in length and has an average audience of 230,000, and the series will soon log its 500th edition. By listening intently to such free-form conversation, “they know everything about you and I know they have a real relationship with me.”
It’s a stark contrast to the world of stand-up, where, despite the close quarters of such clubs as The Improv and The Comedy Store, the stage serves as a virtual moat — rarely crossed save for the occasional heckler. “As far back as 2005, I’d go to a comedy club and have to convince that night’s audience that, regardless of my credits, I’m funny now,” says 47-year-old Jimmy Pardo, a podcasting pioneer who started his Never Not Funny show in 2006 and has logged 26 years of stand-up experience. “The podcasts grew the audiences coming to see me, and I think every podcaster can say it has changed their live shows.” For comedians today, he says, podcasts are “what Johnny Carson was in the 1970s and ’80s.”
A share of advertising revenue and, in the case of Pardo’s Pardcast, a premium option (lis- teners buy a $50 season pass for full access to Never Not Funny) means not just bonus income for the hosts, but a living wage. As the L.A.- based Pardo boasts, he and co-host/producer Matt Belknap drew enough revenue from pod- cast sales to each buy houses.
Actress-comedian and The Talk gabber Aisha Tyler, 43, whose weekly Girl on Guy focuses on relationships, concurs, adding that the benefit of podcast fans is that “they become evange- lists for you.” Indeed, podcasts have grown so popular — such hosts as Adam Carolla, Joe Rogan, Doug Benson and Chris Hardwick have become household names while eccentrics like Penn Jillette and Greg Proops found new life off the small screen — that many of the genre’s stars are starting to complain of a glut.
The key, says Maron, is maintaining a regular presence and consistent tone. “The thing about audio is that the relationship you build, like radio with Howard Stern and Rush [Limbaugh], is con- sistency,” says Maron, who parlayed podcasting into his own IFC show, Maron, which started its second season on May 8.
But even with the gigantic audience that pod- casts command — Apple reported in August that podcasts it carries have more than 1 billion sub- scribers — Maron adds that “it’s still the Wild West out there and most people don’t listen. To them it’s a weird technological innovation.”