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By Lizzi Pittman

Now Hear This Podcast Festival 2017

The last time I was in NYC I got a flat tire and spent the night at my friend’s Bed-Stuy apartment alone while they went camping. I ate a bodega burrito, pounded a six-pack and fell asleep watching Deadwood. It was awesome.

This time around, I took the bus up to attend the Now Hear This podcast festival in Manhattan. As a self-diagnosed podcast addict, this festival promised to give me my fix.

I wanted to share my experience with you, if for no other reason, to give you a giant list of great podcasts and comedians to familiarize yourself with. Enjoy!

There were 4 shows on Friday night: Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, Lovett or Leave it, Found, and the premiere of a new Lauren Lapkus/John Gabrus podcast called Raised by TV. I opted for Lovett or Leave It, and met some lovely podcast-industry/Democrat/Lovett die-hard fans in line. It was super fun to witness Lovett flirt shamelessly with the very witty comedian Jaboukie Young-White. Negin Farsad, author of “How To Make White People Laugh” and host of Fake the Nation podcast was hilarious and great. As well as SNL cast member Sasheer Zamata, whose fans were out in force, and were thusly dubbed the Sheer Truthers, who rounded out the panel. I got to see the Rant Wheel in real life! And the Russian Stuff two minutes countdown was pretty fun.

The headlining podcast that first night was How Did This Get Made?, held in a massive meeting room in the lower level of the atrium. I hung out in the VIP lounge and enjoyed the free h’ordeuvres and the rest of my complimentary beverages. As I made my way to the giant lower atrium room, I saw Jon Lovett and his guests milling about in an unmarked room. So I walked by, but then turned around and kinda picked up my badge a little to gesture it from my belly button towards the older, Clint Eastwood-y looking security guy. He gave me a look I would describe as “You will never enter this room as long as I’m alive.”

How Did This Get Made? is the multi-hyphenate June Diane Raphael, her husband Paul Scheer, and one of my podcast boyfriends, Jason Mantzoukas skewering a movie each episode. This night they dissected The Jazz Singer– a 1980 remake of the 1927 original starring Neil Diamond and his eyebrows in his one-and-only starring role. I didn’t watch the film before the podcast, but that didn’t matter. They roll through clips and dissect particularly standout scenes. The guest was Chris Gethard, a comedian and podcaster whose “Beautiful/Anonymous” show I had seen in Virginia earlier this spring. He, of course, was self-deprecating and hilarious. They mentioned an episode of The Chris Gethard Show where Paul and Jason had appeared and Jason referred to it as the best hour of television he’s ever produced. You can watch it here– I highly recommend it.

The next day was the day that I was most excited about, because my other podcast/stand-up comedian boyfriend Howard Kremer’s podcast Who Charted? was slated for the 3:30 slot. I spent the morning drinking cheap beer at Holland’s on 9th, and moseyed over to the Javits Center for the meet and greet. Howard was there! I was very nervous standing in line waiting to say hi to Howard and Kulap. My hands were sweaty and I couldn’t think of anything to say. When it was my turn I managed to tell them I loved them, then got a picture and autographs on my badge. I got the hell out of the room as fast as I could but then remembered there was probably another person I could say hi to. I went back in and met Jon Lovett. Surprisingly, he didn’t have a line at his table, and I asked him where all his people were. He said something snarky, and I got a couple of pictures. 10/10 would get hugged by Howard and sassed by Jon again.

The next ‘cast I saw was High and Mighty with Jon Gabrus. His guest was Anthony Atamanuik, who is currently playing The Donald on Comedy Central’s The President’s Show. I had seen Anthony in late 2015, on his tour with the genius James Adomian where he played Trump the James’ Bernie. A stellar show directly parlaying Anthony into The President’s Show, now that the waking nightmare of having an addled white supremacist and his cronies in the White House has come true.

Jon and Anthony got VERY stoned, and talked about weed dealers in NYC, the Illuminati, several conspiracy theories, bathroom habits, their bodies, their fathers and all kinds of other shit. Jon is a big dude, and he straight up pulled his jeans down to show off his Mack Weldon (one of the festival’s sponsors) underwear. We were all fortunate it wasn’t later in the day for that move.

Who Charted? was up next and it was packed! Of course, because Howard is the best. The guest was Ryan Gaul, a co-star of Kulap’s on Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ (on the now defunct streaming network SeeSo). Their chemistry was great, and Howard was as aloof and confused as ever. It was great. Howard’s mom and her husband were in the audience, and Howard did his hilarious impression of his brother. I got to ask a question and he remembered my name from the meet and greet (is it true love?!). He finished the show with a rousing rendition of Gu-Cruise- a song about a man and his orangutan enjoying summah together on a Ski-Doo.

The main attraction that night was Comedy Bang! Bang!, one of the anchor podcasts of the Earwolf network hosted by Kulap’s husband Hot Saucerman Scott Aukerman. There were 8 chairs on stage, so I knew we were in for a long show. First to come out was Jason Mantzoukas, to a rousing chorus of boos which was hilarious. In the canon of the show, Jason is on deck to marry Kulap and take over the show in the event of Scott’s death. So they had fun with that for a while. Then came Jon Gabrus, Scott’s erstwhile and perilously thin Long Island intern, Gino Lombardo. Paul F. Tompkins as Mr Met was a commendable performance, because it required him to commit to keeping a paper cup between his mouth and the microphone, since Mr. Met’s head is, of course,  a giant baseball.

Jessica McKenna (host of Earwolf podcast Off Book! which was also at the festival) was an 8 year old whose mom works on another floor in the Earwolf building,. Anthony Atamanuik’s posh British accent as Dame Doody Stench was hilarious and totally perfect. The best bit was when Mary Holland, playing middle-aged fantasy writer Margie Donk, backed herself into a corner by saying she was invisible in pictures, vampire style. Then she started recounting when she was in elementary school, the photographer was freaked out because she wasn’t showing up in the picture- on the digital camera that hadn’t been invented yet. It made no sense and it was hilarious. The last guest was Ryan Gaul again, playing an insane financial advisor, Doug Gropes. The show was 2.5 hours long and I was as exhausted as the improvisers on stage.

Part of Now Hear This’ approach to the festival was to include different genres of podcasts, allowing attendees to buy individual, 2 day and 3 day passes with the subject matters kind of loosely grouped together. The third day had NPR’s Planet Money, The Weeds– a political current events podcast; the super-successful food podcast The Doughboys and Star Talk-All Stars with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. There were also 3 pro-wrestling podcasts on Sunday: The Art of Wrestling featuring Colt Cabana, Sam Roberts Wrestling, WWE superstar Ryback, and indie wrestler/promoter Pat Buck’s show Conversation with the Big Guy.

While the Now Hear This festival’s turnout was considerably less than RuPaul’s DragCon that was poppin’ off upstairs, it was really fun to be a part of one and tangentially a part of the other. I got to meet some of my favorite podcasters, and see a strapping young man in heels and a gold lamé speedo scoot across the food court.

Happy podcasting!

By Lizzi Pittman