- Popular comedy podcasts are now being turned into television shows
- Podcasts allow comedians to hone their voice, get their name out there on a regular basis and grow an audience
- TV execs hope to attract both podcast fans and grow an audience outside of the niche
In the summer of 2009, comedian Marc Maron spent his days in New York City working for the now defunct Air America radio network, hosting a show called "Breakroom Live."
When the program was abruptly canceled, the company didn't take away Maron's keycard, so he used his access to recording resources to record and launch his podcast "WTF with Marc Maron" in September of that year. "I was almost out of money, my career was really fading away," Maron says. "The only thing we really decided on was our schedule: Let's do two a week, no matter what. And the show sorta evolved from there."
Nearly four years later, Maron's become a king of the comedy podcast world, where he tapes episodes in his home garage and has icons of the comedy world such as Ben Stiller and Mel Brooks, as well as actors, musicians, chefs -- anyone that he can have candid conversations with about their career arcs and views on life.
Beginning May 3, Maron can be seen anchoring his own show on IFC simply titled "Maron." And no surprise, it's about a rather neurotic comedian who tapes a podcast in his garage and the day-to-day missteps he makes as a twice-divorced guy trying to stay afloat in Los Angeles. Maron developed the show with Apostle Film and TV production, which is run by actor/comedian Denis Leary and Jim Serpico, both fans of the podcast.
"Maron" is not the first show to have podcast roots.
HBO turned Ricky Gervais' much-lauded podcast "The Ricky Gervais Show" into an animated series. Chris Hardwick's beloved "Nerdist" podcast has a spinoff show on BBC America, "The Nerdist." Actor/director Kevin Smith's AMC reality show "Comic Book Men" was spawned from a podcast and now features a companion podcast called "The Secret Stash" that fans can listen to for more insight into the show. And IFC also tapped Scott Aukerman's "Comedy Bang! Bang!" podcast for a show that was renewed earlier this year for a second season.
While there's obviously no guarantee that a podcast will lead to TV, podcasts provide an opportunity for comics to hone their voices and grow their audiences without having to hit the road.
IFC's other show, "Comedy Bang! Bang!" was developed even more directly from the original podcast. Caserta and others at IFC were fans of the podcast, Caserta says, and so with host Scott Aukerman, IFC decided to make a direct conversion to a TV show.
Shows that already have a podcast following can bring a loyal ready-made following that can help both sell and promote a TV show, says Caserta. "The ultimate goal is to not just attract the podcast fans -- but also to get people who just like the shows. Get more audience in the door."
Pete Holmes, launched his own podcast "You Made It Weird" in October 2011 after being inspired by Maron's "WTF." On "You Made It Weird," Holmes has guests over where they talk about "weird things" in their lives, but often stray into long tangents that give listeners fly-on-the-wall access to intimate conversations.
This fall, Holmes is hosting his own late night show that will be a mix of sketch comedy, stand-up and interviews on TBS following "Conan." Though Holmes says the podcast wasn't part of a predetermined plan to get a TV show, the initial pitch, he says, owes a big debt to his podcast.
Podcasting has other advantages, says Holmes. "A lot of us podcasters are discovering that there is a pretty large fan base who have an insatiable appetite for this type of programming. What comes back is it's this little program that does the touring for you. Pretty much anywhere in the country, you can find your people.
Comedian Chelsea Peretti has written episodes of NBC's "Parks and Recreation" and has appeared on episodes of "Louie" and "The Sarah Silverman Program." In her own podcast, launched last fall, "Call Chelsea Peretti," she fields calls from strangers and gives them a topic to discuss.
"The idea for the show came from the charged interactions I was having with random people on Twitter," she says. "I thought it would be an interesting experiment to do a podcast where I was forced out of my comfort zones and into talking to total strangers, because weird things happen when I get into that fight or flight mode."
For Peretti, podcasting is more than just recording and posting the episode a few hours later. She spends hours listening and editing it, before an episode gets released. Though she doesn't necessarily have TV aspirations for the podcast, she's seeing results on the road -- and is slated to appear in a new untitled cop comedy this fall on Fox from Mike Schur of "Parks and Recreation."
The podcast "is doing exactly what I wanted it to do: giving fans a regular place to get my sense of humor with no middle men and giving casual followers a chance to get to know my sensibility better," she says.
The new model for success for stand-up comedians is no longer defined solely by sold-out shows or Comedy Central specials. "I've been working half my life or more at this (comedy) thing," Maron says.
"I don't think I've been a funnier stand-up than I am now. I'm happy. And I owe a lot of it to that f--king podcast."