This article originally appeared in Den of Geek’s New York Comic Con special edition print magazine. You can find the digital copy here.
The name Scott Aukerman, or any oddly pronounced variation of his name as he tends to introduce himself by, is synonymous with podcasting. Longevity is one key to his standing in the industry: Comedy Bang Bang, his flagship comedy gabfest, is approaching 450 episodes by the time we run this story.
What started as a group of tight-knit comedians like Paul F. Tompkins, James Adomian, Andy Daly, and Nick Kroll dropping by to guest on Comedy Bang Bang has turned into a podcast empire. In 2010, Aukerman, along with co-founder Jeff Ullrich, started the digital media company Earwolf, which now houses some of the most listened to podcasts on the face of the earth.
Aukerman shared his podcast secrets with Den of Geek and told us to keep them to ourselves. Naturally, we didn’t listen.
By Scott Aukerman, as told to Chris Longo and Matthew Sullivan-Pond:
1. Uniqueness Matters
Back when we started Earwolf like 6 years ago, it was all interviews and so my tip then and maybe now would be: How can you make yourself unique and how can you not just be doing what everyone else is doing?
An interview show at the end of the day is going to be dependent on guests and people’s interest in that guest. A lot of times a good interviewer will recede into the background and let the interview be about the interviewee and so there’s not a lot of room for growth sometimes. So the first tip would be what makes your show unique, why should people listen to your show, and not the other 8 million podcasts that are around right now?
I think to the other extreme of that, sometimes people can think too much about the unique idea and have some crazy whacky idea that’s unsustainable and they get burned out… the genius of podcasting is that there’s no barrier, almost, between the audience.
So what is it you do best? Is it the relationship between you and your co-host? Do you guys have a funny relationship? It’s so simple, but people will listen to that forever, you know, if it’s a funny relationship and now you don’t even need to interview people. Is it that you do prepared material really well? Is it that you are a great interviewer and that’s it? It’s just really what you do best. Figure that out and give it to the people!
The only real way to get growth is for the audience to know that they can depend on you and that if you pick a day when you come out, it’s a Monday for me, that when they wake up on Monday that can be part of their routine and they can download the episode. If you have a spotty record people will tune out and say ‘oh, I’m not dependent on them anymore.’
4. Celebrities help!
One thing that we found at Earwolf is that celebrity guests do help. Some people will only check out a show if there’s someone they’ve heard of on it. So if you have a celebrity episode, it doesn’t have to be them being interviewed or anything. If they can be on it, it’ll really grow your show in a certain way.
Reliability of product is really the one thing you can control, a lot of times, even though podcasting is ephemeral and it’s meant to be somewhat disposable. Even though I hear people like to return to my episodes over and over. At its core, podcasting is certainly more ephemeral than a television show where you’re doing a finite number of them. What you can control is not feeling like you’re wasting someone’s time.
Like if you have an episode that you recorded and you go, ‘oh man, I just don’t think that we were on fire that episode and we weren’t really clicking,’ you can do what I do a lot of the times and go back, listen to dead spots and edit them out or you can not release that episode. No one is forcing you and you can go and record it again so try and have a reputation of being dependable so every time you put out an episode it’s a treat, and you can grow it that way.
Den of Geek’s Favorite Podcasts
We polled our staff to find out what podcasts we hold most dear. And despite our diverse array of tastes, still managed to capture only a small percentage of the massive current podcasting scene. Still, it’s us, so consider this as definitive as any list can possible get.
1 – Comedy Bang Bang
Scott Aukerman’s absurdist improvisational show that started the Earwolf podcasting empire remains one of the best experiences one can achieve through podcasting.
2 – WTF with Marc Maron
“So I think that’s it. We cool? We good?” WTF with Marc Maron is now more than seven years old and 700 episodes in and it remains possibly the most iconic podcast our culture currently has.
3 – Welcome to Night Vale
Bless Welcome to Night Vale creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor who viewed the podcasting landscape and must have thought “Hmm, these are interesting and all but what the medium really could use is Prairie Home Companion if it were written by Edgar Allen Poe during an acid trip.”
4 – How Did This Get Made?
Making bad movies is fun. Making fun of bad movies with three of the funniest people in podcasting is sublime.
5 – Last Podcast on the Left
Last Podcast on the Last may be the logical conclusion to the cherished Internet creepypasta with episodes covering the spookiest things in the world – real, imagined and some combination of both.
Others receiving votes: Harmontown (2), Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave (2), Dear Hank and John, Galactic Suburbia, Verity, Mansplaining, Srsly, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Celebration Rock with Steve Hyden, Off Message (Politico), Topics, Andy Daly Pilot Podcast Project, Smodcast, Edumacation, Jay & Silent Bob Get Old, The Steve Austin Show, Talk is Jericho, Fantasy Football Today, You Must Remember This, Boars, Gores, and Swords, Serial, Now Playing, The Grandma’s Virginity Podcast, Modern Love, Thrilling Adventure Hour, Getting On with James Urbaniak, This Feels Terrible, Human Conversation, Hollywood Handbook, Spontaneanation, Doug Stanhope, Pistol Shrimps Radio, Radiolab, Savage Lovecast