What we’re listening to: ‘The Comedian’s Comedian’ and ‘Up First’
In this month’s installment of our audio IRL, we’re back to podcasts. Senior Editor Daniel Cooper explains why Stuart Goldsmith’s show is a delight and Senior News Editor Billy Steele expresses gratitude for the short pod that keeps him up to speed on the world outside of tech.
The Comedian’s Comedian with Stuart Goldsmith
When I started regularly writing and performing comedy, my friend Claudia insisted that I start listening to The Comedian’s Comedian with Stuart Goldsmith. It’s a podcast, unsurprisingly hosted by Stuart Goldsmith, in which he interviews other comedians about comedy. And yes, I’m aware that the genre is beyond tired out, but this podcast is well worth falling in love with.
Since 2012, Goldsmith has produced 276 episodes of the show, which often run a lot longer than an hour. He has spoken with some of the most revered names in comedy but gives equal time to up-and-coming performers on the circuit. Based in the UK, there’s a British skew to the show, but Goldsmith has spoken to plenty of big American names in his time.
Part of the show’s conceit is that Goldsmith, as a working comic, tries to understand how his compatriots work, and why. He then says that he looks to take that knowledge and use it to improve his own stand-up material, and by extension, ours too. Not that Goldsmith isn’t already an adept comic in his own right, and one that regularly tours the UK.
Unlike a lot of his podcast-host contemporaries, Goldsmith has a genuine interest in the mechanics of comedy. And since he’s not a semiretired ex-superstar, he’s less interested in running through old war stories and mutual back-slapping. Consequently, the show has a very practical focus, and he interrogates his guests on the nitty-gritty of how they write their material.
And, because he’s up there, night after night on stage, he’s a wonderfully empathetic interviewer. It enables him to tease some fantastic nuggets out of his guests as they slowly let their guard down during the show. The two marathon shows with James Acaster, the second of which was recorded shortly before the release of his four Netflix specials, are revelatory.
Similarly, one of the more recent episodes was with Chris Addison, the standup and actor who has directed Veep and The Hustle. There was plenty about how he made his transition, and the academic way he would build his stand up shows, and his regrets about those same shows.
Recently, I’ve begun working my way through the show from the start, and some of the tidbits Goldsmith teases from his guests are brilliant. Take Sarah Millican, who reveals that, starting out, she would have a minimum of 50 — 50! — gigs in her diary at a time. That wasn’t paying work; those were open spots, little five-minute windows for amateurs to work on their set.
Even if you think that the Comedians Interviewing Other Comedians About Comedy format is tired, I’d suggest you give this a go. And some of the advice I’ve gleaned has already helped me refine my own act. Hell, it might even inspire you to grab the mic for yourself.
Senior News Editor
My life can be pretty insane at times, and it can be really hard to keep up with the news on a daily basis. That’s mostly because I quit Twitter, so I’m not privy to a constant barrage of current events, but I digress. Even though we work on the internet here at Engadget, keeping tabs on the non-tech world isn’t easy.
I do have a 20-minute window every day when I have time to catch up on the biggest stories of the day: the car ride back from preschool drop-off. Ah yes, those 20 sweet minutes of solace. Also the perfect time to figure out WTF is going on in the world since I last checked in. The natural move would be to turn on the radio and take in a section of whatever morning show happens to be on. That’s fine, but it’s far from ideal. Thankfully, NPR has my back with Up First.
Up First is an ultra-condensed version of NPR’s daily show Morning Edition. It features the same hosts and covers some of the same topics you’ll hear if you have time to catch that two-hour show each morning. NPR has hosts stationed on both coasts to ensure you’re properly covered with context for all the big stories, no matter where they may be happening. For Up First, the biggest stories of the day are condensed into a podcast you can listen to in 10 minutes. Hear something you want to know more about? Morning Edition is also available in archive form on the NPR website. And those episodes are divided into convenient clips, so you don’t have to sit through a full show if you don’t want to, or don’t have time.
There are also special installments of Up First when major stories hit that just can’t wait until the next day. The release of Mueller Report is one example. New episodes are up by 6:00AM ET as well, so if you have an earlier commute or hit the gym before work, the latest podcast should be waiting for you in your player of choice.
“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.