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Making The Comedy Podcast: Julie Klausner’s Life Of Conversation

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
November 20, 2012

Julie Klausner’s podcast, How Was Your Week?, has been featured on all manner of lists of the best shows of its kind — in Rolling Stone, in GQ, and in The New York Times. Comedy podcasting is a field growing so fast that, as NPR’s Audie Cornish mentions in talking to Klausner on today’s All Things Considered, comedian Colin Quinn recently commented that the only thing comedians talk about anymore is doing each other’s podcasts. Indeed, Klausner’s show has featured guests like Amy Poehler, Patton Oswalt, Neko Case — and a fellow you might have heard of named Ira Glass.

Klausner has written for traditional outlets like The New York Times and New York Magazine as well as at sites like The Awl. She’s written for television; she’s even written for Joan Rivers. She wrote a book in 2010 called I Don’t Care About Your Band, and she has a YA novel coming, too. She’s also — like many writers — worked in the busy business of TV recapping; in her case, covering various Real Housewives at Vulture. It’s safe to say she gets around, writing-wise, but it’s in the world of podcasting that she’s gotten a big dose of added recognition.

She says there are a lot of advantages to podcasting for people who work in and around comedy and comedy writing, one of which is how appealingly amenable it is to a do-it-yourself approach. “It’s free and easy,” she says, “and the nice thing about it is you can have a show without anybody giving you notes. So you can really do, in my case, The Julie Klausner Show.” Furthermore, the format tends to be relaxed and personal, and just as Marc Maron finds on WTF, perhaps the current big dog of podcasts featuring comedians, Klausner says that talking to people in the context of comedy can allow conversations more free-ranging than those that might take place otherwise. “If you do have a sense of humor,” she says, “you’re permitted more leeway, because if you go too far — hey, we’re only goofin’ around!”

But nothing beats actually reaching an audience, no matter how hard it might be to break into such a crowded field. In fact, what draws some podcasters to the form is a closeness with an audience that seems unique to regularly delivered, casually produced shows built on conversation. “You really do achieve a kind of intimacy with your audience,” Klausner says. “When I meet people who listen to my podcast, I feel like they know me.” And they may get to know comedians better as well, in part because podcasts like Klausner’s are (usually) recorded without a live audience present, which changes the way a performer naturally functions, whether as a host or a guest. “I think that comedians are given an opportunity to just speak in a raw, honest way without the pressure of being on stage and having to wait for that constant feedback of a laugh.”

As tempting as it is to make a new form seem like an entirely different undertaking than what’s gone before, Klausner says whether you’re creating material for the stage or for a podcast, a comedy writer is still fundamentally writing comedy, even if it’s being created by being spoken into a microphone instead of written down. “Writing doesn’t necessarily have to be staring at an open window of Microsoft Word with this blank document staring at you and this cursor blinking.”

Some have speculated that podcasting might open up huge opportunities for people like Klausner who develop followings doing it, but she admits that the business model isn’t at the forefront of her thinking, at least directly. It could be, of course, that the sheer opportunity to create something makes her a more appealing hire. “I make my living as a writer. I don’t make money doing my podcast. I’ve learned that people want to hire creative people who are already doing something when they approach them.” But she isn’t sure whether churning out a show every week — even a very popular and well-regarded one — is bringing in money. “I really can’t speak to whether my own internet presence has made things easier or harder for me to sell.”

Unsurprisingly, Klausner says that with the financial side uncertain, the reasons to do it are more intangible. “I love it,” she says of her thriving life online, “and I’ve never felt more at home with what I’m doing, and I would just do it all the time if I could.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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