Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Gentlemen’s Club

Posted by Maximum Fun on 18th December 2011

Vital stats:
Format: interviews with comedians, media figures, and pornstars
Episode duration: 20m-1h20m
Frequency: weekly

Put the question of what men like to me, and I doubt I’d come back with much of a list; outside of certain biological details, we menfolk may not really have all that much in common. Some ambitious podcasts take on the mandate of exploring the whole what-men-like territory, and most of those, like Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy turn into their own, more specific thing along the way. Caleb Bacon’s The Gentlemen’s Club [RSS] [iTunes], however, has stuck to manly enthusiasms for 127 episodes now — or at least it’s stuck to manly enthusiasms by the specifics of its definition of manly enthusiasms, which mainly include comedy, the media, and porn.

Since Bacon runs a Los Angeles-based podcast, the comedy thing comes almost as a no-brainer. I’ve begun to think it’s more natural, if you live in L.A., to run a comedian-interviewing podcast than not to. (Having recently moved to L.A. myself, I feel certain my podcasting efforts will shift inexorably that way in due time.) The Gentlemen’s Club has thus gathered such fruit of the old Southern California Comedic Podcasting circuit as Never Not Funny’s Matt Belknap [MP3], Low Budget FM’s Mike Cioffi [MP3], and everyone from The Biggest Mistake [MP3]. Not only can you hear Bacon interview those guys, but you can hear Bacon interview a handful of specifically Maximum Fun-relevant guys as well, like Jordan [MP3], Jesse (whose episode I actually can’t find in full), and Adam “Lonely Sandwich” Lisagor [MP3]. Any Max Funster — and I believe Bacon counts himself among our numbers — will find much to download right away.

Bacon’s interviewing style defies easy description, in large part because he interviews different types of guests in different ways. With comedians and those comedy-adjacent, he aims for the humor of deliberate awkwardness and discomfort, using sudden waves of vulgarity, repeated callbacks to bizarrely minor things, and questions that border on nonsensical. His insistence on making half-jokes about the prefix “poly” actually gets Mike Schmidt [MP3] angry — yet it also gets him to say lots of interesting things! Admittedly, I can produce no evidence that all the poly-ing led Schmidt to the stories he would tell later in the interview, but it probably didn’t hurt much. Some listeners will need time to get used to this style of conversation; Bacon may not put a premium on smoothness in these cases, but he eventually gets the verbal goods.

When not interviewing comedy people, Bacon gets deeper into the nuts and bolts of his guests’ work and the paths their careers have taken. This proves especially interesting when he invites one of those media personalities you’ve seen host three dozen different minor cable shows, four of which you really liked, all of which you find yourself inexplicably interested in behind-the-scenes dirt about. Not bad for a host who, like me, doesn’t even own a television. They usually have inventive reactions when confronted with a random topic pulled out of what’s called the “gentlemen sack” (yes, really) and words of wisdom when Bacon confronts them with the tradition of giving his audience one important piece of life advice.

Some of the most unconventional of these pieces come from, as you might have suspected, the pornstars. The Gentlemen’s Club sets itself immediately apart from most podcasts, even most male-oriented Los Angeles interview podcasts, with a pornstar every five or so episodes. I admit I dragged my feet on listening to these, since pornstars aren’t generally known for their articulacy or variety of interests. (Occasionally an semi-exception like Sasha Grey draws a lot of press, but even within her I sense a howling void, as it were.) Yet Bacon, whether by native interest in the porn business or by effective interest drawn from interviewing so many of its performers, knows what to ask of them. Sure, some of them come off like the kind of Loveline callers Adam Carolla would say “don’t track,” but others, like the Belgian Eva Karera [MP3], reveal a perspective on this most common entertainment that you couldn’t get except from the inside. And her piece of live advice tells the ladies who happen to be listening how best to prepare for double penetration, so hey.

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to host and produce The Marketplace of Ideas [iTunes], a public radio show and podcast dedicated to in-depth cultural conversation. Please hire him for something.]