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Monday, October 11th, 2010

A Fairly Comprehensive Guide to Comedy Podcasts: Jordan, Jesse, GO!

What became abundantly clear in reading through the comments section of the first Guide to Comedy Podcasts was that the comedy podcast rabbit hole goes down much deeper than any of us could have predicted. There are more tenderly beloved podcasts around than there are hours in the day; omissions were made, some more glaring than others. In an effort to rectify the oversight, I'll now be taking a weekly look at which podcasts are worth your valuable time and which should be put out of their misery like so many mortally wounded gazelles. This week’s featured podcast is Jordan, Jesse, GO!.

At some point in 2009, comedians en masse began to realize the benefits of starting a podcast and the ease with which they might do so. In that regard, there is a certain carpetbagger-ish aspect to the recent glut of these things, however welcome they may be. One that could in no way be accused of bandwagon-hopping, though, is Jordan, Jesse, GO!. This weekly hour-plus show started in 2006 as a spinoff of radio show The Sound of Young America. Since then, it's maintained a loyal following on the strength of its two hosts.

The titular Jordan and Jesse are Jordan Morris and Jesse Thorn, a couple of funny guys in their laaaate-twenties who are both articulate and full of relatable opinions. Jordan is a comedian and TV host whose only film credit (All About Steve) is a perennial target of gentle ribbing, usually self-inflicted. Jesse Thorn is an all-around digital magnate with several podcasts and websites to his credit. The most popular of these ventures is probably The Sound of Young America, the show Thorn founded in college. Young America was originally billed as an “anti-Prairie Home Companion” variety show, but these days it’s mostly a traditional interview forum, with entertainers chatting almost exclusively about whatever they are there to promote. Although Jesse Thorn is a skilled interviewer, it’s much more fun to see him cut loose on Jordan, Jesse, GO!, which is closer in spirit to the first show’s original aims. And for the record, anyone actively bucking against A Prairie Home Companion is doing God’s work.

Thorn is a total pro. He has the perfect radio voice and is so affable that he can get away with calling everyone who saw Transformers 2 fucking idiots without off coming off like a prick. Jordan Morris sounds uncannily like a younger David Cross—to the point where the comparison is impossible to avoid—but he doesn’t seem to ape Cross’s style (much) and has a completely different personality. Both of these guys are quick and sharp enough to go beat-for-beat with some of the funniest people working today and never seem too outmatched. Typical guests include comedic actors like Martin Starr, literary humorists like Sarah Vowell, and pretty much every comedian who has a podcast, has ever been a guest on one, or ever will.

Rather than simply interviewing, the hosts include guests in the discussions they have planned out and whatever else happens to come up. There are dissections of Curb Your Enthusiasm-style modern social behaviors, such as the annoying way some people will steer a conversation toward a topic they have a well-rehearsed anecdote on, apropos of nothing. There are also rundowns of TV shows, music, and restaurants. It’s usually such free-flowing conversation, though, with everyone jumping in and detouring in different directions, that it’s a wonder they ever get back to whatever they were talking about in the first place. “This show needs Ritalin” Scott Aukerman said when he was a guest, which of course prompted a bit on what it would be like if Ritalin were sponsoring the show.

The tone is set right from the start with the theme song, “Love You” by The Free Design, a disarmingly super-twee 70s AM radio tune that belies the irreverent material to come. Jesse Thorn then introduces himself as ‘America’s Radio Sweetheart’—which is a more or less accurate description, considering how nicely franchised he is—and Jordan Morris gives his title as ‘Boy Detective’, always with the same mock-breathless intonation. Whenever the hosts return from brief intermissions, they always re-announce these nicknames and encourage their guests to come up with ones for themselves. Believe it or not, one of the more fun parts of the show is seeing how adept the visitors are at coming up with nicknames on the spot. Some have a more difficult time with this task than others, and it’s interesting to see certified funny people and skilled improvisers flail at coming up with a clever nickname.

One of the recurring features involves pre-recorded messages from listeners who’ve called in to talk about Momentous Occasions that either are happening at the moment or just happened moments ago. Here we get a chance to see what kind of people make up the audience. A lot of teenagers, it turns out—the word ‘virginity’ frequently graces Momentous Occasions—but also plenty of slightly older-sounding people too. Another call-in feature is each week’s Action-Item list, where readers are urged to revisit and weigh in on a topic from that day’s podcast, such as naming something enjoyable that has been ruined by its fans (Jordan and Jesse astutely picked The Big Lebowski; callers pick Joss Whedon, Adam Carolla, and Family Guy.) I would love to recount the particulars of all the occasionally recurring features the show has accumulated over the years, but I’m pretty sure you get the idea by now.

Overall, Jordan, Jesse, GO! is a funny and subscription-worthy podcast that the new guys could all learn a lot from. The strain of maintaining a show that’s been around for so long may be evident at times, as when Jordan and Jesse frequently wonder aloud whether they’ve already shared this story or that one before; however, the hosts should be congratulated on keeping a long-running show so fresh in the face of increasing audio competition. It’s enough to almost make one root against Jordan Morris’ IMDB page adding much beyond that All About Steve credit if that’s what it takes to keep Jordan, Jesse, GO! going longer.

Joe Berkowitz edits books and writes stuff. He also has a Tumblr.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/becca_oneal Becca

    "laaaate-twenties" … ha!
    I love Jesse Thorn. His Put This On vidcast and blog are great too. Jordan Morris' junket interviews are always hilarious.

  • http://carletonatwater.com Carleton Atwater

    Glad to see the JJG get some love. Hope to see a similar post on You Look Nice Today soon.

  • Tooch

    Yay, JJGO! Thanks for giving my favorite podcast of all time some attention. Jordan Morris is hilarious.

  • http://napoleonsbattleplan.tumblr.com/about Gareth

    Don't forget about JJGo's weird Canadian relative: Stop Podcasting Yourself!

  • http://edgossage.com EdGossage
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Feinsod/558621366 Mark Feinsod

    Nice. Glad this is going to become a regular feature.

  • http://www.socialistjazz.blogspot.com Todd Mason

    THE DORK FOREST/DORK FOREST RADIO, Jackie Kashian's podcast (since 2006) and now in decent fidelity since she's graduated from BlogTalkRadio…THE LONG SHOT, a recent addition with Eddie Pepitone, Amber Kenny and Sean Conroy…these along with C&EE, seem to me the current projects most unfairly overlooked…the Gervais thing, if the HBO animations were indicative, can be safely ignored by those of us not willing to shell out for it. As a dead-beat getting the free 20 of NEVER NOT FUNNY, that is a good option, certainly, as it's meant, to get a taste of it…

  • http://www.socialistjazz.blogspot.com Todd Mason
  • Hanibal

    You nailed it Joe. Great write up of one of the best podcasts around in ANY genre.