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Monday, November 1st, 2010

A Fairly Comprehensive Guide to Comedy Podcasts: Uhh Yeah Dude

It was clear in reading through the comments section of the first Guide to Comedy Podcasts that I had inadvertently ignored a lot of tenderly beloved examples of the format. In an effort to rectify the oversight, I’m now taking a weekly look at which of these are worth your valuable time and which ones should go to jail. This week’s featured podcast is Uhh Yeah Dude.

It’s very much a value-add to feature brand name comedians as guests on your comedy podcast (and furthermore: duh). Filling the air with chuckles for an hour is relatively easy when you have Pauls Scheer and F. Tompkins pitching in. Over the long haul, though, the success of a show rests on the strength of its hosts. If you removed the guests from the equation, it’s entirely possible that some comedy podcasts would be exposed as houses made of cards, and the foundation would crumble into a laughless game of 52-Pickup. It’s pretty impressive, then, that Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli have been producing weekly episodes of their show, Uhh Yeah Dude, for almost five years now without a single guest. At this point, guests would probably just get in the way.

The slogan of the show is “Two American Americans Saving America From Herself,” which hints at the droll humor driving the show more than it accurately sums up the proceedings. The emphasis on patriotism is a misnomer—the closest our hosts get to flag-waving is railing on actor Matthew Modine for his suggestion that someone should simply sit down with Osama Bin Laden and “find out what he’s so mad about.” There’s basically no real theme here—just two guys giving opinions and telling stories. It’s the personalities of those two dudes and the easy comic chemistry between them that makes the show. Jonathan and Seth combine the regular-guyness of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with a jaded LA attitude and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture.

Seth is a sometime actor from Boston whose biggest role to date was in the Britney Spears vehicle, Crossroads, a joke that gets funnier the more acquainted you become with Seth’s views on Britney. Jonathan is Hollywood royalty, being the son of… well, I bet you can guess who he is the son of. Seth is the more tightly wound of the two, and when he vents a head full of steam about something in his Masshole accent, Jonathan usually just backs off and laughs as the rant intensifies. While Seth has the tirade thing down, Jonathan is probably the better storyteller, offering funny bits from his childhood, annoying encounters with the denizens of LA, and tales from being on the road with his electro-acoustic band, Jogger. By now their timing is finely honed enough that they can jump all over each other’s sentences in a complimentary way, like the Sklar Brothers, and never miss a beat. Their nearly telepathic rapport is most evident in small moments like the seamless shift from discussing the C & C Music Factory song, “Gonna Make You Sweat” to a scene set in the doctor’s office where a patient suffers from symptoms consistent with the song’s lyrical threat to “make you sweat ‘til you bleed.”

Although Jonathan and Seth often talk about the general state of society, the show isn’t exactly topical. It’s obvious they make a conscious effort to avoid talking about whatever everybody else will be talking about. Instead, they tend to report and comment on the many News of the Weird-type items that either fall between the cracks or end up on the lower slugs of CNN’s webpage. Jonathan and Seth have a knack for glomming onto the kind of anecdote-bait studies you’ll want to tell someone later on, such as scientists conclusively refuting the famous 5-second rule. (“How about the no seconds rule?” Seth asks. “How about even if you catch a piece of food on the way to the ground, don’t eat it?” Jonathan counters.) Since oddball news tends to come in patterns, several recurring segments have developed over the years, including This Week in Florida and This Week in Wal-Mart, which offer exactly what they promise, and Who’s Mommin’ Harder, which pits dueling stories of maternal incompetence against each other for the hosts to decide which one “wins.”

The hosts have a rhythm and vocabulary all their own, a combination of repurposed hip-hop patois and bro-speak, some of which I can vouch is kind of contagious. After listening a lot over the course of a week, I could sense ‘fresh’ wanting to creep into my speech as a catchall superlative, and I totally plan to test drive saying ‘Jeez-o’ instead of ‘Jesus’ at the next available opportunity. Two people coupling are always described as ‘boning down’ on each other, and a large amount of something is a ‘grip’ of it. I’m not 100% sure what a 'Herda Hadda' is, but context suggests the term denotes an overlap with the NASCAR faithful. 'Seatbelts' is a watchword used in every episode as often as possible, usually as a farewell message. Sometimes Jonathan and Seth punctuate a particularly resonant sentence with the initials of the show to denote its slogan potential, as in “What Would James Woods Do: UYD.” It’s a safe bet that some of the show’s fervently devoted, UYD tattoo-having fanbase probably do the same thing in conversations with each other.

This connection with the audience is reciprocal since fans of the show are encouraged each episode to call Jonathan’s cell phone and leave voicemails. Listeners from all over contribute stories about themselves, potential news items, and general expressions of love for the show. If it seems a little risky to give out Jonathan’s private number, it is: a fan once took out an ad in the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist using this number. The ad portrayed Jonathan as someone boasting super-samurai prowess at pleasuring guys via phone sex, throwing down the gauntlet for anyone man enough to return the favor. Apparently this prank resulted in a lifetime’s worth of phone calls from nervous, panting guys, ready to take on the master. Seth’s cell phone, on the other hand, has never been pranked because Seth doesn’t have a cell phone—a deep distrust of most new technology is as integral to his persona as the vast pop cultural acumen which allows for offhand references to the Brian Bosworth movie, Stone Cold.

Although voicemails from fans are strongly encouraged, only one of these was ever actually played on-air: the one left by Ricky Gervais. A straightforward compliment isn’t Gervais’ style, so instead the message mocks the idea of having a popular podcast and laments the poor souls unfortunate enough to be fans of the show. Jonathan and Seth did not for one second miss the import of this message from The Podfather: a virtual changing of the guard. This torch-passing makes sense considering that Uhh Yeah Dude functions like an Americanized version of The Ricky Gervais Show, only without Karl Pilkington. In a way, that absence is almost an improvement — as funny as Karl was on that show, he couldn’t help but seem like a put-on after a while, and these two unpretentious, funny dudes never seem less than authentic. Praise Jeez-o.

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

  • alexandra

    This might not be important, but the tagline of the show is "America through the eyes to American Americans". Seatbelts.

    • Motto Chasity-belt

      My reply is above, I think they says many tings aboot the Usa Usa-ian peepoles, they're silly like that..haha #Namaste #tai-chi #chai-tee and all that which divulges a deluge of positiveness.

  • Motto Clarify

    Self described as, "A weekly roundup of America through the eyes of two American Americans" Thrown from the vehicle. I was on a moped