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Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Earwolf Challenge Update: Week Seven

The Earwolf Challenge, the weekly contest to crown one amateur podcast as the Earwolf network's newest show, is barreling towards it dramatic conclusion with only three podcasts left in the running following today's installment. The Challenge began the week with Totally Laime, Left Handed Radio, Little Dum Dum Club, and Bob and Dan Cast as its four remaining shows, but one was eliminated after giving what the judges deemed this round's weakest performance.

Host Matt Besser has been toying with his approach these past few shows, injecting more energy into his opening salutations and addressing web commenters' who've been bitching and moaning about how the show operates. The Earwolf.com forum isn't the only place Besser and the show have been critiqued for the competition's murky rules. In an appearance on Earwolf's Who Charted? last week, Paul F. Tompkins had some fun at the expense of how confused Matt Besser seems about his hosting duties, mocking the show for not having its rules nailed down and Besser for having minutiae-laden conversations about the shows mechanics that should be happening off air. Sure, The show could use a little fine-tuning, but Besser and the producers seem to be working hard to correct the major problems. When the Earwolf Challenge's second season rolls around,  they'll have all of the kinks worked out.

For this week’s challenge, each podcast was tasked with using guitar comic Nick Thune in a three minute segment. The shows were allotted a 10-minute Skype session with Thune to record their clips, which put the only remaining sketch program, Left Handed Radio, at a disadvantage since recording a sketch in such a short length of time is a little more challenging than pulling three funny minutes out of a 10-minute conversation. Nevertheless, Left Handed Radio managed to hit a home run for a second week in a row with an excellent sketch that played off of Thune’s comic identity as a one-liner-spewing performer of guitar-backed comedy. Australian chat show The Little Dum Dum Club was the other highlight of the episode, pulling a funny and unique story out of Nick Thune about how he spread a rumor at the Montreal comedy festival about angry comic Bobby Slayton ("The Pitbull of Comedy") having ordered 20 pizzas that were left in the lobby for everyone to enjoy, which resulted in fellow comedians thanking a confused Slayton, who had nothing to do with the delivery of said Italian pies.

Guest judges Doug Benson (host of the Doug Loves Movies podcast) and Harris Wittels (writer for Parks and Rec and Eastbound and Down) were brought in to join Besser, making Wittels the competition’s first guest judge who does not host their own regular podcast. But just because Wittels doesn’t have a podcast doesn’t mean he’s completely inexperienced with the medium. He’s one of the most frequently-used guests on Earwolf’s flagship show Comedy Bang Bang, and he even hosted “Analyze Phish,” a special one-off podcast under the Earwolf Presents banner in which he tried to convert Scott Aukerman to being a fan of the band Phish. Doug Benson added a little bit of extra incentive to win the contest by promising that he would have the winners as guests on Doug Loves Movies.

As is custom each week in the show, Besser, Benson, and Wittels narrowed the podcasts down to a Bottom Three, selecting Totally Laime, Left Handed Radio, and Bob and Dan Cast as the three shows in danger of elimination. (This should be the competition’s final Bottom Three now that there are only three competitors remaining). The Little Dum Dum Club still has yet to place in the Bottom Three. Left Handed Radio's presence here seems like merely a math thing, as they produced a top-notch clip that was well-liked by the judges. This was Bob and Dan's fourth consecutive week in the danger zone and Totally Laime's third. Once the competition’s likely victor, Totally Laime has slipped up in recent weeks, and frontrunner status has been bestowed by Matt Besser upon Left Handed Radio, whose hosts have rejected the title just like Elizabeth Laime did.

At the end of today’s episode, The Bob and Dan Cast was let go. Hosts Jonathan “Bob” Kearns and Dan Huffman have created a fast and funny conversational podcast that is worth checking out. Although there can only be one winner in The Earwolf Challenge, these final four podcasts (and a few that have already been eliminated), made it this far in the competition for a reason: they’re fantastic shows that are all worthy of the Earwolf brand. Next week, the remaining podcasts will be whittled down to a Final Two. Will newly-crowned frontrunner Left Handed Radio hold onto the lead? Or will the consistently-funny Little Dum Dum Club or former favorite Totally Laime rise up? Or will Matt Besser and company shake up the rules by allowing a wildcard podcast that’s been eliminated  back in for another go at it? Don’t ask me because I don’t know what’s going to happen. Why don’t you go talk to somebody who’s clairvoyant?

New episodes of The Earwolf Challenge drop every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on Earwolf.com

Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.