Talking to Elizabeth Laime, Winner of the Earwolf Challenge and Host of the Totally Laime Podcast
Last week, comedy writer Elizabeth Laime won the Earwolf Challenge, an intense, months-long competition that resulted in her podcast, Totally Laime, becoming a part of the Earwolf network, an organized cluster of comedy podcasts that is serving as one of the field’s pioneers. For eight weeks, Laime went head-to-head with some of the best under-the-radar podcasts out there, competing in specific tasks doled out by the Challenge’s host, Matt Besser. Now the competition’s victors, Elizabeth Laime and her co-host/husband “Psychic Andy” (the name’s a derivation of the word “sidekick”) are sitting pretty as the newest addition to the Earwolf network, which is cornering the market in the emerging medium of comedy podcasting.
Totally Laime is an informal interview show, in which Elizabeth Laime and Psychic Andy shoot the breeze with a different guest each week. Since the show began a year-and-a-half ago, Totally Laime has featured some of the biggest names in comedy, including Patton Oswalt, Aubrey Plaza, and Charlie Day. Unlike, say WTF with Marc Maron (Maron has also been a guest), Laime never gets too dark or too serious, instead offering up a relaxed and very funny show that offers a nice glimpse at what today’s leading comedians are like offstage. I recently caught up with Elizabeth Laime to discuss how her show came to be, the ins and outs of the Earwolf Challenge, and what the future holds in store for Totally Laime.
Do you have a recommended episode for new listeners?
I love the Paul Rust and Paul F. Tompkins episodes. Any episode with [somebody named] Paul. Paul Scheer.
Has it set in that you won yet, or are you still in competition mode?
I think it’s set in. It’s just been a relief to have a week outside of the intensity. We celebrated a little bit, and now we’re just excited for the next step.
So, when do you get started with your first official Earwolf episode?
I don’t know, actually. I have my plans for who the first guest should be, but we haven’t figured out with Earwolf exactly when it’s gonna happen. We’ll see.
I don’t wanna press you to say who the first guest is gonna be. I don’t wanna ruin–
Well, we want [Matt] Besser. We’ve gotta get Besser.
Yeah, that’d be cool. What was the most difficult challenge week for you?
The sketch week. I am in awe of podcasts like Left Handed Radio. I’m a sketch writer. I have a sketch packet. I’ve performed sketch, but doing it for audio is a whole different thing and it takes a whole different skill set. We really struggled. We did a bunch of different sketches, and then we ended up using one that we did that we weren’t really proud of. That was rough.
How’d you feel during the Zach Galifianakis trick? [note: During the competition, host Matt Besser prepped the contestants for an interview with Zach Galifianakis, only to tell them he canceled last-minute and to ask for a submission within the next half-hour anyways]
Well, it happened so fast. As soon as we found out he wasn’t coming, we were like, “We have to do this right away.” By the end of it, we really felt like what we did is what we do. You know, we just told stories and enjoyed each other’s company for five minutes, so we felt fine with it. I think if we had really struggled with our submission, we would have been more upset about not getting to talk to Zach.
Did they say he was coming over or that he was going to call for the interview?
No, it was a Skype thing. And honestly, I’m not good at Skype, so the Nick Thune interview was pretty choppy with us because I’m just not comfortable with that technology. I was kind of nervous about that with Zach, so, in a way, I was relieved.
Do you feel the Earwolf Challenge helped your podcast to grow and evolve a little bit?
Um, not really… I write. Andy does music, and this [podcast] was a way for us to just have something creative to do and have no pressure on it. So, putting the pressure on it almost… like our last episode wasn’t what I would have done with Charlie [Day] if he was just coming on our podcast. I was overanalyzing everything. Our podcast is what it is. We don’t try for anything with it. So, in that sense, I don’t think it’s changed any. I think my knowledge of how to pitch things and how to package things has evolved because of the Challenge. I felt like in a weird way it was a crash course in anything entertainment that you’re trying to sell yourself on.
Did you guys picked up a lot of new listeners when the Challenge started?
No, not really. I mean, there was a definite bump, and then it did grow. Now, we’re happy that it’s growing, and I’m sure it’ll keep growing. So we’re really happy, but podcast listenership is so weird. I feel like my perception of what other podcasts get is kind of off the charts. Like, I think everyone has a million listeners every week or something like that, but that’s just not the case. It’s such a small but growing audience.
Do you have a dream guest for the show besides Oprah? [note: Laime’s obsession with Oprah is a frequent topic on the show]
I think Oprah is obviously the dream. We have a lot of dream guests. I mean, the big boys. Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray. Those guys, we love, obviously.
So, are you going to be using Earwolf’s new studio at all for recording your show?
I don’t think so because so much of [the show] is us being in our house. I’d like to go and see it. I wanna check it out.
Have you ever guested or appeared on another podcast?
Yeah, there’s a podcast called Podcast Squared. It’s great, and he [Andrew Johnstone] gets great guests from the podcast world. Andy and I did that a while ago, and I think he’s gonna have us back. I’ve also done The Incredible Podcast of Amazing Awesomeness, The RoCo Review, Negative Cutters, and Unloading with Madge and Dave. We’re doing two more [podcasts] next week, I think because of this big win.
Did you feel like you formed a lot of bonds with the other podcasts in the competition, like there’s a sense of camaraderie?
Yes, definitely. Especially towards the end. Matt Little from Left Handed Radio and also Tommy [Dassalo] from The Little Dum Dum Club have messaged me. Tommy is coming to L.A. in a few weeks, and he’s going to be on our show, and he might even crash on our couch. We feel like we were in the trenches together and are really supportive of each other.
Was there a certain podcast that inspired you to start your own?
Yeah, Too Beautiful to Live… It’s Luke Burbank, who’s a radio personality in Seattle. They actually record every day. On road trips, we’ve listened to their stuff. Their format is very relaxed and conversational. And at the time, I’d transitioned from performing to writing, so I thought it could be a cool way to stay in the world of comedy performance without putting a lot of energy towards it. I remember on the road trip, I said, “We could do a podcast. Couldn’t we, Andy?” He’s a music producer. We have all the equipment. So, it was Too Beautiful to Live. I feel as hosts they’re much more interesting and they’re more knowledgeable of things. We’re more there as mediums for our guests to come and shine. It’s different, but they inspired us.
At what point did you start to embrace the humor of your last name?
Very early. I was teased with “Laime Brain” a lot. This is kind of douchey, I know it, but in class, I would always raise my hand and tell a stupid story about whatever I was answering the question to. They called them “Laime Stories.” People were like, “Here’s another “Laime Story.” Very early on, I sort of joined them in making fun of it, instead of fighting back, as a defense mechanism. It worked pretty well.
Have you been recognized in the street at all for Totally Laime yet?
It did happen. It was so weird, but it wasn’t on the street, and I wasn’t really recognized. I was at breakfast and we were talking about the podcast and the waitress is a fan. She was like, “Oh my gosh, are you guys Totally Laime?” It was seriously more exciting for me than it was for her. She was like, “Okay. Whatever. I have to go wait my other tables.” And I was like, “Wait, come take a picture with me!”
Listen to the Totally Laime podcast on the show’s official site or on iTunes, and head on over to Earwolf.com for all your comedy podcasting needs.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.