The Earwolf Challenge: America’s First Reality Competition Podcast

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The comedy podcast boom is still going strong, but a new podcast debuted this week that’s looking to shake things up by trying something completely new. Created by Jeff Ullrich, the co-founder and CEO of the Earwolf podcasting network, The Earwolf Challenge is a show that’s broadcast thrice weekly and allows amateur podcasters the chance to compete for a coveted slot in Earwolf’s lineup. The comedy podcasting universe is still in its infancy and its structure is still crystallizing, but, with popular shows like Comedy Bang Bang and Sklarboro Country, amongst many others, Ullrich and Scott Aukerman have secured Earwolf’s spot as one of the leading podcast networks in the game.

The competition began under the name Project Tippy-Toe — a moniker derived from a classic Seinfeld episode — in which the Earwolf team took in over 120 different submissions from amateur podcasts looking to compete. Those shows were whittled down to 10 finalists who will be taking part in The Earwolf Challenge. Ullrich explains, “Podcasting doesn’t have to be… three white guys sitting around, talking for an hour.” The Earwolf Challenge will certainly be a break from the monotony of the typical comedy podcast and a great opportunity for burgeoning comedians to gain more exposure through the Earwolf banner. The podcast that wins the competition will receive a one year contract with Earwolf, becoming the network’s newest official show. With that contract comes all the perks of being an Earwolf podcast, including being featured on the website, distribution through Earwolf’s release platforms, and profit sharing. Above all else, it’s a valuable chance for these fledgling podcasters to receive a major boost in listeners that would come with the backing of the Earwolf network.

The Earwolf Challenge is hosted by Matt Besser, co-founder of the UCB Theaters and a frequent podcast guest, himself. Besser will also serve as a judge and coach. Each week, the podcasters will receive a new challenge, which relates to one particular facet of comedy podcasting. The show will be released over the course of three days — Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The Monday show will consist of the podcasters’ coaching session with Matt Besser, in which he guides them through that week’s challenge. Tuesday episodes will involve the podcasters receiving judgment, constructive criticism, and feedback from Besser and two guest judges, who will have listened to all of the submissions. One of the guest judges each week will be from the general world of comedy podcasting — your Marc Marons or Doug Bensons — and the other will be a podcaster from Earwolf — say, a Scott Aukerman or a Tig Notaro. A bottom three will be determined on the Wednesday show, at the end of which, one podcast will be eliminated. Each week, one podcast will be given the boot until one finalist remains, securing the Earwolf contract and the bragging rights that come with winning the competition.

Debuting this podcast is certainly a bold and innovative move and it could end up being a milestone in the history of comedy podcasts. The Earwolf Challenge has been billed as “America’s first reality competition podcast” and could very well end up becoming the American Idol of the podcasting world. The first batch of episodes, which consists of Matt Besser introducing and interviewing each of the competing podcasters, has been unveiled this week.

Here are the 10 podcasts that are competing:

1. Beginnings – hosted by Andy Beckerman and Mark Bisi

Style: Interview

Podcasting since: Jan. 2010

Number of episodes (so far): 24

Based out of: Brooklyn, New York

2. Bob and Dan Cast – hosted by Jonathan (Bob) Kearns and Daniel Huffman

Style: Conversational

Podcasting since: Jan. 2011

Number of episodes (so far): 92

Based out of: Chicago

3. Ham Radio – hosted/performed by Brett Hamil

Style: Sketch comedy

Podcasting since: Jul. 2010

Number of episodes (so far): 9

Based out of: Seattle

4. Left Handed Radio – performed by Adam Bozarth, Dan Chamberlain, Matt Little, Taylor Moore, and Anna Rubanova

Style: Sketch comedy

Podcasting since: Oct. 2010

Number of episodes (so far): 7

Based out of: New York

5. Television Zombies – hosted by Jeff, Chris, and Chuck

Style: Pop culture discussion/interviews

Podcasting since: Jul. 2007

Number of episodes (so far): 168

Based out of: Washington, D.C./Seattle

6. The Complete Guide to Everything – hosted by Tim Daniels and Tom Reynolds

Style: Informative

Podcasting since: Jul. 2009

Number of episodes (so far): 103

Based out of: Brooklyn

7. The F Plus – hosted by a group of about a dozen people who use wacky code names

Style: Pop culture discussion

Podcasting since: Oct. 2009

Number of episodes (so far): 52

Based out of: Various cities throughout North America

8. The Fort – hosted/performed by Mike Costantini, Kevin Ford, and Ed Galvez

Style: Sketch comedy/interviews

Podcasting since: Feb. 2010

Number of episodes (so far): 27

Based out of: Los Angeles

9. The Little Dum Dum Club – hosted by Tommy Dasallo and Karl Chandler

Style: Interviews

Podcasting since: Oct. 2010

Number of episodes (so far): 40

Based out of: Melbourne, Australia

10. Totally Laime Podcast – hosted by Elizabeth Laime and “Psychic Andy”

Style: Interviews

Podcasting since: Feb. 2010

Number of episodes (so far): 75

Based out of: Los Angeles

And don’t forget to check out The Earwolf Challenge, airing new episodes every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.