In this week’s Earwolf Challenge, podcast network Earwolf’s weekly competition to select its newest show, host Matt Besser and the producers threw a little bit of a curveball at the three remaining contestants. While past week’s challenges have revolved around assignments like utilizing the guest and developing a strong theme song and intro, this week’s task, entitled “Time Crunch,” saw Besser and company deceiving the podcasters to see how they can handle a crisis. Dreamed up by Earwolf founder Scott Aukerman, this challenge called for Besser to tell the competitors they’ll have an hour to interview Zach Galifianakis, only to pull the rug out from under them by saying that Galifianakis has cancelled and that they now have only a half-hour to create a five minute segment without him.
Deliberately misleading the podcasters is a new tactic for this competition and it seems a little mean-spirited. On the other hand, I can see how such trickery can test how the competitors work under pressure and how they deal with a guest cancellation, a frequent occurrence in the podcasting business. Matt Besser, an experienced prankster himself from his days on the TV shows Upright Citizens Brigade and Crossballs, was able to relieve some of the tension and remove the malice from this elaborate hoax by joking around about how he’s tricking the competitors, maniacally calling them “fools” and “idiots” as soon as he’s off the phone from prepping them for the Galifianakis interview. After completing his call with Australian podcast The Little Dum Dum Club, Besser quips, “Australia… is a prison colony… they’re basically bastard sons of inbred prisoners, so they were pretty easy to fool.”
Guest judges Dave Anthony (co-host of the podcast Walking the Room) and Matt Belknap (ASpecialThing.com mogul, co-host/producer of Never Not Funny, and producer of Doug Loves Movies) dropped by to help Matt Besser evaluate the submissions, which were created by the podcasters after they’ve been told about the ruse. It would have been interesting to hear the competitors’ reactions while being told that they’ve been swindled, but the two chat shows were still hung up about it when it came time to record and used the experience as a jumping off point for their segments.
Little Dum Dum Club offered up a five-minute riff session about how upset they were about Galifianakis cancelling, banking on the co-hosts natural chemistry. Left Handed Radio improvised and wrote a short sketch about a guy that’s been building a Borat-impersonating robot in his garage for the past five years, which wasn’t quite up to snuff with the excellent submissions they’ve had the past two weeks. Totally Laime hosts, married couple Elizabeth Laime and Psychic Andy, briefly discussed the Zach Galifianakis con before launching into an exchange of stories about the loss of their respective virginities.
By the end of today’s installment, the judges chose to eliminate Left Handed Radio, a show that I was sad to see given the boot. All three of the competition’s finalists are strong podcasts, and one of them had to go, but it was a shame for it to be Left Handed Radio, given that they’ve been the competition’s frontrunner for the past two weeks. Since Left Handed is a sketch show, they were faced with a larger roadblock in this week’s guest cancellation challenge because recording five minutes of amusing conversation in a half-hour is much easier than laying down a complete, funny, and well-executed comedy sketch. Like all of the competitors in the Earwolf Challenge, the performers/writers behind Left Handed Radio should take solace in having undoubtedly gained a ton of new listeners from the competition, especially considering their knockout performances in the prior two rounds. It’s been a blast to watch their sketch-writing talents grow throughout the competition, and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future. Be sure to check out Left Handed Radio here at their official site.
Adding a twist to this week’s challenge threw the contestants through a little bit of a loop, which actually ended up adding some excitement to the proceedings. Tune in next week for The Earwolf Challenge’s dramatic conclusion as Australian gabfest Little Dum Dum Club goes head-to-head with L.A. chat show Totally Laime. I can’t wait to see what big-name guests and crazy challenges the producers have cooked up for the finale, which will take place during a big week in Earwolf history because the podcasting network’s partnership with Funny or Die officially kicks off on Monday.
New episodes of The Earwolf Challenge drop every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on Earwolf.com
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.