The Earwolf Challenge, the competition to become podcasting network Earwolf’s newest show, is closing in on its final weeks, with only four podcasts remaining after today’s episode. It’s impressive how much these “amateur podcasts” have grown over the last six weeks, and how determining which show has frontrunner status has become hazy. Expect the competition to grow fiercer and the shows to push themselves harder to reach their best as the final weeks approach as that coveted Earwolf slot becomes a more tangible goal.
Host Matt Besser opened Monday’s show by discussing the criticism the Earwolf Challenge has been receiving online in regards to its format and spitballing possible ways to change the show up. I think the show’s format works fine as is, but releasing three podcasts a week is a little excessive. Besser’s advice is always couched in helpful specifics; but maybe the coaching sessions could be conducted off air, leaving a much more manageable two episodes a week. Whether the producers plan to change the format or not remains to be seen, but it could benefit from a little tweaking.
Matt Besser was joined by podcast celeb judges Kulap Vilaysack (Earwolf’s own Who Charted?) and Jordan Morris (Jordan, Jesse, Go!) and the podcasters were challenged with creating three minutes of original content that encapsulates the tone and scope of their shows. This was the first week that the competitors weren’t allowed to draw from their backlogs of previous material and were instead asked to create an entirely new submission. As Matt Besser pointed out, it was very easy to distinguish which podcasts would be in the Bottom Three and which would be safe in the top two positions (This was the first week most of the podcasts have been in the Bottom Three!). The Little Dum Dum Club gave an amusing submission, but Left Handed Radio was the real stand-out this week, delivering a trio of strong comedy sketches. Being the only sketch program left in the competition, Left Handed Radio is at a little bit of a disadvantage when it comes to competing with the chat shows, but the podcast really rose to the challenge this week by presenting its best submission yet and the best submission of the week.
Besser, Vilaysack, and Morris picked Totally Laime, Bob and Dan Cast, and The F Plus as the Bottom Three podcasts at risk of elimination. The F Plus was booted off the show on the grounds that it was unclear what was happening in their submission and the show’s ever-present sound problems are still distracting. I’m surprised The F Plus lasted this long, as a number of better shows without sound problems and with fewer than 14 hosts have come and gone. It’s just hard to connect with any of The F Plus’s 14 hosts because there are so many of them, and the fact that they all use goofy code names makes it even more difficult to get a sense of who each one is. I’d assumed since the start the The F Plus would be eliminated early on because of these issues, plus the fact that the show’s mean-spirited humor clashes with Earwolf’s overall vibe, but it’s a testament to the people behind The F Plus (all 14 of them) that they managed to stick around this long.
The number of podcasts has been whittled down to a Final Four, with Totally Laime, The Little Dum Dum Club, Left Handed Radio, and Bob and Dan Cast all vying for the top spot. Matt Besser referred to Totally Laime and The Little Dum Dum Club as the show’s frontrunners earlier in the competition, but the past few episodes have seen Left Handed Radio emerge as a strong dark horse contender and Bob and Dan Cast improving a lot as well. It’s too soon to call this completion for anyone, but I like the looks of this Final Four. It’s a diverse group of funny shows, each with their own unique flavor and style. The coming weeks will reveal who scores the top prize — a one-year contract with Earwolf – but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to be an easy fight.
New episodes of The Earwolf Challenge drop every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on Earwolf.com
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.