Celebrating Ten Years with ‘Superego’

It was with heavy hearts that we received the following email from the gentlemen of Superego:

Superego has a new episode coming out the first week of March. The episode marks our 10th anniversary and will be the last proper episode of the show. The podcast as we know it is coming to close.”

And so it was. Today, the current incarnation of Superego – Matt Gourley, Mark McConville, Jeremy Carter, and Paul F. Tompkins – dropped Episode 4:6, the last regular installation of the series. The release marks the 10-year anniversary of the group, an anniversary whose celebration includes two live shows this weekend at Largo in Los Angeles along with the release of Superego’s entire archive on Howl.fm. I talked to the guys about their decision to end the podcast, the lessons they’ve learned along the way, and their favorite Superego memories.

The podcast is coming to an end?! Say it ain’t so.

Jeremy: If you listen to previous seasons, we’ve somewhat ended the show in the past. I recall it being quite a struggle to get season 2 going. However, this has a bit more closure.

Matt: It’s true, but hold the hell on! It’s just the regular podcast as we know it that’s coming to an end. Superego still lives on and there will be at least six special, live, and bonus episodes throughout the next year. They will be released on Howl.fm where the current Superego back catalogue now resides. And I wouldn’t be surprised if something resembling a regular episode appears again as a special or something down the road. We just wanted to feel like we could do them when it seemed fun instead of having the strange, 21st century pressure of a podcast release deadline. If this were an actual job, it would make more sense, but since it’s done solely for the love of the game, the removal of that pressure might just be the way to inject some freshness back into the process.

Mark: Personally, Superego has been nothing but great to me and I wish I was immortal so that I could do it for eternity.

What were the deciding factors to end the run?

Matt: Many reasons, actually. It was just becoming more and more difficult to sustain. It’s a tremendous amount of work and the past year or two has been very difficult to get all of our schedules in alignment. Our professional and personal responsibilities became a factor as well as the fact that I felt, as the editor, there was a feeling of repetition starting to creep into my work. And that’s even with the understanding that Superego is in some ways built on repetition – repetition of characters and repetition of situation. But still, there comes a time when it becomes a bit more difficult to make things sound fresh. Part of bringing the regular podcast to a close is getting ahead of the inevitable decline of something you love. It might be because we enjoy doing Superego so much that we’re ultimately a little protective of it or hyper aware of not letting this thing we love go south.

Mark: There’s been some writing on the wall for a while. We used to put out an episode a month. It seemed reasonable at first, but now we know better. Season 4 started in September of 2014 and we’re just getting around to episode 6 here in 2016. We could have put out a full season in that time if we were working at our old monthly pace. Those are some major diminishing returns. Another reason is simple quality over quantity. We always strived to put out high quality material, and honestly, that has been happening less and less. The ideas we were pitching lately weren’t feeling particularly inspired or fresh. The latest recording sessions felt good, but not great. We’ve had lulls before, but this felt different for some reason. Those two factors sort of slapped us in the face in the past few months and a tenth anniversary seemed like a perfect moment to put a bow on the podcast as we know it.

Jeremy: Superego was born of Matt and I hanging out and doing bits. We did that all of the time, so we started recording it. Our lives have gone in different directions, so we don’t really see each other much these days. Also, in listening to the body of sketches, what once seemed absurd has oddly become reality in many cases.

Paul: I cannot speak for the other guys, but I can speak about them. It really all came down to time. The amount of work required to make a single episode is substantial, and as everyone’s lives have changed, so have their schedules. So not only is it hard for all of us to get together regularly to record, it’s become increasingly difficult for Matt and Mark to make time to edit the show. It’s a labor-intensive show that is no one’s prime source of income. I went through the same thing with The Pod F. Tompkast.

Looking back, do you have a favorite episode or bit?

Paul: It’s hard to pick a favorite episode, but I think I listened to season 3, episode 10 more than any other episode. “Family Feud,” “Furniture Dick’s,” “Heartlines.” Patton Oswalt, Chris Tallman, Colin Hanks guesting. This one was magic to me. And I think my favorite bits were the “round-robin” sketches, like “Heartlines,” where we’d just be various weirdos over and over.

Mark: It’s really hard to choose. Matt and I had to go through all of the old seasons to prepare our archive for a move to Howl.fm and we’ve had a real fun trip down memory lane over the last few months. It’s really hard to pinpoint a favorite. I love the Remington County Folk Festival and Electronics Expo from episode 2:15 - now available on Howl.fm, use the offer code SUPEREGO and get one month free. Sorry for the shameless promotion. I had that idea and pitched it, but it came to life in a way that I never could have written or imagined. That’s probably been our biggest strength over the years – we all have our own comic ideas that need another voice to truly come to life, and we’re somehow able to help those individual ideas out and push them to places that one of us wouldn’t be able to go without input from the rest of the group. Patton Oswalt as Richard Dawson hosting the Family Feud is another personal favorite. Patton took writing the questions so seriously, and we we’re like a pack of hyenas trying to answer those beautifully thought out questions as stupidly as possible. That was a very fun night of recording. The Shunt McGuppin and Neko Case sketch is another surreal dream come true. The songs were improvised a capella, and then James Bladon, our brilliant musical contributor, retrofit the music after the fact. I got technically got to play pedal steel guitar on some Neko Case tunes, so that in an of itself might be the coolest thing I’ve ever done, even if it’s a technicality.

Jeremy: There are too many to count. Of course I love the Bond/M sketch. The movie guys was fun. I’ll always have a place in my heart for the Shunt McGuppin sketches. Janice Caaf, Father Aldini, Trevor Lunde… always changing, The Reverend Parsimony.

Matt: The Family Feud sketches on season 3, episode 12 are when I think Superego crystallized into its purest form of absolute nonsense. That’s my favorite.

What is your biggest takeaway from working on four seasons of Superego?

Matt: That whatever it is and whatever it ends up being, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had making something. And creatively speaking, it’s the thing I’m most proud of. I love all the guys in Superego, past and present, so much. Other than the birth of my daughter, which has never happened, it’s been some of the best moments of my life.

Jeremy: As far as bringing ideas to the table, I think I generally hit a creative wall around the 9th episode of any given season. Commitment to a project is vital. For the performance and creative element, we gave ourselves permission to fail and be ridiculous. A lot of love. I wasn’t involved in the technical aspect of the show, but Matt – and later Mark’s – commitment to ironing out glitches and getting episodes out on schedule was huge!

Mark: I never understood why people said “go make stuff” until I went and made some stuff. That’s just what we did. We didn’t ask for permission, we just started making stuff and didn’t stop. No one is going to tell you what to make or when to make it. You just have to do it. Dive in. Learn. Don’t take the stuff too seriously, until you have to take it too seriously. Make the best stuff you can make. Don’t cut corners. It’ll be hard and dumb and frustrating and you’ll laugh and make mistakes and then you’ll have this big pile of stuff! Some of it will be laughably stupid and terrible. Some of it will be great! You’ll even forget that you made a bunch of the stuff, but when you dust that stuff off down the road, you won’t believe that that stuff came out of you. I’m smarter, funnier and a better man because I spent a decade making stuff.

Paul, you came on as a regular member after the podcast had already been up and running for a while. The rest of the guys all agree that you coming on was a big boost to the show in terms of broadening the audience and expanding the limits of the show’s creativity. What did you learn from working with them?

Paul: It’s funny to curse sometimes! Also, how to work faster in character. Also also that everyone feels like they aren’t funny sometimes, but you are not always the best judge of your own work in the moment. Lots of stuff turned out great after one of us felt bad about a performance during recording. Letting go is the biggest lesson I have learned from improv, and the hardest lesson to remember. But those guys were my first and best teachers.

At what capacity will you guys be working together in the future?

Paul: Diminished. Wait, did you mean in what capacity? Well, there will be more live Superegos for sure and all of those guys will continue to appear on Spontaneanation, alone or in pairs, like the Slinkys they truly are, if I have anything to say about it.

Matt: Plenty, I would think! Whether it’s live shows or recorded specials, I think there’s definitely more for us to do. In some ways, wrapping up the regular show might be a gateway to doing something different together.

Mark: We have some projects coming up that’ll have us working together. I think we’ll always have the spark to make Superego stuff, even if the podcast as we know it is going away.

Jeremy: We are playing mostly Bar Mitzvahs and funerals, also building a Viking Feast table.

Celebrating Ten Years with ‘Superego’