SuperEgo Interview: Inside the Mind of the Podcast
As podcasts go, more often than not there are the kings of the ring, and everyone else is sitting on the sidelines. It’s sort of like the presidency: technically anyone can run for office, but historically old white dudes have passed the torch from one wrinkly hand to another. But every once in a while, there are wonderful examples of podcasts, and presidents, rising from the ground up to really do something spectacular. Barack Obama is one of these. The SuperEgo podcast is another.
Yeah, that’s right. An extended metaphor where I compare a comedy podcast to the historic 44th President. Deal with it. The point is, SuperEgo is really starting to gain some momentum as of late, and the guys decided to sit down for a quick chat with LAist about the nature of podcasting, the uniqueness of their show, and what it takes to pull big names into the studio.
As a preamble, consider this: SuperEgo is a completely improvised sketch comedy podcast, wherein each sketch is prefaced by ‘doctors’ as a primary example of a particular disorder. The SuperEgo guys (Matt, Jeff, Mark, and Jeremy) are free to take their ideas wherever they want, and on more than one occasion guys like Steve Agee, Joe Lo Truglio, or SNL’s Jason Sudeikis have decided to get involved with them. Recently, SuperEgo has started to branch out, doing more videos (Super Shorts) that range from fake newscasts about geology to Monty Python-inspired animation. Having begun and grown together from the local ComedySportz scene, these Long Beach guys know how to podcast, and to take your mind to a place it never expected to be. It is improvised. It is funny. It is a podcast. It is SuperEgo. Check out the interview after the jump...
I know that your show has this overarching theme, but is still improvised. Can you talk a little bit about the dichotomy of working within a framework, but still not knowing where it’s going to end up?
Matt: We improvise the sketches and then edit them down. It’s not like we’ve got a lot of excess, we usually have just enough for a show. And then the last meeting of the month Jeremy will come over and set up the mic and I’ll say we just need to get this info in, and he says it in his own beautiful way. There isn’t much science to that.
Jeff: It was an overarching framework that would give us as much latitude as possible.
Is there any element of writing to your show, with the Super Shorts and the live shows... Do you guys write all that?
Matt: No, we haven’t written anything. The most we’ve ever done is for the live show, we say ‘well, let’s roll with this idea’, and then we improvise.
Jeremy: We really improvise. We know the major points we want to hit with the live shows, but rather than get bogged down in verbatim memorization of a script, it’s easier just to know where this is going... it keeps it fresh.
Jeff: And with the old-timey...the animated stock videos, those are just the guys improvising, and then I animate to the improvisation. Sometimes they’ll look at the pictures I have in front of me. With Access Geology, it’s literally going on to a website of geology terms, and stringing as many ridiculous ones together as we can.
The animation is really interesting. It’s got a sort of Monty Python feel.
Jeff: Thank you. That’s definitely an influence.
Matt: Jeff is our Terry Gilliam and more.
Jeff: I think we all listen to some of that stuff. I know I listen to Never Not Funny and enjoy the UCB guys and Doug Benson.
Mark: Yeah, I’m totally hooked on Carolla’s podcast.
Matt: It’s funny, because I love and breathe podcasts. I don’t even listen to music that much anymore, but I don’t think I listen to any humor podcasts except for maybe Ricky Gervais. Mostly it’s science podcasts, which is pretty funny because none of us are science-based, but the cover of our podcast is psychology and psychiatry.
Are you guys doing any improv outside of the podcast?
Matt: Mark still does ComedySportz regularly.
Mark: Yeah, I do shows there, and at iO West. I do the stand up thing, too. I’m just trying to do all kinds of stuff, if I can.
Matt: We all perform in one way or another, whether it’s Jeremy and I doing improv for Disney; I teach improv there, I teach acting at Riverside College. Jeremy performs regularly.
Jeremy: After twelve years, I wanted to move on.
Jeff: I did Comedians of Comedy, the show and the movie. I did Super High Me with Doug Benson. I do a lot of the film production side of things.
So do you guys get out to a lot of other shows around LA at all?
Mark: We all have a nice corral of pretty talented friends, there’s no shortage of people saying ‘hey come see my show’. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody with a show.
Matt: I’m a super hermit. I always think of SuperEgo as morphine to get off heroin, so we have this niche that the improv bug gets filled by, so it doesn’t make us have to go out and perform improv with people where you have to talk to them.
You guys release shows once a month. Do you worry that it’s easy to get lost in the podcast shuffle unless you’re updating constantly?
Matt: Definitely, but we don’t lose too much sleep over it. We’ve never been a million download podcast, so we just keep doing what’s fun for us.
Well, you’ve gotten Jason Sudeikis, Joe Lo Truglio, Steve Agee. How did you pull those guys in?
Matt: Handjobs. Well, Joe and Jason Sudeikis were all due to Jeremy.
Jeremy: I did ComedySportz in Kansas City, with Jason, so I’ve known Jason for 15 years. And actually, when we got Joe on there, I met up with Jason, and Joe just kind of tagged along and I asked him if he wanted to be in this sketch, and he said sure, what the hell.
Matt: And we all know Steve from ComedySportz; we’ve known Steve for a long time.
I know podcasting at any reasonable level can get expensive. How much money are you guys investing in something that you’re giving out once a month for free?
Matt: Relatively cheap, I would say. We did initially buy some equipment, but...relatively not much at all.
Jeff: We’ve gotten a lot of equipment that we’ve been fortunate enough to have over the years, and now with the way Apples work, we just plug it in, load up GarageBand, and you’ve got a hilarious podcast.
So you guys have also experienced a surge in the past year in downloads. What can you attribute that success to?
Jeremy: We did a show, we focused it on doing a live show last December, and we kind of made a concerted effort to promote ourselves. We realized we had like 20 podcasts at that point, but not that many people were hearing it. We’ve got plenty of product, let’s see if we can get it out there.
Matt: We were admittedly bad at self-promotion, and still are. But we’re actually getting much better.
(on the expanding nature of podcasts...)
Mark: It’s a solid thing that you can download here in California, in the Midwest. I’m from Minneapolis, and I have friends back home that listen to it.
Matt: Yeah, I have Irish friends that love it.
Mark: If you told me 10 years ago that we would be able to make our own audio sketch comedy that we did as kids, and distribute it globally at a very small cost, I would have told you that you were crazy.
Do you have an end goal for the podcast?
Matt: We probably do have an ideal end goal, but not at the expense of it not being fun anymore.
Jeremy: I guess the idea is to hopefully turn it into something, or have it springboard into something.
Matt: The nice thing is, we used to always ask people to come on; now people are asking us to come on. The fruit, no matter how small, is starting to show. And if it doesn’t get any bigger than this, it’s been a blast and I still enjoy doing it.
Jeff: We still have fun every time we do it.
Mark: It’s a good excuse to hang out with your buddies and have a good time. If it gets bigger than that, awesome, but if it doesn't...so be it.