The Now Hear This Podcast Festival kicked off on Oct. 28 and ran through Oct. 30. There were hundreds of attendees with over 30 different podcasts in attendance. “The Moth”, “Comedy Bang! Bang!”, “Cracked”, “The Combat Jack Show”, “Bitch Sesh” and “SPONTANEANATION” are just some of the podcasts that performed.
“I just recently started listening to podcasts,” Now Hear This attendee, Alexandria Macias said, “and I just thought this would be a good event to find out about some new ones.”
Heather Marie traveled with her boyfriend Spencer Orenstein all the way from Washington D.C. to attend the festival. Marie explained she’s looking forward to the “How Did This Get Made” podcast. “I haven’t seen it live and it’s been my favorite forever so I’m pumped for that.”
Friday, Oct. 28 kicked off with the podcast “The Moth”, which is a long running podcast based around people telling real stories that are built around a common theme.
The theme for the night was “between two worlds”, featuring writer Dan Kennedy as host, improviser Tony Cyprien, writer Abeny Mathayo Kucha, David Litt (who was one of President Barack Obama’s speech writers), actress Lauren Weedman of the HBO television show “Looking” and podcaster David Montgomery.
Cyprien told about when he was released from prison after serving 26 years. He went on to quote his wife by saying “One wild beast sees another wild beast. Welcome to society.” about a time when Cyprien made eye contact with a deer on his porch.
Montgomery told of leaving his job to follow the Spice Girls on their reunion tour, which led him into podcasting and personally meeting his favorite Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice).
Litt had a hilarious story of his first encounter with meeting President Obama and how a happy birthday to Betty White led to him singing the “Golden Girls” theme song to President Obama in the oval office.
Weedman told about the funny yet touching story of how, after being adopted as a baby, she eventually met her birth mother and managed over time to connect with her.
The next story was from Kucha, who told her tale of being right in the middle of the Second Sudanese Civil War and how it affected her family. She had children when it started and one day in the middle of the market she heard the “all too familiar sound of gunfire”, which would cause her and others to run into the jungle.
“It would be 11 years until I stopped running from that war,” Kucha said, “and I would never know peace in Africa again.”
Her husband and one of her children died as a result of the war, but luckily she managed to find refuge in the United States after 11 years of constantly having to flee wherever she lived.
“With gods help, we made it, my children would never walk 200 miles again. They would never starve again.” Kucha said. “Here to me means hope, hope to me means I would never have to run again.”
It was a story that left some audience members in tears, but was followed by a performance that would leave an entire hall in a fit of laughter.
“Comedy Bang! Bang!” hit the stage for almost two hours of laughter, with host Scott Aukerman. Comedians Lauren Lapkus, Paul F. Tompkins, Andy Daly and Jon Gabrus, actor Jason Mantzoukas all joined in a live improvised show.
They mostly built the show around Tompkins, who was acting out a character who was “just a regular guy” who worked at Disneyland and cleaned the head of Walt Disney until the park could find a body to attach his cryogenically frozen head to.
On Saturday, Oct. 29, the podcast “Cracked” featured live tales about what the guest comedians would do if they could go back in time and change one thing. Ideas ranged from situations such as preventing the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, preventing the death of the world’s oldest living organism and going back to murder each member of The Beatles in order to inspire John Lennon to continue to make timeless albums.
“The Combat Jack Show” was supposed to interview DJ Quik live, but Quik woke up late. Instead the show did a live Q & A with fans, which turned out to be an interesting and highly personal two-way conversation. Combat Jack thanked fans for making the unexpected question and answer session easy and apologized that DJ Quik didn’t show up.
“Brilliant Idiots” did a live question and answer session as well that was full of jokes from radio personality Charlemagne The God and comedian Andrew Schulz, who were later joined on stage by Van Lathan from TMZ. Charlemagne continually teased Lathan for previously being overweight throughout the show.
“Charlemagne used to call me and just tell me ‘you’re going to end up fat again’ and just hang up,” Lathan said while shaking his head as the audience laughed.
“Hello From the Magic Tavern”, a comedic improv podcast, went on later that night to a packed hall with audience members even standing in the back when there weren’t enough seats.
“Lore” podcast and NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” did a surprise appearance by playing as a part of the show. The audience was in a roar of laughter as both podcasts mocked their own shows during the Magic Tavern podcast.
One of the most interesting and notable performances of the festival was when “Memory Palace” took to the stage. Host Nate DiMeo told various impacting and poetic stories with strange and inspiring music playing in the background.
Halfway through the podcast, DiMeo brought in a brass band to perform as he read the tales of animals sent into space, which oddly doesn’t sound like something that would hit you in the heart yet somehow did exactly that.
DiMeo went on to tell the tale of the 19th century singer Jenny Lind and how her voice mesmerized audiences. He asked the audience to imagine what it would be like to be in a church where Lind sang suddenly. This is when he invited an actual Opera singer to perform for the audience. The audience seemed like they just couldn’t get enough of the singer’s voice.
“They’re not doing shit like this over at ‘Lore’,” DiMeo joked as he retook the stage.
Sunday, Oct. 30 featured the podcasts “Bitch Sesh” and “SPONTANEANATION”. “Bitch Sesh” jokingly discussed “The Real Housewives” television programs and how they’ve been working the “housewives beat for years.” They even gave an audience member who traveled from Boston for the show a free bottle of wine.
“SPONTANEANATION” ended the weekend full of festivities with a phenomenal live improv performance. Performers, such as Paul F. Tompkins, could hardly hold their laughter.
Festival attendee Anne Mason drove nine hours from the San Francisco Bay area to see “SPONTANEANATION” with Paul F. Tompkins. Mason also said she had a great time watching the “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and “How Did This Get Made”.
“I thought it was great, I’ve been having a really good time,” Mason explained. “The festival has also just been really well run. It’s easy to do the things you want to do, it’s been really good.”
Almost all attendees seemed to be leaving with a smile on their faces and many of them discussing that they hope that Now Hear This Podcast Festival comes back next year with even more podcasts and in an even better venue.