What It Is
Harris Wittels, comedian & writer, attempts to get friend Scott Aukerman, alumnus of Mr. Show and head of comedy podcasting network Earwolf, to like the band Phish and, occasionally, people talk about Jaws.
The show’s episodes run from an hour to an hour and a half. The show has released episodes very sporadically since it began in 2011. The entire run of ten episodes can be found on the iTunes page. For reasons I’ll get into in a second, the show won’t be getting any new episodes, so you can go download this entire series and hear it from beginning to end.
What About It
Okay, so I’m a huge fan of Earwolf, Aukerman’s podcasting network. Aukerman’s flagship podcast, Comedy Bang Bang, is easily one of my top five podcasts; I tend to call it my second favorite, but those top five shift around a lot, of course. Comedy Bang Bang has introduced me to so many amazing comedians: Lauren Lapkus, Jessica St. Clair, Chelsea Peretti, Paul F. Tompkins, Jason Mantzoukas, etc. And Harris Wittels, of course.
And here’s where I have to get into the thing that makes this show tough to talk about. Wittels passed away of an apparent drug overdose earlier this year. He was painfully young, only thirty years old, two years, quite unbelievably to me, younger than I am. After spending the past few three or four years listening to Wittels on numerous podcasts, I have to say that his death shook me up and affected me emotionally more than just about any celebrity death of the past five to ten years. Only Robin Williams’ death really hit me so hard emotionally. When I saw the headline on a news site I read, I literally said aloud, “No no no,” and just put my head in my hands. I think a lot of this has to do with the form of podcasts; listening to Wittels on Comedy Bang Bang or Analyze Phish wasn’t like watching him perform or act or reading his writing. What it was like was just hanging out with the guy. Just shooting the **** with a really, really funny guy. And I think this brought him, and the other comedians I’ve encountered via podcasts, a lot closer to me emotionally; it made me feel more like I knew him than if I’d just watched him do stand-up.
So, it’s strange. I love this podcast; I think it’s absolutely hilarious. But in the aftermath of Wittels’ death, I ended up downloading a couple of his episodes and listening to them and, I have to admit, it was a mostly painful experience. I really didn’t laugh much. But I think that will pass with time. And while some people argue that podcasts are ephemeral, I think when they’re this good, they really aren’t. These ten episodes will stand up, I think, as long as people argue about music; and I don’t see that going away any time soon.
Well, anyway, this one is going really long, but it’s just kind of part of the deal, I suppose. Anyway, most episodes consist of Harris playing music clips for Scott and then the two arguing hilariously. There are two episodes that really break the format, Analyze Fish & Analyze Fish, Part 2, in which the equally hilarious Paul F. Tompkins, Howard Kremer and Shelby Fero get together to talk about Jaws. WORDPLAY! Some fans of the show dislike those episodes being shoved into this series; others say that those are actually the best episodes of the series. Judge for yourself.
You have ever screamed at someone about whether a Phish cover of a song or the original song was better.
Avoid Like the Plague If
You were a close personal friend of Harris Wittels (at least for a while).
Best Entry Point
Well, with a show this short, I’d really just recommend downloading the entire run and starting with episode 1, Phish 101. But I will tell you that the show gets better as it goes, so if that first episode doesn’t strike you as particularly great, keep going. I absolutely love episode 7, A Crazy Moment in Phishtory, in which Harris & Scott take calls from Phish fans who try to succeed where Harris has failed; it’s a really gonzo episode. And episode 9, Hollywood Bowl, is a real stand-out; it details a Phish concert Harris and Scott attended, but in the prelude, the two talk about why the show has been on such a long hiatus. The reason is because of Harris’ drug addiction & rehab; it’s very sad in retrospect to hear Harris able to joke about his addictions and also be so positive about his newfound clean lifestyle. Knowing now that the clean lifestyle wouldn’t last and those addictions that he joked about would eventually end his life, it’s hard to listen to, but, kind of for that very reason, it’s a really essential segment.
Next time, a much more traditional show, a public radio staple actually.