The world is weird. People do weird things, they say weirder ones and often believe the absolute weirdest. Comedians Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel and Henry Zebrowski like weird, and on their show, Last Podcast on the Left, they explore the weirdest stories of true crime, cult history and reported conspiracy theories, daring listeners to join them in laughing at the darker side of humanity.
Thanks as much to its detailed investigations as its punchy repartee, the podcast has become a hit and now in its sixth year, it averages 800,000 weekly listeners. The funny guy trio — whose résumés include time with The Onion, Fox News and Adult Swim — have taken their live show on the road to share their spookily funny stories with fans.
We spoke with Parks, who produces the show and is co-founder of the Cave Comedy Radio network (which the podcast is part of), about the keys to a cult classic and the unexpected spoils of podcasting.
Why do you think people are so responsive to your kind of out-there subject matter?
I think the world is getting a little darker, and I think the world’s been getting darker for a while now. And when the world is dark then people need to laugh at it more.
Your show feels like are a throwback to a bygone era, before anything that could be said to have a “cult following” became the gristle for blockbusters.
We always want to go with the midnight movie feel, the cult feel, where you kind of feel a little weird about listening, but you also still feel that you’re connecting to it, that you don’t have to feel weird about it.
What is it about podcasting that people latch onto?
People feel a little lonely these days. Even though we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, we’re also more isolated than we’ve ever been. But now, with podcasts, no matter where you are you can always find somebody out there that has your same interests, other people out there that won’t make you feel so weird.
What is doing the show live like for you?
Meeting the fans has been the best part. They’re so nice, they’re smart, they’re nowhere near as creepy as you’d think they’d be. They bring us the weirdest [stuff], too. Like in Portland, someone gave me a conjoined twin baby head skull. And someone else drew up a pentagram in her own period blood. She froze her menstrual blood into ice cubes, and then used them to paint us a pentagram and the words “sanguinea magica.” And because the show is really research-heavy, I come away from every show with a new stack of books.
It’s funny, for a comedy podcast, you do a lot of reportage.
That’s something that we have with the (Cave Comedy) network in general, is that you’ve got to be engaging first and funny second. We like people to learn something. That’s the mistake that a lot of people make with podcasts is be like, “We’re funny, so we can just go on and talk and it’ll be fine. It’ll be great, dude.” When, in reality, funny always comes second. Because if no one cares what you’re talking about, then they’re going to turn off the podcast real fast.
If you go
Last Podcast on the Left Live
Jan. 7 at 4:30 & 8 p.m.
Brighton Music Hall
Sold out, crossroadspresents.com/brighton-music-hall