Last Monday I went to Cast Party, the one-night “podcast festival” broadcast to movie theaters across the US and Canada. It featured Radiolab, Reply All, Invisibilia, The Truth, and Lauren Lapkus. I have listened to 4/5 of those shows (all but Lauren Lapkus’s) and actively listen to 3/5 (excluding The Truth), and it was exciting to see these people whose voices I hear every week in person. However, the show left me wanting more.
Reply All basically performed an episode, with PJ Vogt and Alex Blumberg sitting at a table, talking from a script, and playing pre-recorded audio from an interview with the episode’s subject. The episode was okay, but it certainly wasn’t their best, and it didn’t feel particularly tailored to a live audience. There were some nice, authentic moments, however, like when Alex lost his place in the script, and PJ’s sincere embarrassment at hearing a clip of him responding to someone who complimented the show.
Lulu Miller, of Invisibilia, also used pre-recorded sound—including clips of the show’s other host, Elise Speigel, which she had a fake but also believable conversation with—but she stood alone at a microphone and spoke her lines from memory. Her segment was more tailored to the audience, with a “challenge” from Elise to perform the story, which was about a man running a 4 minute mile, in under 4 minutes. Her segment was my favorite, and I was disappointed that it was, or at least seemed to be, the shortest.
The Truth did a roast of the US with Canada officiating and China, Russia, Cuba, Mexico, France, and Great Britain doing the roasting, and a guest appearance from God. It wasn’t my type of comedy, as The Truth often isn’t, but it went over okay with the audience. It was certainly indicative of what they thought the audience would tolerate when it comes to insulting our own country.
Lauren Lapkus, who I wasn’t familiar with before that night, was hilarious. Her podcast, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus, has a guest host every week who interviews Lauren for a fake show. This one was had John Early as the host of a gossip TV show and Lauren playing a 19 year old movie star. The whole thing was great, but I particularly enjoyed the fact that they couldn’t keep it together for more than 15 seconds at a time.
I was very disappointed with Radiolab. They repeated an episode they’ve already done, and while they were great performers and I was glad to finally see them live, I, and probably most everyone else in the audience, had heard the episode before. I would gladly listen to them all day long, but I couldn’t help but tune out, given both the repetition and my annoyance.
The musical guest was the horn quartet The Westerlies. It’s hard to make four horns sound good by themselves, and I applaud them for doing it, but I thought they were a strange choice. The dance troupe, Cocoon Central Dance Team, was also strange but definitely enjoyable. There were some videos between segments that were nothing to write home about. Seth Lind emceed (and produced) the event, and while he came off as nervous and once forgot his script backstage, that worked great for an audience full of public radio nerds.
All in all, while I have no regrets about going to Cast Party and would go to the next one, it definitely lacked the flair I was anticipating.