By Graeme Wiggins
What started as a move to make it easier for them to book theatre shows has taken podcasters Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld across the globe to more than a million listeners each month. The depth of their fan base isn’t surprising, given that their previous project, an eponymous web series for CollegeHumor, was the website’s longest running show with more than a billion views in total. When Hurwitz and Blumenfeld left CollegeHumor they began If I Were You, a podcast that looked to answer listener questions in humorous ways.
The decision to start a podcast started with one fairly practical intention in mind: touring. As they put it, “We just thought it would be a cool idea to start podcasting. We heard it was an easier way to book touring dates so we thought if we had a show that we could do live that we would get to travel a bit more.” This plan would end up being quite successful, giving them the chance to tour the world, as Hurwitz puts it. “Since we started the podcast we’ve got to go to Australia, London, Dublin, even Boise, Idaho. The big four,” Blumenfeld adds. “Holler at your Boise!”
One might think a long-running advice show would struggle to overcome the problem of repetition. To some extent this is true and they do see some similar questions, but they use their ample skills at finding the funny to keep things different. As they explain, “We do our best to answer unique questions. It’s hard to avoid. Most of the questions are in the same vein. There’s a ton of relationship questions because that’s what our young fans have the most trouble with. But if you think of all of the things that have gone wrong in the relationships you’ve had, they are always pretty unique. So there’s enough room for each question to be unique. We’ve also been growing and evolving so our advice has also been doing that over the last few years.” This coupled with the fact that all of the humour comes from making the person asking the question a source of jokes helps too. “A lot of the time we just make fun of the person writing the questions and everyone has a different writing voice so we always make fun of the person. Even if the advice is the same, we can make fun of the person uniquely.”
Since they started the podcast with the intention of touring with it, the live show takes the show to another level. Blumenfeld notes, “It’s the same format. But we’re feeding off the crowd’s energy so it’s much more performative. We ask the audience for help with certain things, we include them, we involve them. It’s a fun lively party atmosphere.” Some shows might consider taking questions from the audience rather than traditional submissions, but there’s a good reason they don’t. “We still answer questions that are submitted because we do our best to find the funniest ones and sometime audience questions are going to be the funniest or dumbest questions. We do take informal polls about which advice to give people.”
It’s definitely worth checking out live for that energy, but be sure to check out a few episodes of the podcast first. As Hurwitz suggests, “I think you probably have to already like the show to enjoy the live show, so start with a few episodes, then check the recorded live show. Then come see a live show. If you like the podcast you’ll love the live show.”
Alberta: Check Out Jake and Amir: If I Were You Live Podcast March 7 at MacEwan Hall and download the podcast wherever you get your podcasts.
BC: Check Out Jake and Amir: If I Were You Live Podcast March 8 at the Vogue Theatre and download the podcast wherever you get your podcasts.