By Paul Rodgers
Fascination with true crime and the paranormal is nothing new, though some believe such subjects should not to be taken lightly. Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel and Henry Zebrowski of Last Podcast on the Left, have been able to turn their own brand of black comedy and a long-held interest in the darker sides of life into a highly successful podcast. They have a globetrotting live show and fiercely-dedicated fanbase that contributes nearly $60,000 monthly to their Patreon.
“True crime and an interest in the paranormal have always been a thing, it’s just now becoming revealed,” says Zebrowski, who in addition to the show is an accomplished actor in films such as The Wolf of Wall Street and the Adult Swim series Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell. “The media is catching up to what millions of people were already into.”
The show, and its live iteration, specialize in what the trio call “edu-tainment.” They do deep dives on heavy-hitter serial killers, the paranormal, conspiracy theories, cryptids and more. Parks tackles the bulk of the research with the aid of assistants, and is responsible for driving the narrative. Zebrowski’s acting background allows him to get into the heads of the characters involved, while Kissel, a political pundit who appears on CNN and Fox, ensures the content is accessible. Together, their tangible long-lasting friendship, comedic nature and razor sharp intellects create a podcast that is disturbing, informative and hilarious.
“It’s funny when describing the show to people, cause I’ll be like, ‘yeah it’s true crime but then it’s also funny,’” Kissel explains. “And they’re like, ‘well how can it be funny?’ And I’m like it’s difficult to describe because it’s about making fun of these idiots, it’s about making fun of these serial killers.”
Take Dennis Rader, the BTK killer, one of the show’s earlier deep-dive subjects, who Kissel refers to as the “archetype of a douchebag.”
“He’s just such a frickin’ fat, useless nerd who liked horrible poetry. That’s how we try to mine the comedy and it’s always in the weird little details. That’s the trick of it, to never make fun of the victims, always make fun of the so-called monsters and just make the world see these people as the dumpy losers they are.”
While the trio have a knack for presenting the material for laughs as they “de-fang” killers often sensationalized in the media, the content of the show, and the research required, can be emotionally taxing on its hosts. Putting the worst parts of humankind, like Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, the Columbine shooting, 9/11 or Nazi scientist Josef Mengele under the microscope every week is a heavy task.
“Obviously when talking about serial killers, it does make you think about how depraved human beings can be,” says Kissel.
“But on the flip-side, when we have our audience and get to interact with people it gives you a validation of humanity, you realize people are good. We’re talking about outliers here, we’re not talking about mainstream people. Most people do not bury other people in potted plants, most people are just trying to do the best they can to survive and they focus on family and friendship.”
In their live shows, fans are treated to all the edu-tainment and high-octane banter they know and love from the podcast. The show features individual segments from each of the three hosts, and opens with repartee tailored to the specific crowd. Vancouver fans can likely expect Robert “Willie” Pickton to come up in the dialogue.
The three are also releasing a book. After absorbing a horribly grim library’s worth of material for research purposes, Zebrowski says it feels they’ve “come full circle” by adding one of their own to the world, adding writing is what Parks was definitely supposed to do with his life.
“This book is going to be thick. It’s a bad boy man,” Zebrowski says. “You could kill a chicken with this book when it’s done, you could crush it to death. This is going to be the meatiest podcast book ever.”
With a back catalogue of more than 360 episodes, newbies have a wealth of material to catch up with. To preview the live show, purchase a recorded live special on their website www.lastpodcastontheleft.com for $6.66.
Tickets are on sale for Last Podcast on the Left live in Vancouver on May 30 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.