From club comics to stand-up superstars, podcasts gave the 2010s something to pass the time, and exposed a vast wealth of creativity
There really isn’t any need to make it fancy: Plain and simple, the 2010s were one hell of a decade for the vast universe of comedy.
Maybe it was the sheer cultural and political insanity that fueled such a massive creative flame, or it could have been that the art form just received a timely breath of fresh air thanks to pop culture that helped shape an outrageously vast spectrum of humor with the last few generations.
First and foremost, stand-up saw a huge resurgence over the last decade, with local scenes blossoming all over the country and producing local favorites, heavy-hitting national headliners, and even a few bonafide stadium-filling superstars. The prestige of the stand-up special seemed to lose some of it’s fairly sacred significance to the mind-numbing amount of specials turned out by HBO, Showtime, and Netflix, while also supplying the masses with enough relatable, thought-provoking, and sometimes incendiary material to keep us engaged and laughing for the last 10 years.
While the comedy world saw many advances in terms of exposure and respect since 2010, no medium could keep up with the influence and impact that podcasts have had on the scene — or in a more dramatic sense, the entire world.
Top-shelf ‘casts like WTF with Marc Maron, Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast and The Joe Rogan Experience are the most obvious examples of how effective the platform has been in expanding the horizons of content creation. While each of those three had a bit of a head start before the 2010s, it was what those shows have helped to set in motion — podcasts that have generated loyal fanbases for comedians that stretch far beyond a live setting, and even beyond the general genre of comedy — that has made them so iconic in the grand scheme of the medium.
From True Crime (Crime in Sports, Small Town Murder, Last Podcast on The Left) and topic-based formats (Timesuck, Dumb People Town), to the lighter and more conversational (Bertcast, Tuesdays With Stories), more straightforward one-on-one interview approaches (Your Mom’s House, This Past Weekend, You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes, Good For You) and so many other avenues in between, podcasting has become so much more than just another creative outlet over the last ten years.
According to numbers provided by Statista, there are roughly 86 million podcast listeners in the United States alone as the decade begins to close, and that figure is estimated to jump to 132 million by 2022. And it’s all about awareness: Statista reports that in 2006, only 22 percent of adults in the U.S. knew what a podcast was; today, that number is 70 percent. In 2008, only about nine percent of the population even listened to a podcast — in the past month alone here in 2019, roughly 32 percent took part and listened in. That’s a wild jump in both awareness and action.
Is the market over-saturated? You could say that. But with the numbers behind it, each new podcast that joins the comedy lexicon offers an extension of the creative force behind it. Those extensions have helped to expose listeners to new comedians, new ideas, different viewpoints, and at the very least, entertained millions of people on morning commutes, road trips and midnight rides on the MBTA — in fact, Statista reports “the most popular location for podcast consumption followed by listening in a car or truck while commuting”. Through reaching audiences this way, podcasts have also given comics a platform to explore other interests besides comedy, spice up their stage shows with live episodes, and connect with their audience in new ways (i.e. Dan Cummins’ gathering with Timesuck listeners, who have been deemed the “The Cult of the Curious”).
There’s no telling, really, what kind of role the ever-expanding podcast game will play in comedy in the 2020s. Surely, there will be more shows popping up that will garner attention from boatloads of people, and there will always be new angles being explored. We’re already seeing more nationwide tours slated to bring these shows to a live audience in the early stages of the new decade, as well. Who knows what’s next? Well, whatever it is that is to come, here’s to hoping it has something to do with Kanye finally sitting down with Rogan.