The story goes that in the ’90s a TV reporter in Los Angeles took to the street and asked random people, “How’s your screenplay going?” And almost everyone was ready with the answer that, yes, their screenplays were going just fine, thank you.
Today, of course, the question would be, “How’s your podcast going?”
One of the latest to jump onto the podwagon is Mike Sacks, host of Doin’ It With Mike Sacks. Despite the title, this is not a smarmy guide to the porn industry. While there is occasional smarm and even some light smuttiness, Doin’ It is at heart something of a literary variety show for the ears. Which is as it should be, as Sacks is himself an author, of two indispensable volumes of interviews with comedy writers, And Here’s the Kicker and Poking a Dead Frog, as well as the extremely witty collection of original humor, Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason. (My review of the latter is here.)
And so Sacks brings an authorial seriousness to the task of hosting, with a dry, low-key delivery, reminiscent of Jean Shepherd or maybe Jack Paar. But seriousness is not really on the menu. Instead, Sacks, a former college DJ, offers a pastiche of found-sound oddities and music from his collection and scripted comedy interludes. Some of the interludes are taken from Your Wildest Dreams, others are original for the podcast. (Like the series Gettin’ In Touch With Old Girlfriends, and the horrifyingly vivid NPR Fan Fiction, which totally should become a thing — or more of a thing, or maybe stop being a thing.) I’m guessing one impulse to start a podcast was to give audio voice to some of his written bits. (Who reads anymore?) It’s adult conversation, with a bit of childish foolishness.
But the crux of each episode is an interview with a notable from the comedy world. Guests so far have included Bill Hader, sitcom writer and author of Science…For Her! Megan Amram, Dan Powell, executive producer of Inside Amy Schumer, Beth Newell of Reductress, and Neal Pollack. Sacks even interviewed his own agent, who is also the agent for the infamous Twitter joke thief @FatJew. (To his credit, more or less, the agent stands by his client, more or less.)
All of the interviews are both casual and insightful. As in his books, Sacks draws out his subjects on the finer details of crafting comedy. Especially fascinating is Sacks’ lengthy interview with David Sedaris, which seems almost like we’re eavesdropping — partly because the audio sounds like it was recorded surreptitiously. But that doesn’t matter. As Sacks likes to bring advice to aspiring humor writers, here’s some advice for future podcasters, based on Sacks’ show: don’t worry about sound and gear. Much of Doin’ It is phone conversations, and some of the connections are downright lousy. Even Sacks’ intros feature a plethora of plosives, generally anathema in professional broadcasting. But as always, content in king. That Bill Hader had low bars for his chat doesn’t matter; he said interesting things.
Sacks grew up in Montgomery County and, as in his written humor, local listeners will find many shouts-outs on the podcast: Hammerjacks, Hagerstown, and Rockville, Md., among them. I suspect some character names may be personal friends.
So subscribe on iTunes, like him on Facebook, hashtag on Instagram, whatever the hell one does nowadays. But do tune in because Doin’ It With Mike Sacks is a great way to get through the week.