Even after 600 episodes of The Dork Forest, Jackie Kashian remains fascinated by what fascinates her podcast guests. Fresh from last week’s latest @Midnight appearance, the Conan, Maron and Last Comic Standing vet discusses her decade in digital and quietly revolutionary Nerdist Industries endeavor with Laurie Kilmartin.
You’re currently celebrating ten years in podcasting. What were the most difficult aspects of launching and expanding in those early days?
Launching was idiot-proof, because I started with Blog Talk Radio. All you had to do was call in to a number, and they recorded it for you and put it on iTunes. So the first three years of The Dork Forest were me calling into this number with guests. And granted, it was in Beta, so sometimes they would fail. And the audio quality wasn’t very good. But the hardest part, I think, was expanding to pre-recorded, which is what I did five or six years ago. I had to have equipment, and I had to have people at my house, staring across a card table. Then I had to edit it and put it up myself on Libsyn. It’s like everything: It seems insurmountable until you do it, like, three times. Then it becomes by rote.
How has The Dork Forest’s content evolved over the years?
Good question! What I’ve learned is how to be a better interviewer about what people love. Let’s see, let me pick something that I haven’t picked 19 times before…If it’s Batman, I think I know as much about Batman as I’m ever gonna want to know. But I have to figure out a way to want to know more about Batman. So if you come to me with bees or Disneyland or model trains…I just did an episode with a guy who talked about the history of spaceship design in television and movies. And he works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; he works with NASA! He had been on one other time doing a more science-y thing, and he asked if he could come back on and do a science-fiction-y thing. It’s kind of cool getting repeat guests and getting to find out what else they really like.
It’s educational and confessional at the same time.
It really is! It is both confessional and educational, and enthusiastic. You can’t really go wrong if someone is excited. Worst-case scenario, you can make fun of how excited they are. Best-case scenario, you are made excited about something you could have never cared about in 100 years. Like, Alexander Hamilton fan fiction? Who cares? Yet last week, the kid was into it.
My favorite thing people say is, “Is this too dorky?” And I’m like, “Can’t be! You can’t give me too much minutia.”
I was going to ask for your all-time dorkiest Dork Forests episodes, but ones you’ve mentioned are already pretty hardcore dorky.
Wil Wheaton came on and talked about beer. What’s funny about Will Wheaton is he’s very much a dork luminary, right? He’s dork royalty, almost. People were like, “Are you going to ask him about Star Trek?” I wanted to ask him about Star Trek, but I didn’t have new questions to ask him. I think he’s been asked before if it was cool. I didn’t have anything, so I decided not to ask him about anything. We talked about beer and board games.
That would seem refreshing for him. He gets to show a different side and connect on a different level.
Yeah! I’ve had a couple authors on, and I’ve dorked out at them about their work. They didn’t get to talk about the things that they wanted to. I did a live one in Minneapolis at a science-fiction convention with this guy Bill Willingham. He wrote an amazing comic book called Fables. It’s like Once Upon a Time the TV show, but he did it, like, ten years before they did. They might have been inspired by it; we don’t know. But let’s not accuse anyone of anything.
So I read Fables, and I loved it. We talked a little bit about Fables, and we mostly talked about his tour in Vietnam. Nobody had asked him about it, I think, ever.
Tell me about your new Nerdist podcast The Jackie and Laurie Show.
That is Laurie Kilmartin calling me and saying, “Hey, do you want to do a podcast about comedy?” I said, “I want to talk about comedy with you. What do you want to do?” She said, “Well, there’s a lot of podcasts with middle-age white guys talking about comedy, but not any middle-age white ladies talking about comedy.”
So many people have asked us — and every woman comic, ever – “What is it like to be a woman comic?” You get sick of answering the question, so Laurie was like, “Let’s just answer it!” I spent, like, 30 years avoiding the Jerry Lewis-es of the world talking about women comics. The first couple weeks we’ve been doing this, she’s been sending me all these articles. It’s like, “What a bunch of jerks! What do they care if women do comedy? What do they care if women are fat or tall or short, any of it?” So now I have 30 years of lady-comic rage. Fortunately I can vent once a week on Nerdist.
Jackie Kashian performs at the Moontower Comedy Festival This April. Her DVD This Will Make an Excellent Horcrux is available through Comedy Film Nerds.