Podcast Review: Superego
Superego: Profiles In Self-Obsession
Back in first grade, my school hosted a number of pacifying events they referred to as “assemblies.” These were all held near the end of the day, about the time when the teachers’ eyes shifted back and forth between the clock and their desk drawers, which, I assume, housed some seriously heavy-proof liquor.
One of these assemblies featured a ventriloquist and his rather sickly looking anthropomorphic dummy. I believe they talked to each other for a while and then set in with the show stopper, in which the dummy sang “La Bamba.” All the children, save one, roared with laughter, and when they removed me from the room and asked what was the matter, I shrugged and replied, “I’m sorry, I just didn’t think it was very funny.”
The premise of Superego is that the hosts, Jeremy Carter and Matt Gourley, are clinical “psychiatrists” who profile mock case-studies in mental illnesses ranging from schizophrenia to narcissism. The case-studies are the context for extemporaneous skits performed by Carter and Gourley, among others. A cheery, Tom-Kenny-sounding announcer provides the introduction to each one while some equally cheery ‘50s-happy-family music plays in the background. The podcast’s 20-minute runtime is made up of several skits.
The podcast itself is very well constructed—music cues are on time, the audio is clear, and it sounds like a professional production. But there’s no humor to it.
Carter, Gourley, and their guests achieve that manic energy of improv, but so does every other middle schooler who posts an MP3 of he and his friends talking about what they find funny and to hell with everyone else—which is really what this feels like: Pop-culture references are dropped for the sake of being dropped and with the expectation that, “Gee, it’s a pop-culture reference: That means it’s funny on its own!” (and for Christsakes, Wilford Brimley’s pronunciation of “diabetes” wasn’t even funny when Seth MacFarlene didn’t think it was funny four years ago); the constant swearing and cussing has no purpose other than a cheap laugh; and the group frequently breaks down in laughter.
Now I’m a fan of those things when they’re done well. For example, in the Family Guy link, that scene works because the reference is subtle; the real humor is in Brimley’s monologue, which would be funny in any number of contexts. Swears and cusses are used to great effect in another absurdist skit-com Mr. Show because they’re used sparingly, so when they appear, they add a punch to the material. And as for breaking down in laughter, again, if the material is good enough, that’s fine. Compare the dentist sketch from The Carol Burnett Show, where Harvey Korman tries valiantly to stifle a laugh, with Jimmy Fallon.
Maybe I’m missing the joke, so I’d like to know what others think. Sample one of their podcasts, and give me your input.
Aside from that experience in elementary school, Superego also recalled thoughts of Firesign Theatre, which I also didn’t think was funny—save for the “Zeno’s Evil” bit. Maybe that’s what Carter and Gourley are going for, but Firesign was tightly scripted and Superego, I understand, is not. It may benefit from being so.
In all: The Nick Nolte impression is good; the Supershort “California Cooking with Claymore Cleveland” is pretty funny (especially when cinnamon spills over the side); pretty much that’s it. They have the creativity, but they’re desperately lacking in subtlety. And that’s why, I’m sorry, but I didn’t think it was that funny.
Editors note: I didn’t get the humor either, but they have a lot of loyal listeners and fans. I don’t really find Monty Python or The Three Stooges funny, but obviously there are a lot of people who disagree. Like Nat said, give them a listen and decide for yourself. You can find their website here– Shannon