The voices behind several popular podcasts including Radiolab and Invisibilia took to the stage on Tuesday night at NYU's Skirball Center to see what they could make. Cast Party was on the surface a celebration of the podcast, but wound up offering so much more to the audience of 800 in attendance and the thousands upon thousands of others around the country tuned in at area movie theaters around the country. It was a different type of radio experience than what you would ordinarily find, and also a remarkably interesting and innovative theatrical experience.
The hosts of Reply All kicked off the event with a wonderful story about what happens when a woman ignores her critics and just does what she wants and what she likes on a public stage for a living. The comparisons were not lost on the hosts, who clearly had thought through what it all meant for them as they have dedicated their young careers to a still blossoming craft. Their presentation was funny and clever, and left the audience with a lot to think about.
Lulu Miller from NPR's Invisibilia followed with a short, but powerful story of her own about a man who gave everything he had to break a 4-minute mile. To put that into proper perspective, Miller was challenged by her producer to tell the story in under four minutes. As the clock behind her creeped closer to the deadline, you felt a rush of panic set over you. The effect had worked out perfectly.
What's clear from many of these demonstrations is that the hosts (and probably the producers, too) memorize most to all of the script before they hit the Record button. Every word and idea is thought through and analyzed. A 30-minute podcast episode can take weeks to create, requiring late hours in the studio.
The second half of the event kicked off with some lighter routines from The Truth and Lauren Lapkus, both of whom stuck to the recipes that make their success. The Truth did some scripted comedy, a fictional tale of what would happen if countries roasted The United States, and Lapkus brought out special-guest Bobby Moynihan to host her fictional interview series. Together, these acts helped showcase how rich and diverse the podcasting community has become.
To cap off the evening, local favorites Radiolab performed an episode about Beethoven and his special secret effect on music. They brought along an orchestra to play along with them, appealing at once to all of the senses in a way that wouldn't have been possible if this were a taping of a podcast episode for people to listen to silently on their daily commutes. There was something extra to be seen and heard, which offered at once a unique form of entertainment and sentimentality.