I first heard of comedian/podcaster Mike Schmidt when he was interviewed by Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, and that was when I decided to try listening to Schmidt’s The 40-Year-Old Boy podcast. Schmidt’s delivery on the podcast is long-form, stream-of-consciousness, deeply infused with his own personality, and absolutely positively Not Safe For Work. An average episode might contain highs and lows that you’d never expect — some episodes make me laugh, some make me cry, and some make me so mad or so upset that I have to stop listening for a while until I decompress. But it’s basically one man talking at ridiculous speeds about his life, his job, his family, and more. And while he talks, his producer laughs off-mike in the background. It’s a very unusual dynamic.
Six months ago, in my former podcasting capacity, I recommended The 40-Year-Old Boy to our audience. But in the process of recommending it I also had to bring up some aspects of it that concerned me. I was worried that his delivery in front of one person who laughed at (almost) everything he said might give him an inaccurate view of how funny he really was. I also worried that since he spent so much time talking about (and complaining about) stuff that was going on in his personal life, that the podcast might lead to problems in his real-life relationships. Specifically, I thought that his podcasting might lead to tensions in his marriage.
When I heard that Mike was going to be bringing his one-man show to New York City, I bought tickets for me and my boyfriend. Now, my boyfriend had never even heard of this guy, much less listened to his podcast. But I thought that he would still enjoy the performance since we have a similar sense of humor. I explained that Mike was a great storyteller, that he had a fast and powerful delivery, and that he told stories about himself that ranged from upliftingly happy to tragically sad. I also told my boyfriend that he should probably use the bathroom when we got to the theater because the show was going to start at 7:30 and wasn’t going to end until 10:00. Mike has said in previous podcasts that with no time restrictions, his show has gone for as long as three hours. The only reason I knew that this show was going to end at 10:00 was because when I booked the tickets I’d looked at the theater’s website and saw that another show was booked in the same room at 10:00. More on that in a moment.
Anyway, we got there early because it was a small theater with general seating and I wanted to get a good spot — I wanted to be close enough so that we could see and hear everything, but no way in hell was I going to sit in the first row. Anyway, we got there early enough that we got great seats in the third row, but the show ended up starting late because a bunch of deadbeat audience members came in late. Grrrrrr …
So the show started, and it was a really great experience. It was even more of a roller coaster ride than the podcast, perhaps in part because this time it wasn’t just me (and Lili the producer) laughing or groaning or gasping as we reacted to his stories, but a whole room full of 40-50 people laughing or groaning or gasping along. I periodically checked to see how my boyfriend was reacting, and he was laughing and groaning in all the right places so we were definitely on the same wavelength. Mike didn’t spend as much time on the subjects he’s been discussing on the podcast recently (his weight, his wife, and his job), but spent more time talking about his childhood and his family. And Hoo-Boy, those were some amazing / funny / gutwrenching stories.
So he’s just started telling a story about his older brother. We know in our hearts that we must be in the final section of the show, because he’s been telling us that he was GOING to tell us about his older brother all along. We’re invested in this story — we’ve been following the ups and downs all along, and even though the story just started we know that it’s probably going to be a doozy.
And then the theater door opens. It’s the people for the 10:00 show who’ve been waiting impatiently to come in.
No one told Mike that there was going to be a 10:00 show in the same theater.
He still has 20 minutes left in the story.
So after a few minutes of intense friendly/hostile negotiations, they decided that he would go back to the lounge where we came in and finish the show there. We all applauded this decision, got up and walked back down the hall to the lounge area, stopping to use the restrooms and get some drinks. Mike showed up a few minutes later, we all applauded again, and then we all stood there, packed like sardines in that tiny room, and listened spellbound to the end of the story.
It was an amazing experience. I’ve never felt such strong communal ties between myself and the other members of the audience before. I think if he’d suggested we finish the show out on the sidewalk or at a bar down the street, we all would have followed him wherever he told us to go. We just HAD to hear the end of that story. We were emotionally invested in this show. We needed closure before we went back to our regular, ordinary, not-nearly-so-dramatic lives.
Anyway, go check out The 40-Year-Old Boy podcast. I’m guessing that the next episode will DEFINITELY be a doozy. And if Success is Not an Option comes to your town, DON’T miss it!