StartUp Podcast: #16 The Secret Formula
November 12, 2015 3:04 PM - Subscribe

Gimlet is making a big, expensive bet. The kind of bet that could make or break the company. And it's a bet that comes down to one factor: What is Gimlet's competitive advantage? As the company launches its fourth new show, "Surprisingly Awesome," we take a deep dive in to how the show was made.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This was interesting, but holy shit: that extended "True Shark Attack Stories" cod-Egyptian-accent riff was knucklebitingly awful and has rather put me off listening to the new show.

And oh the irony: this episode's all about the importance of gut feel and iterative editing, but failed to spot that tone-deaf segment in itself. Did nobody in the StartUp listen-through think "hey, that bit sounds kinda racist?" Because that's exactly how it hit me.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:16 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love these behind-the-scenes episodes. This was really interesting. I attended a live event with Roman Mars (99 Percent Invisible) and Glynn Washington (Snap Judgement) where they talked about making radio/podcasts, and they talked about how stressful but important the edit is.

Speaking of edits, I listened to the free-throw episode of Surprisingly Awesome a while ago as a Gimlet Member bonus. It was still called Awesome Boring. I'm pretty sure they went through a major edit between then and now because that original episode was, well, boring. I've enjoyed the first two Surprisingly Awesomes so far. Have you guys listened?

Also, I'm a little worried that nobody is going to be left at Planet Money pretty soon!
posted by radioamy at 3:39 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, definite ick about the weird accent riff. Don't do that, white people!

I did really like the insight into the editing process, and I'm really enjoying the fact that we're back at Gimlet for a while. The crew there is (for obvious reasons) much better and more interesting on tape. It's also nice not to be talking about venture bullshit much and make me double extra hope that season 3 focuses on some different kind of business (retail? auto shop? restaurant?).

As for Surprisingly Awesome, so far I think it's surprisingly dull. Maybe that's because I listened to ep 1 (mold) right after the Radiolab ep on a very similar subject and I already know why free throws are potentially interesting. But also the pacing feels off and the hosts' chemistry doesn't come across either. I'll give it a bit more time to find its feet.
posted by that's candlepin at 7:39 AM on November 13, 2015

I like Davidson but MacKay is not good. Especially not when he's the one pitching as to why a thing is awesome. It worked better with him in the role of Learning Dude.

Blumberg and Kenney did a good job conveying how anxiety-producing the editing process is, it really made me sympathize with them. And I also like hearing the not finished product. And wow I have such a clear understanding now of why Gimlet's shows and TAL and their ilk feel so different than the low production value podcasts I listen to. That is tremendously valuable insight. The way I experience it is that I have to in a certain mood to listen to a lot of the low production value pods. Whereas I can listen to Gimlet's shows pretty much anytime and get into them.

I'm not totally sold on Surprisingly Awsome yet but the between the twist at the end of its first episode, and this latest string of Startup episodes, Gimlet really feels like it's got something special coming together.
posted by dry white toast at 10:52 AM on November 14, 2015

It was really interesting to see a bit of the editing process. I realize now how little of the program has actually been about the thing the company does, and a bit of exploration there is welcome. I'm not entirely convinced short, polished programs are always a good thing - 50% of my experience of listening to Planet Money involves being annoyed at the lack of depth and extended discussion. (And don't get me started on TED or RadioLab. Ug.)

The whole premise of the new show, though, is kind of strange and off-putting. "There are a lot of things out in the world that sound boring" isn't something that people I want to hang out with say. (It may be something people I want to hang out with say when they're being weirdly neurotic and struggling to make small talk at parties.) It's got an, "I'm not *really* a star trek fan like these geeks, but my aunt gave me this uniform as a gag gift and I had some frequent flyer miles saved up, and the tickets to the back stage VIP tour were half off, so I figured I'd come to this convention even though I normally wouldn't" vibe to it. It makes you want to say, "it's okay, you're allowed to be enthusiastic about stuff. Just relax."

I much prefer the straight-up "this is a neat thing you might not know about" approach taken by The Memory Palace, 99% Invisible, Something Awesome, etc. Starting out by saying, "here's a thing you probably don't care about and neither did I until someone convinced me it was interesting, 'cause I'm bored by things like science and politics like all the cool kids" is a bizarre way to relate to your audience. I'm also not convinced the new co-host is someone I want to spend time with. But then, some of my favorite radio producers are bonified assholes who I'd refuse to share an elevator with, so that's not a real barrier to enjoying the show.

Also, as others have said above, the Shark Attack accent thing was surprisingly crass; ironic in a program about the importance of tight scripting and collaborative editing.

Also also, is Chumbawamba really that obscure? Cripes. Get off my very small leftist lawn, old people.
posted by eotvos at 8:39 AM on November 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Heh. Meant to say "Damn Interesting," which is a real thing, rather than "Something Awesome," which isn't.
posted by eotvos at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2015

Also also, is Chumbawamba really that obscure? Cripes.

This kind of surprised me too; I was especially struck by how hard they pushed the opinion that the intermediate edit of the Chumbawamba story was poorly-paced and uninteresting, because it sounded fine to me--and then they cut it off right at the mention of Thatcher, which really seemed odd given how notorious her policies were and that the story was obviously about to hit a climax.
posted by psoas at 11:06 AM on November 16, 2015

I know, I was all, Thatcher! Yes! But I grew up around s bunch of expat Brits and Thatcher's evilness was normal dinner conversation among my parents friends, so maybe not everyone has that context. Also I was surprised that Chumbawumba is that much older than me. Big takeaway: I am looking forward to the Chumbawumba episode.
posted by bq at 12:13 PM on November 16, 2015

So do the hosts on this show just read scripts written by the producer? If so, I'm not sure why Adam McKay wants to be involved. A less produced show seems like a better fit for an overworked Hollywood type, where they would just pop in for an hour a week.
posted by smackfu at 2:34 PM on November 16, 2015

Yes, that part -- and the "we'll have to get McKay in to redo some of the lines" -- makes this podcast seem like less of a personal thing for the hosts than the other Gimlet podcasts. Reply All feels absolutely imbued with PJ+Alex's personalities; Mystery Show obviously has a lot of behind-the-scenes work but the narrative is driven by Starlee's interviews.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:02 PM on November 16, 2015

I should also share that Tubthumping is She-Hulk's theme song throughout the Dan Slott series of the aughts. Just for completeness.
posted by bq at 4:57 PM on November 18, 2015

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