‘Stuff You Should Know’ from studio to stage

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Experiencing a live podcast show

By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor


Podcasts are fantastic to listen to while doing other activities—in transit, folding laundry, hitting the gym, in transit, making dinner, in transit. However, seeing a podcast show live is very different from just hearing it through your headphones, and it’s a wholly worthwhile experience.

Stuff You Should Know (SYSK) is a podcast with a pretty self-explanatory title: Each episode, hosts Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant give listeners an in-depth explanation of a random topic, anything from scientific phenomena to random animals to historical events, and much more. Most of the episodes are recorded and produced in their studio in Atlanta, Georgia, but every once in a while they also do live tours. During their most recent tour they came to Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre on September 26 to walk us through the story of the ill-fated Ford Pinto and the growth of American automobile safety regulations.

SYSK is the kind of podcast that translates fabulously from studio recording into a live version. Part of what makes SYSK great is its free-form format: Shows are entirely unscripted, and every episode is basically an unrehearsed conversation between Clark and Bryant, including frequent tangents where they discuss random movies and other things minimally related to the episode’s topic. However, the unscripted nature of the show comes across as even more authentic in person, where complete digressions have no chance of being cut by a producer—making the hosts’ off-topic conversations in front of a packed, attentive audience even more delightfully hilarious.

In fact, every part of the show felt immeasurably more impactful in person, with a room full of other devoted fans laughing or gasping in horror along with you. Attending a live podcast show also lets you experience a lot of aspects that you don’t get in the studio version. In this case, we got the hosts’ introductory warm-up jokes about Vancouver and Canada, their occasional uncensored cursing—immediately followed by apologies to all kids and their mothers in the audience; and the post-show Q&A, where we got to see how genuinely Clark and Bryant connect with their fans. The whole show felt like an intimate look into some of the raw, unedited workings behind the polished studio versions.

Of course, every podcast is bound to be different in terms of scripting, editing, and rapport with listeners. The style of SYSK and the familiarity of its hosts works wonderfully live; other podcasts might not necessarily have the same atmosphere. Nonetheless, getting to attend a live podcast show is an invaluable experience—even on top of the standard excitement one gets from watching anything live.

Listening to podcasts is an activity that most people probably do while multitasking on other things that don’t take much brainpower, but being there live demands a much more engaged level of attention when you’re unable to immediately rewind, and knowing that you’re unable to rewind back a minute makes you cherish that information all the more. In addition, I normally listen to podcasts sped up to 1.25 times regular speed, but I didn’t have any problems at all being enraptured by the pace right in front of me—except when I might have been doubled over laughing too hard to pay full attention.

Seeing Stuff You Should Know live was a fantastic experience that solidified my love for this show and for the medium of podcasts overall.