Podcast of the Week: DOUGHBOYS
Maybe it’s just me, but hearing a podcast trying too hard can be a deeply uncomfortable experience. It’s a medium at its most thrilling when the subjects and content feel utterly raw, despite the inherently recorded nature of it all. Though still young in culture and format, podcasts already have enough familiar elements to be successfully parodied, from the overachieving exertion of “infotainment” shows (even the good ones) to the advertising. This all in mind, the conceptual focus of DOUGHBOYS is a parodical facade covering for its true magic: staggeringly unprofessional chaos. Co-hosts/comedians Nick Wiger (@midnight) & Mike “Mitch” Mitchell (LOVE) are the first to admit that they think their own show is awful (it isn’t). While on paper, it could technically add up to being a “bad” show, DOUGHBOYS’ freewheeling candidness is hilarious, engaging, and, most of all, refreshing.
In a way, DOUGHBOYS is comprised of two shows. The first is an organized, segmented discussion based in the world of fast food chains, exploring the nostalgic and human elements of such institutions and their place in culture. It’s a show filled with cheeky names and concepts, like rating restaurants on a fork and tine scale, huge play-on-words stretches of hashtag campaigns, and heavily fussed over multi-episode tournaments. Nick is the “Burger-Boy” from the “Burger Brigade” while Mitch is the “Spoon-Man” from “Spoon Nation.” Nick rings in the show with deeply specific monologues related to each episode’s specific subjects, followed by a crowd-sourced insult toward Mitch. Mitch squeals out a traditional “hidy ho” (completely and poorly stolen from SOUTH PARK—the self-awareness of its stupidity tracks) to the members of Spoon Nation, then plays a crowd-sourced morning zoo-style drop played through his cellphone speakers. There’s a whole rigamarole to DOUGHBOYS that not only provides episodic variety, but also the opportunity for it to all gloriously crumble.
I don’t know if it’s exactly a show where you root for things to go poorly, but when they do, it’s almost more entertaining than the initial intention. Half the joke is how much “thought” is put into their ratings systems and segments, while the other half is how often that effort falls through due to their indifference. It’s even funnier if the guest is someone they respect and are trying to impress, though it’s equally entertaining if they have on a friend of theirs, making it easier to goof off. If things are going according to plan, then you get some genuinely interesting conversation about a common societal institution with a lot of personal connections. Guests like Carl Tart and Eva Anderson have interesting, and even moving, stories about their connections to restaurants like Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (listen to this episode) and California Pizza Kitchen, elevating the show’s promise and potential for admirably frank discourse. If things fall apart, who cares? Their ability to have fun in the fix attempt is enjoyable in its own right.
The bridging element that makes the show sing regardless of how well it’s actually going comes in the chemistry between Nick and Mitch. Two highly gifted writers and improvisers, their relationship is a glorious example of how well the closest of friends can drive each other absolutely mad. DOUGHBOYS is essentially a lot of Nick and Mitch throwing each other under as many busses as possible, and the clashing of their personalities is potent in an almost old school fashion. Their heightened personalities are perfect matches for conflict. Mitch, a big sweetheart from Massachusetts, and Nick, a dorky dude from Southern California, often push each other into exaggerations of their personalities. Mitch considers Nick a soulless android and creepy person (imitating him with a ridiculous Terrance and Phillip voice from SOUTH PARK), while Nick levies stereotypically bigoted and lunkheaded tendencies onto Mitch. Following that up with some of their delightfully silly inside jokes that have built up over time (and are often explained in current episodes, as to keep new listeners up to speed), DOUGHBOYS has become one of the most genuinely and consistently funny podcasts.
What gives DOUGHBOYS its cult following edge over a lot of similar podcasts is its sincerity. It’s a show often about putting on a show, and the real people behind it get a chance to be very real people throughout it, zooming in and out of heightened comedy bits. When the duo are feeling down, whether regarding the show or something else, it gives the proceeds a very grounded sincerity. With that, you get a little inside baseball look at the LA comedy scene, which Nick and Mitch are very heavily a part of. Hearing some of the funniest people currently in the business simultaneously putting on a ridiculous comedy show and being very honest and self-aware is a very specific treat that has the ability to brighten anyone’s day. Sometimes it’ll be the genuine result of the show’s conceit actually following through, and other times it’ll be them out of sorts and messing around. After a lot of experimenting with the format, DOUGHBOYS feels somewhat classic with its approach, emphasizing the strength and entertainment value of a goofy friendship. Whether it’s talking about food, or various miscellaneous topics (their Patreon content is high quality nonsense, absolutely worth checking out for fans), the DOUGHBOYS duo is one of the funniest out there, and their show is one of the most pure.