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Podcasts are radio at its finest. As such, they should be lauded and enjoyed, and most importantly shared. I am an official podcast connoisseur, a title I bequeathed upon myself as I have listened to literally - a word that I have, for figuratively the first time ever, used correctly here - thousands of episodes of podcasts. These shows come in such varied flavors that anyone can find something to like. While we’ll be starting with many of my own personal favorite shows, this is about exploring new shows as much as sharing old ones. From the dreadfully popular to the freaky basement recordings of strangers, welcome to Podcap. This week we visit with The Smartest Man In The World, for the episode Buzzers, released January 13, 2014.
What Is This Proopcast?
Greg Proops is most likely known to you from the improv show Who’s Line Is It Anyway?, and most unfortunately as one of the heads of the podrace announcer in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. With Smartest Man In The World he takes to the stage in a mix of stand up, soapbox rhetoric, and wordsmithery. Unlike a traditional podcast, Professor Proops records his show live in the style of a one man show, most often around California at places like the Nerdmelt theater or as is the case with “Buzzers, at the Punchline in his hometown of San Francisco. You’ll find as you listen to the show that Greg is at home just about anywhere in the world, and he often has the most insightful things to say while abroad.
WTF Is With All The Inside Jokes?
As podcasts are ongoing shows with their own sordid list of quirks, it’s often difficult to jump in and get what the deal is. In Smartest you’ll often hear Greg deal with this problem directly as at times audience members will be taken aback by the decidedly non-stand up comedy routine being performed. So the first thing you should know about this show is that Greg deals with hecklers and audience malcontents with wrathful precision, giving no quarter to those who would interrupt.
The show also has utilized Greg’s last name to cheekily augment the podcasting world’s slang. This is a proopcast, and you get to watch his royal Proopness dispense with proopitude on many subjects. More often than not you’ll hear a lengthy talk about how evil the corporations are and how they’re hoarding the wealth for themselves. Senor Proops is quite knowledgeable on the subject, and even better is passionate. But when it comes to true passionate causes, there is none higher than feminism for our master of ceremonies. He is an avowed feminist who is downright vicious with his hatred of the misogyny prevalent in our culture. No other man is as eloquent and approachable with their explanations of feminism as Greg Proops.
Kittens McTavish, oh boy. As The Smartest Man In The World is a live show in front of an audience, there had to be a visual aid at some point. Or maybe not, but in any case one exists in the form of a printed photo of a disturbingly orange cat named Kittens McTavish. The joke started a bit as an exclamation as Greg would talk about something and respond to himself with the phrase, “Kittens McTavish!” Eventually a voice was created, and the character would have its own thoughts on subjects. The character hasn’t been as prevalent in recent episodes, but even in “Buzzers” there’s a brief appearance.
As with most episodes of Smartest Man In The World the show starts on a lighthearted note, and its here where you decide if you find Greg charming or insufferable. He riffs on some new glasses, makes esoteric references about the original Alien film, and informs the audience of some memorable anniversaries for 2014. Including the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
One of the best lines of the episode comes at the beginning where Greg chides an audience member, and you prepare for the tongue thrashing you so richly desire. “Stop talking,” he starts before finishing with, “Oh, you’re just ordering.” This leads immediately into a standard joke for the show where Greg orders his ubiquitous, “vodka flavored vodka drink.” What makes “Buzzers” such a fine episode of Smartest is that it is chockablock full of Greg’s idiosyncrasies. Often you get a handful of them each episode, but this time around they’re all on display.
The Proopmeister sings often, dispenses with much needed knowledge, and spends a good amount of time with the “boring preachy part” of the show. A section that typically runs the length of its own podcast, thus giving you nearly two podcasts for the price of one. Think of all the savings! See, like radio, podcasts are typically a free show for the listener. Greg also talks at length in “Buzzers” about one of his favorite topics: baseball. Oh yeah, he loves it beyond all measure and the San Fran Giants in particular. If you thought Smartest was just about politics and smart shit you won’t understand, stick around for in-depth baseball talk. Even as someone who finds baseball an absolute chore to endure, the talking points are somehow scintillating.
What you have to understand about a typical Smartest Man In The World podcast episode is that they are often overly long. Even an avid listener of the medium will be pushed to the limits with the verbose nature of Greg’s assertions. The section on the Giants is fascinating, but lasts for so long that you find it trying. It’s the one weak spot in an otherwise brilliant show. If this were a monthly podcast it’d be easier to endure. After all, I gladly take in the many hour Hardcore History podcast episodes as they’re so infrequent. But Smartest happens almost every week, and when you’ve heard Greg analyse the verisimilitude of corporate sports team owners shitting on the little guy who comes to the sporting events a dozen times, it’s difficult to not lose focus. Many topics I agree with him on, especially his feminist rants, and even then I find my finger hovering over that “skip 15 seconds” button my iPhone.
Smartest Man In The World is a show worth listening to each week, but actually is better to catch now and again. That way you don’t get overexposed to Mr. Proops’ fastidious stance on his passions.