As is typical of evolving endeavors, podcasting had few if any rules or formalized protocols in its early days. But as the nascent medium began to gain traction, production quality ramped up, structure coalesced and now they’re popular and occasionally profitable.
Podcast production company Earwolf was established in 2010 by performer Scott Aukerman and entrepreneur Jeff Ullrich when Aukerman launched his pioneering podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! The company now produces several comedies such as improv4humans and Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. Senior podcast producer Codi Fischer came to Earwolf by way of her formidable background in film, television and live comedy production with UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade). She now has oversight over many of the network’s most-heard shows.
Just as with records, podcast production comes with its own set of challenges. A good podcast producer must react swiftly as well as be flexible, proactive and farsighted. “I approach podcasts much as I did with live comedy,” Fischer explains. “We work with a lot of improvisers or sketch comedians and comedy is my passion. We have to break down what the thesis or premise of each show is.
“I produced the Ronna and Beverly podcast with Jamie Denbo where we did a lot of off-site recording; a lot of stuff outside. She wanted to explore her character [Beverly] out in the world. There was one [segment] where we hiked at Runyon Canyon and it was really windy. We’d brought lavalier mics because we didn’t want to carry a boom and they helped Jamie stay in character. Trying to find plug-ins that would filter out the wind was an interesting challenge but we found something eventually. One of my biggest challenges was to make that audio easy to listen to.”
For some of the shows Fischer produces, listeners often submit original music for integration into the show. Other times commercial music is used that requires some form of clearance, as she recalls of Office Ladies, a podcast hosted by Jenna Fischer (no relation) and Angela Kinsey. “Most of our music is licensed. For Office Ladies, we couldn’t afford The Office theme. Creed [Bratton] has been a musician since the ‘60s. We licensed his song ‘Rubber Tree,’ which was an easy experience because we were all friends. But we’re very careful with licensing and what we play in clips. Many people here also work in the music or TV industry.”
Fischer finds that keys to a successful podcast include an abiding interest in the chosen subject and a clear vision for what the show aspires to become. “If you’re doing something just because you think it’s hot at the moment, I don’t think that works,” she asserts. “What translates is the passion podcasters have for what they’re talking about.”
Currently, Fischer remains immersed in the production of Office Ladies and a number of new shows for 2020. She relies on her Sennheiser headphones when she edits her shows and, indeed, Sennheiser sponsors one of their studios.