Thursday, 18 October 2012

In Praise of...Americarnage

Americarnage is one of the most entertaining podcasts across the world wide web, a show that covers all of the American sports - NFL, NBA, College Football, NHL - and also films, politics and all things American in a show that runs for approximately one hour recorded on a weekly basis.

Starring experienced broadcasters Nat Coombs (host of C4's NFL coverage) as the anchor of the piece, with help from Mike Carlson, ubiquitous American sports specialist, with the laughs coming from 'Hollywood' Dan Louw, a stand-up comedian and produced by Harry Holgate, one of the best dial twisters in the world of audio recording.  I was granted the opportunity to sit in on a recording of the latest episode this past Tuesday (16th October) before it is uploaded onto the Americarnage website on Wednesday (www.americarnage.co.uk).

I arrive at the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) recording studio in Camden Town on a mild Tuesday early evening, where I meet producer, Harry Holgate, who tells me I am the first to arrive of the cast.  After offering me a coffee, Harry shows me a tour through the seven studio layout where.Americarnage will be recorded.  The show pay studio rates for the studio time, it is a freelance production under the umbrella of Nat Coombs' MeMo Interactive, with sponsorship from popular American BBQ restaurant, where customers can email the show weekly with many answered on the show.

My first question is how did the podcast originate, 'It was really an idea of Dan's to do a show about American sports, and he wanted to do a project with Nat for sometime having worked together on Channel 5 some years before.  I had gone to university with Dan, so I came on board and Nat bought Carlson to the party.  We did a pilot in December 2010, which was good and after a few weeks we started recording weekly in January 2011 and bar a few weeks off here and there for one reason or another we have done an episode every week.'

Do you have a big following? 'We are helped by Carlson having a significant amount of followers due to his work, and people like our NFL coverage which is the big draw.  We do better when the NFL season is on.' When listening the feel is very independent and off the cuff, 'And that was something we strife for, in fact ESPN America wanted to buy us out but we felt that our content would be impeded and we like the feel of our identity.'

The quality of the show is undisputable, it was nominated for Best Sports Podcast in the 2011 Podcast Awards and require more nominations for this year's awards.  Whilst they do not have the money or reach of any ESPN podcasts (Football Today, Fantasy Football), the quality and knowledge expressed in the show in regards to the sports is as good.

Yet the quality of the show are the slight imperfections on display; the on the hoof feel gives the sense that it is done in one take (which it is - with Harry editing out swear words and any sensitive material when listening back) and the fact that the host is an experienced television/radio broadcaster allows him to handle any hot topics or the possibility of Hollywood making him corpse.  Louw has quite a wit, which is sometimes lost on Carlson on numerous episodes.

With Carlson off this week, the guest is David Whitney (stand-up comedian) whose knowledge of NFL is as strong as any die hard fan, and in spite of his absence Carlson has still produced a 60 second NFL round-up of the week's action - an example of how much the show means to him. In an email I ask Carlson about the show, 'the biggest problem is reach, on C4 we can reach a hundred thousand people, many of whom aren't fans. We're always looking for ways to reach potential audience; we're better on sports than any humour site, and funnier than most sports sites.'

The strength is in the NFL coverage, where the three guys note how poor the AFC is whilst also reminding us how old Brandon Weeden is - this chemistry between seriousness and light heartedness is another facet of the show's popularity.  Instead of a strict by the book professionalism in ESPN shows, this laugh at each other, laugh at yourself mentality and the wonderful air of self-deprecation about such topics ranging from the pronunciation of croissants, Jimmy Saville and antique cottages.  It is an intelligent type of comedy where like Family Guy has a scattergun approach to humour - in this week's episode Louw/Whitney gained three minutes of material from the premise of new movie Looper.

If you have not listened to the show please attempt to do so at www.americarnage.co.uk and follow the show and stars on twitter: @Americarnage @NatCoombs @DanLouw

David Whitney's homepage is www.davidwhitney.org and his twitter handle is @dwhitters

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