Too Far Gone
By Madeleine ConnorsNovember 16, 2023
Occasionally, there are men who are so untalented, so uninteresting, and so entitled that they insist on starting a culture podcast. In this case, I’m referring to the podcast How Long Gone, hosted by Jason Stewart and Chris Black, which had its live show at El Rey Theatre on November 11. The self-proclaimed “bicoastal-elite” podcast, which has amassed a cult following among the media-obsessed, has positioned itself as the town crier of the culture industry. So many friends and people I respect listen to it that I find the phenomenon genuinely bewildering: why are we pretending this is good? To my surprise, at the top of this self-satisfied event, I saw the singer Lorde get ushered backstage.
Upon entering the El Rey Theatre, I ran into a friend who described the podcast hosts as “not hot enough to act the way they are.” I asked another fan if he considers the podcast to be in the vein of the dirtbag left, to which he exclaims: “It’s definitely dirtbaggy.” He compared the show to a neutered Howard Stern, which is too generous. Howard Stern is funny. Yet these dirtbaggy men attracted an audience of over 300 fans eager to hear a litany of pointless, meandering anecdotes about Porsches, saunas, and pickleball—like the worst version of a Bret Easton Ellis novel about a midlife crisis.
Podcasting is an industry built on people who are not quite talented but a few notches over. The industry feels like Silicon Valley for English majors. They’re name-droppers and hanger-oners with nothing captivating to say except to extol luxury brands and various purchases. In a too-long conversation, Jason brags that he received Diplo’s dick pic over DM and shoplifts at Whole Foods. Chris explains that Jodie Foster works out at his Equinox and he left the lights on in his wife’s Porsche the other day. It’s hard to tell if they think these stories are entertaining or funny. (They’re neither.) Instead, the podcast offers itself as an enclave where well-off people can laugh and indulge in their highfalutin taste and impulses without self-consciousness—finally, media that attempts to make being unapologetically rich cool again. The audience is sick of being chastised for their Ivy League pedigree and appetite for Erewhon; they’re shamelessly annoying. At one point, the hosts invite the audience to boo pickleball. (Develop a real opinion, I’m begging you.) Along the way, the audience giggles at light nudges of racism, which feel harmless because, after all, it’s a bicoastal-elite culture podcast.
The problem with starting a podcast built on proximity to coolness is that the hosts must be cool themselves. Chis and Jason—dressed like off-duty venture capitalists—are not cool. Instead, they come across as two men you’d be humiliated to admit you’ve slept with. (Apparently, they know this and think it’s funny, endearing even?) Coolness stems from a certain authenticity and carefreeness, neither of which can be achieved by shoehorning Vogue Scandinavia into a conversation for clout. That’s the whole joke, I know. It’s just not a good one. Howard Stern became a cherished radio icon because he gave a voice to dejected outcasts and freaks, not because he was having brunch with pop stars in Soho.
They bring out comedian Kate Berlant, who is a hilarious genius and their only hope of redemption, too late. Berlant is a beloved comedian because her pretentious obsessions and pseudo-intellectual convictions are genuinely funny and absurd. She’s self-aware and brilliant, offering insight into the bizarre state of being a person in our current moment. She’s a joy to watch, the epitome of cool. We love her because she’s kidding.
Photo by contributor.
LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.
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