I'm Alan Johnson, a writer and comedian, currently getting an MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU. I host On Comedy Writing, an interview podcast about the business and craft of writing comedy. Guests have included writers from Saturday Night Live, Comedy Bang! Bang!, ClickHole, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, @midnight, and much more. My listeners are aspiring comedy writers and my good friend Neal.
When I was living in LA, I was involved in the comedy scene, doing improv and sketch almost every night of the week. I was such a nerd that I looked for podcasts about comedy to supplement my performing. While I found a lot of improv podcasts, I was disappointed to find virtually nothing about sketch writing or comedy writing in general, which is strange because very few people make a career out of improv. I saw someone was looking for podcasts in a Facebook group, messaged him with an idea to interview comedy writers, and we started recording soon after.
For each weekly episode, I probably spend an hour on interview notes, an hour to an hour and a half recording, and another hour editing. The episodes come out Tuesday at midnight EST, so I try to finish editing by Monday night at the latest.
Scheduling an interview podcast is tough, especially with writers on late night shows. I’ve been fortunate in that ever since I started my podcast, I’ve had a very flexible schedule. I do a lot of recordings on the weekends and evenings, so it’s not impossible to have a full-time schedule and host an interview podcast. With that being said, if I had a full-time job right now, it would be difficult to release On Comedy Writing every week.
The cool thing about podcasting is that the main fees are up front. I already had a computer with Adobe Audition, so I only had to buy three microphones with stands, an interface, and a few XLR cables. While that wasn’t cheap, I’ve only spent money on hosting — which is now paid for by my network — and the thirst-quenching bottles of SmartWater for my guest. SmartWater, if you’re reading this, I’d do anything for 100 free bottles of SmartWater.
I didn’t have any sponsorship until I joined my network, Boardwalk Audio. That’s one of the major benefits of joining a network — they took care of everything on the business side, so all I had to do was read the ad on the show. Without a network, I almost certainly would not have sponsorship.
While my initial goal with my podcast was simply to create the content I wanted to already exist, I soon found there were many other benefits. Through the podcast, I've met so many comedy heroes of mine, plus people I wasn't super aware of, but are now favorite writers and performers of mine. A friend of mine joked that the podcast should be called, "Alan Networks For An Hour," and that's honestly not too far from the truth.
An unexpected benefit was talking to aspiring comedy writers online. Fans of the show have followed me on Twitter and DM me very nice messages about the show. I try to respond to every message I get and often times we have a conversation about comedy or writing and then become friends.
I splurged on my equipment, with pretty high quality microphones and interface. While I like my equipment, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for someone just starting in podcasting. I’d recommend using Pyle-Pro Cardiod Microphones, a Behringer U-Phoria interface, and Adobe Audition.
I usually find guests by just googling people I would like to have on the show and then finding contact information. I assume there has to be a better way, but I haven’t found it yet. Sometimes a PR person reaches out to me, which is always nice. Then, I do research on the guest, write a page or two of questions, and interview them out of my apartment.
Marketing is definitely something I could be better at. I promote episode on all of my social media accounts and that’s about it. The cool thing about an interview podcast is that the guest will usually want to also promote the episode, which is greatly appreciated by me.
Whenever you have free time, record in bunches. In the month between quitting my job in LA and moving to New York, I recorded 12 podcasts, which was exhausting, but also allowed me to relax for two months as I settled in to my new place.
Other than that, just know that podcasting is an unpredictable grind. Sometimes, it’s an hour of work, and sometimes, it’s ten hours of work on top of everything else going on in your life. There’ll be times when you want to stop, but you should push through.