In the wake of Kobe Bryant’s retirement, basketball fans reflect on one of the most indelible legacies in sports history. But as his legendary career comes to a close, Bryant is looking ahead toward new opportunities. “Why do you think he’s retiring from basketball?” Jake Hurwitz said in a preshow interview with the Daily Californian. “To start a new career on our podcast!”
But Kobe Bryant is not the only one considering taking his life in a new direction: Jake Hurwitz and UC Berkeley alumnus Amir Blumenfeld are taking their unique brand of comedy to the next level. The two masterminded a brilliant and wildly successful web series simply titled “Jake and Amir” that garnered nearly a billion views in total and established a loyal fanbase.
Though Hurwitz and Blumenfeld have moved on from their beloved web series at CollegeHumor, they haven’t stopped making audiences laugh worldwide. Their podcast “If I Were You” began in May 2013 and now has tens of thousands of listeners tuning in to each episode. An advice podcast that revolves around user-submitted questions, “If I Were You” involves Hurwitz and Blumenfeld providing legitimate life advice to their listeners, although most questions revolve around relationships, sex and general insecurity. Despite the shift in format, the classic tangential comedy and the signature chemistry of Hurwitz and Blumenfeld remains potent and fresh. Hurwitz and Blumenfeld have taken their podcast to their listeners with a worldwide tour and performed live at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco on December 2.
A live podcast is somewhat of an oddity. Podcasts are a format that creates a unique dynamic between the speaker and the listener. The medium is less performative, as audience members and content creators are separated by a usually insurmountable void. Witnessing a live podcast, therefore, is equivalent to eavesdropping on a conversation.
Despite all of this, “If I Were You” works beautifully as a live performance. The improvisational tone of the podcast translates to a crowd dynamic seamlessly, as Hurwitz and Blumenfeld riff of one another and the audience. The venue was packed with college kids and older twenty-somethings, and the energy was electric. Unlike the beginning of a stand-up comedy set, however,there was a lack of skepticism and expectation. There was only a buzzing anticipation for the show to begin. Hurwitz and Blumenfeld walked casually onto the stage to uproarious applause and got right to business. The chemistry between Hurwitz and Blumenfeld translated to their interactions with the audience, as if they were telling a story at a party to their closest friends. They were engaging the audience at any opportunity and utilized a healthy mix of quick-witted humor and inside jokes to fuel their advice. The mood was light and raunchy, with Hurwitz and Blumenfeld sharing frequent laughs with the audience. Hurwitz even revealed his coveted virginity story during the break (and made the audience swear to secrecy).
Before the show, with a Hornets/Warriors game buzzing on a large plasma screen in the background, the duo discussed their upcoming plans in comedy with the Daily Cal. Recently they’ve extended their podcast expertise to friends and family, helping them to start their own series in a conglomerate dubbed “Headgum.”
“I like you, you’re calling it a conglomerate,” Hurwitz said. “That’s on record.”
“We have a lot of friends who are really funny but didn’t necessarily know how to launch their own podcasts,” Hurwitz continued. “So we set out to help them do that.”
They also spoke shortly in regards to their potential TV series on TruTV. Though they were not at liberty to elaborate much, Hurwitz asserted, “It’s shot. They have it. We’re proud of it. Those are the three things.”
While he neglected to speak about his personal UC Berkeley experiences, Blumenfeld did confirm the validity of a popular urban legend. “I guess the most mystical thing that happened wasn’t to me but . . . are you guys aware of the Putnam porn?” Blumenfeld said, in reference to a much-rumored sex tape that was supposedly filmed in one of the university residence halls. “That was two doors down from me.”
The analytical skills that Blumenfeld honed as a Haas student are still very present in his comedy: He systematically deconstructed a pie chart delineating the sexual exploits of someone who wrote in. This analytical style plays the perfect foil to Hurwitz’s easygoing attitude, and both work beautifully in tandem.
Some weeks after the show, Hurwitz and Blumenfeld revealed that their pilot was not actually picked up by TruTV and are unable to release the shot pilot themselves. With more time to dedicate to their new Headgum network and the freedom to take their effortless chemistry and comedy in new directions, however, it is safe to say that Hurwitz and Blumenfeld will be doing big things in the coming years. Keep your eyes on Hurwitz and Blumenfeld in 2016 as they take their comedy to new heights.
Contact Sam Gunn at [email protected].