On Thursday, Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski, hosts of “The Last Podcast on the Left,” graced the stage of the Fox Theater in Oakland. Armed with comedic musings on some of the more obscure horrors of the world, the three pandered to the audience with macabre theories and jokes about their wives leaving them for their obsessions.
Kissel, Parks and Zebrowski started their horror conspiracy theory-themed podcast, named for Wes Craven’s 1972 slasher film, in 2011. Since then, they’ve toured multiple times, recording live podcasts to add to their extensive collection. To date, the group has recorded 416 episodes, ranging in subject matter from theories on sex dungeons to Satanism in the government.
The majority of the Fox live episode was as raw as it could get, marked by profanity, jabs at Kissel and theatrics on the part of Zebrowski (an actor known for his roles in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell”). The hosts had a great chemistry with one another, highlighting why their podcast has been a major success.
Despite the overall high quality of the performance, the show got off to a slow start, with the trio launching into a segment about folkloric cryptids known as “dogmen.” The navigation of the topic was rather dry, with multiple low-quality photos showing potential depictions of the human-bodied, dog-headed creatures. The topic was intended to draw laughs from the crowd, which it eventually did. But it was presented in an overly ridiculous way and only began to garner more attention near the end of the segment.
During this section, Zebrowski also satirically portrayed himself as a novice conspiracy theory hunter, complete with multiple costume changes. In all its tangents and its use of an unsettling number of artist renditions of dogmen, the segment resembled a gathering of middle-aged men musing about unfathomable monsters in one of their parents’ garages, which sounds hilarious in theory but wasn’t executed as well as it could have been by the three.
Luckily for the trio, the crowd was clearly filled with hardcore fans of the podcast, and viewers erupted into laughter on cue. For the most part, the show stuck to the format of its prerecorded episodes, showing that it was definitely made just for the longtime viewers of the podcast who wanted to see their three heroes in person. And they met the expectations of the audience and beyond. The jumps in dialogue, laughter and reactions from host to host felt perfectly natural and breathed life into the show despite its rough start.
The show really found its groove in terms of presentation of content during the last two segments. Instead of relying primarily on self-deprecating jokes, the trio shifted to poking fun at the individuals involved in the subjects at hand. The topics in these portions, also, were significantly more entertaining, if only in the trio’s trademark grim fashion: the death of wrestler Bruiser Brody and that of “Mama” Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas. The hosts discussed how Brody was allegedly stabbed to death in a dressing room by another wrestler, known as Invader 1. Because no one witnessed the murder, they speculated about whether Brody was really killed during the incident or if perhaps Brody’s screams were of a sexual nature.
The group’s discussion of the death of Mama Cass, who supposedly died of a heart attack, was similarly well arranged and relevantly funny. They proposed that the CIA staged her heart attack for potentially being involved with the Manson family murders. Pointing out that Jim Morrison and Jim Croce also died at the height of their fame, the hosts theorized that these musicians were all “stooges” of the CIA and were intended to brainwash the youth. They were simply disposed of when, after the Manson murders, they were no longer needed.
The show wrapped up with a series of videos that alternated from disgusting to cute (seamlessly transitioning between scenes of maggots in somebody’s ear to a cute monkey eating a cookie), a signature end to the podcast’s live shows. While the excessive use of profanity may have been off-putting initially for some viewers, the hosts’ incorporation of jokes focused on the topics at hand later on in the show, and their shift to riveting conspiracy theories made the show worthy of a good laugh.
Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].