Behind the Mics The Last Podcaster Standing

What can you say about The Last Podcaster Standing (TLPS)?

Are you looking for the right humor in all the wrong places?

It’s four guys and a girl sitting around “shooting the shit.” It’s funny, it’s irreverent, and at times, educational and dramatic.

The podcast consists of Jason, Grant, Tom, and Joe; Stephanie was added early on in the 76-episode lifespan of the show. They have a chemistry that is palpable during the entire run of the podcast. I should know, as I ran through them all in a little over six amazing weeks.

Who are these people?

Joe Jason and Grant TLPS

Joe, Jason, and Grant

Jason is “The Angry Ginger” who has little memory and a ton of kids: three when the podcast started, five by the time it ended. He is the boundary pusher, always bringing the laughs and pressuring everyone else to raise their game or at least expand their boundaries.

Grant, “The Kilted One” or “TK1,” is the everyman of sorts on the podcast. He’s outspoken and is the best kind of sidekick Ginger could ever have, always setting him up for something, even if he isn’t doing it on purpose. Although, in fairness, he isn’t a sidekick. The reality is that since Jason was always pushing boundaries, he was going to swing at anything pitched his way regardless. So Grant’s hosting duties lead him into that perceived role, more often than him actually being a sidekick. He’s also the most common target for the others, as he is the easiest to rile up. When that happens, entertainment and comedy ensue.

Joe, “The Sniper,” is the quiet one. Well, he isn’t that quiet, except when compared to the rest of the cast. His quick and lethal quips earned him his nickname early on. And he does it so effortlessly with as much wit as he can muster that you wonder why he isn’t teaching a class titled, “Witty Comebacks 101.”

Tom and Steph

Tom and Steph

Tom, “Mr. Know-It-All,” “Mr. KIA,” or “The Pedantic Fun Sponge,” is the boy scout of the bunch. He’s the right winger of the group and was not only a Boy Scout but an Eagle Scout at that. He is always getting caught up in the semantics of the conversation. It doesn’t even have to be an argument for him to get all pedantic, and almost anything will take him down that path.

Stephanie is “The Google Goddess.” The fan-turned-podcast member from Ohio, who appeared as a guest on one episode and remained in the cast permanently. She’s the most quiet one of the bunch and becomes an integral part of the show who contributes equally with the rest. Often the target for the guys’ verbal jabs, Steph takes most everything in stride and gives it back, too. Her snorts of laughter often become a target for guys to aim for.

The Beginning of TLPS

So how did The Last Podcaster Standing start? Its origins can be traced to a common place of employment shared by Jason, Grant, Tom, and Joe back in 2010. Grant and Tom would get into arguments and Grant, being pitted against Tom as the pedantic master of semantics, would pull in Jason and Joe for assistance. That’s where the origins begin, although there would have been a podcast either way, because Jason and Grant had an idea for one after their short-lived podcast about movies. Maybe it was destiny?

And based on what happened during their run, the meteoric rise to independent podcast stardom, I have to lean towards destiny. The stars don’t align every day for a show of this caliber to be created all the time or there would be a lot more great podcasts out there to choose from.

The Last Podcaster Standing Behind the TLPS Mics

The Last Podcaster Standing Logo

The name of the podcast is easy to explain. They started around the same time that Last Comic Standing was a television phenomenon and the rest is history! In addition to that little fact it could be argued that based on the podcast’s origins The Last Podcaster Standing was a great name based on the arguments they were having at work.

Now, as a little tangent, what changed MTV in the 90’s was good old fashioned voyeuristic shows like Real World and Road Rules, where strangers became friends, then enemies or lovers or friends in an endless cycle. What TLPS starts with is a group of four friends. This started a string of successively funnier and funnier shows before bowing out to off podcast pressures and relationship woes that took place during the recording.

And that voyeurism that takes place behind the mic is part of what they talk about on the podcast, so you get to understand their relationships and their lives during the entire run of the series. And these aren’t just five average Joes. They are genuinely interesting people in their own right, with interesting stories all their own, many of which come out in some variety or another during the episodes.

The Themes of TLPS

Despite the amount of chaos that makes up most episodes, there is a structure and actual show segments, although the lines between them may blur from time to time.

Grant making a face at Steph

Grant making a face at Steph

They start out with a segment called “Shooting the Shit,” about what’s going on in their lives. Then the cast moves on to odd and weird news items, which they tear to shreds in glorious hilarity. For the news they’d bring ridiculous stories they either found or that were sent to them via their field reporters (AKA their most communicative fans). Most of the cast read the stories beforehand and then reread them on air as they discussed the stories with each other. But Joe, didn’t read anything in his articles but the headlines, because he said, “I want to be surprised, too.”

Those are the two main segments, but they eventually added others; “Terms from the Glossary of Perversion,” “Would You Rather,” and “Question of the Week.” The latter two become one and the same a few times. These, like everything else, get interrupted. With the personalities involved, they make all of it blur together, making it a whole show with fluid segments that come and go.

Seriously though, everyone gets interrupted by everyone else. The best quote that describes the show came from Tom who said “we always manage to take a two-minute story and drag it out for 50.” But for all that chaos, there are some themes throughout.

“Same difference” is an argument that takes place between all of them players at one point and continues as a phrase used, rightly or wrongly, in spite of the conversation that started it all.

Steph's view during a TLPS recording session

Steph’s view during a TLPS recording session

“Moving on,” is another way they move from one story to the next. “Apply the brakes” was a way to interrupt without just jumping in. And “So… There’s that,” was uttered at least once in every episode by someone… usually Grant.

Gingers are a constant theme, but the groups insulted aren’t limited to redheads. They insult anyone, at one point asking if there is any group they haven’t insulted, not because they were looking for more targets but because as one of the guys once said, “We’re equal opportunity offenders.”

Another constant theme was Jason regaling the group with tales from the two “crazy houses” he worked at. These were both basically apartment complexes with odd inhabitants, to put it nicely. Some of those stories are classic TLPS moments that are just too perfect to describe and they need to be heard. Supernatural Cherries, anyone?

Furthermore the group’s fascination with Boy Scout Tom, led to the creation of some TLPS Merit Badges, none of which he ever earned. It’s just one of the many examples of great ideas hatched on the show that never came to fruition.

Irony is another running theme. In the beginning, before the theme song was created, I thought that Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” could be the perfect theme song. In retrospect, as great as the theme song for the show was and is, “Ironic” would still have fit well. In fact, every time the word “ironic” is said, Jason takes a moment to say or sing a few bars of the song.

Joe Jason and Tom fooling around

Joe, Jason, and Tom fooling around

Porn and sex also come up quite a bit, as does Steph’s dating troubles and car issues. But wait, there’s more.

They are forever asking for feedback, not just because it can help with a podcast’s rating on iTunes, but because they are always looking for validation. One of those avenues for feedback was their voicemail, and some of the messages even made it into the podcast.

Another running theme, although somewhat inconsistent is “Male Sack,” (not to be confused with “Mail Sack”) in which the guys read emails. The warning I will give to future listeners of the show is that when it comes to “Male Sack” turn your volume down, as Jason screams it as loud as he can, because it annoys Grant, among others in the group.

And speaking of Grant, his health was a running theme as he was never one to shy away from discussing his physical ailments, or his mental breakdown in graphic detail. The latter was potentially caused by a fight with Jason and many other circumstances, and it landed Grant in a facility for over a week. He talks about his stay there at length upon his return. But in his absence, the rest carried on, adding in a soundboard to the mix with some of their fallen member’s favorite sayings. All the while, they joked that he was in Mexico and had drank the water.

The Crazy Beginning of the End

In all seriousness Grant’s stay in the Cuckoo’s Nest wasn’t just caused by a fight between him and Jason, where Grant said to him, “don’t talk to me like I’m your wife.” There is, of course, much more to this story and the fight. Grant has said, because shockingly Jason couldn’t remember, that the “wife” line was where it really spun out of control. Other contributions to this meltdown were life pressures for Grant that mounted at home while the podcast, growing into a monster in its own right, just added to the mix.

TK1, The Kilted One, Grant in uniform TLPS

TK1, The Kilted One, Grant in uniform

If I’m not mistaken a computer was slammed down, cancelling the recording of that fight, denying us the remote possibility of hearing that playback.

The reason that line is so important now is because these two best friends on- and off-the-mic are basically a married couple. It’s been brought up by them and those who know them. If you’ve heard their dynamic on any podcast since the TLPS days, you know who wears the pants (Jason), making that comment, brought up in spite, a current truth these days.

[Cue the love song of your choice here, but I suggest U2’s “With or Without You”]

But it’s hurdles like that fight which strengthen bonds not torn asunder by those same hurdles. Their relationship is something special, it truly is. You can hear it when they’re on-mic together, and I’m sure that exists off-air too.

The pressures of being an anxious person and other life concerns, some of those including the podcast, all lead to the final straw. But the most important part of Grant’s stay is his honest retelling of it and his bravery in the acknowledgment of his issues.

Jason The Angry Ginger TLPS

Jason The Angry Ginger

Anyone who has hit a rough patch can relate to Grant and what he went through. And I urge everyone to listen to those episodes, specifically #56 “TK1 Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

The last 26 episodes are rife with underlying tension as on-mic feuds seemed to happen every week and although it may not qualify as a theme, they happen often enough. They mostly occurred between Stephanie and one of the guys, and usually because of something said to or about her. Interestingly enough, for some of the crazier things Jason said, he was never on Steph’s bad side.

And I’d be failing in telling the TLPS story if I didn’t mention Jason’s fascination with Blumpkin’s and Hot Carl’s, whatever those are [wink, wink].

Interruptions, Lines, & Challenges

Regardless of the theme, or topic, or segment, everyone gets interrupted, and lines are crossed, which is best explained by Tom and Jason.

Tom KIA Mr Know It All Pedantic Fun Sponge TLPS

Tom, “Mr. KIA” a.k.a. “Mr Know It All” a.k.a. “The Pedantic Fun Sponge” of TLPS

Tom said, “We like to explore exactly where lines start and stop… and then look at it from the other side…” And Jason jumped in adding “And wave.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. This crew knew who they were and used that knowledge to their advantage, even if they didn’t know they were doing it!

There were also two food challenges that occurred within the run. First was a Vegemite challenge that was hilarious in which all four guys tried Vegemite for the first time, and there is video proof of this challenge, which was suggested to them by Angry Oz, who has since become an occasional and hilarious part of Jason’s Seven Days a Geek podcast.

The second was the cinnamon challenge, in which Steph alone took part and almost died. That episode is hauntingly beautiful, because of the danger she was in, and the hours of recorded silence, that was edited down, of the guys freaking out that she was going to die. It truly showed how much a part of the show Steph was, albeit being the second-to-last episode.

For those who don’t know of the Cinnamon Challenge, it was a viral sensation in which the objective was to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking anything. Stephanie took the challenge despite the health risks and the existence of her pre-existing asthma, something that is usually a deterrent.

Stephanie the Google Goddess

Stephanie the Google Goddess

In full disclosure, Stephanie had no idea what the Cinnamon Challenge was before she went through with it and had no clue it could affect her health. And after her attempt she said it took her 20 minutes to breathe properly again, and her throat hurt for the next week.

Regarding the Cinnamon Challenge, Joe said, “Funny as hell, but it’s terrible,” which at times could apply to the show itself.

Another video is the video series of the guys’ road trip to Chicago to see Jason’s favorite podcaster Kevin Smith. It was during one of the podcasts recorded at the hotel in Chicago, where Steph first made her debut.

And once the guys had Steph Skyping in from Ohio after the Chicago trip, the guests starting happening more frequently. The fabulously twisted Nick Twist was a running gag from his first appearance through the end. A couple of cast member mom’s made appearances, as well. Grant’s mom was a one-time guest and Steph’s mom was on via a phone conversation Steph recorded unknowingly telling her mom about a dumb joke. There were many others as well, but really too many to tabulate here. But I must add that one of the best guest episodes is #55 “What came first? The Cripple or the Egg.”

And all of that chaos was controlled or attempted to be controlled by the showrunner, whether it was Grant or Jason. Who was the better show runner? It’s something that I was asked on air by Jason during episode 117 of Seven Days a Geek in which he and Grant look back on their TLPS days.

So who was better?

Jason and Grant TLPS

Jason and Grant

It’s hard to say. Jason was a good host during Grant’s absences and he’s grown into a great host now on his own shows, but I have to lean towards Grant being the better host for TLPS. Most of that credit belongs to Grant for being, well, Grant. I mean, have you heard The Stranger Conversations? The rest of the credit belongs to Jason, who kept himself in check when hosting, while being almost uncontrollably hilarious when not. If you’ve heard those episodes, or you’ve heard Jason guest on any other podcast, you know exactly what I mean and where I’m coming from.

And then there were the episode descriptions… Full of links and profanity. Yet, they were probably the most accurate and funny podcast descriptions that ever existed. And it was that profanity in the descriptions that got them kicked off of iTunes for a blackout of sorts. And although they made it back onto iTunes, where they remain, they only managed to get back on in time for the end.

And what and end it was!

The Last Episode

For regular listeners it really came out of the blue. Because even though episode 76 starts out a little somber, it was basically more of the same until they bring up the elephant in the room. It’s hard to not create a somber atmosphere when you start talking about “the end” or a “hiatus.”

Joe The Sniper TLPS

Joe The Sniper

Then the episode picks up, and after the elephant in the room gets its acknowledgement, they move on to shout outs of fans and guests they want to mention before the end. Those shout outs were, per usual, interrupted with interjected stories, discussions, and reminiscing some episodes those people were related to or featured in.

Honestly, Jason’s levity on the end was simple “speaking of not following through, we can’t even end the fucking show, now it’s on hiatus!” Then they move from how and why it’s the end to favorite moments and episodes including Grant’s breaking point. Then to the final headlines section, interrupted by a Jason pee break that is filled in by fan voicemails. These messages were different than most, as they were all distraught fans, all asking for reconsideration and “say it ain’t so’s” as well as many thanks. The show really did mean a lot to a lot of different people.

Then when Jason returned, Tom’s last headline, which was very political and full of numbers and statistics, was promptly torn up by Grant, making it the first and only time on the show a headline was audibly torn up on air.

And what’s the worst for fans is when they get to their final “would you rather” segment they are firing on all cylinders going out on top of all of their respective games.

Steph The Google Goddess

Steph The Google Goddess

Then came the final glossary of perversions followed by Tom actually asking everyone for their favorite moments.

The Chicago Road trip was a majority favorite, while Joe added Episode 7 “Train Wreck to Russia,” Jason added Episode 6 “VULVA! Strong Enough for a Man, but made by a Woman,” and Tom added that there were too many to choose from, before coughing up Episodes 74 “No Fun for Pregnant Nuns” and Episode 75 “Cinnamon Challenged.” And most surprisingly Steph echoed Tom with Episode 75, which is only surprising because, again, it almost killed her!

The Best of TLPS

Even though they covered their favorite moments, they did leave out some classic fan favorite TLPS episodes. Fans of the show, myself included, will tell you that beyond their favorites you have to include early episodes like #9 “Blue Waffles And Gravy: Breakfast of Champions” and #10 “Q & A with the Podcasters of The Last Podcaster Standing.”

Other fan favorites include the two-episode Anniversary Special #45 “The Cold Side of FU’ and #46 “Boobies Out the Hatchback,” as well as #51 “TLPS Squared” and #52 “Fuzzy Trumps Dykes,” in which we are treated to real recordings from Fuzzy and Supernatural Cherries.

A blurry photo of the KIA Wedding

A blurry photo of the KIA Wedding

There is also the fact that Tom’s wedding is overshadowed by another classic moment in #63 “TLPS Presents: Monster Trucks, Monster Moms And a Monster TWIST,” which tells the tale of Nick Twist’s Adventure in New York.

Having covered their last favorites and including fan favorites, it’s time for Tom to again take the lead in the last episode, asking them all what they wish they would have done.

And the answers are seriously funny. Grant wished they had done more of the “stunts” they came up with and thought that a camping trip would have been great. Tom lamented the TLPS website that he never completed, while Joe, still completely on his game quipped “never started.”

In atypical Ginger fashion Jason said nothing, although it could have been because in typical Ginger fashion he couldn’t remember anything. Steph on the other hand was the only one who lamented on a recurring theme, wishing she had “been a little more vocal about stuff, I was quiet a lot.”

The TLPS Guys in Chicago

TLPS in Chicago

Which lead Joe, still firing on all cylinders for his last go around with the group to reply “I’ll tell ya Steph, it’s really hard for any of us to get a word in over Grant, so don’t feel bad.”

And Jason not missing his cue, interrupted with “It’s not hard if you interrupt a lot.”

In a twist of fates, the guys said goodbye to Steph to end episode 76, the final show, instead of telling her to say “goodbye Steph,” which is usually the last thing on every episode.

But wait there’s more. “So there’s that” actually ends the episode followed by four plus minutes of a highlight reel of sorts, which includes “The Ginger Song.”

The End of TLPS

Looking back it was “lightning in a bottle,” as Grant says, and he should know. Not only was he an integral part of that lightning, or bottle if you prefer, but because these days Jay and Grant still look back on their TLPS days fondly – at least Jason does.

Grant still seems to have a love/hate relationship with the show he “killed,” although I still don’t find that entirely accurate.

So why did it end? Creative differences, “one person is leaving so I’m leaving,” almost killing a cast member, who knows… They discuss it at length after the shout outs. After listening to the episode again, I get the feeling Grant’s descriptive reason of “the things that went wrong, the monster that got out of control, behind the scenes and the things that we might want to do differently or things that we can change or whatnot” is pretty accurate.

On Podcast Digest he recently said “I’ll sum it up. I think I do the best job of that. The simple fact is, is there was too many chefs in the kitchen, there was a lot of differentiating ideas… I was changing” and the show was too! And he may be on to something after all this time.

Tom Grant and Joe with Ginger TLPS

Tom, Grant, and Joe with Jason

Tom had a superb comment in the context of the show’s end in saying that they were ending because they had “reached the end of the internet.” Although it is a bold statement, don’t put it past this group with Steph, their Google Goddess, to find the end of the internet, wherever that may be.

But with Jason having just started his Seven Days A Geek podcast and Tom’s wedding and the real monster of TLPS itself, it’s really anyone’s guess. And it was a monster: a great, funny, insightful monster with a face only a true TLPS fan could love.

You can hear many more behind-the-scenes stories on Episode 117 of Jason’s Seven Days a Geek or on any number of Grant’s episodes of The Stranger Conversations when it comes up. After all, the two of them are still podcasting.

Grant said once, “it was you and I with a dream of what we wanted and we pulled other people in… What TLPS became wasn’t how we initially envisioned it. The crazy news stories… We’ve got to top that.” It was just too much.

Behind the Mics The Last Podcaster Standing

Behind the Mics: The Last Podcaster Standing

And this post, this ode to VH1’s Behind the Music as a Behind the Mic is a direct result of another Grant quote, “it really is like a VH1 Behind the Scenes that people can hear.”

Jason on the other hand has less of an internal struggle with their little show that could. “I never had an issue with the monster it became… On TLPS, I was there to throw shit… We didn’t hide much… I think I peaked at TLPS.”

And NO he did NOT peak at TLPS. Granted hosting duties may temper him a bit, but he’s grown as a person and a podcaster. Both men have.

Want proof of that growth? Grant has said that in hindsight “one of the things I’ve learned is, as important as sound quality has always been to me, not the most important thing… Chemistry and content are the most important thing.” And the both of them are “proud of that chemistry.”

And what of the “hiatus?” Some hold out hope that it will end, but I’m not so sure.

What Now?

Jason’s main podcast these days is Seven Days A Geek, which was featured in Episode 72 of TLPS titled, “We Get Hijacked,” in which the Geek crew takes over the mics, and it is something that looking back seems like a fork in the road.

Grant also takes part in Seven Days a Geek and their chemistry together, as well as with the others in the cast, is great. And why not? The format’s pretty similar. For those missing TLPS, Seven Days a Geek has some amazing parallels, and not just in the cast. But you’ll have to listen for yourself.

Jason with his 7 Days a Geek Merch

Jason with his 7 Days a Geek Merch

But that’s not all they are up to these days. Jason’s thought up a litany of other podcasts, some of which are still ideas, but you can hear the ones that have come to fruition; Podcasting 101, Better Call Saul: A Companion Podcast and then there’s his guest spots on other podcasts, which are too many to mention here.

And Grant is doing his own podcast, The Stranger Conversations, which has origins beyond its own Episode 0 in TLPS Episode 10, which for those interested is about 28 minutes in.

Now as far as getting the band back together… All five… There are rumblings and rumors, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking, of a reunion, although a reunion show seems more plausible and realistic than actually starting it all back up again.

And there still could be more TLPS without that. Tom once said “season two should be all of the uncut stuff” and there’s enough raw files left for some still unheard magical moments, although who knows where all that audio is.

And Jason has hinted at a TLPS Commentary podcast, which I have offered to host, although in other podcasts he and Grant have covered quite a bit of commentary, stories and behind the scenes tidbits already.

But if it does return, make way for “Hookers and High Hopes,” a segment that never really took off the first time around.

The Stranger Conversations with Grant Markham

The Stranger Conversations with Grant Markham

Again Jason still talks often about releasing some highlight clip shows. But between his family and every other podcast he produces, guests on, or has a hand in plus all of his other projects, he doesn’t have the time. I, for one, am convinced he’s the only one of the bunch that would create it… if he only had the time.

Grant, on the other hand, has on occasion mentioned the idea he’d like to “delete it all.”

I hope it never comes to that. I hope it never dies and if it is to remain online and accessible, I don’t think that it ever will. And if it’s commentary you crave, even listening today you can still get it direct from the source.

I listened to the show well after its hiatus started and I still received prime cuts of real time commentary from Jason, Grant and Steph all on twitter as I live tweeted my marathon.

Maybe it will come back after all… And again Grant can lament “There is no justice…” as I think that would be his reaction. But that is just willful speculation.

Back to my opening line “what can you say about The Last Podcaster Standing (TLPS)?” How do you summarize a podcast that spawned even more podcasts, all successful, and has a cult following that spurred on their meteoric rise?

The Last Podcaster Standing Tee

The Last Podcaster Standing Tee

How do you talk about these podcast greats who were much more than “local news celebrity” stars?

You don’t.

You just celebrate them, the only way you can: By listening to the episodes and embracing their new endeavors.

If there was a podcasting Hall of Fame, these amazing people should all be shoo-ins. And although it’s very likely we’ve heard the last of Mr. KIA and The Sniper, there’s still hope to hear the Google Goddess and you can always hear The Angry Ginger and The Kilted One on their current shows.

If nothing else, I again urge you to listen and let them know you are doing so. And do not skip ahead as you may find yourself lost if you don’t. They do refer to previous episodes in almost every episode, some from the distant past, and some from just the episode prior.

And maybe, just maybe this ode to TLPS will get ripped apart by them on a reunion show. (I would love nothing more!) I mean we can always hope to once again hear TK1 attempting to control The Angry Ginger as Mr. KIA goes all pedantic, The Sniper takes aim once again, and the potential for a snort of hilarity from the Google Goddess.

“Say Goodnight, Steph.”

“Goodnight, Steph.”

The FULL Last Podcaster Standing crew

From Left to Right: Grant, Tom, Steph, Joe, and Jason