Published Jul 21, 2013The podcast explosion has been a boon to comedians, who are able to expose their comic personae to untested audiences, then use it to promote shows and albums. From Chris Hardwick's Nerdist to Marc Maron's WTF to Aisha Tyler's Girl on Guy, the examples are legion. Doug Benson has also used his own Doug Loves Movies podcast to broaden the audience for his stoner wit and love of all things cinema. Unfortunately, he's not taking advantage of the opportunity to expose his standup — his podcasts essentially are his standup now, and vice versa — as evidenced by his most recent, Gateway Doug.
As he has for several years, when April 20th rolls around, Benson records an album to celebrate 4/20, the adopted holiday for stoners. He does so not because, like Louis CK, he's spent a year honing a brand new hour of material; he does so because it's 4/20 and that's what Doug Benson does. From the outset, Gateway Doug is nearly indistinguishable from a podcast, starting a Twitter roll call of what people in the audience are tweeting to him just before the show, using the crowd work to help ease him into the set. A round of "Watch This/Not That" — another podcast staple, in which two audience members each pick a movie and Benson has to choose only one to watch — falls flat, as does describing a Vine that someone sent. "I'm really free associating tonight," he comments at one point. "I don't know if it's working out."
I don't want to give the impression that Benson is not funny, because he's definitely quick-witted and is professional enough to provide the audience in front of him with an entertaining show. But he sometimes doesn't trust us enough to let us not get a joke, feeling the need to over-explain nearly every pop culture reference. For example, during a bit in which he laments that he has long boring dreams, he says "Just let the van drop into the river already!" He pauses a beat before adding "Inception." We already got it, but the leaden period on the end of it crushes the feeling of being "in" on it — as an audience, we can't be trusted with even the most widely appealing blockbuster references on our own.
Perhaps the epitome of Benson's cavalier "I'm just doing what I do" attitude throughout is during a discussion about the dangers of marijuana compared to something like meth. "I've never been smoking a joint in a trailer that explodes," he says before noting: "I said that exact same thing on my album Potty Mouth two years ago." Yeah you did. If you just like Benson and want a little dose of his pot-addled movie synopses — he covers all of the 1978 ice skating movie Ice Castles here — just stick with his free podcasts. (A Special Thing)