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Murder and Moontower: Why a podcast about crime can make you laugh


What’s so funny about murder? If you have to ask, you’re not a Murderino.

That’s the term for fans of “My Favorite Murder,” a show that debuted in January 2016 and has become a podcast phenomenon. It dominates the iTunes comedy podcast chart. The My Favorite Murder Podcast Facebook group has nearly 125,000 members, and there are local Facebook fan groups as well that host meetups and other events (the Austin Murderinos group has more than 600 members). Search for “My Favorite Murder” on Etsy and you’ll find hundreds of items inspired by the show, from Murderino wine glasses and jewelry to cross-stitch pieces featuring show catchphrases such as “You’re in a cult; call your dad” and “Stay sexy and don’t get murdered.”

I’ve been a mystery fanatic since I cracked open a Nancy Drew book back in the day, but I never thought of crime as a laughing matter until I downloaded the podcast last fall. The show has a simple premise: Co-hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark get together in Hardstark’s apartment, sit back and tell each other stories of murder and mayhem. The humor comes from the way they tell the tales — it’s part ghost stories around the campfire, part friends trading gossip. Hardstark gasps; Kilgariff deadpans. Steven Ray Morris, the show’s engineer, plays the good-natured straight man. Elvis, Hardstark’s vociferous Siamese cat, yowls for a cookie to close out the episode.

It’s hilarious and irreverent but surprisingly respectful — there’s no glorification of crime. And it’s not all fun; the show draws attention to issues of mental health and personal safety and has donated some proceeds of merchandise sales to groups like End the Backlog, which seeks to clear the backlog of untested rape kits.

In telling these stories, Kilgariff and Hardstark acknowledge our need to laugh in the face of fear, to take control of our anxieties, to convince ourselves that by knowing what happened, we can avoid terrible fates. And it’s just really fun to feel like I’m hanging out with them for an hour or so each week. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re a Murderino and didn’t know it, you’ll feel right at home.

“My Favorite Murder” opens Moontower Comedy Festival at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. April 19 at the Paramount.

FIND YOUR PODCAST

Not a Murderino? There are plenty of other podcasts to check out. Moontower has been hosting podcasts since Marc Maron brought his “WTF” to the fest in 2013, according to Lietza Brass, a producer for Moontower. In the years since, more comedians have taken up podcasting, and the number of podcasts at the fest has increased.

“I guess you can say that Moontower’s growth has gone hand in hand with the growth of podcasts,” Brass says. “As advertisers finally figured out that, ‘Hey … young people are listening, maybe we should invest here,’ more comedians took control of their brand, content and promotions. It’s empowering for the artist and a bonus for the festival and our fans.”

Want to check out the podcasts of Moontower before the live shows? Here’s a rundown of what they’re about. You can listen online or via your favorite podcast app; some require a subscription, but even those offer some free clips online so you can get a taste.

If you don’t have the Moontower Club/Podcast badge, go to moontowercomedyfest.com to see which shows still have individual tickets available.

‘The Sideshow Podcast’

Austin’s own KLBJ-FM morning show guys Dudley and Bob with Matt let it all hang out (even more than they do on the air) on their ‘Sideshow,’ which they record daily after their regular show. Their live shows at Cap City Comedy Club always sell out. (8 p.m. April 19, Cap City Comedy Club)

‘About Last Night’

Comedians Adam Ray and Brad Williams talk about life on the road and in the spotlight with famous comedians, actors and other celebrities. Recent guests include “Saturday Night Live” alum Dana Carvey, Justin Roiland (co-creator of “Rick and Morty”) and sports commentator Ben Lyons. (6 p.m. April 20, Speakeasy)

‘The Fighter and the Kid’

Former UFC heavyweight fighter Brendan Schaub and actor-comedian Bryan Callen host this podcast about mixed martial arts, comedy, pop culture and more. The podcast gets millions of downloads a month, and its YouTube channel has more than 100,000 subscribers. (10 p.m. April 20, 800 Congress; 7 p.m. April 22, Parish)

‘The Bonfire’

Comedians Big Jay Oakerson and Dan Soder talk about everything from comedy and entertainment to sports on this show on the Comedy Central Radio channel on SiriusXM. (7 p.m. April 21, Antone’s)

‘Dumb People Town’

This weekly podcast, which debuted in January, features Daniel Van Kirk, Randy Sklar and Jason Sklar discussing news of the weird and “dumb people doing dumb things (often in Florida).” Guests have included comedian Adam Carolla, Matt Walsh (“Veep”), the ladies of “My Favorite Murder” and “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm. (6 p.m. April 21, Speakeasy)

‘Guys We (Expletive)’

So, all the podcasts discussed here include language and topics that you might not want to be listening to with the kids in the car. But “Guys We (Expletive)” is so NSFW that we can’t even print the full title. Comedians Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher talk frankly and in great detail about relationships, sex, racism, sexism, feminism and more sex. It’s bawdy but also thoughtful and timely. (7 p.m. April 20, Antone’s; 11:15 p.m. April 21, Stateside)

‘Legion of Skanks’ 

Oakerson (yes, he’s a podcast monster), Luis J. Gomez and Dave Smith record what they call “the most offensive podcast on Earth” before an audience of fans at a club in Queens. The guys tell raunchy stories, talk about music and viral news — it’s like you’re hanging out in that bar with them. (10:30 p.m. April 21, the Velv)

‘Lovett or Leave It’

This is the newest podcast of the bunch — the first episode landed March 25. Former Obama administration speechwriter Jon Lovett brings together comedians, actors and journalists to talk about the news of the week in our current political climate. It’s a mix of jokes, rants and actual discussion about what’s going on in the world. (6 p.m. April 21, Parish)

‘Kill Tony’

This podcast is recorded live at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. Up-and-coming comics get 60 seconds to try to impress hosts Tony Hinchcliffe and Brian Redban as well as well-known comedian judges (a recent episode featured Dave Attell and Ron White). It’s like going to an open mic night — some performances are impressive, and some are excruciatingly awkward. (6 p.m. April 22, Speakeasy)



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