The Daily Northwestern

Chicago Podcast Festival will feature two Evanston podcasters

Jimmy Carrane, host of Improv Nerd podcast, is one of the two Evanston residents who will be featured in the Chicago Podcast Festival.

Jimmy Carrane, host of Improv Nerd podcast, is one of the two Evanston residents who will be featured in the Chicago Podcast Festival.

Source: Zoe McKenzie

Source: Zoe McKenzie

Jimmy Carrane, host of Improv Nerd podcast, is one of the two Evanston residents who will be featured in the Chicago Podcast Festival.

Hayley Krolik, Reporter

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Two Evanston residents will participate in the first-ever Chicago Podcast Festival, a gathering dedicated to the popular audio medium some say is in its golden age.

The festival will bring together 35 podcasts, including the two based in Evanston: Improv Nerd  and Booth One. The festival premieres Nov. 18 and will feature podcasts across five venues in the Chicago area, said Jonathan Pitts, the executive director of Chicago Improv Productions.

Jimmy Carrane, an Evanston resident, is the host of Improv Nerd and started the podcast five years ago because he was inspired by his experiences with improv. Carrane said improv gave him a direction in life after high school.

“The thing that I loved about improv was, one, that I found like-minded people. I found basically my tribe, my family,” Carrane said. “And the other thing was everything that I had gotten punished for in school, and in growing up, I was now being rewarded for in improv.”

Booth One, another Evanston-based podcast discussing popular culture, is also unscripted for the most part but strays further from direct improv, said Gary Zabinski, one of the founders and hosts.

The podcast focuses heavily on the performing arts, mirroring the people who got a chance to witness the exciting conversations and people in Booth One in Ambassador East Hotel, the booth where celebrities sat and inspired the podcast name.

“It’s a little tough to stand out,” Zabinski said. “You have to (do work) that has an angle. You have to have something that is appealing to people.”

All of the podcasts for the festival were hand-picked by Pitts and the festival’s artistic director Tyler Greene. The podcasts range from storytelling to unscripted genres and will be performed in front of live audiences — which Pitts estimates to 3,000 attendees — and be recorded for the individual podcasts’ websites.

Pitts thought of the idea for the festival more than a year ago. He was inspired by a podcast act by improv4humans at the Chicago Improv Festival, another festival that Pitts runs. To him, there are interesting intersections between improv and podcasting due to the unscripted nature of both fields.

Zabinski agrees with Pitts’ sentiment, as he sees improv as similar to stand-up comedy in regards to making up your material as you go in front of an audience.

“We’re all attracted to performance art,” Zabinski said.

Both Evanston podcasters will be interviewing renowned figures in the entertainment spheres during the festival. Zabinski will interview the owner of the Chicago iO Theater Charna Halpern, who he said knows many famous people in the comedy world and is a “Chicago institution.”

On Improv Nerd, Carrane will be interviewing “30 Rock” actor Scott Adsit, with whom Carrane attended Columbia College Chicago. Carrane spends 15 minutes on the interview and then engages his guest in a five-minute improv scene, which they analyze afterwards.

“I was always obsessed with becoming famous, and Scott was always obsessed with becoming really good at doing improv, and it turns out he became really good and famous,” Carrane said.

Pitts is excited about the festival because unlike his work with improv, where there is a focus on the moment, podcasts concentrate on the context in which they are produced. As such, Pitts believes many of the podcasts will be influenced by the election.

“All of these podcasts are going to be influenced by the changes, and a lot of them will probably be talking about it,” Pitts said. “Podcasts are much more tied into the Zeitgeist, whereas a lot of times improv shows can be self-referential.”

Twitter: @hayleyondadaily