Podcasting 101: Choosing Your Format

Podcasting 101 Do you want to build a podcast? C’mon let’s go and—sorry, sorry, dated joke, I’m done.

But seriously, do you want to make a podcast? You should. There are a few Dallas Comedy House (DCH) alums that have podcasts of their own and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t either. Plus, I need more podcasts to put in my feed.

However, the easiest thing to get side-tracked by is the overwhelming information of what equipment to buy, how you’re going to release it, is it possible to monetize it or at least pay for hosting, etc. One thing at a time buddy! I’m going to break down the steps of how to build your own podcast.

First, you need an idea. More importantly, you need to choose a format.

Just like what sort of format is used for shows, picking a format and sticking with it is just as important for podcasting. This would be solo or co-hosted, interviews or self-hosted conversations, informational/educational or entertainment. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on the primary curriculum of DCH—sketch and improv.

OK, starting with the sketch kids: Scripted podcasts are starting to gain a little more traction these days. The Thrilling Adventure Hour, Wormwood, and, the most popular of scripted podcasts, Welcome to Night Vale. First and foremost, all hail the glow cloud. Second of all,  it started as a solo show with weird bits and pieces, eventually extending into a fuller cast with a developed world and over-arching story. However, Night Vale still keeps to its radio show format for the most part. Quick obvious note: Scripted formats are the only time you can have one person behind the microphone. However, I still highly suggest a writing team because stress makes for bad and infrequent episodes. (Which is typically why the worst Doctor Who episodes come from the showrunners, but I digress with opinions…)

In terms of improv podcasts, I'm going to use Spontaneanation with Paul F. Tompkins as my prime example. What I enjoy about this format is that it spends the first 15 minutes as an interview piece. This is pretty typical with DCH troupes like Photobomb, Pavlov's Dogs, and Manick, who will choose an audience member and ask a few questions that will build their shows. However, the interview format is VERY popular in the podcasting world. Nerdist, Marc Maron, Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss—every one of them is interviewing somebody. So what Paul F. Tompkins does with Spontaneanation is use this interview time to build a personal rapport with his guest, and then the whole of that interview is fodder for the improvised section. Another great improv podcast is Victrola!, an Austin-based group that I interviewed for this year's Dallas Comedy Festival

Now, once you have your basic format, you can spice it up however you like. Do you watch and/or read the news too much? Use that as your platform and get a group of improvisers to discuss and then riff. Are you a nerd that likes to play D&D with your improv friends? Either record your game as it happens while inhabiting your characters, or write out your most recent campaign and have your performer buddies read the script. Have you got a better idea? Then do that! You’re an adult, I assume. I believe in you.

In two weeks time, I'll discuss recording and what equipment might suit your needs as a fledgling podcaster. And yes, that’s the post in which I will discuss how much money you might be spending. Dun dun dun!

KC Ryan is currently a Level 5 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.