Comedy podcast helps the show go on
Zack Peterson, an Omaha native and nationally touring comedian, is interviewed by Josh Prenosil, PhD, and Caleb Jones, BA’20, during their Bits at the Backline comedy podcast.
Caleb Jones, BA’20, saw nothing funny about the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Although COVID’s full impact was not yet evident, it would not be long before rising death counts paralyzed the normal, free-wheeling spirit of American life. Restaurants and cinemas closed, as did comedy clubs. And then the music died, as bands with significant local followings lost their venues.
“Seeing this suffering of the artistic community during COVID, we just thought if there is anything that we can do to support those communities that are important to us, then we have got to do it,” says Josh Prenosil, PhD, assistant professor of English.
So Prenosil and Jones, who is working on a master’s degree in English under Prenosil’s guidance, created the Bits at The Backline comedy podcast. Recorded at The Backline Comedy Theatre, an independent comedy theater located in downtown Omaha, the professor and the student interview hardy souls described by The Backline as “Omaha’s next big comedians.”
“All of this is part of my thesis work, and some of the work I have done is considered part of my service to the department, which is part of my scholarship requirement, so it is all very interwoven with what I am studying and doing here,” Jones says.
The experience of producing a podcast will serve Jones well, Prenosil says.
“Caleb is going to graduate with excellent media production skills that he will take to the job market.”
The podcast is both a study in the art and craft of making people laugh and an attempt to bridge the world of academia and the gritty world of the spotlight, the stage and the tough audience.
“I have certainly heard from people who watch our episodes saying they have been surprised at how much craft and skill there is in performing a comedy set,” Jones says. “That tells me we are illustrating an aspect of comedy that people are not aware of.
“People think that comedians are just funny people who get up there and tell jokes, but it’s not that simple. There is a lot of work that goes into preparing those sets, and there is a lot of technique involved. One of my favorite aspects of the interviews is asking these experienced individuals about how they do what they do — getting into the weeds of all that has been very enjoyable.”
Podcasts do not happen overnight, and Prenosil and Jones spent months honing the concept, gathering the equipment and partnering with a receptive Backline to host the podcast. Four comedians have now been interviewed, all with Omaha ties. Some perform locally, some tour nationally.
“We wanted to give local artists a break from these difficult times, to have conversations and see where they would lead. It’s amazing that we were able to do that,” Jones says.