There is something strange and even dreamlike, just at an essential level, about looking out at a capacity crowd in a subterranean comedy venue, and asking them whether they remember T.J. Ford. I can now confirm, after having done this live on stage at New York City’s Caveat on Wednesday night, that it is far stranger and even more dreamlike when the people answer back. It may well be that your dreams are different than mine, and for your sake I hope they are, but it was not very long ago that all of this felt not just implausible, but impossible. Defector, blessedly, has worked more or less from the jump, and the passel of sickos and dementors that listen to our podcast have been there from the moment we fired it up. But the various other circumstances that would have had to align for us to do something like a live podcast, in front of a crowd of actual living people drinking beers, in a way that made it comfortable and even fun for all involved to do all these dumb things in a way that felt more or less normal—if I am being honest, I have had some doubts about that.
And that, more than anything—the still-fresh thrill of seeing my Defector buddies in the same place, the still-jarring experience of being in a room full of people in precisely the sort of scenario that I’ve spent the last two decades of my life regarding as totally normal, the overarching weirdness of the fact that people want to see and listen to this stuff—was what felt both dreamlike and bracingly, giddily real about Wednesday. Here, you can hear it for yourself:
I know from my own experience as a podcast listener that live podcasts are not always the best episodes, but having listened to this one I can attest that it captures the energy of being in the room rather shockingly well. Credit where it’s due to the audio wizards at Caveat and the production wizardry of Brandon Nix on that, and there’s obviously some bias involved on my end, but I am happy to report that the gratitude—the gratitude that I felt myself, and that this fantastic crowd gave back to us in return—at being able to do all this again really comes through.
And what did we do? Well, Drew took his shoe off within the first 90 seconds, and what followed more or less traced that edge-of-sanity path. We were joined by Kelsey McKinney, co-host of the new Defector podcast Normal Gossip, and talked about Texas football and my personal least-favorite New York Mets for a while. After that, we did an interactive but amusingly too-hard version of Remembering Some Guys, in which Drew tasked the crowd to identify photos of Eric Zeier and Chad Hutchinson. We talked about Roddy White’s iconic tweet about watching a Matrix sequel, the aforementioned T.J. Ford’s enormous basketball capri pants, and ancient sportswriting tropes. This ended, mercifully, with me not just explaining my longstanding distaste for John Franco but imitating an interaction with him at a deli. It was time to take a break, and we took one.
The back half of the show was a Live Funbag Experience, in which we fielded questions from the crowd. This was not any less perverse than the deranged email missives that Drew fields on a given week, happily, and led us to talk about dirtbag youth party behaviors and grandiose/aspirational naming traditions, and real estate ideas so misbegotten that they are effectively indistinguishable from the premises of mid-tier thrillers, and which sports people reminded us most of our dads. A question from a very unfortunately named listener opened naturally onto a conversation that will, I hope, be picked back up in an episode of our other new podcast, Namedropping. I am used to the Funbag being a mindbending tour of mental damage; in my years of weekly visits, I have even come to like that. I had not experienced it like this before—with faces to the names and questions, all of us together, thinking about the dumbest possible things a person can think about. It felt new, but mostly it felt good.
If you would like to subscribe to The Distraction, you can do that at Stitcher, or through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you might get your podcasts. If you’d like to listen to an ad-free version of the podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium; a free month of Stitcher Premium can be yours if you use the promotional code “DISTRACT.” Thank you as always for your support.