We Talked to Podcasters 'Uhh Yeah Dude' About Why It’s Better to be Happy Than Rich
No guests, no ads, no themes, no gimmicks—how could this not succeed?
Uhh Yeah Dude is one of the longest running podcasts online. With over 500 hours of comedic banter between two best friends, its clan of superfan listeners have come back week after week since 2006 to hear a stoned LA hipster with a semi-famous dad (John Larroquette of Night Court fame) laugh at a shrieking, TV-addicted vegan from Massachusetts. So why aren't Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli household names?
UYD has a simple format; sitting in Seth's living room, Romatelli and Larroquette exchange their hilarious opinions on an endless array of topics from current events, to weird news, to tech, to shitty TV shows. Their easy chemistry and accessibility makes them one of comedy's rare duos, offering listeners a glimpse into a genuine friendship, which feels a lot like being among your own friends.
But when you've been doing the same thing for ten years without mainstream success, is there a good time to call it quits? When you're not making any money doing it? When everyone else seems to be way more successful than you? Despite the current flight of comedians into podcasting, UYDstays humbly afloat by accepting their outsider status, and continuing to put out a comedy gem that hasn't changed in the decade it's been on. They have no guests, no ads, no themes, no gimmicks, and no cash grabs.
To learn more about how they do it and to get the scoop on something that no one likes talking about—funding creative ventures—I caught up with Romatelli and Larroquette at a vegan restaurant in Toronto, the day after their first-ever live show in Canada.
VICE: What's Uhh Yeah Dude about?
Seth Romatelli: It's about being alive right now, about living in America right now, and wondering what the fuck is going on. We lay out all the things we notice that have happened in the week and are like "Is everything gonna be alright?" It's about what's going on with tech, the internet, social media, communication, personal lives, love, kids, aging.
How would you guys define your place in the comedy podcast community?
I would say our place is non-existent.
Jonathan Larroquette: We don't communicate much with that world.
Despite being under the category of comedy on iTunes?
Romatelli: We run a comedy podcast on iTunes but are not really a part of that community. Not having guests, the biggest hurdle is that our listeners only hear our voices every week. There's no celebrity or comedian crossover. Also, we're not stand-ups, so comedy is not a world that we inhabit in a social way.
Larroquette: The majority of the shows in the comedy podcast community have allegiances with other shows. They interview each other. Another difference is that our show started as a podcast. We decided, like dummies, to be like, "Let's start a podcast." For most other podcasters it's some annex to whatever else they do.
I mean, it was brave...
Larroquette: Nobody was listening in the beginning. So it was a safe place to figure out how to be funny.
Romatelli: We're super lucky that we have the best moms and that they love us, because they were the only two people who listened. And then there was Serial. And now Marc Maron's interviewing the president! Like, what the fuck happened? Are you kidding me? I was in that garage once!
Serial changed everything. Did you guys find your listenership grew after that?
Larroquette: No. We have grown and we continue to grow. I don't know if we benefitted from all the stuff that's come in from the top. We were already there and people continue to find us in their own weird, organic way.
Romatelli: But if you look at podcasting now, there are 25 different topics with all of the smartest minds-—the best people at what they do-—and it's so overwhelming. There's a science podcast that has Neil Degrasse Tyson on it. Bill Simmons has a sports podcast.
Yeah, you aren't nuanced. You have a comedy podcast, but you talk about everything.
Larroquette: But being funny isn't easy. We don't think that what we do is easy. Seth does a lot of research and makes sure that there's a phenomenal amount of information that, for most of our listeners, I don't think that they would otherwise come across, even if they're an internet-savvy person. On top of it, hopefully, our spin is funnier and more relaxed and cooler than all the other people who are chiming in about shit.
What's your recording set-up like?
Romatelli: It's just in my living room.
Larroquette: No headsets, no boom mics.
Romatelli: The president can't come. He can't sit on my shitty couch, because there's a hole in it from me watching TV. Like where's the president gonna sit? I'd have to go buy...
Larroquette: A president couch.
Romatelli: Yeah, a president chair.
Why do you think that people like you?
Larroquette: I think it's a combination: I don't think anyone would be able to deal with one of us on our own. Together, there's something about us that you can trust in. If we're on a point and egging each other on, we remain, in essence, in agreement. Most other duos have some sort of ball-busty dynamic, where it's like "I'm gonna fuck with you!" We don't do that. We are different people. We have different ideas about things. But we feel very similarly about quite a few things. Not to talk shit...
You can talk shit.
Romatelli: Maybe we should be talking more shit! We need some Twitter beefs. Then maybe someone would know who we were and we wouldn't just be sitting in my living room.
What's your relationship with fame like? Do you consider yourselves famous? Larroquette: My dad's famous. So that's my relationship.
Is that your peripheral experience then? Do you consider your fame in comparison to your dad's?
Not in comparison. I just think that I have an idea of what it is to be famous. Famous is when people recognize you and they don't know who you are. They would know my dad was on television and not know what show he was on or what his name was but they would still ask to take a picture with him and sign an autograph.
Do fans ever recognize you?
Romatelli: Yes. It's different though because they're recognizing us on a deeper level. Talking to our fans is different than me seeing somebody who's a tertiary character on a CW show. What's your relationship? They go to a set on a TV show. This is our whole fucking life.
Is it important to you to be famous?
Oh God, no! What's important to me is that when you do something, you hope that people respond positively to it. The more people that do that, the better.
So, your fans mean a lot to you then.
Larroquette: Every time we do meet-and-greets, people tell us the craziest shit, amazing things.
Romatelli: Some things are deeply personal, some are very funny. They've given you their time, their energy, their mind. And you wanna squeeze them and say thank you. It's the ultimate. You put everything into something that means the world to you and when people like it, it's treasured. Who gets to do that? That's rare.
Larroquette: You love something to death, you put your whole life into it and then strangers listen to it and have a positive feeling from it; it's a dream. We're not pretending to be anything that we're not. For me, being in the public like my dad was, there was something really scary about being so far removed. It's two different worlds. I think because of my delusions of grandeur, there were some choices that I made about the show early on that I thought would set us up so that we would never get like that. One of the ways is to give out a phone number. Seth's been listed in the Whitepages the whole time. People drive by the apartment. There is a point where you're like, somebody is going to stab me. But, at the same time, you're like, no, because you want to stab the person that's hidden away in their mansion, not the guy that's going to get kale juice every day.
Romatelli: We have a voicemail and people call the voicemail. And getting stuff in the mail is the best. You get a book, a handwritten note...
Larroquette: Folk art, Starbucks cards, vegan mayonnaise.
Romatelli: If you call the voicemail and leave your number, we'll call you back. When you send mail, I'll write you a letter.
Larroquette: An animal sanctuary named a goat and a rooster after us.
Romatelli: It's better than anything else. Better than being on Empire.
Do you get nervous doing the live shows?
Larroquette: I was so nervous [at the Toronto live show]. I was shaking. I don't know what happened. I was all ready to go, and then we got out there, and my leg started going, and I got scared. Seth reminded me that if we were doing it at home, I would be taking a piss and then smoking a joint through the window and then we would sit down and do two episodes back-to-back, because we've been doing that lately, and then you go home. That's it. It would be so easy and second nature. But because these motherfuckers are sitting there, waiting, you're just like "Ahhh!"
Why have you decided to never have advertisements or guests on the show?
Those decisions were very clear at certain points: how are we going to maintain doing this? How are we going to talk shit earnestly about the shit that we talk shit about? Pretending that we never talked shit about something because we got payed to plug it? It delegitimizes the value of our opinion. There was a brief time where we were plugging HBO shows...
Larroquette: We were plugging a season of Entourage.
What monetization strategies have you considered through the years? You've just, very successfully, joined Patreon [a service that allows fans of creators to fund their work via a monthly subscription].
Romatelli: Our first idea was to charge people a little bit per show. But we've built this relationship with them, and now we're gonna ask them for money? That's tacky.
Larroquette: It's tacky and also you can't give somebody something for free forever and then take it back and ask for money after five or ten years. We wanted to figure out how to make it so that nothing changes.
Romatelli: This went on for like three or four years. We still loved making the show, but we weren't getting any younger. We talked to a lot of different networks.
Larroquette: We also talked about going subscription-only, completely offline, where we would email you the show if you wanted it. But if we did that, we knew that we risked completely fading out, having our ranking fall on iTunes, which is the only way that anyone's ever found us, just by being in the Top 50 [of comedy podcasts]. I don't think we've made it easy on ourselves. But that was for the sake of the show staying good and the same. The same is a trip though. The same drives you insane after a while.
How do you stay motivated after ten years?
Larroquette: It's still fun. I still laugh my ass off.
Romatelli: It's still the best hour of my week. I look forward to him coming over.
Larroquette: Sometimes, I'm coming up with excuses to cancel, but within ten minutes of being at Seth's place, it's all gone. It's still the best thing that I can do for myself. It's truly one of the only things that I've done for this long and this consistently in my whole life.
I mean, I think you're good role models. You're realistic role models. Romatelli: We're doing this thing, and hopefully people listen, and it's about finding people that are fans, that enjoy it. It has nothing to do with fame or being fanatical. They're like, "I like this. It makes me laugh." That's nice! Talking about it seems inherently obscene.
Larroquette: I mean, we have to move into some other realm at some point.
Romatelli: But it's also just one of those "take it day-by-day" things. Hopefully we'll do another episode and then we'll see how many times we can keep doing that. That's all we've been doing. And now we've been doing it for almost ten and a half years.
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