The Modern-Day Philosophers Podcast: Where Comedians Like Carl Reiner & Artie Lange Discuss Schopenhauer & Maimonides

The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined LifeThe His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any GapsPhi­los­o­phy BitesPhi­los­o­phize This!we’ve fea­tured quite a few enter­tain­ing and edu­ca­tion­al fruits of the still-new dis­ci­pline of pod­cast­ing’s incli­na­tion toward the very old dis­ci­pline of phi­los­o­phy. But the pod­cast has proven an even bet­ter fit for come­di­ans than it has for philoso­phers. Even if you’ve nev­er down­loaded an episode in your life, you’ve almost cer­tain­ly heard about the medi­um-legit­imiz­ing suc­cess­es of intel­li­gent, con­ver­sa­tion­al, high­ly opin­ion­at­ed, or oth­er­wise uncon­ven­tion­al fun­ny­men like Ricky Ger­vais with The Ricky Ger­vais ShowAdam Car­ol­la with his also-epony­mous pod­cast, and Marc Maron with WTF. Yet nobody dared to explic­it­ly cross pod­cast­ing’s comedic and philo­soph­i­cal strengths until last year, when Dan­ny Lobell launched Mod­ern Day Philoso­phers (web siteitunessound­cloud).

Lobell, him­self a pio­neer in not just philo­soph­i­cal com­e­dy pod­cast­ing but com­e­dy pod­cast­ing, and indeed pod­cast­ing itself, began his com­ic-inter­view­ing show Com­i­cal Radio a decade ago. “As pod­cast­ing grew in pop­u­lar­i­ty,” he writes, “many celebri­ty come­di­ans start­ed doing sim­i­lar shows to the one I was doing. [ … ] Before I knew it, what I had once felt was a unique and impor­tant under­tak­ing now no longer seemed like it served a pur­pose in the uni­verse for me.” This dark night of the soul saw him move from New York to Los Ange­les, this cra­dle of so many pod­casts comedic and oth­er­wise, where he turned his atten­tion back toward the sub­jects he neglect­ed in school. He paid spe­cial atten­tion to phi­los­o­phy, but strug­gled to under­stand the mate­r­i­al. “I real­ized that my friends, stand up come­di­ans, would make great study part­ners. I’ve often heard us referred to as the philoso­phers of our day which I fig­ured sound­ed like a good enough excuse to approach them.”

And so Lobell has pro­duced 40 episodes and count­ing fea­tur­ing philo­soph­i­cal dis­cus­sions con­duct­ed with some of today’s sharpest comics, many of them star pod­cast­ers in their own right. One recent con­ver­sa­tion finds Lobell in con­ver­sa­tion about John Cage — a philo­soph­i­cal fig­ure too often dis­missed as pri­mar­i­ly an artist — with the cere­bral, chance-ori­ent­ed, and some­what askew Reg­gie Watts (top). (The pair­ing makes espe­cial­ly good sense, since Cage influ­enced Bri­an Eno, and Watts has pub­licly dis­cussed Eno’s influ­ence on his own act.) A few months ago, Lobell talked the sui­cide-mind­ed Arthur Schopen­hauer with the once-sui­cide-mind­ed Artie Lange (mid­dle). And he even brings in elder states­men of com­e­dy to talk about mat­ters eter­nal, such as Carl Rein­er on reli­gion, prayer and mem­o­ry as reflect­ed upon by Mai­monides (above). Each episode con­tains a healthy con­sid­er­a­tion of not just the work of the philoso­pher in ques­tion, but that of the come­di­an as well. Per­son­al­ly, I can’t wait to hear what Yakov Smirnoff has to say about his fel­low Russ­ian artist-philoso­pher of note, Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky.

H/T Mark Lin­sen­may­er, a founder of Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life: A Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps – Peter Adamson’s Pod­cast Still Going Strong

Phi­los­o­phy Bites: Pod­cast­ing Ideas From Pla­to to Sin­gu­lar­i­ty Since 2007

Phi­los­o­phize This!: The Pop­u­lar, Enter­tain­ing Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast from an Uncon­ven­tion­al Teacher

Down­load 100 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

Take First-Class Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es Any­where with Free Oxford Pod­casts

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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