The Dork Forest is a parade of the unabashedly dorky, hosted by comedian Jackie Kashian, wherein we and she learn about countless geekeries, ranging from the traditional to the bizarre. Funny, insightful and charming, it’s like being swallowed up by the nicest nerds you wish you knew.
Throughout time there have always been cultural entities which so completely define their medium and their generation that they become either the greatest hallmark of a generation, or fade away, waiting for a revival as retro-cool. These events, artifacts and creations are concurrently the most significant achievements of the genre and the personification of the medium in and of itself, whose echoes (knowingly or not) reverberate throughout all subsequent content. Even relatively new media like podcasting has several such touchstones, ‘Adam and Joe,’ ‘Never Not Funny’ and ‘The Ricky Gervais Show’ are just a few examples, all of which retain a great success that reflects their seminal status, and all of which are still running, in some capacity, years after their inception. But as much as a creation of the internet these are, the podcast most clearly reflecting all of what the internet was meant to (and essentially always did) represent, is The Dork Forest.
It is, quite simply, pure internet. A utopic vision of the internet of course, but a nonetheless perfect one. This is old school nerds, encouraged to obsess, coaxed along by Jackie Kashian and her idyll of a ‘safe space,’ availed of nerd-on-nerd venom and embarrassment. The guests -various comics, artists, creators and writers- always come armed with a specific obsession, entering the forest solely to geek out over what they love. There are no limitations on what is or isn’t nerdy, no in-episode fact-checking and detailing, no high horsed-ness or fan boy faux superiority, just people fascinated by an idea, object or event and want to talk about it. You might hear half an hour about Elvis’ last twenty four hours, episodes about fantasy baseball or an hour dedicated to the history of the NFL. Kashian uses an ‘all topics welcome’ approach, with the only necessity being an enthusiasm for a subject, something which the various guests carry off with aplomb. They are very specific shows, centred around the itinerant guest dork, the things that interest them and the things they know about. There isn’t the now semi-traditional ‘podcast humour,’ reaching laughter in a more laissez-faire manner, acknowledging a conversation between two comics will be funny as a matter of course.
Often it is a show at it’s best when you know nothing about the topic. Hearing fascinating discussions about unsolved murders, old timey baseball or U2 is all the more intriguing when, as a listener, you never invested your dorkiness in such things. Between them they consider possibilities, back stories, mini-anecdotes and a hundred other things an episode, with Jackie’s charming hosting keeping the show constantly delightful. The Dork Forest is also working hard to craft a nerdy enclave in the podcast world that is separate from the Nerdist brand. Carrying an inimitable charm, using the guests very specific knowledge bases, obsessions and ideas to bring to bear the very peaks of their interests, all while being coaxed along by our intrepid host. The show also has a lovely knack of picking people who aren’t regulars on the podcast circuit, instead finding people being those working behind the scenes of TV shows, or gigging stand-ups with an hour to spare with a specific nerdiness unique to them. Allied with this is a general avoidance of guests playing up their nerdiness to get on the show, or people who are simply coming on the show to promote a book about themselves. As a final compliment on it’s participants, there is also a generous quotient of lady guests, whose under-representation in the podcast game still leaves something of a question mark over the medium.
Forging it’s own way through a great jungle of nerdiness, geekdom and obsession, The Dork Forest encapsulates everything good about the old school nerd, with Jackie Kashian a host who is simply beyond charming. A classic delight, crafted through the new school to offer that forum young nerds always seek. And, for those who would like to delve deeper into both the F.A.N. and the lure of tattoos, one of this sites very brilliant creators, Mr Andrew Leslie, also guested on an episode.