Podcast Purview: You Look Nice Today!By Sam Webb
Posted on July 11, 2012
An amazing combination of three men gradually nearing or semi-gracefully passing middle age, You Look Nice Today is a keystone podcast. Formed in 2006 by Merlin Mann, Scott Simpson and Adam Lisagor, this ‘diary of emotional hygiene’ continues our current theme of podcast greats. Seminal in every sense, from it’s half-confessional half-comedic aesthetics, to it’s triple threat white male cast to the love of presenting falsehood as truth, this is one of the necessary touch points for any podcaster or listener. Having a release schedule that quickly became erratic, before leaping to a hiatus for the entirety of last year, YLNT returned with a new sense of purpose, but with all the brilliant things that make it’s return so celebrated.
One of the persistent and insistent themes of the podcast is the consideration of, moving past, or retelling of stories from, their youth. Creeping into a healthy majority of the episodes, rare is the show they don’t reminisce about their disparate childhoods. Fortunately this is one of the shows great selling points, their sharing of separately lived moments giving the podcast a great feeling of revelation, as the events and feelings discussed by the trio are both universal, and are unveiled to one another at the same time as the audience. This ‘universality’ of the trios remarkably similar growing periods really feeds into a concept of them being almost the voice of a generation; people who are almost post-squares, spawn of the now clearly obsessive nerdiness of the 1980s, now graduated into nerds for a modern era. They reflect an age of current parents who are less about living to type, whilst more culturally aware, but less socially adaptive and clearly more neurotic. This mirroring YLNT proffers keeps it charming and heart-warming, as they are suddenly very similar to the people you might be or probably know and is also an indelibly charming characteristic, one that is pitched perfectly for both comedy and podcasting.
You Look Nice Today’s triumvirate employ a shared aesthetic, approached in slightly different ways. Though they function best when co-optively straining for honesty, comedy and facetiousness together, they are not to be under-rated as individuals. Scott acts as a kind of confused everyman, considering minor, but concerning, daily issues in a humble, lightly beffudled way, often through strange anthropology or mathematics, such as their most recent episode, which opens with him suggesting the average person breaks wind 72 times a day. Adam appears as a sort of luxurious pop-culture figure, never too far from a late 1970s, earl 1980s reference, or bringing up a childhood moment or parental story with unnervingly common hilarity, like his dentist father’s van number-plate. Merlin: the joker in the pack, a Shakespearean jester, possessive of a strange understanding and omniscience beyond the expected, cut with an amazing way for words and knack for comedy. He also works out as the de-facto leader, such as the group requires, his hosting of the fabulous Roderick on the Line or his contributions to the Back To Work podcasts showing his commitment to the format, even though these weren’t begun anywhere near when YLNT was. These intermingling personalities mesh fabulously, the threesome developing into far more than the sum of their parts, allowed to release ideas and thoughts they wouldn’t tell a co-worker, but might tell a podcast audience.
A fabulous interplay and astounding synchronicity of thought is the truest key to this wonderful show though. There is a level of restraint, respect and community running through every show, but never to the detriment of it’s comedy. Individually and as a unit, they know there is always a pay off round the corner, but who exactly makes the fastest joke is of minimal consequence. This lack of obsessive competition is a mark of them not being comedians, but also means the show harnesses an atmosphere of openness, reflecting their emotional awareness, as well as an extra willingness towards honesty. Whilst rarely brutal or painful, the pursuit of honesty in a podcast remains a fabulous route to comedy, alongside taking a certain measure of humility and perspective to be able to express this in such a resolutely charming way. Working beautifully alongside this co-operative emotional hygiene is their unified drive towards ludicrous falsehoods and misinformation, their games of bluff so fleshed out and poker-faced that you quickly begin to think that maybe what they’re saying is actually true, and before you know it you’re actually doubting your own perception of reality. Frequently too, these blatant falsehoods spawn into whole episodes of spiralling confusion, for example the baby butlers of ‘The Tux Age’ episode, wherein an initially throwaway comment quickly escalates, becoming more and more complex, forged into an alternate history so strangely rich and laid out that it could be a sketch of the highest order. But the fact that it isn’t is testament to their continual strength and a constant credit to the show. The simplicity of the format allowing them a freedom and space within which to roam, allowing jokes to flow around this, retaining it’s nature with an amazingly clear head and ever-impressive humour. It’s really great stuff, and I could eulogise all day, but I’d probably never get close to how good it truly is.
You Look Nice Today is over on that iTunes or at youlooknicetoday.com. They’re on twitter, @hotdogsladies (Merlin), @lonelysandwich (Adam) and @scottsimpson (self explanatory). It’s always a pleasure, and new every second of the month. You’re having fun already, don’t lie, go listen!