Cashing In With TJ Miller is a podcast wherein Cash Levy interviews a guest, who by various happenstance is oftentimes TJ Miller. Together they vaguely discuss things that are rarely even equivalent to the subject of the day, instead delving deep into a sequence of increasingly unhinged tangents. Dancing through strange questions, odd debates and confusing riffs, the pair displays an interesting chemistry that revolves around a shared love of call backs, stupidity and comedy to forge a podcast that is, at it’s core, a hilarious, engaging and silly romp through two people’s worldviews.
The heartbeat of all podcasting, and this podcast in particular, is its chemistry. The necessity of this synergy is focused in this medium above all others essentially because of the forms simplicity. As essentially a recorded conversation, often with little visual stimulae, rarely with seasonal breaks or overhauls in staff, for a podcast to have exceptional anchors sat at the core of it’s being is a constant boon, rescuing weaker episodes and instilling the better episodes with even more of a pop than they would have otherwise. But chemistry alone isn’t enough to make a show exceptional. There needs to be a shared approach and appreciation of comedy, a synchronicity of passion that carries the show far beyond being simply a jolly chat and transforming it into something much more powerful. So it is undoubtedly a particular stroke of luck for us that Cash Levy and TJ Miller have this chemistry in spades. Their shared joy in nonsensical and unrelenting call backs, shouting off mic and simple joy in one another’s sense of humour glows throughout the show, powerfully propelling it into one of the few truly successful two-man podcasts. They are more than friends, they are allies in the pursuit of comedy, willing and able to support each other’s increasingly farcical bits, backing up the other’s strange opinions or simply laughing uproariously at the other’s suggestions.
Another thing that works gorgeously for the show is the conceit of each shows inception, that being that TJ Miller is rarely meant to be the guest, almost always arriving controversially or by accident. This idea is played elegantly by Cash and TJ, but rarely overblown much beyond the acknowledgement of the obvious and unabashedly daft farce it is. Which of course, sets up the show beautifully. This conceit mostly comes into play at the open and close of the show, though they naturally make numerous references to it throughout, as TJ arrives variously via breaking in through the air ducts, having to act as an emergency fill-in for Sean Connery or happening to be the randomly assigned guest for the day. This layer, whilst thin and seemingly inconsequential, adds just that extra dusting of freshness to the show, as it is both an endearing and endlessly refreshable way to open the show in a way that can play out differently each week. And heck, when you have a guest quite so loquacious as TJ Miller, combining with the craftiness of Mr Cash Levy in every episode, only a dusting of the thrill of the new is required.
Much as it is a mainstay of one man shows and story-telling podcasts, a call back is much harder to really effectively pull off in the heat of a podcast as an effective and originally pursued comic device. It requires a certain fizz, a certain reason and just a plain synchronisation of thought to make them their most hilarious. This is where format becomes a key issue, as it is vital to possess the structure around which to have great call backs to be able to sue this as a constant source of hilarity. Cashing In’s format is elegantly built for such a role, revolving around a format of partially ludicrous questions penned by Levy, answers from both of them that are frequently only intelligence adjacent and all surrounded by a remit of hunting down and slaying the scattered piñatas of laughter. And scattered they truly are. What with the loose focus of the show allowing both Cash and TJ to roam far and wide in search of comedy and truth, assaulted by ridiculous questions such as ‘Oscar the Grouch: Nature or Nurture?’ that show off the casts delectable balance of form and function, or to be more plain, comedy and laughter. Offering such a preposterous trampoline as a jumping off point for variously questionable tangents, the light touch of the set-up also provides a feeling of space, accentuating the scale and humour of a call back through the sensation that far more time is felt to have passed, which also adds a pleasant aura of unexpectedness.
A podcast with a heart of silliness and a joy in foolhardiness, it is a farce from beginning to end. With Cash Levy administering questions that range from the queerly philosophical to the astoundingly daft, playing off against TJ Miller’s answers of varying sanity and methodology, this podcast is a deft dance through the expertise of podcasting.
You can find the show on iTunes or over on the Nerdist website. Cash and Tj are up on twitter @cashlevy and @nottjmiller respectively. Word up!