by Carly Schorman
The local (and loveable) podcasting duo of Jared Duran and Jason Keil launched What The Fork? podcast to document their love of the NBC television show The Good Place along with their growing bromance. But, after three seasons, Keil and Duran pressed pause on The Good Place while they waited for the fourth season to hit streaming for fans and picked up a new program to discuss in the interim.
Continuing their afterlife theme, the podcasting pair eventually selected the Amazon Prime original show, Upload, so listeners can get their Jared-n-Jason fix unimpeded. I had a chance to catch up with the team of What The Fork to talk about the changing up of the program schedule, their podcasting partnership, what other media these cultural connoisseurs have been consuming, and a whole lot more. Check out the interview below and make sure check out What The Fork? with Jason and Jared on your preferred podcasting platform!
Just to recap for our readers, what originally brought you two together to make a podcast?
Jared: If I recall correctly, Jason brought up the idea in a Twitter exchange where we were discussing The Good Place? I bet Jason remembers exactly what it was…
Jason: I think we were joking about it on Twitter (at least I thought it was a joke). I recall being in a waiting room with my wife and asking her, “If there was a podcast about The Good Place, what would you call it?” I shared the answer with Jared and next thing I know he’s sending me artwork and asking me when I can some to his studio.
So you started with The Good Place and then moved on to Brooklyn 99 but you decided to move to a different show? What prompted the shift to a new show?
Jared: We’d been discussing what we wanted to do once we were done with The Good Place, and some ideas that came up were G.L.O.W. (for which we’d change the show name to Glowing) and Brooklyn 99 (The Noice Place). We normally have a month or two of hiatus shows between seasons, where we discuss things that we feel are directly related to The Good Place, but this time we had a really long wait until the final season lands on Netflix, plus pandemic, so we decided to pull the trigger (no pun intended) on 99 because it was co-created by Michael Schur [who also created The Good Place].
We arrived at the decision to abandon 99 independently. There’s an episode of the podcast where we discussed the decision at length, but in a nutshell, my reasoning is that, with everything going on, it just didn’t seem right to be discussing a show that, while addressing issues of diversity and prejudice within the police system, makes light of and normalizes the issues of racial profiling and abuse of power. It felt hypocritical to stand with Black Lives Matter and then discuss a show where a white police detective arrests a black man without evidence or cause, simply because he doesn’t like the suspect’s tone.
Why did you choose Upload?
Jared: Jason suggested Upload because neither one of us had seen it, and because it is a thematic cousin to The Good Place. Also, at only 10 episodes, we’d likely finish discussing it just as the final season of The Good Place hits Netflix.
Jason: I remember watching a preview and immediately thinking it was a similar concept to The Good Place, so it made sense to check it out.
There seems to be an afterlife theme going here. Do you have any theories you entertain as to what might be waiting for us on the other side?
Jared: I don’t think there’s anything waiting for us. I firmly believe that this life is all we get, so make the most of it, because once it’s over, it’s over. Maybe I’m wrong, who knows? I just don’t see the point in banking on an afterlife, because there’s no certainty that there is one. It’s the same reason I don’t gamble.
Jason: Growing up Mormon, the idea of an afterlife was drilled into my head since I was a kid. Since my mom passed away in her late 40s and being a family man, I entertain the idea of us hanging out in some sort of afterlife. But I say this with all the love in the world: If you knew my mom, she would find a way to make the good place torture by finding ways to embarrass me.
What were some other shows that were in the running?
Jared: At the time, I don’t think there were any other shows in the running, but I now wish we’d gone with Undone, which also explores the notion of an afterlife, as well as blurring the lines between conscious and subconscious, and is (in my opinion) a far, far superior show.
Jason: Some suggestions I was given were shows that already had podcasts built around them (The West Wing, Scrubs). I considered attempting to once again convince Jared to discuss Infinite Jest, but previous efforts have ended in failure.
Do you watch episodes as you go through them on the podcast? You know, so the unfolding for you happens along with the listeners. Or do you watch ahead?
Jared: Since neither one of us had seen the show, we decided to watch it as we discuss it rather than watch ahead, which has been an interesting experience in today’s binge culture, and I think it has exposed some pretty glaring flaws.
It seems you are becoming experts on the topic of television. What do you think is the most important element for a truly great show? Innovative plotline? Memorable characters? Do you find one aspect more compelling than another?
Jared: For me, it always comes down to the execution. If the idea is innovative, but it’s poorly executed, I get bored and frustrated (as has so far been the case with Upload). I’ll use Hannibal and Bojack Horseman as examples, since those are what I’m currently watching. Two very different shows, but I like them for the same reasons: the dialog is smart, the characters are compelling (even when they aren’t likeable), and each episode stands well on its own even as it contributes to the overall arc of the season.
That last thing seems to be a particular struggle for a lot of showrunners lately–it’s one of my chief complaints about Upload, but it’s also a problem I had with Picard–a show I should have loved based on my love for the world it was spawned from, but so much energy was spent on driving towards that sort of J. J. Abrams mystery box season finale, that I often didn’t care about, or was actually frustrated by what was going on with the characters from week to week. A successful show pulls you in and makes you feel invested in both story and character whether you watch one episode at a time or plow through a season in one sitting.
Jason: My favorite shows (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Cheers) are character driven, which is why I think I find Upload frustrating right now since there is only one character on it (right now) I like. As clever as a show like Westworld is, I’m watching because I care about Maeve and Dolores.
Has your podcast set-up changed since social distancing took effect?
Jared: Yes, we record the show over Zoom.
What are some favorite shows of years past that fostered your love of the medium?
Jared: The podcast medium? WTF w/Marc Maron and FEaB, which was just a show where a couple of friends, Matt Mira and Scott Mosier, would sit down and shoot the shit–it’s a very organic conversation between two friends talking about their lives and the stuff that they love without any sort of predetermined agenda, which is what I was going for with Hoot n Review, and is something I think we are pretty adept at with What the Fork. Even though there’s a TV show underpinning our discussion, we just follow the threads of conversation wherever they lead. For me, it’s a blast! It must be fun for the listeners, too, otherwise our numbers would tank, but they’ve actually grown pretty steadily.
Jason: While I like many of the same podcasts as Jared, I’m surprised by how many people have never heard of Reply All. It’s about internet culture, and the way they have told their stories over the last several episodes gives me a lot to aspire to as a writer.
How about some of the podcasts that have your attention right now?
Jared: Currently, I listen almost exclusively to TV rewatch shows (Star Trek the Next Conversation, Buffering the Vampire Slayer, Fake Doctors, Real Friends (which is about Scrubs), and Gilmore Guys) and interview shows (WTF, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Literally w/Rob Lowe, and In Bed w/Nick and Megan). There are a few others, but those are the ones I either stay current with, or catch up on every episode. Oh, and one outlier, Matt and Doree’s Eggcelent Adventure, which started out as an IVF podcast that morphed into parenting and relationships–it’s another Matt Mira podcast, and I’ll pretty much listen to anything he co-hosts.
Jason: Again, I can’t rave about Reply All enough. I’ve also started listening to 1619, which is a series that follows the history of slavery and segregation in America. It’s a masterwork. And with all the cuts hitting public radio, I would be remiss if I didn’t plug amazing shows like Terrible, Thanks for Asking, a show about how we deal with grief hosted by author Nora McInerny, and Dolly Parton’s America. They’re produced by great radio stations that rely on listener support, so listen and donate if you like what you hear.
What’s next on your TV watch list?
Jared: I always have a bunch of shows going at once – most are rewatches that I pair with podcasts, but I have two primary, one serious and one primary to balance things out. Right now it’s Hannibal and Bojack Horseman. The next combo I think is going to be Fargo (which I’ve never seen before) and a rewatch of 30 Rock.
Jason: Right now I’m watching Hannibal. I’ll probably dive into Lodge 49 at some point, and finish Legion too. But the last season of Schitt’s Creek can’t come fast enough. And here seems as good as place as any to profess my love for the extreme mini-golf show Holey Moley, which wouldn’t work if not for Rob Riggle’s and Joe Tessitore’s strong commentary game. They are the Jared and Jason of extreme mini-golf shows.
What is your podcasting partner’s best quality as a co-host and life-partner?
Jared: It’s hard to pinpoint what Jason’s best quality is–probably it’s how passionate and excited he is when he gets behind a new idea. What’s great about doing this podcast with him, is that I have a weekly appointment to shoot the shit with one of my best friends. He’s always willing to follow me down whatever tangential pop culture rabbit hole I drag us into, and vice-versa. I can speak unabashedly about whatever I’m into, and any shit he gives me I take as good-natured, so it works. Doing this podcast with Jason has grown to be a much needed reprieve from how shitty the world is right now.
Jason: That’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me. And I feel the same way. I say some of the goofiest shit ever and I have no fear of judgment from Jared. And now he has an X-Box, so when this pandemic shit is over he might see more of me than he likes.
What is their worst quality? Please be unforgivably cruel.
Jared: Jason’s worst quality is how self-deprecating and down on himself he is. I’m guilty of the same thing, though, so I get it. Really, though, his worst quality is his completely unfounded hatred for Mad About You, one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.
Jason: It’s the fact Jared pushes me out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. And yes, it’s true that his worst quality is that he loves a show starring a funny guy (Paul Reiser) who wasn’t funny for the duration of Mad About You’s run.
Outside of podcasting and streaming television, what do you fellas like to do with your time during this era of social distancing?
Jared: I spend a lot of time pondering a slow, lonely death. Other than that, I’ve been playing guitar a lot, actually writing some songs, trying to do some other writing as well. I have not been spending nearly enough time reading, but I did finally decide to tackle the Song of Ice and Fire series–I’m about halfway through A Game of Thrones, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. I have no shortage of books I own that I haven’t read yet. So long as I don’t break my glasses Burgess Meredith-style, I have enough reading material to get me through years of sequestering.
Jason: Social distancing has made me a stay-at-home dad for now, so my brain is all dinosaurs and story time. I’ve also started a fairly steady meditation habit.
Both of you are quite the tasteful music aficionados. Just for kicks, since I have you here, I thought it would be fun to find out what you’ve been listening to of late (other than Squeeze).
Jared: I have a ridiculous amount of stuff, so I’ve been going through the thousands of CD’s I have, in backwards alphabetical order, to weed out some that I don’t need to hang onto. I’m currently in the T’s, and I’ve delighted in listening to They Might Be Giants, Richard Thompson, Television, and Talking Heads while I cull some of the weaker links. Other than that, I really dig the new albums by Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan, Phoebe Bridgers, Christian Lee Hutson, and Mark Lanegan. Oh, also, the two new songs released by Elvis Costello are fantastic.
Jason: I’ve made a concerted effort to embrace what the kids half my age are listening too, so I’m listening to artists like Ruel, Dua Lipa, and PELA. I still love listening to local music. And I wish people were talking about the new album by Special Interest more.
Any other projects underway that you’re working on at the moment that you’d like to shout-out to the readers?
Jared: There is a project we’re working on that I’m super excited about, but we’re not really ready to reveal that quite yet. Other than that, for me, it’s ongoing projects with Hoot n Waddle, which due to all events and direct sales opportunities being canceled, we could really use some assistance with funding, so people can check out https://www.patreon.com/hootnwaddle if they’re inclined to support.
Finally, is there anything you would have liked to talk about that I didn’t bring up here?
Jared: You did fail to mention that we’re easily the best looking podcasters out there. I’m not sure why you failed to mention that, but you know, whatever.
Jason: It’s a shame people couldn’t see what they’ve been hearing at Fan Fusion this year, but please wear your mask so you can see us next year.
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