Obsessed with Obsession

Minneapolis comedy mainstay Joseph Scrimshaw tries his hand at podcasting.

Local writer and comedian Joseph Scrimshaw performs during Rockstar Storytellers: The Next Level on Sunday at the Bryant- Lake Bowl. Scrimshaw will be back at Bryant-Lake for a live recording of his podcast, “Obsessed”, on Friday.

Blake Leigh

Local writer and comedian Joseph Scrimshaw performs during Rockstar Storytellers: The Next Level on Sunday at the Bryant- Lake Bowl. Scrimshaw will be back at Bryant-Lake for a live recording of his podcast, “Obsessed”, on Friday.

Tony

 

What: “Obsessed (with Joseph Scrimshaw)” with guests Lauren Anderson and Jeremy Messersmith

Where: Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater

When: June 8, 7 p.m.

Cost: $12, $10 with Fringe button or CONvergence badge

  

When comedians decide to delve into the increasingly crowded world of podcasting, they have to decide how to make the show stand out: Scott Aukerman turns the standard talk show format into a mish-mash of improv games, Marc Maron conducts probing and emotional interviews, the Sklar Brothers deal in the same sports/comedy nerd talk they used on Cheap Seats.

For local actor, writer and comedian Joseph Scrimshaw, podcasting is all about obsession.

“I wanted to do something that was specific but still relatable,” Scrimshaw said. “Everybody’s obsessed with something, but the obsessions that I’ve been talking with people about are so ridiculously specific that it’s also novel.”

That idea drives “Obsessed.” Since February, Scrimshaw has released five episodes of the podcast, which usually consist of a monologue about Scrimshaw’s own obsessions and a conversation with another local artist or performer about one of theirs.

The angle plays into Scrimshaw’s identity as a self-described geek-flavored comedian, but his own nerdy obsessions can only go so far toward making a unique show.

“When I was a kid, if you knew a lot about ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Doctor Who’, you were covered in your geek knowledge,” he said. “But now it’s become so huge that there’s not a body of knowledge that everyone can agree on. So everybody can be a geek.”

With “Obsessed,” Scrimshaw wants to delve into this uncharted geekdom. He’s talked with guests about everything from presidential trivia to the movie “Stand By Me” to the Super Grover Muppet. For this latest recording, Scrimshaw is slated to talk to Brave New Workshop’s Lauren Anderson about elephants and Jeremy Messersmith about his penchant for mushroom hunting.

Scrimshaw said that he is interested in very specific obsessions and how they manifest themselves in his guests’ everyday lives.

“[With ‘Star Wars’] I can buy action figures, I can buy posters, and I can buy t-shirts,” he said. “But once you get into these weirder concepts, what do you do with these feelings of adoration? How do you express it?”

Every episode of “Obsessed” is recorded live. This sets it apart from most other comedy podcasts, which churn out episodes at a higher rate because they are recorded privately and save live tapings for special occasions.

The live setting gives “Obsessed” a different rhythm. The conversation is looser, and the laughter and other noises from the Bryant-Lake Bowl give the podcast atmosphere.

   A live crowd also opens the door for more audience participation. Every third episode of “Obsessed” finds Scrimshaw inviting a random member of the audience up on stage to talk about one of their obsessions. Scrimshaw said that these interviews are even more spontaneous because he never knows what the audience member’s obsession will be.

One episode featured a local attorney named Paul who likes to pull over and remove small advertisements from highway medians and freeway entrances.

No matter how neurotic, Scrimshaw said that learning about these different obsessions is valuable because it helps him understand other people and his own obsessive personality better.

This is encapsulated best in a monologue from the third episode of “Obsessed,” in which he talks about watching his wife knit.

“As an obsessive person, I like to be able to see that passion from the outside. I watch my wife knit, and I realize that’s what I look like when I’m playing a video game,” he said. “Only by staring at other people can we truly stare at ourselves.”