Rating: 4.5 / 5
The Fogelnest Files, housed on the Earwolf podcast network, seeks to unearth and rediscover the enjoyable and cringe-inducing cultural detritus of the cable television and early internet era. Hosted and curated by Jake Fogelnest, former teen talk show host of MTV’s Squirt TV, current Sirius/XM DJ, and Twitter provocateur, the weekly show consists of Fogelnest and guests discussing, lampooning, and often celebrating a thematic selection from the best of cable access, commercials, very special episodes, and other forgotten but fascinating clips. These themes are often musical ranging from 90s rock and classic MTV (with guest Julie Brown) to bad 80s rap and punk on television, but are sometimes just a group of amazing and weird clips.
In full disclosure, Fogelnest is 33 and was raised in Philadelphia and New York City. I am 34 and was raised in the Jersey suburbs between those two media markets making many of his choices like Crazy Eddie discount electronics commercials familiar and fun for me in particular.
Still, the show is accessible to a wide audience. Fogelnest also focuses on the bizarre and unusual that were available nationally on cable television, syndicated radio, the internet, and in movie theaters.
In episode 2, recorded live at the Los Angeles UCB theater, comedians Paul F. Tompkins and Jon Daly join Fogelnest to explore the world of cinema. Before they get to any films, he first plays a clip from New York City public access call-in show Diddly Squat featuring callers berating the host leading Daly and Tompkins to wonder if the whole purpose was for callers to scream “Fuck you!” at the host. Fogelnest then plays the entirety of the trailer for Dan Aykroyd’s Doctor Detroit, a film about a college professor (Aykroyd) turned pimp in deindustrialized Detroit of the early 1980s. Beyond reminding the listener of the oddness of what can only be called a Dan Aykroyd joint (as well as the spate of early 1980s films about white middle class pimps), Fogelnest and his guests dissect the trailer and Aykroyd’s singularly odd persona in a manner that is both admiring of his fine comedic work but also perplexed at how such a trailer and film could be thought a good idea by anyone let alone a comedic genius. It is a fun and funny discussion that gets better and better with each clip. The group skips from lampooning Vincent Price’s The Tingler to earnestly discussing late 1970s teen films The Warriors and Over the Edge eventually ending with a funny discussion of Siskel & Ebert’s merciless takedown of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
To a degree, the show functions as a pop culture MST3K with commentators making fun of the clips. It rewards close watching and listening as well as those who remember and revere these cultural landmarks but while still providing something entertaining for the uninitiated most notably the thrill of finding something regional, obscure or marginal that is nearly unbelievable. Still, the Fogelnest Files reassures it listeners that we actually shared in the corniness of the commercial for Freedom Rock or the earnest and nearly perfect robot dance set to Paul Hardcastle’s “19” on Putting on the Hits. Fogelnest and his guests celebrate these clips as actual entertainment and the fabric of their youth, especially for guests like MTV comedian Julie Brown. She and Fogelnest explore early MTV and her career-making appearances on the channel. So, even while mocking the insanity, hubris, and single-mindedness that went into creating something as silly as The Whisper 2000, there is both a sense of reverence and historicity that is charming.
The major problem of the podcast is that so much of it is visual leaving the commuter or gym rat without a reference point even for familiar clips. Fogelnest has attempted to remedy this by creating an individual Youtube playlist for each episode. The enterprising listener can cue up the clips as need be or watch them after listening to the podcast. Indeed, the podcast begs to move to a video format or, if legally possible, television. Still, this is may be a significant problem for those unable to watch the videos while listening.
Joy is the key for The Fogelnest Files. It is often hilarious, but Fogelnest has true, infectious affinity for the clips which keep the shows from devolving into a snarkfest about how dumb we used to be. Rather, the shows celebrate the secret cultures and momentary failures of mainstream media usually shared on videotape and in college dorms (perfectly lampooned by Mr. Show as the Underground Tape Railroad). The Fogelnest Files gives podcast listeners something truly unique. Catch it before it, too, is lost to the sands of time.
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