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13 October 2021

Storytime with Seth Rogen is a fresh take on the celebrity podcast

The show is meandering, with surprising and whimsical production choices that elevate it to more than a chat show.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The “celebrity interviews celebrity” format has in recent years spread through podcasting like an unpleasant, if largely benign, fungus. Comedians, actors, TV presenters, documentarians and musicians have all hosted variations of the format, sitting down with other comedians, actors, musicians, to make small talk and discuss whatever new project they’re promoting. These chats are full of laughter but rarely funny, chummy but ultimately unrevealing. They are essentially dull.

Seth Rogen, the scruffy, endearing actor and comedian who starred in Freaks and Geeks (1999) and Knocked Up (2007), has broken out of this tired formula with his podcasting venture Storytime with Seth Rogen. In each episode, he speaks to someone with “a great story”, whether they are well known or not.

[see also: The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry is intellectual escapism]

Rogen is a very likeable personality. In character on screen and in interviews, he seems to fall somewhere between juvenile frat-boy stoner and sweet, innocent geek – a quality best captured by his laugh, which is both brash and nervous. In his spare time, he makes his own colourful pottery, including ceramic ashtrays, and posts enthusiastically about his progress online. So it seems apt that the message of the first episode is, sometimes, it can really mean something for celebrities to be nice.

Rogen interviews the comedian Quinta Brunson, a former Jehovah’s Witness who tells the bizarre and funny story of how she met the actor Paul Rudd in a cinema at a time when she was trying to decide between her religion and a career in comedy. Rudd’s sincere encouragement helped her to trust her instincts. Rogen calls up Rudd – who has no memory of the encounter, but does have an embarrassing celebrity interaction of his own – and discovers a domino effect of knock-on kindness. The show is meandering, with surprising and whimsical production choices that elevate it to more than a chat show. “It’s the end of the episode,” Rogen says, wrapping things up with his trademark laugh. “There’s nowhere to go!”

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This article appears in the 13 Oct 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Perfect Storm