Regarding ‘The Talk Show’

Dan Benjamin responds to his pal John Gruber's decision to move The Talk Show to Mule Radio Syndicate, away from Dan's 5by5 network (and, obviously, away from Dan).

I don't really have a dog in this fight, unlike some other people who seem to be really caught up in drama over which podcast is on which syndicate. However, having caught the first episode of Gruber's new, solo Talk Show on Mule, I'm not sure I like the new format. Apart from the two of them obviously being longtime friends, Dan brought his considerable skill as an interviewer to the show. Dan would always ask follow-up questions — sometimes granting premises that Gruber obviously considers stupid, like whether Apple might consider doing a different form-factor iPhone as has been rumored every year since 2007 — and keep an eye on the 5by5 chat room and ask questions raised by the audience.

In short, Gruber's a fine interviewee, panelist, or co-host, but as a solo host may be too much of a know-it-all. With Dan, listening to The Talk Show was like listening to a couple of old friends who were also a great double act: Dan the friendly, open-minded, unabashedly nerdy one, and John the cooler, more aggressive one who's most nerdy about things that are also generally acknowledged to be cool: Apple, Kubrick, drinking, and the Yankees. It's not the same show without Dan, and it may not even be a good show without him.

The way the move happened also seems like Gruber at his worst: sure, Dan's a friend, but so's Mike Monteiro. Monteiro is darker and edgier, like Gruber, and Monteiro's network more focused on drinking and calling people idiots. It also has the benefit (from Gruber's perspective) of being new and small, such that The Talk Show and Gruber are now easily its biggest swinging dicks names, whereas on 5by5 it was just one of several marquee shows.

None of this is really meant as criticism — Gruber's swinging-dick persona is one reason Daring Fireball is worth reading. But one of the joys of listening to 5by5 shows is the feeling of all the hosts being part of the same Avengers-like podcasting super-team, who listen to and call back to each other's shows, with Dan as friend-in-common and conduit. (To wit: some weeks to hear Marco Arment or Merlin Mann talking about what John Siracusa said on Hypercritical is actually better and shorter than listening to Hypercritical.) The Talk Show on 5by5 was part of a larger whole. The Talk Show on Mule, at least in its first week, is just a podcast — one whose host's whole podcasting persona is about seeming ambivalent to doing a podcast.