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Doug Loves Movies – The 12 Guests of Xmas 2013

Twelve presumably high comedians walk into a bar… That was basically where what I’m calling the best holiday podcast of 2013 started out. The fourth annual 12 Guests of Xmas podcast, put on by cinema maven Doug Benson, was a grab bag of elite podcasters and comedians, two of which I’ve interviewed.

12 guests of xmas 2013 john hamm

Josh Malina, Kevin Pollak, Samm Levine, Jon Hamm & Graham Elwood (photo courtesy of

The 12 Guests of Xmas

In 2010, Benson launched his holiday review, wherein guests play the “Leonard Maltin Game,” a trivia round robin, where contestants skirt the line between luck and cinema minutiae acumen to eliminate their opponents.

If you’re familiar with Benson’s three-man line up, you can imagine what an undertaking wrangling a dozen (13 this year), attention whores (in a good way), for nearly three hours must be.

Scott Aukerman, Jon Hamm (pictured), Rich Sommer, Chris Hardwick, Greg Proops, Kevin Pollack (pictured), Kate Micucci, Samm Levine (pictured), Josh Malina (pictured), Alison Haislip, Jimmy Pardo’s Pardcast-A-Thon auction winner, Sean Sakimae, and two-year title holder of the 12 Guests of Christmas, Graham Elwood, all took turns passing around three microphones. It was a beautiful mess.

Graham Elwood brought his A-Game yet again, and talked ALOT. Scott Aukerman, the first winner of the 12 Guests of Xmas, also had a strong showing, but was thwarted by “work” emails throughout the show. Greg Proops was on point as well. But the comedy medal went to Chris Hardwick this year. As a Nerdist fan, I forget how that guy can turn it on in front of a crowd.

The most surprising performance came from Pardcast-A-Thon auction winner, Sean Sakimae. I won’t spoil, but this guy quietly dominates the game.

We say goodbye to some guests too soon of course, and a few lesser voices get lost in the fray, but overall, it’s a hilarious two-plus hours of skilled comedians riffing and bruising egos.

Checking in with Doug Benson

Comedian Doug Benson has the most effective ‘live’ podcast on iTunes. A staple at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade theater in Los Angeles, Doug Loves Movies is a thrice-weekly foray into all things silver screen. It’s a happy little sound carnival full of audience participation, silly contests, high-caliber guests, and a lot of backstage ‘relaxing’; everybody gets real loose, and it makes for great pod.

Benson’s marijuana documentary Super High Me re-purposed the “Super Size Me” concept and helped cultivate his mellow but significant fan base. He took some time from his busy touring schedule to chat with me about podcasting and life as Doug Benson.

doug in hoodie

photo by Robyn Von Swank

  • Tell me about the genesis of Doug Loves Movies, and why you chose podcasting as the medium?

Podcasting chose me. I didn’t even really know what a podcast was when some dudes approached me about doing one. I still don’t know how they are uploaded because I have producers who take care of that. But I fell in love with the medium right away because you can say anything you want, without having to answer to censors or network executives.

  • I’m super jealous of the extra work you did in the ’80s. The Blade Runner thing is too cool. Did being on the set of such iconic films (I think you were in Fast Times at Ridgemont High too) fuel your love for movies or dispell the romanticism of them?

A little of both. They certainly can be really boring to make. Long hours and a lot of waiting. But once you see it up there on the screen, it’s still pretty magical. I think the reason I enjoy making and being in documentaries is that you just turn on the cameras and go.

  • How do you work out the logistics of recording live shows when you’re on the road, and are club owners typically OK with it?

If club owners don’t like it, they haven’t mentioned it to me. I’m pretty sure they enjoy the free money, because a lot of my shows are at 4:20, when the club wouldn’t normally be open. As far as recording the road shows, it’s a crap shoot. Because we have to hire someone locally to do it each time, and there have been a few who just couldn’t get the job done. We’ve had a few lost episodes over the years. Which is a shame, but at least the audience that was there at the time got to experience it. 

  • Ever thought about hitting Budget Rent-a-Car or Hertz up for some sponsor money? There’s a bevvy of aligned interest going on there. What’s your take on podcast sponsorship in general?

Podcasting has increased my popularity in general, so I don’t mind not making money at it. But as long as I can, I should, right? So Doug Loves Movies has a couple sponsors now, but those are companies that figured out podcasts are a good place to sell their stuff. They came to us. So what I’m saying is that if a rental car company wanted to sponsor my “Rental Car” episodes, I’d be down with that.

  • Your fans play a big role in the Doug Loves Movies experience. Do you ever see yourself stripping Doug Loves Movies down to a more intimate studio setting?

Well, the weekly ones that we do at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in L.A. are pretty intimate, because that place seats less than a hundred people. But I don’t know what’s going to happen with the show. Over the last six years it has changed and expanded, and I’m always coming up with new things I want to try.

  • If Wikipedia is telling me the truth, you started doing stand-up on a dare. Your movies (even your podcasts to some extent) have the same air to them. How much of your motivation comes from people (figuratively and literally speaking) telling you you can’t do something?

I never thought about it like that before, but I have had a rebellious life. I just do what I want to do, and try not to bother anybody.

  • What does John Lithgow smell like? I’m guessing there’s some aftershave going on, but it’s intriguingly subtle.

I didn’t get a good whiff. I try not to inhale through my nose around people, because you never know what you’re gonna get. I think Forrest Gump’s mother said that.

  • What’s up next for Doug Benson?

Gonna try my hand at a web series with the nice folks at JASH. It’s gonna be called “Getting Doug With High.” From the title alone, I’m sure you know what’s gonna happen on it. And I’m hoping my next movie, “Chronic-Con,” comes out sometime next year.