With school, work and other events returning in-person, some people may also be returning to the commuter life. Some people may find that they’ve reached a roadblock with music and are craving a new medium — like podcasts — to explore in the privacy of their earbuds. Or perhaps you’re someone who’s always liked to listen to podcasts in your spare time. Regardless of what situation someone finds themselves in, the realm of podcasts as a whole is a fascinating one, filled with comedy, news, education and anything else the imagination can think of. Yet, if there is one podcast that stands out in the sea of shows, it is “SmartLess,” a program that is the perfect blend of things that listeners are not going to want to miss.
With its first episode airing in July 2020, “SmartLess” is a relatively new podcast — yet one that has rapidly gained a strong fandom. The hosts of the show are Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett, a best friend trio that has mastered the arts of comedy and casual conversation. Every Monday, one of the hosts brings on a surprise guest whose identity the other two hosts don’t know. They spend each episode’s introduction guessing the guest’s identity based on a summary of their accomplishments and interests. This helps listeners feel like part of the show, as they are learning who the surprise guest is, along with two of the hosts.
In addition, because all three hosts don’t know the guest’s identity ahead of time, they are unable to prepare for the conversation. While this may seem detrimental, in the hands of Bateman, Hayes and Arnett, it’s actually one of the aspects of the show that makes it magic. Instead of being overly prepared, the hosts come into each podcast completely natural and at ease, improvising conversation beautifully.
The witty jokes they come up with on the fly are also a blast to listen to, and only this exact combination of hosts could maintain such effortless banter throughout the episodes. Arnett is certainly the most sarcastic of the trio, always taking jabs at his pals and the guest when possible. Hayes is the quirkiest, making endearing dad jokes that warm listeners’ hearts, while Bateman — as in his acting roles — brings a dry humor to the podcast. The very distinctive comedy styles of these hosts make for a beautiful mix that keeps the show light-hearted and therapeutic for listeners who just need a good laugh.
As regular listeners of “SmartLess” familiarize themselves with the ongoing jokes, the humor ripens wonderfully. For example, Arnett is known for always eating on the podcast and trying to talk through a mouthful of food. Bateman, Hayes and even some of the guests will jump at the opportunity to berate Arnett for this habit. After a few episodes, listeners will come to expect moments like these and cherish them.
“SmartLess” also contains other endearing traditions, such as the unique outro Bateman, Hayes and Arnett have come up with. At the close of each episode, the hosts try to outdo each other in spontaneously coming up with a pun that has to do with saying “bye.” The theme song is another heart-warming occurrence — it’s a bouncy, upbeat and odd track that excellently sums up the quirkiness of the show itself.
How Does “SmartLess” Balance Its Humor with Serious, Educational Topics?
With such humor and light-heartedness, listeners may be wondering how “SmartLess” manages to discuss more serious topics that are meant to educate both the hosts and listeners. After all, that’s where the name of the podcast derives from. Bateman, Hayes and Arnett have a mission to smarten up about important current events and the personal journeys of some of the most high-profile people in the world.
Well, they somehow do manage to juggle humor and education together. While these three pals certainly slip in quick jokes throughout the episode, the humor is expertly timed, making sure to not take away from any serious conversations at hand while simultaneously lightening the weight of the topic so that the conversation is more digestible for listeners. With this interesting blend, some listeners may find themselves internalizing information even better than they would without any humor at all.
While “SmartLess” has brought on many extraordinary guests, one particularly spectacular guest is none other than Kamala Harris, who appeared on the show in August 2020. Although Harris was not yet vice president at this time, having such a high-profile politician on the show was nothing short of fascinating. While Bateman, Hayes and Arnett kept up their witty banter in a nuanced way, in no way did they impede on the abundance of knowledge Harris provided regarding politics in the United States.
Some other remarkable guests include José Andrés, the world-renowned chef who started World Central Kitchen, which is a nonprofit organization that travels the world and provides meals during natural disasters. Paul McCartney is another extraordinary figure to grace the podcast with his presence, talking at length about his journey as one of the Beatles and educating listeners about the essence of music. Lebron James also appears on “SmartLess,” describing what it’s like to be such a prominent athlete and a Black man in the United States.
While “SmartLess” does an excellent job of balancing humor with education, some episodes are naturally more educational while others are more humorous. The episodes described above are among the most informative, but if listeners would like to tune into the more hilarious episodes, listen to Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais or Jennifer Aniston — while laughs can be found in any given episode, these suggestions are among the funniest. That being said, listeners can count on “SmartLess” to cover a wide range of topics every Monday, jumping from politics and sports to acting, philanthropy and so much more.