PHOENIX - Interest in true crime podcasts is growing and now two local podcasters are hosting a very popular show with a twist.
"And really, the only thing we've got to tell the story is humor because the both of us have had tragedy affect both of our lives in one shape or another," said Jimmie Whisman. "Listen to the show. You’ll find it all, but that’s the way we handle the awful stuff is dealing with it in the vein of humor and we figure if you can’t laugh at all of this awful.. then what’s the point?"
It has been five years since comedians Whisman and James Pietragallo adventured into podcasting.
In their first year of putting their voice to tape, the two started crime in sports, where they dove into the who, when, and why famous athletes commit crimes. It's grown in popularity, but nothing like their next adventure just one year later with "Small Town Murder." It's all things murder, with a twist.
"Except funny, except funny. It sounds weird, but if you think about it, murder is obviously not funny, the actual act of murder, we don’t make jokes about that, but the idea of I’m going to kill this person and try to get away with it. There is a lot of funny in that. Sometimes the reasons are not worth it at all. With all of that mixed in you get some really weird cases."
The podcast started with just 17 downloads. Now it's in the hundreds of thousands.
In this series, Whisman and Pietragallo explore murders that have been overlooked, all happening in small towns.
"For Small Town Murder, I try to find stuff that big shows aren’t doing. We don’t like to do the big cases, stuff that everyone else has done. We try to find weird ones. Call that to our comedic credit of trying to be original, but also to the point to the avenue of less successful because people want to hear Jeffery Dahmer 37 times, people want to hear a fresh take on [John Wayne] Gacy, but we don’t want to do that. That’s not interesting to me. I look through old newspaper archives and court documents and find something that’s interesting to me or different. Looking for something weird," explained Pietragallo.
Each episode covers one murder. The two don't hold back on much. What's off-limits is making fun of the victim or his or her family.
"We make fun of the murderer, that’s where we’re going with this. Or if the police force lets a murderer walk free for 10 years, we’re going to make fun of them or a bad defense attorney. We’re going to make fun of that. We try to do everything around the murder."
"Small Town Murder" continues to pick up subscribers.
"The audience is average people. Very normal people. That’s what’s so surprising. We didn’t know what to expect. We were going to do a meet and greet and we thought this could get dicey, this could be strange and then at the end, we were like, those were all nice, normal people that I would not run away from," said Whisman.
The funny, crime-loving pair now tour the country and perform the show in front of a live audience. The attendance numbers, like their downloads, keep going up.
"People have a morbid curiosity about something they wouldn’t want to happen to them. Well, if I hear that, maybe I can shield against it. Maybe if I hear this awful story I can keep it from happening to me," said Pietragallo.
The "Crime in Sports" and "Small Town Murder" podcasts are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.
The "Small Town Murder" live podcast will be at the Tempe Improv on Nov. 19 at 9:45 p.m. For details, head to https://www.tempeimprov.com/shows/141753.
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