Connor Ratliff is a New York-based actor, writer and comedian. His TV credits include Search Party, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Orange Is The New Black, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. In addition to creating the hit podcast Dead Eyes, he has also appeared as a guest on This American Life and Comedy Bang Bang.
Keeping with the theme of Dead Eyes, about investigating what it means to be unlucky, to experience repeated failures in different areas of one’s life, and still choose to keep going: below are his recommendations on six different podcasts covering this very theme in their own unique ways.
When I was putting together Dead Eyes, I always worried a little that, at its core, I was ripping off my friend Don Fanelli’s podcast about failure. Don is an extremely talented actor/improviser who has that magic combination of being smart, kind and confident, and this podcast is him talking openly with guests about failure in a way that is unashamed. He takes a topic that we too often avoid and makes the listener feel better about it.
I struggle with my weight like so many people do these days, and Ronald’s podcast dives into what that means and how it feels. Some reviews have compared this podcast to Dead Eyes and I think he and I both take that as a great compliment.
Chris Gethard talking to strangers! Not specifically a failure/luck/regret/destiny-based podcast but those themes inevitably pop up with some frequency, and Gethard is at his absolute best when he is working in a format where he doesn’t know what’s coming next.
Depending on your views on life and the universe, death can be considered the ultimate failure or stroke of bad luck. Mo Rocca’s podcast is a celebration of lives lived, enlivened by his vivid curiosity about other people. This is not a depressing podcast, despite it having the most morbid requirement for becoming one of its topics.
Nicole Byer is one of the most delightful and funny people in the world, and everybody with any sense or taste absolutely loves her. Yet, the premise of her wildly successful podcast is that she has been single for decades and wants to know WHY. (Nicole was also very helpful to me when I was trying to turn Dead Eyes into a podcast, both as a source of inspiration and very practical advice.)
Dead Eyes is largely an exploration of a failure viewed through the specific prism of my one minor show biz catastrophe; the WGA/SAG strikes of 2023 are the result of the entire American film & TV industry falling apart. Billy Ray’s thoughtful approach to explaining and exploring what has gone wrong and where we go from here has been a balm and a beacon of hope during an existential crisis for Hollywood.
Kevin Henderson wrote an 8-part existential/supernatural rom com adventure series and then happily heard something in my voice on Dead Eyes that he thought would work for the character of Gil Garson, a born loser who refuses to accept his fate. When I was a kid, my dad introduced me to all kinds of shows from “the golden age of radio” – scripted comedy from the decade or so before TV was invented, stuff like The Jack Benny Show and Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks – and I lamented that I’d never get to work in that kind of scripted audio medium. Podcasting has thankfully revived the art form. This was a great experience because it was both a paid SAG gig (the kind I was hoping my podcast would lead to) and a chance to work with a really excellent cast of actors.