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While Common Sense focuses on current events (a recent episode looked at Donald Trump and the Republican presidential field), Hardcore History delves into the past. Recent episodes have seen Carlin doing a deep dive into World War I — “Blueprint for Armageddon” — with an emphasis on the immense destruction the war wrought, how new technologies made fighting more lethal and the unintended consequences of war. Carlin says he’s trying to offer a view of history that’s more exciting and interesting than the usual stories. “I like the Twilight Zone-type twists on the stories,” he tells THR.
The podcasts have picked up several awards, including Hardcore sharing the iTunes Best of 2014 with Serial (it won for best new podcast, while Hardcore won for “classic” — i.e., continuing — podcast), and Slate named a Hardcore episode one of the 25 best podcast episodes ever. Common Sense was also nominated for a Podcast Award in 2012 and 2013.
It takes just a few minutes of conversation with Carlin to see why he’s such a popular podcaster — he’s racked up more than 85 million downloads for his shows. When he hops on the phone to discuss working with UTA, the first 10 minutes of our conversation goes from the horrors of World War I to Athens’ problems with veterans and standing armies to how medical technology has changed modern warfare and then back to the Founding Fathers — all fun topics, all smart conversation — before settling back on the topic at hand.
Carlin says the podcasts had reached such a point of popularity that he needed representation. “I really need at this point in my career some experts who can really understand where the digital space is going, how it’s converging with other media outlets.” He realized he wasn’t doing a good job filtering the opportunities coming his way. UTA is “helping me figure out what’s worth my time and what’s not.”
The Los Angeles-raised Carlin comes from an entertainment family. His mother, Lynn Carlin, was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for John Cassavetes‘ 1968 film Faces, and his father Ed Carlin was a producer. Before podcasting, Carlin was a TV reporter, columnist and radio talk show host.
Carlin has picked a good moment to explore opportunities in other media. In TV, history is emerging as as hot genre. Comedy Central has had success with Drunk History, which features celebrities re-enacting historical events with a drunk moderator. History Channel recently announced it had picked up Join or Die With Craig Ferguson for 16 half-hour episodes. The show will feature the former CBS late-night host debating provocative historical questions with a panel of celebrities and experts.
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