Perhaps one of the best things to come out of the 2020 shutdown was Smartless, a podcast created by three Hollywood actors as a way to pass the time and connect during the year of canceled events that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Created and hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes, Smartless has an undeniably left-leaning bend, but the three friends strive to keep politics out of their podcast and focus on the funny. 

And they definitely deliver the laughs. The premise of the show is that each week, one of the hosts invites a surprise mystery guest that the other two guys don’t know about. For the first few minutes of the podcast, one host lists their guest’s achievements while the other two try to guess who it is. Then, the mystery guest is revealed and joins the fun via a virtual meeting, as the four participants are often in different cities. 

Smartless is loosely structured with random questions and plenty of jabs at all involved. The spur-of-the-moment questions from hosts unprepared for their guest result in plenty of trips down hilarious rabbit trails, as well as insight into the guest’s rise to fame, childhood insecurities, and recent family vacations. 

Guests have included actor Ryan Reynolds, basketball star LeBron James, comedian Kathryn Hahn, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, and standup comic Jerry Seinfeld. Each show usually has the vibe of old friends ribbing each other, since the guest often turns out to know all the hosts, but all three were audibly starstruck when they interviewed the legendary Seinfeld. Fun fact: Jerry still tests out new jokes at regular comedy clubs in New York before performing them onstage in front of a paying audience. He wants to make sure people get their money’s worth when they come to see him.

The liberal beliefs of Smartless’ hosts take a backseat to their jokes and quick wit, providing listeners of all political parties comic relief from the many stressors of modern life. For roughly an hour, you can tune into the podcast, tune out from your troubles, and laugh and learn while they interview successful people from across the entertainment industry and beyond. Not very far beyond, since they tend to stick to people who have acted, directed, or produced movies in some capacity, but the diversity of talent on their show makes it appeal to a wide range of listeners.

The best part is that Bateman, Hayes, and Arnett don’t talk about masks, mandates, travel restrictions, or other distressing topics we’re continually bombarded with when we read the news or access other media outlets. It’s a refreshing break into a world that’s pre-pandemic, post-pandemic, and just non-pandemic in general. 

Smartless is a reminder that humanity has existed before COVID and will continue after the pandemic is over. We’re more than a series of confusing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We’ll rise above the Great Mask Debate and not only live to tell the tale, but make jokes about it. 

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