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‘The Friendship Keeps Them There’: A Conversation with Ian Karmel of ‘All Fantasy Everything’

Karmel talks tour, the fans, his new book, and Anthony Edwards.

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When you think about it, eight years is a long time. Especially for a podcast.

But when you’re doing a podcast with your good friends, like standup comedians Ian Karmel, Sean Jordan, and David Gborie have been doing with All Fantasy Everything (AFE), every episode is a chance to connect on their friendship in their own uniquely hilarious way: fantasy drafting pop culture.

From racehorse names to '90s action movies to jukebox songs that would piss off the entire bar, AFE covers the entire gamut of pop culture. The trio are often joined by another guest, with whom they banter about their draft choices for lengthy 90-minute plus episodes.

It’s a formula that's built up a hardcore fanbase (the AFE subreddit has over 7,000 members) and has led to numerous live tours, including the latest, which comes to the Parkway Theater on Saturday.

“Minneapolis is an amazing comedy city,” Karmel tells Racket over the phone. “The people are smart and funny, they have great senses of humor. The fact that we're getting them to come inside during the summer is amazing to me. That alone speaks to how good of a comedy city it is.”

For Karmel, who was the head writer for The Late Late Show with James Corden, touring across the country with the podcast has been an awesome opportunity to connect with fans while deepening his friendship with Jordan and Gborie.

“I’ve been really soaking this up because our lives are changing and we all have different pursuits,” Karmel says. “As you get older, it’s a very rare and beautiful thing to get to spend this kind of time with your friends.”

One of Karmel’s pursuits came to fruition last week with the release of his and his sister Alissa’s book T-Shirt Swim Club: Stories from Being Fat in a World of Thin People. Its release has only energized the environment at AFE shows, as Karmel explained to Racket in a chat about the tour, their fans, and Anthony Edwards.

I saw a dude with an AFE shirt on at the liquor store—shoutout Lyndale Liquors—the other day, how cool is it having fans like that literally across the country?

It's insane, man. We’ll go to cities that we’re kinda worried about ticket sales, like, oh, we're in Cleveland on a Wednesday and we've only sold, I don’t know…like 160 tickets. And then you take a step back and you're like 160 people in Cleveland want to come see us on a Wednesday!

That's crazy. It's just amazing that there are so many people in all these different cities who are coming out to see us. And also, the kind of people who come out to see us are just awesome. I've had venues tell us that we have the nicest fans. Every show is like, these are going to be a really beautiful group of people to hang out with for three or so hours, because we usually do like a two-hour show and then an hour meet-and-greet afterwards. It's just very cool. 

I remember seeing how long the meet-and-greet line was the last time y’all were at Parkway. You guys really do an hour meet-and-greet?

It's usually one to two hours. I think we just did like two hours in Toronto. It was our first Toronto show ever so that was a little crazy. 

It takes a lot of you, but the way we see it, if they're willing to spend their time with us, we’re more than willing to spend our time with them. And it's always just such excellent vibes. You know, people are just very stoked to see you and take a picture. It's the kind of thing you dream about. We get to do shows for people that have been listening to us since 2016, gone with us on our own individual journeys, and have an authentic connection with us. 

How have you guys been able to make that connection?

I think it's from just genuinely being friends with each other, and that comes across when people listen. The conversations we have on the pod are the same ones we’d be having anyway off mic. 

We probably wouldn't be drafting, like, sandwich toppings, but the draft is a good excuse for us to have these conversations anyway. So, I think the draft gets people to listen, but I think the friendship keeps them there. 

That's beautiful, man. So how’s it going doing the tour and promoting your book at the same time?

Release week was definitely pretty hectic. I was probably sleeping only four hours a night, but it’s been really cool to have the book out and be on tour with AFE because I’ve been having an independent bookstore come to every venue. So every time we have a show, we’ve had a local indie bookstore at the venue selling books. [Magners and Quinn will be at Saturday’s show.] 

It’s been awesome to unite these independent bookstores with people who listen to the pod. It sounds corny as hell but I’m very passionate about indie bookstores and it just makes me really happy to have them be part of our tour.

I know you’ve been doing a lot of press for the book, so I googled to see what type of questions you’ve been getting asked. This headline from Business Insider really stood out to me: “Man lost 220 pounds by learning to eat with moderation and working out.”

[Laughs] I can’t knock the hustle because I know it is hard to get clicks these days, but that’s not what the book is about at all. The book is about the way we torture fat people, and then I talk about losing weight in relation to that and how it didn't really fix any of the things that were wrong with my brain.

I’ve been talking to so many different outlets to try and get the word out, but just seeing how each of them shape the book's message to whatever they think is going to resonate with their readers has been very funny. 

The book has only been out for like a week, but have people been talking to you after shows about it already?

Yeah, it’s been pretty amazing. It’s been really connecting with people, and some people have even whipped through it in a day or two.

It's hard to talk about this stuff without sounding self-aggrandizing or anything like that... but people have been coming up to me and saying, like, they've cried, laughed, and have seen themselves in the book. That has been all I've ever wanted. 

I really wrote it for fat people, people who love fat people, people who have been fat people—anyone who's had addictive behavior or body insecurity. So it’s been super, super cool to see all the different people that have connected with it. The reception has been more than I could have hoped for.

I gotta ask one basketball question before we go, since you're a vocal and devoted Portland Trail Blazers fan. I always felt like Blazers fans were mainly able to stay optimistic no matter what. Here in Minnesota, it’s kinda the opposite at times. How do you think Wolves fans or Minnesota sport fans in general can adopt a more optimistic West coast outlook?

Here's my advice: You got Anthony Edwards, so, calm down.

The Damian Lillard experience in Portland did not work out in terms of championships like we had hoped. But what did work out was memories, amazing moments, and this feeling of electricity every time you sat down to watch the Blazers play. And that was all because of Dame. 

The Timberwolves have a guy like that. So just like, fucking sit down and appreciate Anthony Edwards. 

Only one team wins a championship every year, but sometimes those championship teams are boring. The Timberwolves aren't going to be boring for as long as Edwards is there. I would be fucking celebrating in the streets knowing I get to watch that dude for the next several years. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

All Fantasy Everything
When:
6-7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis
Tickets: $25+; find more info here

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