Shut Up, and Give Me Murder! A Review of “Small Town Murder,” Your Newest Podcast Obsession
If you’re unfamiliar with “Small Town Murder,” a weekly true crime-meets-comedy podcast, I’m sure you’d be a bit confused to see a request for, well, murder. The duo behind the mics are Arizona-based comedians James Pietragallo and Jimmie Whisman, who actually started their other podcast, “Crime in Sports,” first. However, “Small Town Murder” has landed in Spotify’s Top Comedy Podcast section, it’s racked up over 19,000 5-star iTunes reviews, and the guys are now about to embark on their second sold out live tour. So what makes “Small Town Murder” different from every other true crime podcast circling the web? Pretty much everything. That’s what makes it so addicting.
Pietragallo often cracks jokes about how listeners can tell the research is real because “he hasn’t slept in days,” and it’s evident when you listen to an episode. Episodes at the beginning were only about an hour, but nowadays, where they’ve made it to Episode 85, they average about two and a half to three hours. Episodes always begin with a history of the small town, and Pietragallo is extremely thorough. Stats like population, religion, and crime rate are compiled, as well as a full “real estate report” (there’s even a theme song for this part, added in upon request from fans). Research is compiled and mostly recited by Pietragallo on the episodes, while Whisman is his trusty co-host, always armed with a not-so-witty comment or a laugh. A favorite Jimmie Whisman moment include a time when Pietragallo jokingly asked Whisman why he thought people flocked to Florida in the 1800s, and Whisman said, “oil!” The two ask that you “find their ignorance charming.” Once they’ve given an overview on the town and cracked enough jokes about, for instance, a bumbling police force consisting of one man, they dive into the real stuff: the murder.
James and Jimmie do not hold back when discussing the crime. Background information is given on each person related to the story, as well as how they’ve come to reside and interact in the small town. Details from trials, lab reports, and crime scenes are often included, once again making it evident that Pietragallo spent countless hours doing his research. Episodes often vary in topic, some dealing with sexual assault and others with shootings attributed to Satan worshippers. There’s something for everybody! A personal favorite episode of mine has to be Episode 68 titled “Too Many Dead Husbands in Gun Barrel City, Texas.” If the name of the town doesn’t draw you in, the content will. James goes in depth on the life of an erratic woman named Betty Lou Beets, and how she got away with some serious crimes before her final demise (spoiler: lots of murders). Each episode ends with an explanation of where the trial ended and where the criminal is now, always with a bang of a gavel and an exclamation of, “You sir, may fuck off!”
If listening during your commute just isn’t enough, try to catch a live show in a city near you. I had the pleasure of seeing them in Boston and New York City, where crowds were lively and engaged with the guys, making it feel like a big family experience, rather than just watching two guys on a stage. Visuals are incorporated into the story, so audience members can get a look into what the towns and people look like, adding a hilarious element to the tale. Live shows are also special because James and Jimmie are extremely connected with their fans. Each live show ends with a meet and greet, and of course, it is totally free to anyone who wants to say hi and get a selfie. Additionally, supporters who donate on Patreon or Paypal, even if it’s only a dollar, are given the title of “Producer,” and their names are read off at the end of each episode. Jimmie gets the hilarious job of reciting each name, and he always manages to lovingly butcher about 70% of them. If you listen to this list each week, you’ll be able to hear that these aren’t just supporters: these have become friends to the guys. They often mention how specific fans have sent them snacks after hearing James mention a certain food (shoutout to Drake’s Devil Dogs), or Jimmie will speak up about how a certain fan has had surgery and he wishes her well.
If comedy is your thing, you will like “Small Town Murder.” If true crime is your thing, you will like “Small Town Murder.” If researching weird small towns is your thing (guilty), you will like “Small Town Murder.” Give these guys a chance, and you won’t regret it. Plus, maybe it will mean we can all get James some damn health insurance.
New episodes of Small Town Murder are released every Thursday, wherever you listen to podcasts.