The Last Podcast On The Left (LPOTL) is a Webby Award-winning comedy/true crime/horror podcast hosted weekly by Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski. LPOTL was launched in 2011; a massive library of over 300 episodes is available to listeners at no cost, ranging in subject matter from 9/11 conspiracy theories to the love life of H.H. Holmes and everything in between. In addition to true crime, LPOTL covers urban legends, ghost stories, historical lore, aliens, creepypasta selections from the internet, bizarre stories provided by the show’s listeners and more. If it’s strange, macabre or gruesome, the odds are the hosts have talked about it.
LPOTL has amassed a huge, devoted following as it has increased in popularity. Kissel, Parks and Zebrowski are committed to delivering an excellent new episode each week to the podcast’s fans, and the fans have shown their appreciation. Largely through financial contributions submitted to LPOTL through Patreon, the three hosts have established a steady enough revenue stream to allow them to go on tour, performing live shows both in the US and abroad, and to devote more time to the podcast itself. However, while paid Patreon subscribers are able to access certain content, have early access to tickets to live shows and enjoy other bonuses, subscribing to the podcast itself is free, and there is no cost to access any of the 300+ episodes.
Now approaching their eighth year working together on the podcast, Parks, Kissel and Zebrowski (Zebrowski joined Kissel and Parks during the third episode) have truly hit their stride, with their three personalities shining through. They exchange back-and-forth banter which brings a good dose of levity to the incredibly dark topics they discuss. For example, while discussing the team of police officers assigned to finding the BTK killer, who apparently referred to themselves as “the Ghostbusters” or “the Hot Dog Squad,” Zebrowski invented the character of Detective Popcorn, a fan favorite. Detective Popcorn, who is, in fact, made of popcorn and wants to bring buttery goodness to the world, has been a recurring character ever since, making several appearances in other episodes. Other beloved characters include Spring-Heeled Jack, Terry the Gnome, Nannie and Minnie (victims of H.H. Holmes) and Zebrowski’s unique take on Charles Ng and his love of spin-kicks, plus what he brings to his friendship with Leonard Lake.
Of course, not everyone agrees that true crime and comedy should go together, and some critics insist that there is no room for joking when discussing gruesome, depraved crimes, even if the jokes are directed solely at the expense of the perpetrators and not the victims. One of the reasons that LPOTL has been so successful is that the hosts are not limited by what is and is not considered appropriate. This is not to suggest that the hosts are callous, disrespectful or cavalier, and they do not engage in victim blaming. The podcast is intended for mature listeners and with good reason; more often than not, it’s explicit. As a result, the podcast is not for everyone. But for those who appreciate black comedy and are not too offended by Ted Bundy jokes, it’s the perfect mix of being provided with organized, factual information and insults directed at serial killers.
Zebrowski often finds himself in free speech jail as a result of his “unpredictable” comments and hot takes. Zebrowski is an actor and a comedian, and he also touts himself as being a proud Satanist, ready to bring some Luciferian truth to the world. If his commentary is too offensive, that’s just him being “2 real,” which is his other most commonly used podcast nickname. In other words, occasionally, Zebrowski does in fact offend a listener or two, whether by making a joke deemed to be in poor taste or doing an impression of someone that’s considered to reinforce a negative stereotype (for example, “Video Confession Killer” Charles Ng), but for most of the podcast’s fans, Zebrowski is hilarious and it’s his no-holds-barred style that makes him so funny. His humor is always good natured and his comments are never malicious. The majority of the people who Zebrowski makes fun of are serial killers who tortured and abused innocent people, like Dennis Rader, Henry Lee Lucas, Ken Bianchi and Angelo Buono, to name a few.
Speaking of Ken Bianchi, one half of the infamous Hillside Stranglers, Bianchi apparently listens to LPOTL, or was at least made aware of it after a series on the Hillside Stranglers, allegedly comprised of Bianchi and his cousin, Angelo Buono, was released. Bianchi, who is incarcerated, reportedly was unhappy with the way he was portrayed by the podcast and supposedly threatened to sue the hosts for defamation of character.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Over 300 Episodes Have Been Produced Since The Podcast’s 2011 Inception, Focusing on Topics Including Cults, Serial Killers, The Paranormal, Government Conspiracy Theories, Creepypasta, Aliens, Cryptids & More
The LPOTL team is able to deliver a brand new podcast on a weekly basis (with a few extremely rare exceptions due to scheduling), which is no small feat in and of itself. LPOTL doesn’t just present its fans with a new episode; it’s always a well done, carefully edited episode with a narrative from Parks that is easy to follow, a good amount of act-outs provided by Zebrowski for comedic effect, and poignant remarks from Kissel. The podcast has evolved immensely since 2011, both in terms of subject matter and in the confidence of the hosts. That’s not to suggest that the early episodes aren’t good; they’re great. However, they went from great to excellent, on top of being hilarious.
“The Last Podcast On The Left, the dark comedy podcast comprised of best friends, comedians, and horror aficionados Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel and Marcus Parks is like a throwback to those Monster Squad days, offering a weekly foray into the depths of sinister subcultures and the murder and mayhem that’s shaped history. Now at their 275th episode, to discover their archives is to stumble on a breathtaking oral history of the bizarre, including such topics as the occult, alien conspiracies, serial killers, Chemtrails, demon possession, cults, poltergeists, witch hunts, true crime, chaos magic, urban legends, American terrorism and Bigfoot. Their deeply informed yet juvenile banter surrounding every facet of culture that’s sick, depraved or simply weird is a nostalgically morbid dream come true for longtime fans of the genre, as well as the perfect entré for listeners newly mining the topic,” wrote Remy Bennett of Playboy.com.
Arguably one of the most disturbing episodes is devoted to David Parker Ray, better known as the Toy Box Killer. A transcript of an audio recording that Ray used to force the women he kidnapped to listen to is read by the hosts. The transcript is extremely brutal and difficult to listen to; detailing the rape and torture that the victims of Ray’s crimes were subjected to. It’s explicit, disgusting, terrifying and utterly depraved. The hosts would later refer to the reading of the transcript as a “gold star moment,” meaning that it was so difficult for the listeners to get through that if they made it to the end of the podcast without turning it off, they would receive a gold star for completing the respectively cringe-filled episode.
The podcast is full of such gold star moments; crimes that are particularly disturbing. Other gold star moments include audio from actual 911 calls during which the terror in the caller’s voice is palpable. Often, after an episode containing a gold star moment is released, it is followed up with something lighter, funnier and easier to listen to. Enter the “Creepypasta” series. These are selections from the /r/creepypasta subreddit; horror stories submitted online by Redditors from around the world. Some selections are arguably better than others; some are genuinely creepy. Others are terrible. Most are just silly. The most famous example is the classic known as “THEN WHO WAS PHONE?” an internet legend, which instantly went viral. Zebrowski, Kissel and Parks laugh their way through their respective turns reading the Creepypasta, making the episodes perfect examples of the campy, ridiculous place where horror and comedy meet. Additionally, no one truly knows for sure, and it’s yet another unsolved mystery that we are left to ponder…THEN WHO WAS PHONE?
A full listing of all 300+ LPOTL episodes is available here.
2. LPOTL Receives Over $30,000 in Monthly Patreon Donations From Its Fans & Has Amassed a Huge, Loyal, Passionate Following
As with many podcasts, LPOTL has a Patreon page where listeners can submit money to the podcast or sign up for a paid subscription in order to access bonus content, have first dibs on tickets to live shows and receive merch and other goodies in exchange for their subscription/donation. At one point, listeners were receiving cow bones harvested from the Texas ranch owned by Parks’ family that he helped to collect and clean himself, and fans were delighted to receive their morbid prizes.
Unlike other podcasts, the hosts of LPOTL do not demand donations from their fans, nor do they attempt to guilt them into signing up for paid subscriptions out of desperation. Fans have chosen to generously support the podcast on its own merits; it’s worth it. Approximately $32,000 is raised on a monthly basis through Patreon. For listeners who are in a position to pay a small amount on a monthly basis, it simply makes sense to provide LPOTL with financial support. Information on other podcasts on the Lost Podcast Network can be found here.
Marcus Parks was asked by Justin Hamelin of Mangled Matters if he was able to foresee the podcast ever becoming this big and so financially successful. “I really didn’t. I knew we were onto something early on, but I never thought it would get to this point. It’s only getting bigger every day and for that we’re beyond thankful. We knew there was a market for true crime, aliens, and ghosts, you only have to look on cable to figure that out, but we didn’t know there were so many people willing to laugh at it all.”
3. Henry Zebrowski Is an Actor, Ben Kissel Is a TV Personality & Politician, Marcus Parks Is a Researcher, Editor, Producer & Musician
In addition to hosting LPOTL, Parks, Zebrowski and Kissel have entire other careers. Zebrowski, for example, was featured in The Wolf of Wall Street, starred in his own special on Netflix called “The Characters,” and also appeared in several TV shows including “Heroes Reborn” and “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell.” Zebrowski’s full filmography can be found here. Zebrowski, originally from Queens, went to college in Florida before moving to Brooklyn to pursue his career. He now calls Los Angeles his home but is still able to remotely co-host LPOTL without fail.
Ben Kissel, originally from Wisconsin, was a regular correspondent on Fox News and Fox News Radio, and appeared on several other major networks, as outlined by his official website. In 2017, Kissel ran for Brooklyn Borough President representing the Reform Party. Kissel was not elected, but his political career has only just begun. On top of that, Kissel has dabbled in acting and modeling; a true Renaissance man whose career seems to be limitless; Kissel could do just about anything and find success. As an aside, another fast fact about Kissel is that he is 6’7″ and no, he does not play basketball; yes, he does know that he is very tall.
Marcus Parks is a producer, program manager, researcher and editor for The Last Podcast Network. Parks is credited with conducting and managing the lion’s share of the research that is needed to deliver such detail-heavy podcasts to the show’s listeners. In addition, he is a musician and plays the drums with his band, The Cowmen. Parks also regularly shares mixtapes with his listeners via The Lucky Bone Show. A final fast fact about Parks is that his podcast nickname is “Dogmeat” and the origins of that nickname remain shrouded by mystery and intrigue.
4. Some of The Topics Covered By The Podcast Have Been Researched So Comprehensively That They Needed To Be Broken Down Over The Course of Several Weeks, Including a 5-Episode, 10-Hour Series on Jonestown Released in 2018
In the first few episodes of LPOTL, the hosts discuss a number of different topics within an episode, touching on each one briefly. As the podcast developed, each episode would become focused on a single topic. Instead of trying to cover all of the major serial killers of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in an hour or less, they would devote a single episode (or, in several cases, a series of episodes) to a specific person. Most of the “heavy hitters” such as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Dean Corll, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Hillside Stranglers and so forth are covered over four one-hour episodes, respectively. That way, the research is delivered fully and comprehensively without the hosts being rushed, and the listeners are not overloaded with information.
The hosts are not impervious to the information that they convey and can become completely saturated and overwhelmed by the dark and disturbing topics that they immerse themselves with. Parks told Mangled Matters “because there’s so much information involved in these episodes, anything I research usually gets pushed out by the next week’s topic, but 9/11 and the Franklin Cover-Up stuck with me. 9/11 because I had to immerse myself, and my assistants, so deeply into the subject matter it was all I could think about for about a month. I know it’s still at the forefront of the minds of a lot of Americans but seeing every side of what happened down there stuck with me, especially since I can walk 200 yards outside of the studio door and stare at the spot where the towers used to be. I did that a lot that month.”
Clearly, it’s not all just impressions and silliness, and it certainly isn’t slapstick. Being silly is part of the podcast’s appeal, but make no mistake–LPOTL’s three hosts are highly intelligent and pull no punches.
“Now the outrageous comedy of earlier episodes is compounded with a social criticism apropo to our current political atmosphere in which humor is a more vital tool than ever to disarm and agitate. One of their main missions is to belittle the bogeyman with humor, to take back power from the monsters who aim to intimidate and terrorize and cut them down to size. Horror fiction and humor are two avenues in which to exorcise our collective anxieties, which as the current pop cultural obsession with true crime attests to, is something we are craving rabidly, and it seems as though the rest of the country is now just catching up to Henry, Ben and Marcus,” wrote Playboy’s Remy Bennett.
LPOTL arguably gets better and better with age. Earlier in 2018, the hosts released an unprecedented five-part, 10-hour series on Jonestown and the People’s Temple, and the mass suicide that would take place in Guyana during November 1978. The series incorporates research from multiple sources, actual audio recordings, commentary and act-outs from the hosts, painting a full picture of the rise and fall of the Reverend Jim Jones and his descent from being a generally decent human being who devoted his life to the pursuit of equality to becoming a monster, holding the members of the People’s Temple prisoner until he destroyed them with cyanide and bullets. The hosts do a masterful job of telling the story of Jim Jones and how he was able to convince, mesmerize, kidnap and control approximately 1000 of his most devoted followers. A detailed, terrifying true story is revealed to the listeners and no obvious jokes about drinking the Kool-Aid (or Flavor-Aid) are made. Kissel, Parks and Zebrowski have hit their stride as performers, researchers and social commentators without losing any of their appeal. They still make jokes and have fun, but they are able to do so without losing any of their focus.
5. There Are Multiple Unofficial Online LPOTL Fan Communities, Resulting in Friendships & Even a Few Marriages; Fans Support & Take Care of Each Other; Mental Health Issues Are Among The Topics Always Taken Seriously
For years, there was an official Facebook page which served as an online community for LPOTL fans. Eventually, the official Facebook page was closed down by the hosts, but many unofficial online communities are still up and running, which are not affiliated with or endorsed by the hosts, the network or Cave Comedy Radio. There are many iterations of the group, which is not surprising considering that there are tens of thousands of fans. There appears to be a subgroup for just about everyone. Fans share art inspired by LPOTL, they discuss the books referenced on the podcast, they review music, movies and TV and, of course, they talk about the podcast.
For many fans, the groups and the live shows have proven to be an important way to meet and connect with other fans. Many listeners have formed lasting, important friendships and romantic relationships this way, resulting in more than one marriage. There are also support groups where listeners can discuss everything from relationships to mental health in an open and honest way. While LPOTL is a comedic podcast, several important messages have resonated throughout the duration of the show, and there are some subjects that are always taken seriously and never joked about. On the show, whenever the topic of mental health comes up, such as struggling with depression or grappling with suicidal thoughts, the hosts encourage their listeners to seek out the help that they need to take care of themselves. Parks, in particular, has been open about his own personal struggles.
Zebrowski, Parks and Kissel are extremely serious about this, and they truly seem to care about their listeners. Every show ends with the hosts signing off with the same catch phrases, such as “megustalations” (as in me gusta/congratulations), and “hail Satan, hail yourselves.” And they mean it; take care of yourselves.
You can follow LPOTL on Instagram and Twitter. The LPOTL official website can be found here. You can listen to episodes online by going to the official website or via SoundCloud on your mobile device.