Hilarious parody of Serial podcast turns to phone book for clues

Comedian Paul Laudiero and team might have gotten one step closer to solving the murder at the center of the wildly popular podcast -- by opening up the yellow pages.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
3 min read

"At a certain point in an investigation, it's time to widen your net, to reach out to just about anybody, to search for any clue whatsoever." Even, apparently, if that anybody is some random dude from the phone book. You never know where the next breakthrough's coming from, after all...

Such is the premise behind Paul Laudiero's fifth and latest parody of the Serial podcast, a whodunnit investigative journalism offering that's currently the No. 1 podcast on iTunes. It's spawned endless theorizing on Reddit threads and elsewhere online, and become nothing short of a cultural obsession. Hit those benchmarks these days, and you can pretty much expect to be made fun of.

New episodes of the Serial podcast come out weekly. Screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Laudiero, a New York comedian who operates an amusing Tumblr imagining the first drafts of classic novels, does the skewering brilliantly.

In the newest parody, titled "Serial - Cold Calls," his writing partner once again takes on the vocal cadence of Serial host Sarah Koenig to relate how she "happen chanced" upon some soggy yellow pages while dumpster-diving.

"And I thought, hmmm, not edible, but maybe useful. So I took out my phone, which is basically like a walkie-talkie, but better -- it's got more numbers and buttons, it's more confusing, but it's worth it; anyway, enough about phones...for now. I grabbed my soggy dumpster yellow pages, and just started cold-calling people."

The first cold call goes like this: "Hi, this is Sarah Koenig from the Serial Murder Podcast. I'm calling to ask you where you were for 20 minutes 15 years ago." Responds the guy on the other end of the line: "Why are you calling my house? It's 3 o'clock in the morning."

Anyone who's listened to Serial knows the significance of 20 minutes 15 years ago. That window, according to Koenig, could hold the answer to who murdered Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore high school senior who disappeared in 1999 and was found strangled in a shallow grave less than a month later. Her former boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was charged with the crime and remains in prison.

Information that came to Koenig's attention, however, caused her to question Syed's guilt and embark on an exhaustive reinvestigation of the case, one that unfolds weekly on Serial, which is produced by the public-radio show "This American Life" and WBEZ Chicago.

Laudiero creates the Serial parodies with Zach Cherry and Will Stephen, cohorts from the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, and the trio improvises while recording. Their takes bring levity to a show exploring a horrific subject, the murder of a young woman, a topic that's caused some to express guilt for finding Serial so addictively entertaining.

"Its defined tone and voice make it perfect for parody," Laudiero, a huge fan of Serial, told Crave of the show.

Laudiero and his writing partners started uploading their videos within the last week, with more planned. They get Serial down to the letter, from the kooky pounding piano score composed especially for the show by Nick Thorburn to the MailChimp ads that open each episode and are quickly becoming their own cultural phenomenon. Riffs Laudiero's version of the ad:

"You know I use MailChimp."
"You do?"
"No, never heard of it."