At first glance, a podcast called Beef and Dairy Network might seem like a weird addition to the comedy and pop culture-savvy Maximum Fun podcast network. With its simple logo and the cheery straight-faced delivery of its host, it would appear that the show wouldn’t hold much interest for anyone who isn’t directly involved in cattle farming.
But don’t let appearances deceive you. Beef and Dairy Network is in fact a wonderfully strange comedy podcast, about the imagined world of beef, dairy and cattle farming, the brainchild of British writer and performer Benjamin Partridge. It’s a hard show to accurately describe if you haven’t heard it, but the distinct combination of weird humor and bone-dry presentation isn’t dissimilar from other such UK comedy cult favorites as Look Around You, Brass Eye and Scarfolk Council.
In more American-friendly terms, try to imagine if The Onion had a farming section, and you’d be pretty close to Beef and Dairy’s vibe.
Behind the podcast’s all-business demeanor lies a sense of humor that frequently ventures into the absurd and bizarre. In one episode, an investigation of a slaughterhouse owner’s non-standard practices veers from creepy to frightening to philosophical (to give you the details would ruin the fun). In another, warnings about the importance of sell-by dates on yogurt containers include an account of a trippy fever dream involving warships, Joan of Arc and Genghis Khan.
The best part of all is Partridge’s friendly and utterly (udderly? Sorry…) earnest performance as the show’s presenter. He creates such an air of legitimacy–His commitment to the bit is impressive–that even regular listeners may be genuinely surprised at where the stories go. The result is a strange parallel universe that’s almost (but not quite) like our own. It’s a world where cows can be elected mayor, regular consumption of yogurt is necessary to stay alive, and lamb is considered an evil meat.
Beef and Dairy Network is clearly a labor of love. Partridge’s occasional post-show messages to his audience seem to indicate he’s both surprised and pleased that so many people love the show. It’s wonderful that it’s found a home at Maximum Fun, a great spot for lovers of smart, creative comedy like Judge John Hodgman and grade-A goofiness like My Brother, My Brother and Me.
One can only hope the added exposure will allow Partridge to pump out more regular episodes. Right now the 18-20 minute long show only comes out once a month, and it feels like a special treat whenever new episodes appear in the download queue.