a) Will there ever be a point when a comedian can gain a following based solely on his/her podcast?
b) Is there a way to make a living off a podcast -- via some combination of subscriptions, advertising sales, etc.? If so, how many listeners do you need, and how many podcasts can reliably support that number of listeners?
c) Follow-up question to the previous: is the potential profit from a podcast large enough that the industry is going to get involved? I mean, it's one thing to say "I can make $1000 a week off this podcast, and hey, it probably boosts my stand-up career too. It's another thing entirely if companies can say "hey, if we market this podcast correctly, we can make millions off it." Because let's face it, the industry is not interested in getting a cut of the former guy's $50,000 a year.
d) Is there going to be a backlash? Remember 2007... a host of studio-funded start-ups shoehorning people into Internet videos, thousands of wannabe sketch comics flooding Youtube, and everyone in the world basically getting sick of the whole form at the same time.
The rest of ECN's comment and the responses are worth reading.
Also, Kiki Kapral offered an industry perspective to the entire discussion (and some acting audition tips for comedians):
Casting directors love stand-up, sketch and improve people. Actually, one of the main reasons I was hired at my current position was because I was tapped into that scene, and my boss felt that she was missing out on an entire talent pool. I can say, at least at my office, we are always rooting for the person auditioning to do their best, and we’ll work with actors in the room until they get it right. I know that’s not the case at most offices but, I feel really lucky to work with a team that really cares about the creative community and developing talent. There have been several instances over the past year or so when we’ve brought in a comic and it has been literally their first audition ever. It’s really interesting to see how different comics have reacted to such a situation. Some are extremely nervous and have a lot of trouble, and others just instinctively nail it on the first time. No matter what happens, they way I like to think about it, and the way I would encourage others to think about it, is as a learning experience. Just as each time you do a set, even if you bomb, there are still positive things that you can take away from the experience. Even just knowing where the building is, what happens in an audition room, how each office operates differently. Also learning the difference between how to read for a multi-cam sit-com as apposed to a single-cam sitcom, or knowing how a JJ Abrams or David E. Kelly script would read as apposed to a Jerry Bruckheimer script. These are all things that you can take away from an audition and use as tools for the next time.
I would also suggest to any comics that are interested in anything involving acting to sign up to be a reader at casting offices. For those who aren’t familiar, a reader is the person who sits in the audition room and reads the lines with the person auditioning. It doesn’t pay anything, but it’s a great way to see the behind the scenes process, see the difference between good and bad auditions, get to know the casting directors, and practice your performance skills. On the side, it’s also a great way to get auditions, we end up giving a lot of auditions to our readers. We are always looking for readers in our office, so if anyone would be interested in something like that, just let me know.
Other thoughtful comments there and at Part 1 too. (Just leave any comments at Part 2 so they don't wind up even further all over the place.)