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The hosts of the popular “Last Podcast on the Left” — which simultaneously makes listeners laugh while also educating them about true crime cases — have discovered over the past decade of researching murder and mayhem that serial killers have been given too much credit. Now, "Last Book On The Left" aims to strip away more of the mystique behind these killers providing readers with laughs at their expense.
While serial killer-centric media typically focuses on the murders, “Last Podcast on the Left” takes a different approach. The podcasters — Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel and Henry Zebrowski — do indeed address the slayings, but they dive into those details while also comedically illuminating how socially inept the killers usually turn out to be. In doing so, they aim to take away some of the power that serial killers wield over society and popular culture.
For example, their two-part episode on Israel Keyes focuses on his grating laugh and love of nu-metal. While Keyes has been depicted in other media as a frightening apex predator, the trio characterize him as a pathetic dweeb who wants to be considered evil.
Parks, the podcast's producer and researcher, told Oxygen.com that when the trio started covering serial killers, their intention wasn’t necessarily to pull back that curtain. However, that occurred naturally after they found that the true comedy behind such killers lies in the grotesque details of their lives.
“As we started to research these stories, we found that these people are pitiful,” Parks said. “They’re idiots. They’re assholes to be crude about it. They’re dipsh--s. That’s just what we found.”
Parks and his co-hosts were actually surprised by this epiphany.
“We had spent years watching documentaries about serial killers and reading serial killer encyclopedias where serial killers are distilled down to a short encyclopedia entry or distilled down into a 42-minute documentary, and you lose all those details,” he said. “They’re just going for the murders. They’re going for the most terrifying part of the story. They’re trying to scare you.”
Kissel has repeatedly pointed out how Ted Bundy would have loved the 2019 Netflix docuseries “Conversations with A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” because “it presented him as this suave debonair devil and he wasn’t."
“He was a disgusting, pathetic human being who returned to the corpses of some of his victims and had sex with the putrifying mess.”
Parks told Oxygen.com that while the actions of serial killers are indeed scary, the perpetrators shouldn’t be elevated into mythic creatures as they often are.
“We are of course not minimizing how they were able to destroy, collectively, thousands of lives, but who they are is by no means the monster that they are made out to be,” he said.
He added that Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen is often portrayed as “some sort of evil genius” but noted that instead he is just “a pitiful baker with bad acne who was closer to an incel than someone who might be played by Michael Douglas.”
“Last Book on the Left” carries on ahead with that very same mission in mind — exposing the pathetic aspects of killers — but in book form. Illustrations by Tom Neely — which Parks describes as having an “evil Mad Magazine” vibe — accompany text that examines nine serial killers in depth.
It describes “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz, who once terrorized New York City, as someone whose killings created “an almost-mythic feel” through his cryptic letters to the press. However, Parks noted in the book that the “famed serial killer was nothing more than another schlub from the Bronx.” He refers to him as being “romanticized in his time” but in the end “he was essentially a lovesick poseur with a talent for sinister abstract prose.”
The book makes fun of the writings of BTK killer Dennis Rader, along with many other parts of his life. Before the murders, Rader wrote a short story inspired by detective magazines. In his story, a murderer signed a letter to one of his victim’s parents with “DTPG: Death to Pretty Girls.”
Zebrowski jokes in the book, “Is he in some sort of screamo band?” An illustration of a screamo band called “Death to Pretty Girls” naturally accompanies that one-liner.
“We hope the book takes away some nightmares,” Parks told Oxygen.com. “While many of the stories are scary, specifically people like Richard Ramirez, this book should hopefully dispel some of the myths about serial killers and the venom people believe some of them have.”
Parks said part of the reason why such myths grow is because people are so afraid to look thoughtfully at what makes people killers, despite their dark attraction to hearing these stories.
“I think if people weren’t so afraid to admit that these are actual humans then the world might look a little different,” he told Oxygen.com. “People do not want to admit that serial killers are part of the same species as the rest of us.”
Diving deep into all the elements that make them human, including the pathetic and humorous parts, can help humanize them but it can also remove their power.
“These people [serial killers] want us to be afraid of them,” Parks explained. “It makes them feel good to know that there are people out there that are absolutely terrified of them and they also like to project a certain image of monstrosity.”
"Last Book on the Left" came out in April and is available for purchase now.
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