Subtitled “A History of Getting Things Wrong,” The Constant is a science-and-history podcast that offers erudite but humorous tours of humanity’s most wondrous and baleful misconceptions. Did you know that geese begin their life cycle as barnacles? That muscles give off phosphorescent rays when they contract? That drinking radium is good for you? Of course you don’t, because these things aren’t true. But all of them were accepted wisdom in their day.
In provocative and beautifully crafted audio essays, playwright Chrisler asks where wrong ideas come from, how they catch on and persist (sometimes for centuries), and how they’re ultimately debunked. Of course, there’s nothing pathological about this process; it’s called science. Physicist David Deutsch has said that “the desirable future is one where we progress from misconception to ever better (less mistaken) misconception.” The good news, as The Constant demonstrates, is that history is chock-full of examples of people getting things very, very wrong, and then eventually getting them a little less wrong.
“I’ve been making The Constant for a year and a half now, almost entirely by my lonesome,” Chrisler says. “Hub & Spoke is a unicorn: a place for independent, narrative, scripted, and produced podcasts that are entertaining and informative. I’m lucky to have found their company, and grateful that they’re bringing me in out of the cold. I look forward to making them regret their generosity at the earliest possible opportunity.”
With new episodes published roughly every other week, The Constant reaches tens of thousands of listeners per month and is supported by a robust and growing group of supporters on Patreon. It’s produced in Chicago, where Chrisler is active in the worlds of theater, improv, and podcasting and is known for writing plays such as ‘Worse Than Tigers,' 'The Art of Painting,' 'Teatime at Golgotha,' and 'Phonies, Frauds and Fakes: A Play That is Absolutely Not About My Ex-Girlfriend.'
“The Constant is a quintessential Hub & Spoke-style show in that it’s got a compelling host who tells stories that are simultaneously surprising, illuminating, entertaining, and true,” says Wade Roush, co-founder of the collective and producer of Soonish. “We’ve all been admiring Mark’s show from the beginning, and it was just wrong that we didn’t already have him in the collective. Now we’re a little less wrong.”
The three original members of Hub & Spoke were The Lonely Palette, an art history podcast from host and producer Tamar Avishai; Ministry of Ideas, a history and culture show from host Zachary Davis, producer Nick Andersen, and managing editor Galen Beebe; and Soonish, Roush’s podcast about technology and the future. Culture Hustlers, an interview show at the intersection of art and business from host and producer Lucas Spivey, and Iconography, a history show from producer Charles Gustine, joined in June 2018. Former Hub & Spoke show Hi-Phi Nation, from Barry Lam, joined the Slate podcast network in 2018. The addition of The Constant brings the collective’s roster back to six shows.
The mission of Hub & Spoke is to help all the shows in the collective grow their audiences and revenue through cross-promotion and community support. Hosts in the network will immediately begin promoting The Constant in postroll announcements on their own shows.
“It's no surprise that a playwright created The Constant—Mark Chrisler's sharp writing, perfect pacing and charismatic delivery are worthy of a stage,” says Zachary Davis, host and executive producer of Ministry of Ideas. “And though The Constant is ostensibly an unending pageant of human failure, the show overflows with such humanity and hilarity that it is anything but a downer. The Constant represents everything I love about podcasts: a unique, independent voice that makes doing the dishes the best part of my day.”