Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Podcast's the Thing Wherein I'll Catch a Laugh ... (Part 3)

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast had a number of cross-overs in its line-up, which I'm going to discuss here in part three of this blog entry.

War of Two Worlds

This was an ongoing collaboration between The Thrilling Adventure Hour and the podcast SuperEgo. Honestly, this was absolutely without exception, the least interesting thing put out by The Thrilling Adventure Hour. The different styles of the two podcasts means that these episodes were both written and improvised, making for a rather interesting show - in theory. In practice, they were sort of weird and incoherent, with thin plot lines and poorly drawn one-dimensional characters. I was glad when this series ended, and a bit disappointed to hear in a recent Q&A episode that members of The Thrilling Adventure Hour ensemble hope to do more collaborations with SuperEgo in the future. I for one am not looking forward to that.

This American Wife

This American Wife is a podcast that spoofs on the public radio show This American Life (although, at least regarding the cross-overs done with The Thrilling Adventure Hour, the NPR show it most seemed to parody was Fresh Air). The cross-overs done here consisted of interviews with various actors - speaking in character - from The Thrilling Adventure Hour segments. These were pretty funny, and I enjoyed hearing some more about the characters' back stories as well as their interactions with each other. If these two podcasts chose to collaborate again, I certainly wouldn't mind that. However, there was nothing so very compelling about the concept of This American Wife that made me want to go check out that series on its own.

The Dead Authors Podcast

This was less of a cross-over than it was a plug for another project from one the show's actors, that project being the ongoing improv comedy podcast known as The Dead Authors Podcast. The episode of The Dead Authors Podcast featured in The Thrilling Adventure Hour line-up was the December 2012 feature with the authors of the Gospels, which happened to be one replete with actors and guest stars from The Thrilling Adventure Hour: Paul F. Topkins, Craig Cackowski, Mark Gagliardi, Matt Gourley, and Hal Lublin. This episode was so hilarious that I ended up going back and listening to all the past issues of The Dead Authors Podcast -- and subscribing to the podcast for all future episodes.

But let me step back a moment here and explain the basic premise of the show. Like The Thrilling Adventure Hour, the podcast is a recording of a live show but unlike The Thrilling Adventure Hour, The Dead Authors Podcast is not a staged reading but a work of improvisational comedy. Paul F. Tompkins is the host of the show, and he plays it in the role of H.G. Wells, the British author known as one of the fathers of science fiction. The show's conceit is that Wells owns and operates a functional time machine, which Wells uses to go back in time and transport now-dead authors into the present where he interviews them regarding their lives and works. The author changes from month to month and is always played by a different comedian who comes up with answers to Tompkins's/Wells's interview questions on the spot. The result is always something hilarious, although there are some episodes that are even better than others. For instance, John Hodgman as Ayn Rand was one of the most hysterically funny things I've ever heard, Kristen Schaal as Tennessee Williams was also laugh-out-loud funny, and Brian Stack as Brendan Behan had me in stitches. James Adomian as Walt Whitman responding to every question in a Leaves of Grass-style rambling poem (remember, these were all invented on the spot) was another recent highlight.

So to recap, The Dead Authors Podcast is an absolutely hilarious romp through literature in a improvisational sketch matter, although of course with some historical background done in advance by the participants and Paul F. Tompkins as the interviewer. Of course, both the "author"/comedian du jour and Tompkins roll with the punches and come up with new answers/questions as that night's show progresses and goes in different directions than one might expect. I definitely recommend this podcast for fans of literary humor as it does not fail. But even if you haven't read all the authors featured on this podcast, it will still be funny and you won't be lost. In fact, with Tompkins providing some details of the author's life via his interview questions, you might even learn something in between your peals of laughter!

Speaking of Paul F. Tompkins, The Dead Authors Podcast was not the only trip down the rabbit hole I took as I delved into the world of comedic podcasts over the past year or so. But that's a story saved for the fourth and final part of this blog post ...

No comments:

Post a Comment