For the two of you who haven’t seen me running around hat in hand on Twitter, I’ve started a monthly newsletter! All the other cool kids are putting out newsletters, it felt like just the kind of thing to motivate me to get some writing done on a regular basis. What follows is a fun section from last month’s publication!
One feature I’ve
shamelessly stolen borrowed from my dear friends Wil Williams and Elena Fernandez Collins’ newsletters is a section recapping individual episodes of podcasts that have come out since the last newsletter. Since May featured my first letter, the time-span a podcast episode could exist in and be qualified was basically end-of-May through July 17th, 1991. Thus, the first installment had a more introspective look back at four episodes from four favorite shows I find myself thinking about/re-listening to on a regular basis.
If you like what you read, feel free to subscribe to the Pod Report Monthly using the link at the end of this post!
This inaugural installment of the Pod of the Month Club will focus on three episodes from three podcasts that have stuck with me over time. Episodes that will randomly pop into my head like so many unwanted thoughts (“I miss Robin Williams,” and “wow if you had made one different choice you would be sad and alone right now. Let’s focus on that for half an hour”).
For those who’ve never encountered the show before: We Hate Movies is a long-running movie review podcast (STOP, don’t close the tab, this is one of the good ones) featuring four funny dudes from New York who love movies and love making fun of bad flicks. Programming note: this episode is from the 2015 Spooktacular, a yearly event in which all episodes in October are about horror movies and feature an AWESOME alternate theme for the intro constructed out of famous horror movie clips.
Your average episode of WHM is leagues better than the thousands of lazy “some idiots talk about a movie” podcasts out there, but some episodes they encounter a movie so lame the hosts find a good bit and begin building a recurring improv to avoid discussing the movie in question. Sometimes these episode-long bits will become so powerful they become more memorable than the actual movie they’re discussing. The villain of the movie Brainscan- a demon of some sort named The Trickster- uses an evil video game to possess the kid from Terminator 2, which said kid orders from an ad in Fangoria magazine.
What starts off as a joke about how The Trickster hiring an intern to help him mail out game CDs to dumb kids becomes hosts Andrew Jupin and Steven Sajdak begin building this riff that turns into a pseudo-sitcom about The Trickster beset by problems caused by his unpaid intern Jeremy while trying to get more discs of his evil video game out in the mail (“It’s Columbus Day, Jeremy, there’s no mail on Columbus Day!”). This WHM episode (as well as their review of Abraxas that’s absolutely littered with comedy gold Jesse Ventura impressions) still makes me laugh after two years of re-listening. A goddamn classic.
The Dollop is an… interesting podcast. At its core the idea is an instant-sell: Stand-up comic/history buff Dave Anthony researches a random topic from American history (usually something ludicrous) and tells the story to his friend Gareth Reynolds, who basically is just there for two jobs:
- React to the insanity that Anthony is telling him.
- Improvise what a person would say/do in this ludicrous situation.
While there are episodes of the podcast I would recommend over this one for newer listeners, especially the P.T. “actual con-man” Barnum episode, this one about the Norco shootout has some shining moments that keep me coming back. First, it’s basically the moment where one can pinpoint a paradigm shift towards police in America being more militarized, as these horrifically inept bank robbers managed to kill and injure a lot of people chiefly because the military surplus equipment they’d purchased was stronger than anything the local police could get their hands on.
Secondly, it’s a heist movie gone wrong in the best way. Like, these people put so much time and effort into robbing a bank and the end up with fucking nothing to show for it. There isn’t even the thrill of them stealing a significant amount of money only to be tripped up during their escape… the bank was essentially empty.
Finally, one very stupid bit in this episode has changed how I act when confronted with something surprising. During this complete fuckup of a bank robbery two of the villains abandon their car and run up to a truck waiting at a stoplight. Dave Anthony says the unnamed person in the truck ran into a nearby Hardee’s (Carl’s Jr. for you western heathens) fast food join for cover, Gareth then proceeds to do an improv scene based off the idea that this guy didn’t even see the bank robbers, he just saw a Hardees and was so excited he abandoned his vehicle in traffic.
There’s a pure excitement to Reynold’s shout of “WH-OW, BAY-BE” as his goofy creation runs inside to peruse the menu (“You guys do fish?”). To this day if my girlfriend goes to tickle me or something unexpected happens when we’re together I mimic Reynold’s shout. It’s only funny to me, but it’s also really funny to me.
The Dollop yo-yos in quality as the already tour-happy standup comic hosts are want to take the show on long tours. A large percentage of recent episodes are either recorded in hotel rooms or are recorded live shows with shittier-than-normal audio (a pet peeve of mine I will speak to either in this newsletter or on The Pod Report soon). The first few hundred episodes are fantastic listening, then things become a little more so-so. Enter at your own risk.
First: No spoilers will be had here, don’t worry.
Second: I really got invested in the first season of TAZ. Like, the first time I legitimately cried to a podcast was at the final utterance of the phrase “Magnus rushes in.” That was it, the show that had kept me company during long nights stocking fridges at my old liquor store job, choosing to crank my headphones and do unnecessary busy work than deal with the slow stream of dumbass customers (“y’all got any [beer not famously not sold in this state]?”).
For the uninitiated: The Adventure Zone is a spin-off from the mega-popular Maximum Fun podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me in which Griffin McElroy hosted a three-year game of Dungeons and Dragons in which his father and two brothers (Clint, Justin, and Travis respectively) were player characters. When what’s now known as the Balance arc finally ended and Griffin announced a between-seasons experiment where they would try out new RPG systems besides D&D and, of course, the one they end up choosing to be a full season two of TAZ is Griffin’s arc.
This Amnesty arc introduces us to the fantastic Monster of the Week system and a fascinating concept for a second season: Three kooky characters from different occupations are inducted into a secret organization dedicated to protecting the tiny town of Kepler, WV from “abominations” that sneak through a mystical portal located in the nearby national park. The characters feel like the players gave a shit when constructing them, Griffin is chomping at the bit to lead them through his little world, the theme song is fucking fantastic. While it was a safe bet to say Griffin’s arc would end up being season two, there was something in me that felt relieved when the news dropped.
Thus we get to episode six, the first “real” episode of season two of TAZ. This is it, the next step on a series I’ve spent years listening to. The episode opens with an audience-only clip of Griffin telling us about a high-schooler encountering a terrifying water monster while swimming at night. As the terrified teenager runs away Griffin tilts the narrative camera upwards and describes the moon in the night sky just as the first licks of twangy guitar signal the theme song.
I was driving for work when I first heard this. Tire noise and a light rain fought the crappy stereo system for attention, it was kind of hard to hear anything at all coming out of the speakers, but when that theme kicked in I experienced full-body ASMR for the first time. The hair on the back of my neck, my arms, and for the first time ever my legs stood on end. This was it, for all the horrible things happening in the world, TAZ went in the best possible direction.
That moment is so powerful I experienced that same tingling just now writing the above paragraph. Fuck, do I love me some Amnesty.
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