I can’t believe I’m spilling the beans on this, it’s hard enough to get in as it is, but this is something so wonderful I can’t help, but try to get the word out.
I realize a lot of people may not know what this is, so I’ll give a brief description. The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a podcast. Now before you go flitting off to another page, I’d like to explain that I’m not a big podcast person. I only subscribe to 4 podcasts and I don’t even listen to every episode of them. Except for Thrilling Adventure Hour.
It’s made to sound like an old style radio program, telling a narrative, with about 5 different segments hat are regularly in rotation. They record in front of a live audience (their current home is the Largo in Hollywood) and have gotten some huge names (at least by nerd standards) to guest and even recur. Live, the shows run about an hour and a half, and they record a few segments, but listening to the podcast week by week, the segments range from about 20 to 30 minutes. It’s a comedy and it’s never failed to make me laugh and I want to be the writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker when I grow up. And yes, those are their real names.
Anyway, these are the 10 moments that stood out to me, though there are many amazing moments and I’m sure I managed to leave out some of the best ones:
10. Marc Evan Jackson Laughs So Hard He Can Barely Sing the Sparks Nevada Theme
One of the fun things about seeing the Thrilling Adventure Hour in person is that you see what the people are laughing at, something you miss when listening to the podcast and are trying to figure out what was happening on stage that was so hilarious, but in this moment you knew what was so goddamn funny.
Paul F. Tompkins appears in the episode, disguised as Croach, Sparks Nevada’s martian deputy, and when it came time for Jackson to sing the Sparks Nevada theme song, Tompkins’ one liners made Jackson (and the audience) laugh so hard, he was barely able to sing. It’s like Saturday Night Live; sometimes it’s funniest when the actors actually break character and go into fits of laughter themselves. You can really relish Jackson’s enjoyment of Tompkins’ performance.
9. Karen Gillan Appears as the Timekeeper
I never liked this segment as much as I thought I should. It’s about time travel, I usually eat that shit up. I didn’t dislike it, I just wasn’t over the moon about it, the way I was with some of the other segments.
It later occurred to me that the reason it wasn’t one of my more favorite segments maybe had something to do with the fact that it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be Doctor Who (I want everything to be Doctor Who).
But when they managed to book Karen Gillan, recent companion Amy Pond from Doctor Who, they Doctor Who’d up the whole segment, making references all throughout. It was glorious.
And Gillan was wonderful as always.
8. Amelia Earhart Saves Billy the Kid from Nazis
From Amelia Pond to Amelia Earhart. This segment generally revolves around Earhart, who is still alive and working on a secret project for the U.S. government, tracking down Nazis who have appeared in times and places they shouldn’t have, and taking them out.
What happens in this podcast is exactly what’s advertised on the tin. Nazis have time-traveled to the old west and get into a showdown with Bill the Kid, but the situation can only be resolved when Earhart appears to take down the “dirty Krauts.” A semi-chauvanistic Billy the Kid flirts with a disinterested Earhart who dismisses him, but before she leaves, he realizes he actually really did like her after all, only to forget her when time is put back in proper order. It would have been kind of sad and sweet if I wasn’t so busy laughing for the duration of the podcast.
7. J.K. Simmons Enters in Style
Okay, get ready for a lot of Beyond Belief. It’s my favorite segment and I tried to moderate myself, but I always get a thrill when I hear the introduction. The segment is about Frank and Sadie Doyle, married mediums who have plenty of money and liquor, played to perfection by the masterful Paul F. Tompkins and the genius that is Paget Brewster (she’s my favorite on Thrilling Adventure Hour).
In this podcast the Doyle’s inadvertently summon a Djinn (a Genie), played by J.K. Simmons, who appears to the clueless couple in much fanfare and a total musical number, complete with back-up singers, which explains who he is and what he does. At the end, the intoxicated couple go on to ask him who he is and what he does, having very little need for wishes, liking their lives as they are.
6. Sadie Lists the Animals
Podcast #42 Beyond Belief – “White Hunter, Drunk Heart”
Paget Brewster plays Sadie Doyle with a Katherine Hepburn-esque Mid-Atlantic accent, which makes for some truly stupendous pronunciations of common words. She can take a simple one syllable word and stretch it out to four syllables long.
The brilliance of this moment is it’s just Sadie listing several animals that she and Frank have seen on the Serengeti (and may attempt to hunt). And if she can do the amazing things she does with simple words, it’s nothing compared to the complicated creatures they’ve encountered on safari. Not to be missed.
5. Tesla and Edison Encounter a Mastodon
The bulk of the episode is basically about how Edison was a jerk and Tesla was awesome (and there was something Bowie-esque about his performance), but the climax is when a Mastodon appears before them and Edison tries to patent it.
But really you could put a dinosaur anywhere in history that it doesn’t belong and I’d love it. That being said, the inventors’ different approaches to soothing the panicked furry elephant are ingenious. Really you have to hear it for yourself to understand.
4. Croach’s Entrance (After His Death)
Sparks is one of only a few segments they’ve ever done that’s really a proper serial. And as I’ve said, Thrilling Adventure Hour is a comedy, so when Croach the Tracker, Sparks’ martian deputy and (though he’d never admit it) best friend, a character who appeared in every Sparks segment, was murdered, it came as quite the traumatic shock.
Luckily, through a series of both scientific and mystical events a few podcasts later, listeners discovered that Croach was brought back to life. But he isn’t reunited in a Sparks segment until this episode (is that the word?) and when Mark Gagliardi, who voices Croach, (yeah, the two leads in Sparks are Marc and Mark) appeared on stage, you can hear an almighty cheer from the crowd.
So maybe I was a little choked up.
3. Phillip Fathom “Saves” Captain Laserbeam
Captain Laserbeam, a superhero of a fictional city, generally gets into scrapes in his segments and usually needs the power of his young Adventurkateers to get out of them. However, in this podcast he discovers that the villain, the Die-brarian, has an evil plot to…donate books to schools for children to read, and Captain Laserbeam realizes that he shouldn’t stop him.
Unfortunately, before the situation dissipates on it’s own, another superhero, Phillip Fathom (with a voice that is an exact replication of the Nolan-era Batman, compliments of Hal Lublin) shows up to save Captain Laserbeam and take down the Die-brarian, resulting in a hilarious discussion between these three and the Die-brarian’s henchman. It’s great fun.
2. Sparks Nevada Stimulates Croach’s Egg Sacs
I’m almost embaressed. The idea is so sophomoric that if someone just told me about it I’d roll my eyes and think it was the stupidest thing I’d heard, and I worry that that’s how it will come over when blogging about it, but I’ll give it a go, just take my word for it and give it a listen.
Croach’s species don’t show their feet, can’t as a matter of fact, unless their egg sacs are stimulated (even males like Croach have egg sacs). He and Sparks are threatened and the only way to get out of the situation is for Croach to show his feet (it makes more sense in context, not much more, but a bit), and the only way that can happen is if Sparks stimulates his egg sacs. Sparks discomfort and Croach’s unexpected enjoyment of the experience are stupendously performed to a hysterical script.
1. Sadie Doyle Meets the Nightmare Clown Monster
This podcast is Stand By Me‘s love child with It, ending with the Doyle’s and Frank’s childhood friend being tormented by Frank and friend’s childhood introduction to monsters, a creature that appears to them as a clown…much to Sadie’s delight.
Sadie thinks clowns are funny and can’t help but tease the monster, frustrating him until he changes his form into something easier to kill.
The monster has returned a few times always to uproarious effect, but nothing will quite compare to that first meeting. It was so fresh and unexpected (not that I don’t still laugh every damn time I listen to it). Perfect acting, perfect writing, perfect.
Sadie’s my hero.
And that’s without even mentioning the Red Plains Rider, Sparks Nevada musical, or the fairly regular appearance of Nathan Fillion. Plus, they recently recorded a video of a concert show, are making a behind the scenes web-series, and have even come out with a comic book.
I always want to listen to the podcast Mondays on my lunch break, as soon as it comes out, but that usually results in my laughing like a nutcase, which I try to stifle, so it turns into this disquieting splutery-choking noise. Worth it.
Speaking of worth it, I have only seen them live on a few occasions. I saw their Comic-Con panel, one of the shows they did that weekend (I found out Misha Collins was guest starring at one and that made the selection of which performance to attend much easier), a Beyond Belief segment at the Egyptian, and the Halloween special they did on October 30, and they were all wonderful. I really do suggest seeing it live, but be prepared.
The Largo is a small venue and you have to get tickets months in advance. And the lot’s kind of pricey, so try to arrive early and park on the street. But you do get to spend the entire drive down, cheering “it’s time for the Thrilling Adventure Hour!”