Comedy

INTERVIEW: Show of the week – Dead Drunk Detective Podcast 

This weeks show of the week is a live recording of a comedy podcast called Dead Drunk Detective which have their show at Leicester Square Theatre. Tickets at £7 and it starts at 7pm on the 28th September. I caught up with Brendan, Katherine and Edmund about the show and all things podcast.

Hey everyone! Tell us about yourself to introduce you to our readers.

Brendan Way: My name is Brendan and I am the writer and creator of podcast sitcom, Dead Drunk Detective.

Katharine Kerr: I’m a writer and audio / podcast producer with a background in radio. I started out producing station sound and ended up running a busy production team across some of the UK’s biggest networks. These days I’m a freelance podcast and audio producer. With Fresh Air Production I created the first ever “National Trust Gardens” podcasts last year, as well as “Parliament Explained” and am currently working with Historic England on their new show “Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places”. In my free time Edmund and I run Podcast Adventures. We make shows just for the fun of the collaboration, and to share some of the production skills we have with creative people who want bring their work to life. Our mission (and motto!) is to make good things with good people.

Edmund Fargher: My name’s Ed, I’m a producer of Dead Drunk Detective and co-founder of Podcast Adventures.

Tell us about Dead Drunk Detective?
BW: Dead Drunk Detective is a zombie comedy noir. Like most crime shows, the lead detective is an alcoholic BUT in our case, he’s also a zombie! Each week, we have Detective Johnny Stumbles solving crimes in a district where the suspects are literally monsters. So he’s met The Devil, the Bogeyman, Dracula. In the new series, he meets Frankenstein. Basically the series is like the monster movie crossovers Universal are trying to make, but with more puns.

“The comedy podcast landscape is vast, but I don’t think it’s any more vast than any other “comedy landscape” (for a lack of a better term). You’ve got to approach it like you do any endeavour really” – Edmund Fargher

Where did the name and idea come from?
BW: At some point during university, two words clashed together that sparked an idea in me: ‘Zombie Noir’. I realised the comic potential in that concept immediately and wrote a script in an afternoon for fun. A few years later, I rediscovered the episode, laughed, and realised there might be a series in this. There was and now we’re about to record season two!

The show was originally titled Dead End. That would have been the name of the town where Johnny solves crimes. However, it was quite a generic title, so (I think it was) Ed who suggested the more prosaic Dead Drunk Detective.

EF: A quick bit of research revealed that Dead End was actually a pretty common name for podcasts about anything from zombie fandom to death metal groups. So for brand-strength I suggested Dead Drunk Detective as it does exactly what it says on the tin like Ronseal Quick Dry Woodstain.

BW: It’s the show’s elevator pitch! Our lead is dead, drunk, dead drunk, and a detective.

EF: It also played in to Brendan’s (and indeed the show’s) love of puns and wordplay in that way. While that is evident to anyone that listened to the 1st series, it’s good to give the audience a bit of fair warning there!

For people who haven’t been to a live podcast show before what can they expect?

EF: Well, we like to turn our live events in to a bit of a variety show. As well as recording the Dead Drunk Detective episodes of the podcast in costume (meaning we’ve had everything from were-wolves to goblins on stage before), we also have a line-up of stand-up and character comedians that come and perform for our audience. It’s really fun for us and it means that we’re giving the audience a proper show!

This year we’ve got great stand-up performers like Georgie Morrell, Katie Pritchard and Melanie Gayle as well as wonderful character performers like Bentley Browning and Charlie Martin aka “Dante”!

What advice would you give for people that want to create Podcast? 
KK: Editorially: think about your audience all the time. Talk to them in their language, make it a diverting listen, use sound creatively and be considerate to the environments this will be consumed in. Be consistent in what you do and when you release (if you want it to be a hit, that is). And if you’re looking for a hit, use social media and promotional tools to make sure as many people hear it as possible. Oh, and keep the length down to something manageable.

EF: Dead Drunk Detective episodes are all approximately 10 minutes each, which means you can listen to the whole interrupted narrative in a bus-ride. Don’t be afraid to “kill your darlings”. Keep it trim and sweet.

KK: Your listeners have made a commitment and will engage deeply with your content, so do a proper edit and cut out the waffle that’s ‘just for you’.

In terms of Sound: Start with the best kit and environment you can get. There are a few decent, affordable options out there so do some Googling and go on the forums. Recording a room with some soft furnishings, minimal background noise and a bit of homemade sound dampening if you need it. Also, invest decent time in editing and mixing your content. To paraphrase Coco Chanel, whom I have nothing else in common with: “Mix shabbily and they remember the mix. Mix impeccably and they remember the content.”

What’s the best thing about performing comedy? 

BW: It feels good to make people feel good. It’s fun to be silly and have others enjoy your nonsense.

EF: I get a kick out of the camaraderie of it, too. Particularly when you are in a cast and/or crew of something coming together for a common goal. You end up feeling like you were in the trenches together. The Dead Drunk Detective cast have a very special place in my regard, in that way.

And there’s also something special about delivering a satisfying emotional narrative in the middle of a comedy that the audience doesn’t expect. Just because it’s a comedy doesn’t mean it can’t have pathos, but audiences don’t always expect that. And when they get surprised by it and make that “aww” noise; that’s very fulfilling. I think I’m an emotional vampire.

What are your warm up routines / pre gig rituals that you do before going on stage to do a podcast?

EF: Well, it’s quite important to do a vocal warm up with the cast, and that includes physical things that help stretch out the back and warm up the diaphragm a bit. It’s also fun to do some classic improv exercises, since the cast is made up of entirely improv comedians. Everyone knows them and everyone responds to them. We have to pick the games carefully, though.

BW: Last year we played, Eight Things. This year, we’ve fourteen performers in our first recording session, so that may be a bit impractical – if we take the time to list one hundred and twelve things, the show will start late.

EF: Yeah, we don’t won’t have time for that this time, sadly.

“think about your audience all the time. Talk to them in their language, make it a diverting listen, use sound creatively and be considerate to the environments this will be consumed in” -Katharine Kerr 

Which other podcasts do you listen to and why? 
BW: One reason I wanted to do this series was Thrilling Adventure Hour. It’s an American show of serialised radio dramas done in the style of yesteryear, so there was a Western; a morality tales from a hobo travelling in boxcars; a pair of drunk socialites fighting supernatural threats. These stories were recorded in a monthly cabaret which sounded so fun that I wanted a night like that. So now our live shows – a mix of episodes and comedians – have that same feeling of a variety night.

EF: I’m totally addicted to Comedy Bang Bang and Off Book, which are both improvised podcasts from Earwolf, but I also love to listen to our home grown improv podcasts like Yes Bot, Destination, Improv London, The LIL Show etc. Then there’s podcasts like The Bugle and Wooden Overcoats and I adored S-Town and Serial. Plus, there’s a special place in my heart for banter podcasts like Smodcast, How Did This Get Made and The Ricky Gervais Podcast. I’m a bit of a podcast addict, really.

KK: I’m big on factual stuff. Of course the BBC were one of the first to use podcasting to deliver on-demand versions of their radio programmes so the World Service Documentary or the The Why Factor & Our Man in the Middle East are / were great. I also like Radio4’s Farming Today and Open Country, even though I live in the city. These programmes are great for expanding your understanding of life within your own country and beyond.

Of course at the other end of the spectrum I will listen to anything that looks like it has a unique idea, or search for topics I want to know more about in the podcast app. Even if these programmes are made by amateur producers, if you get over the sound quality there are often really intriguing insights and stories from people closest to the subject matter. Recent examples I’ve listened to are about people who jacked in their day jobs to try something new, a programme about the philosophy of work.

There are some really brave programmes to be found about love and sexuality too – pushing the boundaries of what people are comfortable discussing and taking ideas into this intimate listening space. Will Young is doing a nice one called Homo Sapiens. And I tried listening to ‘Guys we Fucked’ the other day, which I didn’t expect to get on board with, but I just liked the presenters and wanted to hear what they had to say.

I have to say I also really enjoy LSE’s Public Lectures, although it’s literally just a rip of the audio from the event so it’s not really a produced podcast per se. They have started doing the IQ episodes though which are really nice. So many of their lecturers and staff are so good at doing engagement and presenting they can talk about complex stuff in straightforward, engaging terms.

And having said I’m big on factual, the show I’ve been storming through this week is Homecoming (Season 2). Beautifully produced, completely immersive, wonderful performances and great suspense. And I do not go in for the whole mystery thing. I also really enjoyed Panoply’s Life:After too. It had me crying in the street.

Who are your comedy/ improv inspirations ?
BW: Style-wise, I’m indebted to I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, a Radio 4 comedy series from the sixties. Their scripts were filled with lots of wordplay and each show ended with a long homage or spoof. Dead Drunk Detective is essentially my attempt to recreate those. I’m not the only one inspired by them– John Finnemore (whose writing I also love) ends each edition of his sketch show with a pun-filled story too.

EF: I’m a big fan of old school comedy sitcoms and sketch shows, which Dead Drunk Detective definitely shares a genealogy with. Things like The Two Ronnies and Monty Python’s Flying Circus definitely have the big characters and the silly love of wordplay, which appealed to me in the script. There’s also an innocence about shows like The Two Ronnies that Dead Drunk Detective shares too. Then there’s Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses, but I’m also a fan of more modern stuff like Spaced, Parks and Recreation, Community, Rick and Morty. Those are all great examples of modern sitcoms that deliver on the emotional pathos as well, I think.

 

“It’s the show’s elevator pitch! Our lead is dead, drunk, dead drunk, and a detective.” – Brendan Way

Tell us about the writing process?
BW: I start stupidly simple. I list a bunch of crimes. I list a bunch of monsters. I then start matching some of them up. So, in season one, I paired up ‘theft’ and ‘Icabod Crane’ because I thought it would be funny if the Headless Horseman once again lost his head. I pick additional monsters to be suspects and culprits. I write an outline of each episode so I know where to drop clues. I might jot down some jokes at this point, but really I discover most of them organically when joining up the dots through writing full drafts.

Where do you gain inspiration from?
BW: The cast. I ask some of them to do roles because I know they can do a range of funny voices. Others I cast because I know they can nail one specific thing or stock character. However, frequently they surprise me and bring something to a part that I love so much that I end up reprising the character in a subsequent series.

EF: On a production level, I find it encouraging that shows like Wooden Overcoats are out there. It’s great to see a low-budget podcast sitcom being so well produced and so positively received.

There are many podcasts out there specifically about comedy, do you think there are too many?
BW: Not at all! They can cover different things. It’s like how Stuart Moses’ Improv London podcast and Chris Mead’s Yes Bot can both exist. Whilst the latter interviews people who have been improvising for decades, the former may chat to someone who has been playing for less than a year. Occasionally a newbie may express something more succinctly than the professional.

EF: Plus, the comedy podcast landscape is vast, but I don’t think it’s any more vast than any other “comedy landscape” (for a lack of a better term). You’ve got to approach it like you do any endeavour really (comedy groups or stand-up or movies or TV or whatever) and ask yourself what makes this project different? What’s our hook? Then you lean in to that hook and offer your product to the marketplace as something that you can’t get anywhere else. In podcast terms, that might mean resisting the temptation to list the podcast as “Comedy” if you can help it, for instance. It may be more helpful to list it as “Drama” or “Factual” or “Special Interest” or whatever applies. A friend of mine records an American podcast called Unlimited Lives which is hosted by a bunch of comedians. It found its footing, however, because they talk about video games the whole time and therefore listed “Gaming” as its genre rather than “Comedy”.

So, I don’t think there are too many, but the more there are, the more you have to think outside-the-box as to what your podcast is actually offering to the listener.
 
New technology is ever evolving – with 360 video etc – what do you think the new technology for podcasts will be and why?

KK: If we’re talking about podcast audio, I am not sure it will be something huge and Apple-like that moves this forward, unless they can reinvent the human ear. Mind you…. they probably will now, won’t they?

Lots of clients get excited by binaural recording because it promises a deeper, more immersive headphone listening experience. But I don’t think any sort of fancy kit can make up for a well-told story that plays to people’s emotions and concerns. Instead, I think it’s the support and accessibility of kit that will make a difference. A good sound doesn’t hurt though, nonetheless.

I would say the most powerful tech innovation we can look for in podcasts in the future would be one that helps the masses make better quality programmes. More and more people are making podcasts with no experience at all, and so many have excellent stories to tell. If there are more innovations in affordable mics, easy to use software and sound dampening that means people BEGIN with an infinitely better product.

I also think exposure is key in the success, growth and continuation of many podcasts so having the mainstream media engage more to share these programmes and open non-podcast listeners to the medium have a big role to play. Oh, and analytics. Apple have promised a much more comprehensive analytics experience later this year so creators will be able to tailor their content and learn what works for their audiences in more detail.

It would be interesting to see – as more distribution platforms open up and start to monetise with ads, sponsorship and bespoke branded content partnerships – whether or not video content and embedded images are used more widely. So far this seems like a lost opportunity for advertisers and broadcasters alike.

And I suppose once audiences grow outside of metropolitan areas (which they will and are doing) and a wider public generally ‘gets’ podcast listening, there will be innovations in the ease of accessing this content. And with more than one platform out there now, there will be plenty of competition for the best user experience – on device, in car, at home or whatever.

Audible are doing something interesting in commissioning tons of must-listen content and putting great investment into this. Smart people. If you have Prime, you will get all their amazing new content and I know they have loads of great stuff planned. That said, I hope we continue to enjoy free information, entertainment and uncompromisingly honest audio for many years to come. We all have voices and I love how podcasting means more people can make theirs heard. It is so important to our culture to have this channel of learning, free speech, opinion and conversation, especially in the modern day.

In three words why should people come and see your podcast show?
EF: FUN LOVING ZOMBIES

BW: Early Halloween party!

If people want to find out more or listens to older podcasts where can they visit?
EF: You can find series one of Dead Drunk Detective, as well as all the other podcasts we create at Podcast Adventures at www.podcastadventures.com. Dead Drunk Detective is also available on iTunes and Soundcloud.

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