Recorded live in front of an audience at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, The Dead Authors Podcast—“Unscripted, barely researched, all fun!”—showcases raucous conversations between “time-traveler” H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins) and various “dead authors.” Some of Wells’ guests have included Aesop, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, Carl Sagan, and Jorge Luis Borges, all played by comedians like Andy Richter (as Emily Dickinson) and Brian Stack (as P.G. Wodehouse).
In the episode above, Wells welcomes the notoriously misogynistic and allegedly anti-Semitic Friedrich Nietzsche (James Adomian) and the notoriously racist writer of “weird tales” H.P. Lovecraft (Paul Scheer). As the podcast description has it, “if you are easily offended, you may find this one a bit challenging.” The offense is mitigated by the fact that the discussion “very rarely makes any sense AT ALL,” and that it’s damned funny.
Both “authors” spout exaggerated parodies of their philosophies, in ridiculous accents, and (as you can see from the photo above), look equally ridiculous to an audience that sometimes laughs along, sometimes doesn’t, as will happen in live comedy. The actors are game, ad-libbing with ease and confidence and clearly having a great time. The only moments that aren’t improvised are when the actors playing Nietzsche and Lovecraft read from the writers’ actual texts. In this context (and in these voices), the two both indeed make little sense. They’ll survive the takedown—these are two dead authors who tend to be taken far too seriously by their devotees. So, go ahead, listen to Nietzsche huff and puff his way through his bombastic and oracular pronouncements; hear Lovecraft hiss through his florid and paranoid prose. It’s all for a good cause. The Dead Authors podcast benefits 826LA, a non-profit writing and tutoring center for kids age 6-18.
Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.