The Dead Authors Podcast: H.G. Wells Comically Revives Literary Greats with His Time Machine

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.

You can find real works by Niet­zsche and Love­craft in our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books.

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.

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