Big Bowl Edamame
Audioli #4 - Valley Heat
After suggesting pods about killer robots, dead children, and far-right extremism, it’s time for something lighter. So here’s a pod featuring bloodthirsty foosball players, a guerrilla car wash, and a parrot whose only words are “Michael Douglas.” Behold:
Life optimizers — on with your day! Folks who want a smattering of summarization, analysis, and meandering, read on…
There is a lack of mirth in my audio diet. This is partly because most podcast comedy happens on chat shows and, lately, I don’t go for chat shows. As a formerly chatty host, maybe I’m like a former bartender who's gone sober — even catching a whiff of the stuff makes me woozy. Or it could be that most comedy chat pods aren’t good? One of my favorites (before it stopped) was Reductress’s Mouth Time, and even that was a parody chat show. Each episode opened with the hosts saying in unison, “We’re just two girls who share what our heads are thinking by moving our mouths…mahwahwahmawawawam!,” which kind of sums up the genre for me.
And yes there are some scripted audio comedy shows, but more often than not they sound, erm, scripted. So I usually get my audio comedy fix from the humor marbled throughout thoughtful podcasts produced by funny people like Jonathan Goldstein or Jamie Loftus.
But recently, I found myself machine-gun laughing into my KN95 while listening to Valley Heat. It’s a serialized fiction pod by Christian Duguay, who, according to the internet, is a Groundlings-trained, former cast member of the sketch comedy series MADtv — which makes sense, as Valley Heat sounds improv-y, but directed and edited improv, not the “Yes, and” pile-ups one has to endure when attending a friend’s graduation from Comedy Sportz 101.
The ‘show’ is hosted by Doug Duguay, an insurance adjuster chronicling the activities in his neighborhood, the Rancho Equestrian District of Burbank, CA. Doug suspects his pool guy is using his trash can as a drug drop. And that his wife’s yoga instructor is hitting on her. (The Kate Bush scored, candlelit cool-down sessions raised his suspicions, but it’s the use of the mermaid emoji, which Doug describes as, ‘the only nude emoji,’ that really gets him worried.) Over the course of the show’s 13 episodes, we follow Doug as he makes one bad decision after another. In classic sitcom-dad style, he has two modes: passive — “I will take that remark” is his limp response when berated — and stubborn. A visit to a therapist at the insistence of his wife devolves into an argument over his insistence that the doc’s self-published e-book, I Can’t Wait to Never See You Again, cannot really be considered a published book.
A lot of the gags running throughout Valley Heat might fall flat if they were delivered as bits in a stand-up special. (“So my optometrist insists that we call him “doctor…”) But in the pod, sans visuals, delivered in Doug’s halting digressive style, they manage to caress the funny bone. Similarly, many of the frequent exchanges between Doug, his neighbors, and family would probably go on forever at an improv club, but thanks to the power of editing they land more than they fall. (Doug’s frequent calls with his sadistic father-in-law Chuck, owner of a car modification empire in Ventura, are particularly delicious.)
But unlike YouTube, the best parts of Valley Heat are the advertisements read by Doug and then overzealously scored by Cephlapods Are People, the biggest rock band in the Rancho Equestrian District. They give us a peek at the entrepreneurial spirit of Doug’s neighborhood — Karate Trophy City, Janie Cakes breakfast ice-cream, pants by Jan Robinson (“There not just pants, they’re Jan Robinson pants.”) And they also insert melodies deep inside your head, like those driveway moments of yore, but funny and musical. If you are in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, one morning and you hear someone belting “Big Bowl Edamame!” from an apartment building, you’ll know you’re close to where the Audioli gets made.
(Not a song from the podcast but the song I hum to myself at least once every weekend.)
Thanks for reading! Many of you have sent me podcast suggestions and I’m thankful. Please keep them coming! It’s hard to keep one’s ear to the ground when it is covered with headphones!
And, apologies, for the surprise Saturday delivery. This is only my fourth Audioli and I’m still figuring out what works. In the future I may shift to a biweekly schedule. Listening, digesting and writing about pods is time-consuming business and I fear my analysis suffers when I have to rush.
Thank you for all of your support!
Happy Year of the Tiger everyone!
Just because I work for Pushkin doesn’t mean you can’t trust me when I recommend one — or in this case two — of their projects. This week we launched Well-Read Black Girl which adds a much-needed audio component to Glory Edim’s wonderful community. And we also released the enhanced-audio version of Heartbreak, Florence William’s searing and scientific exploration of the mental and physical consequences of a broken heart.
One of the best parts of being an Iris Murdoch fan is that she wrote seven bajillion books — enough to keep a slow reader like me occupied for a lifetime. But to get my Murdoch fix recently I didn’t even have to dip into principle. Instead I picked up a book about her, the very moving Elegy for Iris written by her lifelong partner, John Bayley. It’s such an intimate, candid look at genius and love itself.
As for what I’ve been watching: