Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Dana Gould Hour


Vital stats:
Format: thematic comedy gab, broken up with prepared segments
Episode duration: 1h-1h30m
Frequency: 1-2 per month

“Why do you want to do a podcast? You ain’t gonna do no podcast. You just a johnny-come-lately. You spent too much time on The Simpsons and you lost it, and now you’re trying to get it back, and everybody thinks it’s pathetic. You ain’t no Marc Maron.” Those words come in the voice of Little Richard, as performed by Dana Gould, to convey to us what the discouraging disapproving-dad voice inside his head sounds like. (His theory says that such a voice gets much easier to ignore when it sounds like Little Richard.) This happens on the very podcast that discourages, The Dana Gould Hour [RSS] [iTunes]. Luckily for Gould, and for us, Little Richard can only take that Marc Maron comparison so far. It pleases me to report that Gould has opted not to crank out yet another comedian-interviews-comedians podcast, but to put on more of a... production.

Its episodes, with come out once or twice a month, offer segments, scripted stories, recurring characters, and historical sound clips. I would draw a comparison to Paul F. Tompkins’ Paul F. Tompkast, but I haven’t heard that show yet. The Dana Gould Hour makes the unusual structural choice of interweaving these bits and pieces with group conversations like you’d hear on more standard comedy-gab shows. Each time out, Gould surrounds himself with colleagues — Eddie Pepitone usually shows up, to my increasing delight — and they all riff on a theme. These themes have included the apocalypse [MP3], carnies and theme parks [MP3], and Woody Allen’s wife, Soon-Yi Previn [MP3]. That last one usually gets me onboard, whatever the situation.

Gould, Pepitone, and company digress from these themes, as comedy podcasters do, but unlike most comedy podcasters they tend to return to them with regularity, usually after one of the aforementioned segments has just ended. These include real tales of marginal and/or ill-fated performers from Hollywood history, vintage Cold War-era “duck and cover when you see the flash” public service announcements, and dramatizations of a “manscaping” session with Larry King. Gould and his collaborators display a fascination only exceeded (but, I suppose, far exceeded) by the makers of Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show. Among their other preoccupations I identify the Kennedys — perhaps you’ve heard of them — and Murry Wilson, the controlling father of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson. I meant to say that, though I appreciate this show’s take on the Murry Wilson persona, the Peter Bagge-drawn Rock ’n Roll Dad Flash cartoons remain, for me, its ultimate expression — but Gould, so I’d never realized before now, co-developed them!

I’ve known for years that the name “Dana Gould” referred to a comedian without quite knowing his sensibility. (I do occasionally stare at the cover of his album Funhouse and feel it visually represents something about the nineties long since lost, just like Steven Wright’s I Have a Pony does for the eighties.) Me and most of my generation have no doubt inadvertently come into contact with his work many, many times through the Simpsons episodes he worked on. He wrote that one where Homer, Lenny, and Carl form that security company, SpringShield, and also that other one where Selma goes to China to adopt a baby, something Gould mentions having done three times himself. If that Little Richard voice is anything to go by, he fears having squandered valuable time on the Simpsons job, but it hasn’t left him bereft of subjects for discussion. His poor, strictly Catholic childhood in Massachusetts, for instance, still seems to give him material.

Come to think of it, The Dana Gould Hour, though based, like most podcasts, in Los Angeles, delivers an unusually amount of humor directly related to the northeastern United States. Hence, I suppose, that Kennedy thing, and hence the regular segment “Political Talk with Two Guys from Boston,” which I laugh at without understanding quite why. Gould and another fellow play the title characters, Johnny Condon and Robbie Sullivan of Bevel Aqua Heating and Air Conditioning Repair, who briefly touch on a political issue of the day before descending, blithely but inexorably, into volleys of idle, irrelevant complaints and bewildering rhetorical questions. I realized I’ve already lived in Los Angeles too long when I caught myself thinking, without irony, “Psh, from Boston — of course they’re stuck in jobs where they have to work.” Still, these segments take advantage of the genuinely bleak streak — the bleakness of bleak unspoken premises, rather than just bleak punchlines — of Gould and his crew. But wait until you hear them do Goofy as an existentialist Charles Bukowski.

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[Podthinker Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture [iTunes]. Contact him at colinjmarshall at gmail or follow him on Twitter @colinmarshall.]