Officially, Escape From Virtual Island is an Audible Original and a scripted audio-only comedy podcast starring Paul Rudd and a collection of familiar comics and comic actors. If you’re familiar with the way back, though, it sounds a bit like an old-time radio play, with the voice actors falling into a diverse collection of characters and both the score and sound effects helping to transport the listener. Pretty neat! It’s also the kind of thing that feels like it might be the start of a trend with everyone aching to feed the distraction needs of the public while also becoming industrious with closet podcast studios and the like here in Isolationville.
Of course, Escape From Virtual Island was conceived and recorded before things broke bad, but it does posit an existence where virtual reality resorts are real things that can propel your mind to a host of adventures. For better or worse, as the characters find out while dealing with a freshly sentient supercomputer and a missing guest on an island resort/virtual travel base of operations run by Rudd’s character, Derek Ambrose. And to be honest, that still sounds more fun than going on a cruise right now.
To help us imagine a future where virtual travel is real (and to celebrate the release of Escape From Virtual Island on Audible, of course), we polled Rudd, his castmates Amber Ruffin (Late Night with Seth Meyers), Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), and Paula Pell (A.P. Bio), as well as writer John Lutz (Saturday Night Live) and director Peter Grosz (The President’s Show) on what they think about a future with virtual travel and where they’d want to go. Unsurprisingly, the answers ran the gamut from sincere to silly… and little concerning. (Is Jack McBrayer capable of murder or does he just need better friends?!)
Does the prospect of this kind of virtual travel excite you or does it freak you out a little?
Paul Rudd: As long as it doesn’t involve going through airport security and having to take my shoes off, I’m for it.
Peter Grosz: I think, no matter what, it’s probably going to happen. In sci-fi, there’s always a little bit of future prognostication in a lot of that. If you look at some of the best pieces of sci-fi, then some part of it has come true. Even back to HG Wells a hundred years ago. So I wouldn’t be surprised if this is available sooner than we think.
John Lutz: I kind of feel like virtual reality is going to be fine. The way that video games are fine if you aren’t one of those people who are super addicted and they become your full life. The whole point of the story was basically the things that happened in the real world are always going to be more important than anything you do in the virtual world.
Jack McBrayer: I like it. I think it sounds fantastic. It’s less scary and you can act however you want. Like there are many places where you can just really say whatever you want, wear whatever you like, but in a place you made up, there can’t possibly be any judgment. They can get in there and freak out.
I mean, you’re kind of describing the internet now, basically.
McBrayer: That was all Twitter. I have to say. I would watch Westworld with a buddy of mine and I enjoyed it very much. But then the discussion turns to if you could go to Westworld, would you rape, pillage, shoot, kill, steal? Would you do all these things? And he was like, “Absolutely. Because I know that they’re robots, I know that nobody’s getting hurt.” But for me, the argument was that at what point does curiosity outweigh empathy? Because yeah, they are robots, but they look, sound, and act exactly like human beings. So are you okay acting on those desires? Even though the consequence for them is nil, but at the same time, you’d have to go to sleep at night knowing that, I just shot, this victim or whatever it was. So that’s where I’m kind of still on the fence with it. Don’t get me wrong. There are virtual reality games where you can like into the shark cage underwater. That is fun to me because I’m like, I wonder what that would be like without actually having to do it. So that’s where curiosity works for me.
Amber Ruffin: Who in the world is your friend who wanted to go to Westworld and beat the crap out of everyone? That’s not good for you and you deserve better friends.
McBrayer: It did open up a conversation because why do other people watch Westworld? Why do the people on the show go to Westworld? Like they really do just want to shoot people, tell me I’m wrong.
So murder is the line for you?
McBrayer: Murder is a line for me… in virtual reality. In virtual reality, make sure you add that part.
What kind of virtual reality adventure would a supercomputer spit out for your personality?
Paul Rudd: One where I got to explore the depths of the ocean as well as the entirety of outer space. Oh, and I’d check out a Beatles recording session.
Paula Pell: I think I would enjoy a virtual thing if it was like you’re in a room with one hundred puppies and they’re all coming at you and it’s just like cheese and puppies. It’s just cheese and some crusty good bread and some puppies. My fiancee and I are both extremely obsessed with animals and wanting as many as we can pile on top of ourselves like a weighted blanket with faces. And we just love that. That’s my favorite thing on Earth. And so it would definitely involve some sort of animal sanctuary.
Jack McBrayer: Mine would be The Container Store. Everything is orderly, it smells good. It’s clean. I’d go to The Container Store in a heartbeat. That’s what I’m missing most about this pandemic.
Amber Ruffin: What? That’s your favorite store? Sorry, there are so many more beautiful things in the world.
McBrayer: You don’t know me.
Amber, what about you? Bed, Bath And Beyond?
Ruffin: [Mine] would be Disneyland. I would want to eat up the food that I shouldn’t be eating and go on rides.
That sounds pretty good. No disrespect, Jack, but that sounds a little bit better than The Container Store.
McBrayer: How dare you, sir. I was a national treasure. Was.
John Lutz: I would probably be flying in the Millennium Falcon eating dry-aged prime rib and drinking a martini with Chewbacca. I think it’d be fun to see if I could try to figure out he’s trying to say. He loves meat. I mean, he got caught in that net cause he’s always thinking with the stomach.
Peter Grosz: I was thinking more like some sort of idyllic beach vacation where it’s like constantly the end of the day at the beach, like the sun is kind of shining sort of low in the sky and it’s a little bit cooler than the heat of the day. So you don’t have to worry about sitting there for a long time and getting burned. You don’t have to like turn over every five minutes like a rotisserie chicken. You just sit in the nice chair, get a good braise. I would be in that moment for a week while people fed me chicken parmesan and macaroni and cheese and barbecue and collard greens and stuff like that. And I would have a Manhattan that was the size of a baby pool.
You wouldn’t want to do a beach on another planet and spice it up a little?
Grosz: At this point, my fantasy would be like going on the subway and touching the pole, walking to the grocery store, touching a subway seat, giving a hug to a friend, getting into a fight with somebody in my car about the way they are driving. I would love to do that.
You can download ‘Escape From Virtual Island’ on Audible now.