‘Battlefield Earth’ is no longer the funniest thing to result from Scientology

Living in LA is enormous fun. Or at least, the potential for enormous fun is always there, provided you actually pay attention and go to things and get out of the house and actually take advantage of the various amazing opportunities that are around.

The UCB Theater is a place I should spend more time. No two ways about it. There are all sorts of things that happen there that I would love to see. Some of those, I hear later or see later, and thank god they make the effort to record so much of it, because I just listened to two of the funniest hours I've heard this year, and it is well worth your time to seek it out.

Here's something from the official website of “The Dead Authors Podcast”:

826 National is a nonprofit organization that provides strategic leadership, administration, and other resources to ensure the success of its network of eight writing and tutoring centers. 826 centers offer a variety of inventive programs that provide under-resourced students, ages 6-18, with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills. We also aim to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Our mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. Last year our tutoring centers – located in Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC – served over 29,000 students.

The podcast is both incredibly smart and funny, and a chance to direct attention to that organization's work. Paul F. Tompkins hosts the podcast as H.G. Wells, and each episode, he has on another dead author to have a conversation about their career and their lives. He's had great guests on, and inspired combinations of author and actor, like Ron Funches showing up as Iceberg Slim or Lennon Parham as Flannery O'Connor or Kristen Schaal as Tennessee Williams. Matt Gourley and Andy Daly have both been repeat performers, and if you know about Gourley's love of James Bond, it is particularly apt that he played Ian Fleming.

But the two-parter that I played this weekend while driving around LA may be the show's finest effort so far. Andy Daly plays L. Ron Hubbard, and he did his homework. It is an impeccably researched performance, and yet it is never anything less than screamingly funny. He is committed to the bullshit in the exact same way the real Hubbard was committed to the bullshit, and it's glorious.

I don't want to quote it or offer up bits out of context. It's not that kind of comedy. Instead, it's very smart stuff, and I love the way Tompkins is aware of the weirdness of the concept of one dead author interviewing another dead author with both of them fully aware of not only their own demise, but everything that's happened in culture since then. They both play it perfectly, though, and it wasn't supposed to be a two-parter. It's just that they reached the end of the first segment and it was clear that Daly wasn't even slightly out of steam yet.

Podcasting is still a fairly young media, all things considered, but I'm prepared to say that Daly, Tompkins, and Gourley are sort of winning it so far. Every single episode of “Superego” is packed with more jokes than can be digested on one listen, and “The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project” is so wildly dense that I've replayed the episodes three or four times so far. They work together over and over, disappearing into these glorious comedy sonicscapes they've created. These are are performers who are liberated by the freedom of what podcasting can be, and they are experimenting with abandon in a way that is just delightful.

Start with this L. Ron Hubbard interview (here's part one and here's part two) if you're unfamiliar with their work. You can find both parts of it on iTunes as well as at this website, and if that does not positively ruin you, then we may have very different ideas about what is funny.