I'm the first to admit that what we do seems ridiculously simple. So simple, that it's hard to understand why it's so damn funny and entertaining. I mean, please: we're a bunch of actors, reading old radio broadcast scripts, standing in front of old mics, and wearing vintage clothes. Why, on Earth, would that be entertaining?! But it is and I knew it the moment I first saw the show.
In 1998, my pal Robin Jones gathered a few old time radio scripts and some friends. Once a month, they gathered at the Border's bookstore on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles and performed the scripts. The reenactments were more than underground, they were nearly under the radar. This despite the fact that many of Robin's friends were up-and-coming or established comedians like Maria Bamford or Tom Kenny.
Word spread. Slowly. The show moved to the now defunct Fake Gallery, by the corner of Melrose & Heliotrope, kind of in Korea Town, and kind of in Little Mexico. Sometimes twenty people paid to see the show. Sometimes eight. And sometimes, a very loud Mexican brass band played at the event hall across the street and drowned out the actors. Fun times.
One Christmas, Robin invited me to sit in with the cast. We were reenacting "It's a Wonderful Life". He'd thrown together an entire program for the evening: there was music and sketch comedy, there was a nearly 60-year-old script and there was a hugely talented cast suddenly improvising off the script at key moments.
I was stunned. And totally hooked.
I begged Robin, his wife Mary and his brother Brandon to let me help produce the show. A few years later, I got my chance when they moved to the East Coast. I took over as artistic director in 2003 and fumbled my way through what Robin had started. It was rough. There were a lot of moving parts and no rehearsals.
Yeh, so about that... Robin never had rehearsals because (a) we performed holding our scripts (b) he wanted the show to be fresh and (c) he wanted it easy for his cast and guest stars to participate. The theatre snob in me flinched every time the cast made a mistake during a performance. The comedian in me was charmed at how the cast improvised a brilliant solution every time a mistake occurred. Robin's format stayed.
Over ten years and 100+ shows later, and our performances have grown exponentially. The press has praised our cast, our singers, our sound design and our hallmark of weaving improvisation into our shows. “An uncanny sense of a time warp gone horribly right.” is how the LA Weekly put it. We agree.
If you can't see us perform live, I invite you to listen to previous shows. You'll soon discover what we've known for years: that radio shows from "The Golden Age" of the medium are still just as entertaining today as they were over fifty years ago... especially when we add in a bit of improvised fun.
We're truly honored to be creating new generations of radio fans. We'll see you at the theater!