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 funny and entertaining. Why would a bunch of actors, improvisers, stand-up comics and voiceover artists simply reading old radio scripts, be 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 so underground, that they were nearly invisible. This, despite the fact that many of Robin's friends were up-and-coming or established comedians like Maria Bamford, Tom Kenny, and Jeff Garlin.
Word spread. Slowly. The show moved to the now-defunct Fake Gallery, kind of in Korea Town, 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. They were reenacting the 1947 broadcast of "It's a Wonderful Life". He'd thrown together an entire program for the evening: a musical act, a funny sketch he'd written in the style of an old radio show and then, the main act: a radio script from 1947 performed by a hugely talented cast who would suddenly improvise off the script at key moments.
I was stunned. And totally hooked. I begged Robin, his wife Mary and his brother Brendan to let me help produce the show in some way. 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.
Wait, what?! So a word about that... Robin never had rehearsals for the cast because:
- We performed holding the scripts we read from, so no memorization was required.
- Robin wanted the show to look and sound "fresh" which certainly happens when you don't rehearse
- He wanted it as easy as possible for his cast and guest stars to participate because, In Los Angeles, it's always hard to attract top talent.
Instead, we did a voice check and got notes during the soundcheck process with our audio engineer. Robin would give little notes to tweak an actor's sound. It worked, but the theatre snob in me flinched every time the cast made a mistake during a performance. The comedian in me was amazed 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. We've now performed in theaters all over Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. 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!