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Our own Bronte O’Brien sat down with the creators of The Dollop, the searing cult hit making light of American history…and themselves.
Two American comedians sit in a garage in Los Angeles to record a podcast episode about a crazy cattle rancher. A year later, their second Australian live podcast tour sells out. The Dollop has become a cult hit.
We forced Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds to sit with us in the corner of a wanky, crowded Paddington bar to prattle about the thrills and mayhem of podcasting. ‘Make more people listen so we don’t have to stop,’ Gareth (who prefers “Gary”) jokes, maybe half-jokes. Then I wrote an article to make more people listen so they don’t have to stop.
The opening line of each Dollop episode puts it succinctly:
Each week I, Dave Anthony, read a story from American history to my friend, Gareth Reynolds… who has no idea what the topic is about.
But when Gary explains The Dollop to people he says: ‘We make jokes about really fucked up American history.’
Each episode lures you into a bizarre slice of history spliced with sharp banter. ‘We’re a hybrid podcast,’ says Dave, waiting desperately for his food that still hasn’t arrived. ‘It’s not just straight up comedy. We’re trying to explore who we are and where we are now… and at the end of the day people just like stories. They always will.’
The stories are baffling: there’s the French con artist who pretended to be a missing teen, the baseball player who’d leave mid game to chase firetrucks, and the gigantic cheese given to President Jackson.
‘The topics have to be a bit obscure right,’ I say, noticing that my beer has gone to my head. ‘Because ideally we’re meant to be Gareth…’
Gary sits up. ‘Yeah! I’m genuinely just like, “What the fuck is going on!?” What’s happening!?”’
They often discuss disturbing topics. ‘Some of the racist shit is so hard to digest, let alone make funny,’ says Gary. But they do. Humour lets them explore injustice and prejudice week after week. They’ve covered the events leading to Ferguson, the U.S. Navy’s gay sex investigation, and the “Ugly Laws” banning people with “unsightly or disgusting” disabilities from being in public.
They’ve discovered that even the most depressing events have splinters of hilarity. Dave smiles. ‘Someone said something, someone did something really weird, and it gives you a moment to pause and breathe and laugh in the middle of this horrible thing.’ One such case is the travelling lobotomy van named the “The Lobotomobile”.
‘And also, there’s such absurdity to this stuff,’ says Gary. ‘These things are so insane that they’re funny.’ And it works – their rabid and growing fanbase is hooked.
When I ask if they thought The Dollop would blow up, they respond with a resounding ‘No.’
Originally Dave did it solo. Then his first guest happened. ‘The fans on Twitter went crazy right away… “Keep that guy!” “You have to do it with him!”’
‘They were all spam accounts I set up though,’ interjects Gary.
The noisy group at the table behind us gets louder. ‘“Look at us,”’ Gary says in his signature mocking voice. ‘“We’ll go over here and shout for an hour!”’
There’s a particular magic to a podcast by two dudes in a garage. Squashed around the table, it’s like I’m sitting in on an episode – the conversation is as intimate, genuine and unrestrained as the podcast itself. ‘You have total autonomy over what your podcast is,’ says Gary. ‘Nobody gives us notes on what we have to say, nobody tells us what’s wrong with it —’
‘Oh, they do,’ drawls Dave. ‘Then I block them.’
It’s in Australia where The Dollop has really found their tribe. ‘Someone said we have a real Australian sensibility,’ Dave smiles. ‘I think it’s also because we’re sorta these weird cousins from Britain… the English made both of us.’
For their Live Dollop tours they uncover insane stories from Australian history. ‘The thing I like about it is people in that city coming up and saying, “I had no idea.” To me that’s fascinating,’ says Dave. They also drag along an Australian friend to guest star in each show, including repeat offender Wil Anderson. They’ve explored the exorcism in Victoria, The Emu War in Western Australia, and the strange reality of Arthur Phillip’s colonisation.
‘And again… I do NO research,’ says Gary.
I raise an eyebrow, ‘You don’t even know the itinerary.’
Dave looks at him. ‘Yeah, you just show up with your little clown horn – honk honk honk.’
I ask Dave what their topic is for The Comedy Store show tonight. He leans over. We glare at Gary until he block his ears. ‘It’s about how some Australian Aboriginals were tricked into being circus attractions,’ Dave whispers.
‘Oh shit,’ I reply.
Gary dances in his seat. ‘There are things that we’re currently doing right now that in fifty years two idiots could easily talk about in a garage and make fun of us for doing.’
Dave slams his beer down, ‘YES!’
Gary smiles. ‘“Cops have tanks in your cities? What the fuck are you people doing?” So, that’s our Lobotomobile.’
At this point, we’ve given up on the idea that the food will arrive.
The Dollop is available to download on iTunes. They’ll be back for another Australian tour soon.
This was only made possible by Marcella Tattersall’s research and furious scribbling during the interview.