"Destefano on the Air!" is a pretty unusual piece, how did it come about?
I became a resident Artist at Perishable theater in 2009 and started developing a long piece of radio theatre. Vanessa Gilbert and the rest of the residents were really helpful in fleshing this out. The idea was--and is--the serialized adventures of this ambitious, delusional, self involved podcast host, Mischel Barry.
In 2010 I put up the first installment as part of my residency at Perishable, and then The Wilbury Group offered to produce the second. But people needn't be worried about being lost if they didn't see the 2010 episode. Each show is distinct and self contained, with it's own arc. The only constant is Mischel. I just enjoy putting this guy in different situations and seeing how he reacts. Usually he reacts pretty poorly.
There aren't many shows written about podcast hosts, what inspired you to write this?
I started listening to podcasts when they first were appearing on itunes and I immediately became hooked them. They've gotten more polished now but in 2007 they could sound pretty banged up. The audio quality would be bad, people would be eating on mic and the hosts of the various shows could be spectacularly nervous and dull. Nevertheless their passion came through. It was hypnotic to me. Then there were comedy podcasts--which now are poised to become a real business. They were usually like what we portray in the show: 2 idiots talking, trying to stumble into a funny idea and then milking the idea until your sorry you were ever born. Most of them are actually unlistenable. But then some are fantastic.
Were there any shows in particular that influenced your writing on this?
"Never Not Funny" was a huge influence on this show. It's 3 professionally funny guys bouncing from topic to topic and calling back jokes and being so quick witted and all the time talking about this weird new podcasting stuff and the fact that probably no one was listening. It was unlike anything else in the comedy world. Not stand up or sketch, just a conversation, sometime lasting for 2 hours. I loved the flow of it the mass of words, and also how intimate it was. And then I started thinking about these podcasters--all of them-- recording in their kitchen with cheap equipment, these guys doing this niche thing that may be their only outlet for self expression. So I created a character, ascribed to him all the negative characteristics that I find so fun to write about, and placed him in this world, showing him off and on the air.
You've written quite a few of these radio shows already, how does this one in particular compare to the others?
I had been doing radio theatre, both live and on the actual radio for a few years; they had been mostly half hour serial style pieces. They were genre pieces, with one foot in the glory days of radio. Detective stories, western, sci-fi. They were hyper dramatic and silly; they're a lot of fun to write and perform and I love old radio, but I also want to do radio theatre that isn't all about nostalgia. In the UK, where radio theatre is still relevant, they commission new stories involving an American Idol type contestant or a soccer coach or whatever. Slice of life stuff, basically modern television on the radio. I don't want to do a play about American Idol necessarily, but I do want to be able to express my beautiful soul, you know? And my beautiful soul is a modern guy.
So what's the process been bringing Destefano to life so far?
We've been working a lot on the script, getting it ready for a live performance. I tend to write too much so I've been scaling that back and trying to get it as funny as possible. I've even had to let go of a couple jokes that I really like too, but I haven't regretted it because the cast is so good and Bob and is finding new humor in places I hadn't predicted. One or two jokes doesn't matter as much because the show as a whole is becoming so funny.
In a nut shell, what can audiences expect to see when they come to "Destefano on the Air!"?
A weird crazy comedy. A blend of radio theatre and live theatre. And an American Idol type contestant singing her heart out...maybe.