By Christian Klepac
To be an American, here in the darkening days of late 2016, is to understand perhaps a little too well what it might be like to be trapped inside an episode of The Dollop, a podcast where all the cruelties and stupidities of American history are dragged into the spotlight and laughed at, so as not to be cried about.
The formula is simple, and starts with Dave Anthony, an L.A. comedy and podcasting veteran, dredging up a largely forgotten tale of American dishonor. Did you know that a couple of our early presidents had a slap-fight over a giant rotting cheese-wheel? Did you know that Abraham Lincoln’s corpse went on tour by train until the smell was too much, or that celebrated “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkaide was once ejected from a Disney property for drunkenly pissing on a statue of Pooh Bear?
Don’t worry, you won’t need to deal with these horrors alone. The other half of the duo is Gareth Reynolds, an agile improviser and impressionist, who can embody the most horrible characters, speak for the traumatized audience, and interpret the sometimes-dry historical material with flair, all in the space of a single bit. Dave has done a lot of great podcasting, but in Gareth (not Gary!) he has found the Laurel to his Hardy.
It’s a rare treat to watch a couple of comedians in action who compliment one another as well as these two do. Gareth’s absurd riffs and genuine sympathy for those enduring the wretched conditions of our past provide the perfect seasoning for Dave’s pointed and well-researched rage at all the fools and scoundrels who continue to screw up the American experiment as best they can, as well as all the rubes who fall for it every time. From among these characters the hosts also pluck out strange mutants and misguided dreamers who do, in some twisted way, embody the American spirit, from the man driven so insane by local bureaucracy that he made something he called a Killdozer, to the enterprising DIY zeal of the teen who built a nuclear reactor in his parents’ garden shed (the whole property had to be dug out, it was insane). Perhaps the most celebrated and glorious Dollop misfit is the Rube himself, a legendary Chicago baseball player who often ended games midway through, running off the pitchers mound and out of the stadium, just to follow the sound of a fire engine, which he loved.
To be sure it’s an awkward moment to be laughing about American history, but I find the Dollop to be a steadying influence in these times of crisis. It never hurts to remember that our forefathers were often just as dumb and short-sighted as we turned out to be.
Beyond that, the Dollop has so far toured only in Australia and in a few U.S. cities, this will be their first trip up the coast and who knows when you’ll get your next chance to catch this show? It could be next summer, and by then who knows how much America will remain standing. You deserve some laughs, go see the Dollop.
The Dollop’s live tour stops atSeattle’s Neptune Theatre on Nov. 25.