Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.
Comedy Central announced a few months back that it was renewing the impressively bleak cult sensation Review With Forrest McNeil for an abbreviated third season. As a fan of both Review and star Andy Daly, I was bummed that Review wouldn’t make it the requisite six seasons and a movie, but there is a lot to be said for quitting at the top of your game. I took comfort in knowing that the future undoubtedly holds a crazy excess of opportunities for a beloved comic genius like Daly and that the years ahead will not be full of unsuccessful auditions and lengthy periods of unemployment. No, Daly will be just fine, and hopefully he’ll find other roles that suit his talent as perfectly as Review does.
Review catapulted intrepid host Forrest McNeil into the privileged position of reigning as the best, and deepest, character in what I like to think of as the Andy Dalyverse (which overlaps tremendously with the Comedy Bang Bangverse). But McNeil has an awful lot of competition. With the possible exception of Paul F. Tompkins and Lauren Lapkus, no Comedy Bang Bang favorite has created as many characters Earwolf cultists have fallen in love with as Daly.
So now seems like a perfect time to revisit another standout episode of The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project, a pre-Howl mini-series Daly created to help promote the first season of Review. The premise of the mini-series is that Daly and fellow Earwolf all-star Matt Gourley received a bag of cassettes containing pilots for a series of different potential podcasts from characters Daly played on Comedy Bang Bang, onstage or on his terrific comedy album Nine Sweaters, which feels like a prequel to The Andy Daly Podcast Project, albeit at a fraction of the length.
In a previous entry in this column, I highlighted an episode featuring the Sha Na Na-worshipping human throwback Hot Dog, one of the sweeter and more innocent of Daly’s characters, in the sense that he does not seem to be pure evil. Now I’m going to highlight an equally hilarious episode featuring one of Daly’s most demented and evil characters, Chip Gardner: game show host, former street fighter, Satanist and perpetual contender for the honorary, deeply meaningless title of Mayor of Hollywood.
The character is a relic of an older, cheesier, more geriatric conception of Hollywood and show-business, a product of an age where the cast and crew of game shows made a point of getting high and drunk during lunch to liven things up, and just to be on the safe side, why not get high and drunk before taping as well?
Chip Gardner reminds me of the simultaneously loving and scathing burlesques of old-school show-business found on SCTV. In his The Andy Daly Podcast Project presentation (don’t worry if you can’t keep the name straight in your head, neither can Daly), Gardner is a cross between Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin, if both men had active contempt for the sanctity of human life. And the always wonderful Sean Conroy, of The Long Shot fame, channels the chummy bonhomie of Ed McMahon as Chip’s sidekick and announcer Tip, whose duties as Chip’s partner unfortunately involve traveling extensively to personally tell the relatives of the many, many people who die horrible deaths on Chip’s shows that their loved ones died a senseless and easily avoidable death while trying to win prizes.
Daly and Conroy, as Chip and Tip, have a wonderful run where they discuss the many fatal, impossible game shows they perpetrated on the world. These are less conventional game shows than Kafkaesque nightmares with no real way to win but a million different ways to lose, and when someone loses a Chip Gardner game show, they generally lose their life as well.
These surreally sadistic game shows include, Stand Over There And Be Quiet, where the challenge was, of course, to stand in a place and be quiet, Where’s My Jacket (where contestants were tasked with determining the exact location of Gardner’s jacket, and invariably failed) and Fix This Zipper, which centered on zipper-fixing.
Then these two strange men, who have remained friends despite their respective allegiances to Satan and God, try out some new, lethal games, like Are You Smarter Than A Poisonous Snake?, where the titular question comes to seem moot after the poisonous snakes do what poisonous snakes do best and kill contestants with their poison.
Matt Gourley shows up in character (as a man also named Chip, appropriately enough) as a contestant on a show designed to see if he could build a ship inside a bottle while on fire that ends predictably, and disastrously. For a man who derives much of his identity from his worship of Satan, this is surprisingly devoid of explicitly satanic content. Gardner’s satanism asserts itself primarily in his wholesale indifference to human suffering and human death.
He is a nasty piece of work, but because he’s played by Daly, his awfulness takes on an incongruously amiable quality. For much of the episode, he channels his hatred of humanity and love of Satan into both reflecting on the horrible game shows he’s hosted that have both ruined and ended lives, and also hosting new, fatal game shows.
Late in the podcast, he is awful in a more direct, open way when he is pitted in a debate against another formidable contender for Mayor of Hollywood: Carol Channing, who Jamie Denbo plays as a woman who expectorates wildly in ways that sometimes form words. Chip spends an endless expanse of time insulting Channing’s appearance, odor, and general essence before trying to, of course, raise the devil, something that makes his Christian sidekick more than a little uncomfortable.
In the kind of twist Earwolf is full of, “Hail Satan With Chip Gardner” ends with the clear implication that in addition to being a national treasure, gay icon, and impressively deathless human being, Carol Channing might also be Satan incarnate. If that is in fact the case, Daly and Gourley find something oddly soothing about the idea that the greatest evil in the world would be an eccentric old lady who could easily pass for a nice old man in drag. As Daly wryly notes, “If Carol Channing has been the devil all this time, then his aims on earth are fairly modest and kind of endearing, so it’s not that bad. If that’s the case, it’s endearing.”
Near the end of the podcast, Daly speculates that the episode we just listened to “has got to have the highest body count of any podcast, ever.” That’s not likely, given Daly’s penchant for killing off a small nation’s worth of characters in podcast after podcast. For such a seemingly affable man, his podcasts tend to have a body count that Pol Pot himself would envy.
But in the end, it does not matter if “Hail Satan With Chip Gardner” has the highest body count of any podcast, ever. All that matters is that it has a formidable laugh count.
The The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project is the perfect companion piece to Comedy Bang Bang, Review and Nine Sweaters alike. Its existence helps ease the pain of Review ending, as does the knowledge that Daly has plenty more characters to share with the world, albeit probably of the sociopathic or at least deeply unpleasant variety.
Nathan Rabin is the former head writer of The A.V. Club and the author of four books, including Weird Al: The Book (with “Weird Al” Yankovic) and, most recently, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me.