Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.
Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements’ prickly cult podcast Hollywood Handbook is as restless as it is brilliant and consistently funny. The podcast has introduced scores of features and running jokes that it abandons when it grows tired of them, like the idea of a “Pro Version” of the podcast that offered diehard fans more than what was available on the episodes available to the general public, including an absurdist “prize” they’d improvise at the end of episodes.
Hayes and Sean spent years mocking the idea of a “Pro Version” before launching an actual Pro Version via Stitcher Premium. Hayes and Sean were nakedly contemptuous of the idea of a Pro Version when it was a running gag on their podcast. They’re just as nakedly contemptuous of the conceit now that it actually exists.
Hayes and Sean, but particularly Sean, have been equally scathing in their take on Howl and Stitcher Premium, which afford fans an exciting opportunity to spend money for things they previously got for free. Despite their cutting commentary on Howl and Stitcher Premium, Hayes and Sean are perfect for the paid subscription service. Hollywood Handbook may not have the most fans, but it could very well have the most dedicated and obsessive fans. I know there are plenty of other people who are willing to spend four dollars and ninety nine cents (the price of a very expensive cup of coffee!) a month solely for more Hayes and Sean alone, regardless of what else Stitcher Premium might have to offer.
For the first Pro Version episode, Hayes and Sean resurrect another once popular feature that they lost interest in somewhere along the line, even if their fans did not: the Teaser Freezer, a comic evisceration of a trailer for a big upcoming movie, in this case Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling exercise in pandering geek self-flagellation, which features all of your favorite characters ever, including, I would like to imagine, Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood and Ozone from the Breakin’ movies, in a futuristic romp about the competition to win an eccentric billionaire’s fortune and company.
Hayes and Sean have long made comedic sport of self-identified “geeks” who believe that enjoying what pretty much everybody likes, but in a more obsessive, fetishistic, and obsessive fashion, somehow makes them different and special, that their obsessions with Back to the Future or Ghostbusters set them apart from the rest of humanity. Ready Player One seems like the ultimate expression of unearned nerd self-love. It’s so calculating and shameless in its appeal to geeks (in a world where seemingly everyone self-identities as a geek, and not with the pointed sarcasm of Hayes and Sean) that it would seemingly be beyond satire. I honestly thought they were kidding about the Iron Giant being in it, but apparently they’re not. Finding out Iron Giant (yes, that Iron Giant, the one created by Sylvia Plath’s cold and emotionally aloof widower Ted Hughes) is a figure in Ready Player One that doesn’t make me more excited about Spielberg’s upcoming opus; it just makes me feel sorry for the Iron Giant, who is, I believe, a fictional character but still deserves better than this.
I hadn’t actually seen the trailer for Ready Player One before listening to the Teaser Freezer for it, but my attitude towards it shifted dramatically from complete disinterest to something approaching active horror. Ready Player One hasn’t even come out, yet it already seems to be making us stupider and more self-satisfied. The Hollywood Handbook hosts have a lot of tools in their comic arsenal, but the Teaser Freezer and Ready Player One relies almost exclusively on sarcasm, which perfectly suits the target of their mockery.
Hayes and Sean are equally hard on themselves, describing the Pro Version as a “cash grab bonus ep” but promising “a little more nasty” and “the raw shit.” If nothing else, this would be worth listening to for a new, more laid-back and acoustic version of its insanely catchy theme song that swaps out the original’s Meg Ryan, Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Rupert Grint for the even more rando combination of Meg Griffin, Richard Linklater, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Pauly Shore.
Ah, but five dollars a month doesn’t just buy exclusive content: according to the hosts, it also buys Hayes and Sean’s real friendship, the real show, and a priceless revelation concerning the real identity of Hollywood Handbook favorite Earwolfman Jack.
This isn’t quite as braingasm-inducing as Sean professes Ready Player One to be, but it’s a delightful iteration/spin-off that simultaneously marks a return to some of the podcast’s favorite features and columns and an exceedingly promising beginning to Hollywood Handbook 2.0: Strictly 4 S.T.I.T.C.H.E.R P.R.E.M.I.U.M S.U.B.S.C.R.I.B.E.R.S.
Nathan Rabin is a father, the author of 5 books, a columnist and the proprietor, owner, Editor-in-Chief and sole writer for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place, which can be found at nathanrabin.com.