Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.
Like pretty much everything they do, Scharpling & Wurster’s immortal “Mother 13” bit began with a phone call. Specifically, it began with Jon Wurster’s Corey Harris, a prefabricated would-be modern rock star and the lead singer of the singularly terrible rock band Mother 13 calling into what he imagined is a morning show hosted by a gentleman named Bobzilla to discuss an endless series of dates on corporate festivals with names like the “Huggie’s Fall Into Freshness Tour.”
What followed was a hilarious tour through the delusional mind and woefully inflated ego of a man convinced that at the end of the long, dispiriting maze of corporate radio-mandated festival appearances his management is subjected him to lies stardom, fame and riches beyond his imagination and not brutal disillusionment and failure.
The inevitable fate of Mother 13 is obvious to everyone but Harris himself and sure enough, when Harris called into The Best Show several years after his cocky initial call bragging of his imminent rock super-stardom his life had taken a predictable downturn. He has been dropped by his label and a solo deal fell through.
Harris, however, is patently unwilling to accept any responsibility for his predicament, instead blaming Mother 13’s failure to manager Rupert “pulling a choke-job” and his publicist for “dropping the ball.” In a gloriously misguided display of misplaced faith, however, Harris, a slave to the machine as ever, tells Scharpling that things are looking up because he’s getting the band back together, literally and figuratively, and have even gotten back with Rupert, who has assured them that no one knows them the way he does. And, in keeping with the upside-down world of rock and roll finances, Harris claims that Rupert ripped off the band, and yet somehow they are the ones who must then pay Rupert a great deal of money.
The segment begins with a hilariously pitch-perfect satire of rock star pretensions divorced from rock star fame and rock star wealth. While still under the delusion that a lucrative solo contract was imminent, Harris named his son Skystalker, hoping that a name like that would help him fit into one of those fancy schools so progressive that the students grade the teachers instead of the other way around.
Just about every character Wurster plays at some point expresses a level of aggravation with Scharpling that frequently manifests itself in death threats, but you never know when that misplaced anger will assert itself, or how. In “First Rock Band On Everest Part 1” it comes to the surface when Harris becomes insulted that Scharpling merely thinks that Harris will be home-schooling his son to learn Chinese when he very specifically stated that he was teaching Skystalker Mandarin Chinese.
About halfway through, this segment takes a crazy twist from a reasonably grounded and pitch-perfect satire of slick corporate rock opportunism to a crazy, almost surrealistic exercise in pop culture absurdism. It stops being a podcast version of Lemmings, National Lampoon’s notorious evisceration of Woodstock, its performers and fans, and becomes a black-comic twist on Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Or rather, it becomes a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime combination of Lemmings and Into Thin Air.
Mother 13 didn’t just reunite to raise enough money to pay off Rupert; no, they reunited with a singular and singularly stupid purpose: to be the first rock and roll band in existence to perform at the top of Mount Everest. Mother 13 are now beholden to the creepy opportunists at Summit Cola, who want Mother 13 to plant a giant inflatable 60-foot cola bottle at the top of Everest and do a live broadcast with Brian Dunkleman and a series of special guests including blues legend Buddy Guy, “The Big Man” Clarence Clemons, Travis Barker and the many, many members of Polyphonic Spree. Oh, and Darren Cook, Dane Cook’s younger brother, who is also a standup comedian.
The band has about a half hour of oxygen upon hitting the peak before they’ll die and, unfortunately, what appears to be about an hour and a half of variety-show entertainment scheduled. After starting out grounded, the bit takes a decided turn for the surreal and insane, but Wurster remains straight-faced and deadpan no matter how crazy things get.
No matter the challenge, Corey Harris is full of delusional confidence. He seems to imagine that climbing Mount Everest is the kind of thing one can go about in a half-assed, casual way, like stopping by a park to see if you can play some pick-up basketball, not a life or death endeavor. Harris thinks he can simulate the altitude of Everest by “grabbing some beers at Los Amigos” before hitting a rock wall in town.
“The First Rock Band On Mt. Everest (Part 1)” ends with a cliffhanger. Will Mother 13 succeed in being the first rock band to successfully and safely perform a concert on Everest? The answer is no, but the real suspense lies not in guessing whether or not they’ll succeed (they won’t) but rather in how hilariously and entertainingly they will fail. We’ll find out next time when Pod-Canon covers the thrilling conclusion to one of the greatest epics in podcasting history.
Photo by Phobus..
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.