Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.
I finally caught up with the zeitgeist-capturing surprise blockbuster Deadpool for the Lukewarm Takes column on my website, and though I enjoyed it for the most part, it most assuredly did not live up to all the hype. How could it? Could anything live up to that level of hyperbolic hype, with the exception of the John Wick movies?
More specifically, Deadpool the movie did not live up to the Deadpool episode of Hollywood Handbook. Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport’s podcast is always funny but this episode was so explosively hilarious that I found myself rewinding over and over again so I could listen to my favorite segments dozens of times in a row.
The episode was released on February 23rd, 2016 when the public was mesmerized by a pair of foul-mouthed, deliberately abrasive assholes with no tolerance for political correctness or propriety. One was a superhero who, in a sharp break from tradition, plays by his own rules and the other was a loudmouth billionaire populist who, in a sharp break from tradition, plays by his own rules as well.
Both men would end up as satirical targets on the podcast, but Hollywood Handbook is as interested in making jokes about the kinds of jokes people make about Deadpool and Donald Trump and the kind of jokes that Deadpool makes as they are in making fun of Trump and Deadpool directly. The episode opens with the bad boys addressing the presidential race. Now, Hayes and Sean don’t talk much about politics but they don’t need to, because they pretty much cover everything here, from Donald Trump’s hair to Jeb Bush saying “Please clap.” That’s also the only thing they cover because, let’s be honest, what else is there?
His delivery a pitch-perfect parody of stuffy satirical seriousness, Clements offers a witheringly sarcastic take on the ostensible conflict standup comedians found themselves faced with by Trump’s candidacy and possible presidency when he whines with a voice full of unearned self-importance, “I’m of two minds, because I am a comedian, generating funniness, so in a way, as a comedian, I almost want to have the man named Donald Trump win the prize because think of the jokes you can make of him!”
Hayes agrees that a Donald Trump presidency would be such fertile comedic ground that they could each just crank out book after book containing jokes at Trump’s expense, but the only joke about Trump-as-President either man can come up with involves him firing his hair. Now, Trump was elected president (spoiler!) and we do not even have the consolation of Hayes and Sean putting out books full of funny jokes about him.
This episode was from the period where Hayes and Sean got big laughs out of communicating at once like pompous would-be show-business players and small children who only recently learned the English language and consequently might introduce a “political roundup” by saying, “There’s going to be the President!” Alternately, they sound like foreigners who’ve just learned the English language and haven’t quite worked out the kinks, like when Sean says of Jedediah Bush, “I know he knows how to lead because he has the same last name as someone who already did President.” Hayes and Sean have moved beyond this particular form of humor, just as they’ve moved away from mispronouncing things, but the combination of cocky adult delivery and childlike verbiage never stops being funny.
Though Deadpool the fictional, fourth-wall-breaking superhero played by Ryan Reynolds is teased as the guest, it’s actually actor Karan Soni, who has a scene-stealing role in the film as the man who drives Deadpool around and serves as a solid foil/straight man to Hayes and Sean and Deadpool here. The kooky appeal of Deadpool at the time this film was released and this podcast came out was that he was such a huge, irreverent cultural figure that he transcended his own movie and fiction and might pop up in real life to cause mischief. Hayes and Sean and their guest amuse themselves by imagining the hilarity Deadpool would get up to if he were to host Saturday Night Live, which is something some very sad, very lonely fanboys actually tried to online-petition into reality.
Accordingly, late in the podcast Hayes Davenport disappears and Deadpool shows up (sounding suspiciously like Davenport) to favor Sean and Karan with his patented brand of scatological, invariably dick-based wordplay. At first the two Deadpool fans are overjoyed to have Deadpool himself trying very hard to transform every random comment into a salacious jerk-off joke and only occasionally succeeding.
Deadpool’s wisecracks are saucy and outrageous but they don’t always make a whole lot of sense, and eventually Deadpool’s wordplay becomes so torturous and confusing that it ceases to be funny and just becomes kind of sad. That’s the wonderful, unexpected arc Sean and Karan go on in the space of a few minutes—at first they’re twelve-year-old boys overjoyed to get to interact with their ribald hero, but it isn’t long until amusement turns to confusion and disappointment and intense non-amusement and at the end, something resembling pity.
Deadpool ends the podcast something of a tragic figure, a figure to be pitied rather than envied. The podcast theorizes that Deadpool makes masturbation jokes either because he masturbates compulsively and has a horrible problem, or because he can’t masturbate at all, and making constant jokes about jerking off is his masochistic way of dealing with his sexual dysfunction.
Hollywood Handbook continues to be hilarious, adventurous and innovative but Sean seems to be getting a little bored with it, which is a little worrisome for super-fans. He also has a terrific new Howl mini-series called Hollywood Masterclass, which just dropped its first episode. So please check out Hollywood Masterclass and Hollywood Handbook because Hayes and Sean are comedians generating incredible levels of funniness in the podcast medium and deserve a level of commercial success commensurate with their comic genius.
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.