“The Thrilling Adventure Hour” co-creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker were joined by WorkJuice Players Paget Brewster, Craig Cackowski, Mark Gagliardi, Marc Evan Jackson, Hal Lublin, Autumn Reeser, and Paul F. Tompkins; composer Andy Paley; WorkJuice East members Scott Adsit, Terry Kinney, and John Hodgman; as well as special guest Janet Varney for the podcast’s panel on Sunday morning at New York Comic Con.
Blacker started the panel by reminding everyone that “The Thrilling Adventure Hour,” a comedy podcast done in the style of old time radio, will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in March 2015. The monthly live show began at The M Bar in Hollywood in 2005 and relocated to its current location, Largo nightclub in Los Angeles, in 2010. The show joined the Nerdist network of podcasts in 2011.
When asked to talk about their fondest “Thrilling Adventure Hour” memories, Brewster said that hers involved her making her way to the panel through the convention center: “Just now, riding in golf carts through the catacombs underground; I felt like Stan Lee.” On a more serious note, Cackowski said, “I think taking the show on the road over the years has been incredible. Just to meet the fans in different parts of the country.” He also said that he enjoyed working with guest stars: “The slapdash nature of our show means taking celebrities and just throwing them into this crazy ‘Muppet Show’ world.”
“My favorite memories are really early in the show when we used to have entire cast rehearsals at Ben Blacker’s old apartment,” said Lublin. “Just making each other laugh.” Reeser agreed: “I think my favorite [memory] is also early shows, because we were at M Bar and we were all doing the show for one drink ticket — which was awesome. We would enjoy it by the bar and we used to have this opening song that there was one line in it that we all got to sing.”
In addition to the milestone of the tenth anniversary, Blacker announced that the “Thrilling Adventure Hour” creators would be expanding the world of the show with new projects in the near future. “This show was never meant to just be a stage show and to just be a podcast, as much as we love doing those two things. We want to bring you the show in a different way. Part of that is adding a visual component to the show.” The monthly stage show, which is recorded for the podcast, will end with a final performance at Largo on April 11, 2015. “It’s a bittersweet thing,” said Blacker. Cackowski joked that he, “thought Acker and Blacker were getting divorced,” as they were preparing to share this news with the cast. About the change, Lublin said that he is, “Not looking at it as an end, but rather the beginning of an expansion.”
The rest of the cast was enthusiastic about the upcoming changes and felt ready to change gears. “Ten years does feel right to close the buffet, because otherwise we would just keep eating forever,” said Gagliardi. “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” will be continuing in a number of formats even after the final live performance. “I think the best way to look at this is the question that Hal poses at the end of each episode: ‘Is this the end of Sparks Nevada?’ As always, the answer is, ‘Oh Hell no.'”
Blacker announced the “Close the Buffet” tour, which will continue after the final show at the Largo. “In May, we are going to a place where, I think, only a handful of us have visited before. I cannot tell you what it is, but that’s going to be a big tour.” While discussing this mystery location, an image of a kangaroo was projected behind him.
The show will continue in two series coming from Image comics in February 2015. Both under the “Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents” label, “Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars” and “Beyond Belief” will tell new stories featuring characters from popular segments of the podcast. Ten-page #0 issue origin stories for each series are now available as digital comics on the Thrilling Adventure Hour website.
“Ben and I had a long conversation about the canon for the comic books,” said Blacker, “and we said, you know, Marvel’s been around for about 75 years and they have a thing that they call selective continuity. We’re going to go along with that.” Blacker explained that the stories in the comics would take place “in and around” episodes of the podcast. “And then I presume in two years you’re going to reboot the whole universe?” asked Hodgman. Acker said that they would also be creating studio-recorded “book on tape” versions of the comics.
Blacker also announced that a “Beyond Belief” television series is under development. “We are officially shooting a pilot presentation next month, with Paul and Paget and Janet,” he said. “We want to make a show that we all want to make, and that you guys want to see.” Producer John Rogers, known for “Leverage,” and director Peter Atencio, of “Key and Peele,” are attached to the project.
Also upcoming for “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” is an expanded relationship with the Nerdist. After the success of the Kickstarter-funded behind-the-scenes documentary web series, “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” and the Nerdist are teaming up again to produce online content from the worlds of the show — including live action “Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars” episodes. A number of projects are in the works, including some sort of animation. Acker said, “I’m also very excited about adapting Colonel Tick Tock to a Pee-wee’s Playhouse format.”
An audience member asked about progress on the concert film. Blacker said, “Man, we had no idea what would be involved in this.” The film has been shot and is still in post-production. “Our goal is to get the Kickstarter backers their DVDs by Christmas,” he said. Wider release is planned for early 2015. Paley announced an upcoming album featuring songs from “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” planned for next year as well.
The panel ended with the audience and panelists singing the “Sparks Nevada” theme together.
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