If I had an unlimited budget to produce my own version of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, I would do an audio production and cast my favorite standup comedians, who are also my favorite podcasters. Choosing to do an audio version would make it much more doable, from a production standpoint. You could spend the budget on the talent instead of special effects. I want to record the entire process of the production to release all of that in the form of a podcast, but also to edit it down to a normal length of a Shakespeare play.
II hate to blow my own horn, but this is a great idea. I know when I have no idea, I can tell when I have some idea, it feels nice when I have a good idea, but I am absolutely certain when I have a great idea, and this is among the greatest ideas I have ever had. Even if it never happens, just the idea of it happening is amazing. I don’t want there to be a visual component. None. Just strictly audio. Maybe photos of behind the scenes, but I want to focus all of the available resources on making the best possible audio experience.
Let me explain. I’m a photographer. So much of our culture has been driven by looks. Even when it comes to our choice of a president, their physical attractiveness matters a lot. But, we exist in a time when we have audio mediums and lifestyles that maybe have more time for listening than watching. At least mine has. I can’t watch shit. I study photos but work on my own photography more and maybe watch some very short videos, but I listen to a lot of content. I’ve only watched the first ten minutes of Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado, but I’ve listened to the BBC audio four or five times. I just consume more audio. I want to be doing things. Giving my full attention to someone else’s production by sitting, watching, and listening seems beyond backwards.
What we have done for entertainment over the years speaks to our character. We don’t need to be so submissive. Culture can be more of an accessory than a straight jacket. It can be more of a hike to the summit of a mountain than a roller coaster coated in puke. It can be elevated states achieved through fitness and mental practice instead of drugs and alcohol. It is what we make of it, and the new drug Huey Lewis was asking for in the 80s is here and it is called nutrition, fitness and emotional intelligence.
Because I have been consuming more audio than video for the past however long I have grown to know the work of podcasters more than actors. Stand-up comics have experienced a revolution and a renaissance with the advent of the podcast. It is a better product than an edited film. There is an interesting thing that happens when you listen to a podcast, though. It is such a deeper glimpse into a person’s mind than you get through other media. Because it is conversational and unscripted you have access to how this person thinks and responds to things. Then, if you watch their standup comedy special you have a different appreciation for their craft.
Because the podcast gives creative control to the comic it is an infinitely better product. That is the problem with big budget productions. The higher the risk the harder it is to maintain creative control. At a certain point, the payoff stops being worth the investment. It becomes super expensive junk food. But a couple of comics talking about contemporary culture, discussing their view of their industry, heckling each other and the world, this is a better product. Through listening to them simply talk you gain a much more intimate understanding of who they are.
Another great thing about this idea is the amount of time it wouldn’t take. To do a visual production, you might need half a year. It is going to be impossible to get that kind of a commitment from comics who want to be on the road working on their standup. Try to get Rogan for 4 months to do a Shakespeare play. Go ahead. But, if it was going to take 8 hours, then that would be a different story. If you could do the entire thing in a weekend, or on a Tuesday and Wednesday then that is a lot more feasible. Great ideas have to live within the realm of the possible.
For Much Ado, I would want to cast Brian Callen as Don Pedro and Chris D’Elia as Don John. Their famous back and forth would make for fun outtakes and behind the scenes footage. I think that if the play took 2 hours, you would want to break it into two days. Four hours for each act would give you enough time for people to riff and heckle and make jokes that are not in the script. I think that Cheeto Santino might make a great Benedick and Whitney Cummings a nails Beatrice. Ali Macofsky could make a great Hero and Brendan Schaub as a powerful Claudio with Tom Segura as Leonato. Bert Kreischer would crush as Dogberry.
I need to think more about the casting. That is the most important thing. Now that I have had this epiphany, I will be listening to the rest of the comedies with an ear listening for who might be able to play each character the best. This is such an fun idea, it could extend to so many different playwrights and bodies of work. This is an entire industry. It is better than an audio book. It is an audio play. BBC did it, but including podcasters in the mix and having the process of the production also part of the fun of it is new. We don’t need to sit down and buckle up to be entertained and to listen to stories that give us the occasion to start a dialogue about things that matter most. Great literature has the power to lead us, and podcasting comedians are the voices we need to amplify their messages.