Why the Dollop Podcast is Improv Gold
You’re Listening to the Dollop! The Dollop is a bi-weekly American History Podcast. Every week, I, Dave Anthony read a story to my friend, Gareth Reynolds, who has no idea what the topic is going to be about.
On April 21, 2017, I was minding everyone else’s business on Facebook when I saw a post by my friend Jonathan Pitts. He noted, “this Saturday we present a sold out live podcast performance by The Dollop in the 985 seat Athenaeum Theatre.” I looked it up immediately and haven’t turned back since. This podcast is the perfect blend of Improv, Script, and American History.
Please let me be clear, you do not need to be an improviser to fully appreciate this podcast.
That being said there is so much entertainment layered into each episode it is almost unfathomable how it works:
Layer One: Dave Anthony researches a topic or a person in history and compiles a compelling story full of quotes and facts from historians, documents, and media throughout history. He picks moments in history or personalities that are so unbelievable, you would think it was all fiction.
Layer Two: Dave Anthony reads this well-written story to Gareth Reynolds who is very much not a history buff. Gareth’s human reactions are amazing and both of them stay on the right side of history by pointing out everything racist, gender biased or just plain crazy about our world.
Layer Three: Gareth will riff on a particular point in the story and allow enough room for Dave to join in where they both are able to joke about the thing that Dave just read. This is a tricky layer in my opinion because if Dave just read and then reacted first every time it would seem divisive and contrived. Because of the way that the two work together it becomes a seamless and wonderful comic romp surrounded by history.
Layer Four: This layer is what hooked me on the show as a die hard fan. There is a brilliant flow in and out of improvised scene-work as two improv comedians take on the personalities and situations within that moment in the story and then explore how absolutely ridiculous our real history can be by portraying the characters directly. This layer reminds me of some improv shows I have seen, like the Living Room, where improvisers run downstage and begin doing scene-work. The Dollop’s work is more complex and more beautiful. Even though it is an audio only podcast, they do not announce “cut to that” or “let’s see that moment” when they want to move into scene-work. Instead, they transform mid sentence from outside the story to dead center of it. This works so well that, at first, you don’t even realize what is happening.
From what I can piece together from the commentary, the best thing that ever could have happened to the podcast is that, in the early recordings, Dave Anthony invited fellow comedian Gareth Reynolds to guest with him as he read a forgotten story from American history. After they hit it off with each other and the audience they made the wise decision to stay together and that Gareth would be a regular and not just a one off guest. Their chemistry and comedic abilities are spot-on each and every episode.
These guys have captured my attention and my heart with this work and I wish this podcast would live on forever. Once you listen to the podcast, make sure to check out their new book “The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History”