Of course, that’s basically what the show, After Hours, is as well, and it’s one of my favorite things on the Cracked site. For those who are unfamiliar, After Hours consists of Cracked team members Daniel O’Brien, Michael Swaim, Soren Bowie, and Katie Willert, sitting in a diner, overanalyzing pop culture and discussing the often horrifying, hidden implications of living in the world of this movie or that TV show. Along with the four stars, the panel also featured Cody Johnston and Jack O’Brien (no relation), who are also major players on the Cracked team.
I attended the After Hours panel at Comikaze last year, as well, and though the basic format was the same, this year they did things a little bit differently. Last year, each person on the panel brought in their own idea for a future After Hours episode, with topic ideas ranging from Joss Whedon to Christmas movies to Beauty and the Beast. Then, audience members were invited to come up and share their own overanalyzed thoughts on pop culture, which the team made clear they would totally steal, if they were any good.
This year, they came in with a single concept, and everybody on the panel was told to come up with examples for that concept. It was still, admittedly, a very broad topic, with lots of room for variety: Which fictional companies would be great to work for, and which would be terrible to work for?
Based on this prompt, the team discussed everything from Friends’ Central Perk (Did Gunther really enjoy working there, or did he just stay due to his love for Rachel?) to the Galactic Empire (Dan O’Brien observed that the contractors who built the Death Star—and the other Death Star—must have been getting some “sick bennies” or benefits, in order to put up with the terrible working conditions.) to Hogwarts. (Is there a Wizard Costco?)
After that, the gang did a table read for an upcoming episode of After Hours, wherein they discussed the uncomfortable racial implications of Forrest Gump. They even got a volunteer from the audience to read the stage directions in the script. She was very good.
Then was the audience Q&A portion. The invitation was the same as last year: come up and bring your own pop culture overanalysis, so that we can all discuss it together; however, since the panel’s own discussion had been only about a single topic, all the audience comments were on the same topic: where would you want and not want to work in various fictional universes? Companies mentioned ranged from Omni in Robocop to the Umbrella Corporation in Resident Evil to “anywhere in Westeros.” Even when the argument was that a company would be cool to work for, the down side always seemed to be, “Of course, you might be horrifically killed. But, if you weren’t . . . ”
What makes the Cracked panels so much fun is that you get the best of both worlds. You get to see Dan, Soren, Cody, et al in their element, which is quite a treat for someone who’s as big a fan of the site as I am. But, they’re also really down to earth, so you get the feel of just having a conversation with a group of friends, complete with the opportunity to join in that conversation. All in all, it was a great panel and terrifically funny. Two years in a row now, the After Hours panel has been one of the highlights of my Comikaze experience.