The following is an interview with Peter Podgursky and Bryan Keithley regarding the recent release of the scripted audio series, NPRmageddon. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Podgursky and Keithley about the creative process of and inspiration for bringing the series to life, the incredible voice cast who have lent their talents to the production, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of NPRmageddon! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what was its inspiration?
Peter Podgursky: NPRmageddon stands for National Post-Apocalyptic Radio. The conceit of the show is that Bryan is a lead anchor for a public radio station in a dystopian “Lost” Angeles. I’m one of the reporters. We drew inspiration from sci-fi action films, Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan, and Walter Lippmann’s 1922 Public Opinion. We’re not high brow. We’re not low brow. We’re middle brow— like a caterpillar unibrow right across your forehead.
Bryan Keithley: Outside from a few facts one could easily Google, Peter is 100% wrong. The caterpillar metaphor is superficially clever, but not really relevant to the question at hand. Personally, I was inspired by Monty Python, Mr. Show, and the Bible (King James version). I don’t have a co-host on the show, but that’s only because Jesus is my co-host in life.
BD: The production process for a scripted audio drama is no easy feat. What can you tell us about how the writers and production team came together, as well as your shared creative process in bringing the script to life?
BK: NPRmageddon came to life, Frankenstein-like, in several stages. Writing and rewriting happened over many months as we tore ideas from real-life headlines and events, though we were careful never to invoke anything or anyone specifically to keep the show timeless. Then, much like the protagonist of Herman Melville’s immortal Moby Dick, we turned a daunting 10 episodes and 300 pages of material into our white whale, lopping off manageable chunks and turning those chunks into enough whale oil to light our modest recording studio.
PP: I was basically the production team. Bryan would stand behind me as I toiled and scream, “Make it better!” Our writing collaboration also worked this way. He would glance at my pages and say, “You call this art? All I see are compromises! Not good enough, Peter. NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH.”
BD: You have a Murderers’ Row of talented voice cast involved with the series, with over 80 actors taking part! What was your approach to the casting, and what can you tell us about your work with the cast throughout the recording of the production?
PP: I’d often write toward actors that I had worked with in the past. And sometimes, they weren’t actors at all. In episode one, there’s a piece about a guy who lives out in the badlands and is married to his car. He was played by a carpenter named Rick who frequented a bar I used to go to in El Segundo. A real salt-of-the-earth character with a unique sounding voice. There are a lot of seasoned actors in NPRmageddon, but I’m really tickled that Rick’s in it, too.
BK: Precisely, no one cares about the people Peter meets at bars. What people do care about are all the noteworthy talents we secured. There’s John de Lancie who plays Q on Star Trek, legendary science-fiction author Harlan Ellison, prolific actor and comedian Fred Willard, Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra, Internet mainstay Tay Zonday, and the voice of Rita Repulsa on Power Rangers, Barbara Goodson, among many others. They all really liked working with me.
BD: NPRmageddon has received high praise from critics and fans alike! What has been your experience is seeing the response for the series thus far?
BK: Humbled. Surprised. Delighted. Overwhelmed. All of these describe what our listeners have felt hearing episodes of NPRmageddon. And how can we blame them? For us, it’s been a real hoot. To center our experience using lore from the show, it’s like we’re at a three-headed turkey shoot and we won First Prize at the blowjamboree.
PP: The highlight so far has been being interviewed by real-life public radio reporter Sharon McNary for LAist. I really liked that she only interviewed me.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
PP: Currently, I am completing an interview with Fanbase Press. Personally, I think I’m killing it.
BK: Between Peter “killing it” and mention of a “Murderers’ Row,” I am really loving the level of violence in this interview. It’s like that one movie with Viggo Mortensen. We have also worked on an animated pilot version of NPRmageddon and are laying the groundwork for Season 2 of the show.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about NPRmageddon and your other work?
BK: NPRmageddon.com is your one-stop shop. We have links to our RSS feed, where you can listen on your favorite podcast platform. We also have a credits page, so you know who you’re listening to and an Etsy shop to buy a mug or T-shirt.
PP: And check out our lively Twitter feed (@nprmageddon). We’re blowing up!