When most people think about comedy podcasts, there’s a good chance they think the sort of conversational back-and-forth that shows like My Brother, My Brother and Me have more or less perfected and so many other shows have tried, in vain, to replicate–the type of shows that established the stereotype of “people sitting around a mic, trying to be funny.” There’s no doubt that in the case of nonfiction comedy podcasts, this is absolutely the case. A good ninety percent of the review requests I turn down are podcasts in this format.
Comedy in audio drama, though? That’s a genre doing some of the best production, acting, and writing in the podcasting medium as a whole. Everything about the comedy audio drama genre seems to subvert expectations set by conversational comedy podcasts: take, for instance, the tight structure of Victoriocity or the over-the-top ambition of Fall of the House of Sunshine. As the genre continues to grow, an exciting new addition has stepped up to the plate to push expectations even further: Imploding Fictions’s The Amelia Project.
The Amelia Project is a new comedy audio drama focusing on a company that helps clients fake their deaths, with each episode focusing on a different client:
The Amelia Project is a secret, underground organisation offering a very special service: Faking its clients’ deaths! Its eccentric clientele includes cult leaders, criminals and politicians all desperate to disappear and start over… But how long can the secrecy last?
“Congratulations. You’ve reached The Amelia Project. This phone call isn’t happening. If you’re not serious about this, hang up. Now.”
Like its standout comedy contemporaries, The Amelia Project excels in its writing. The humor isn’t carried by a need to make jokes; the comedy comes from the ridiculous situations of each episode and the strange characters therein. The podcast feels effortlessly funny while still being quick-witted and sharp. The self-serious titular Amelia Project company is contrasted perfectly with the de facto protagonist: a nameless, effervescent Interviewer who consults with each client and delights in hot cocoa. The clients, too, have a dire air to them–they are, of course, desperate enough to want to fake their death–while being equally absurd. The podcast has been hilarious from the start, but the most recent episode (as of writing) ,“05 Siiri,” had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions.
The acting in The Amelia Project has the same effortlessly hilarious feel as the writing. Each actor seems to completely embody their characters, even at their strangest, with genuine dedication. The standout performance here is Alan Burgon as the Interviewer: Burgon swings through emotions and tones at the drop of the hat, provide a necessarily broad performance while not veering into obnoxiousness, and balance being both whimsical and intense. Each of the actors behind the clients is able to perfectly keep stride alongside Burgon. The roles utilize each actor so well–even Julia Morizawa‘s short role as the company’s voicemail.
For readers of Podcast Problems, it will probably come as no surprise that what won me over most with The Amelia Project is its production work. This podcast has better sound design than most emotional, cinematic audio dramas. The room the episodes take place in feels like it has a thought-out setup, and all of the actors sound like they’re genuinely inside that room–something far too many podcasts still can’t accomplish. The foley work is subtle enough to not be intrusive, but still silly enough to sound at-home in such an over-the-top show. There’s a chance some listeners might call this podcast “over-produced,” and in response, I would call them “incorrect.” Even the theme music has gorgeous production.
Usually, I try to make sure to have some thoughtful criticism for the podcast being reviewed, but I haven’t yet found anything about The Amelia Project I don’t love. Transcripts of the episodes would be a nice addition to their site, though that site is worlds ahead of most other podcasts and even includes a press kit. The episodic nature of the podcast might want listeners wanting a more over-arching story, but less serialization is something audio dramas could benefit from (and there’s nothing to suggest this won’t happen). It could be argued that the show makes light of topics that are too serious, but readers of Podcast Problems will likely know my love of dark humor between Wooden Overcoats and What’s the Frequency. My only complaint for The Amelia Project so far is that there are only five proper episodes currently released, and their well-documented release schedule is taunting me with anticipation.