Poet and playwright Dan O'Brien joined Leah this week to discuss his three books coming out this fall, before diving into the world of British comedies of the last 10-20 years. (We start talking about comedies at 35 minutes, but first 30 minutes is a lot of cancer talk.... schedule your mammograms and colonoscopies, friends).
Send questions, comments or guest pitches (pitch yourself and YOUR favorite thing) to findingfavoritespodcast [at] gmail.com
Otter.ai Transcript follows
Dan O'Brien 0:00 Hello, my name is Dan O'Brien. And my favorite thing is British TV comedy of the last 20 years.
Announcer 0:09 Welcome to the Finding Favorites Podcast where we explore your favorite things without using an algorithm. Here's your host, Leah Jones.
Leah Jones 0:22 Hello, and welcome back to finding favorites. I'm your host, Leah Jones. And this is the podcast where we learn about people's favorite things and get recommendations without using an algorithm. I finally remembered the intro. I did not remember the introduction on Monday, when I recorded today's interview. Who knows what was going on with my brain on Monday? I took a few weeks off and completely forgot how to podcast. Yes. So since we last talked, I went to Israel for 10 days and had a really nice trip. I had three or four like super busy days up front. And then three or four days where I just had breakfast and then napped. And then the trip ended with a long anticipated dinner at a restaurant called OCD in Tel Aviv, Ronnie and I made reservations in March. And I got very worried that our anticipation had gotten too high that we had gotten too excited for the dinner. Because we had waited almost six months between reservation and dinner. But then it was absolutely phenomenal. I had been to OCD once before in 2019. A friend of mine took a number of us there for dinner. It's a molecular gastronomy restaurant in Tel Aviv. But I had suffered 48 hours of the worst food poisoning of my life before I went the first time. And so while I knew it was a good meal, I didn't appreciate it. And the return trip, locked it in as you know, like a top five meal probably from Thai zoo from last summer, also still in the top five. So Israel was a really nice trip, I was not able to attend any protests. While I was there, due to kind of family and friend obligations. I did see the queer gala drag show the seamless protest, it was phenomenal. The whole show was in Hebrew, but it was still very impactful for me. And then I found a news article that I was able to translate that explained the intricacies of, of different performances. So I was really glad I went to that I got to catch up with a number of friends who are involved in leading the democracy movement in Israel, and civil rights movements. And they are still working hard to try and reverse the actions of the current government. So that was good to talk to them in person. Then I got back from Israel, and immediately turned around and went to Philadelphia for one night to see how did this get made. And I did a real what is now unfortunately becoming a real classic Lea sort of thing, which is I booked travel for Philadelphia and bought a show a ticket to the show in Washington DC. And found out I realized my mistake on the plane going to Philadelphia. But the producers of How Did This Get Made? Because they knew that I had bought a ticket and wasn't I wasn't making shit up. I'm just my ADHD. I was what we're gonna blame for this one. I just it made more sense to go to the Saturday night show. So why would I have bought tickets to a Sunday night show when I would have had to use a vacation day to attend? Who knows? Who knows it's a mystery to everyone. But it was a really fun live show. I got to see Gino from the Doughboys fan community catch up with him. So I saw some Doughboys fans I saw some How Did This Get Made fans that I know from my Facebook group. What took myself to Cheesecake Factory. didn't see a single friend because I am a jerk again who doesn't plan things well, and who was still jet lagged. But I'm back I'm booking this next season of finding favorites. I put a call out on Instagram which is exciting because I got like four people right away who were tagged by my friend, Amy Guth, who are interested in coming on the show. Also, Nicole Zelnick are tagged in a few people. If you are interested in being a guest on finding favorites, please Send me an email finding favorites email@example.com and I'll send you my Calendly link. This week I'm talking with Dan O'Brien. Dan is a poet and playwright based in Los Angeles. He has three books coming out this fall. And when I saw that on Instagram, I sent him a note and said, Hey, I like to talk to authors, please come on the podcast. I got to Dan's poetry the normal way, which is to say through his wife's podcast. Dan is married to comedian and actress, Jessica St. Clair, who co hosts the deep dive podcast with June Diane Revell. Diane, of course, is on How Did This Get Made. All roads lead back there. So when his book of poetry, our cancers was released, Jessica talked about it on deep dive, and I bought a copy. And I tried to read it. And I was still a little too early in my own cancer journey to handle it. But now that I'm a little bit further in to my survivorship journey, I was able to read more of our cancers, and I'm looking forward to reading his book of poetry survivors notebook. So, if you don't want to hear about cancer, you're going to need to skip ahead, like 2025 minutes into the podcast. Because Dan is a cancer survivor. I'm a cancer survivor. The two of his three books are about cancer. And so we talk about it a lot. But then we talk about British comedies. And so if you're not here for talking about cancer fast forward, and I'll put the exact time in the show notes, so you know where to jump to. So there we go. Again, if you are interested in coming on the podcast, shoot me an email. Without further ado, wear your mask. Wash your hands, get your booster and keep enjoying your favorite things.
Leah Jones 7:19 Hello, and welcome to finding favorites. I'm your host, Leah Jones. And this is the podcast where we get recommendations without makeup. Nope. I have taken a few weeks off. Hello, and welcome to finding favorites. I'm your host, Leah Jones. This is the podcast where we get recommendations without using an algorithm and learn about people's favorite things. Today I am with playwright and poet Dan O'Brien. Dan has not one, not two, three books coming out this fall survivors notebook from Scarsdale and true story, a trilogy September 7, if you are in Brentwood, you there's an event at diesel, which is a bookstore in Brentwood. So you can reserve a seat by buying one of these books in advance. But Dan, welcome to finding favorites. How are you doing?
Dan O'Brien 8:10 Thank you, I'm good. Thank you for having me on. And I should say the the the launch on September 7 is free. You don't have to buy a book. But it's only if you want to reserve a seat. The bookstore suggests you buy a book, which you know, Far be it for me to tell you not to buy a book. But you're also welcome to just show up. And, and we're still working on we're hoping to use it use the launch also as a charity fundraising event, because World Cancer Day is September 8. And at least one of these books is explicitly about my wife and I having cancer at the same time are being treated for cancer pretty much at the same time in 2015 and 16. And that's the book survivors notebook, which is prose poems and some of my photographs as well.
Leah Jones 9:03 Yeah. And that's how we initially met on social media is I listened to your wife's podcast. And so I bought the book our cancers, which is a book of poetry, and tried to read it and I was like, Ooh, I am maybe not beyond my own treatment enough to be able to handle the book yet. But I did pick it back up this weekend. And you and Jessica both said, you know how it ends? Like, you know, like, you, you're both alive. You're both here. You're both healthy, so that I and I could read it without the fear of, of death, I guess. Right, right. And so I dug back into it a little bit more of this weekend, but that was how we initially connected was over the book our cancers.
Dan O'Brien 9:53 Yeah, that's the book that came out. I came out two years ago. And I wrote that book during our treatments. So the first half are poems written in a very, very sparse, minimalist poems. Very, it's a very quick read, but it is an intense read the first half is, is really from the point of view of a caregiver to somebody who's going through cancer treatment as I was helping Jessica through her treatment. And then as it happened, it was her last day of chemotherapy, that I was diagnosed. So she was being treated for stage two breast cancer, and then I was diagnosed with stage four, but treatable colon cancer. And so we, you know, we switched roles, you know, in a moment on a single day. And so the second half of the book is from the perspective of somebody in treatment for cancer. And, and this new book is, you know, I think, I think, in many ways, it's probably an easier read, because it's about sort of the challenge or the opportunity or the privilege of returning to life after treatment, you know, as people who have survived, or are surviving cancer, no, of course, you know, it's not like you finished treatment, and you can feel like, oh, that's done, I'll never have to worry about that, again, you know, it is it is a long process of living with a certain degree of uncertainty and anxiety. But it's also a time of, you know, what I what I found was, it was also a time of, of great relief and joy and hope, and, you know, just a greater awareness to those positive aspects of life. And so, you know, yeah, so the new the new collection, which are prose poems, so they're not minimalist. They're very Irish, I like to say, in that they're very talkative. They're very chatty prose poems. And I think they're, they may even be somewhat humorous, some of them at least I think, I think they are.
Leah Jones 11:52 I think I think what you said is true about the that I thought, as soon as treatment ended, I would, it would be a rapid improvement. And that the recovery is much slower going than I expected. Although we were talking before I hit record about I just got back from Israel. And I, because I've been so many times, now I stay in the same hotel. So a year ago. Last September, I was there. And that was just a few months out from finishing my immunotherapy. And returning another year later, and I was like, Oh, wait, I walked to that hotel without stopping to sit on a bench without using my cane. I walked further because I lose track in Chicago, have my improvements.
Dan O'Brien 12:45 Right, because it's incremental. Right, it's sort of happens little by little. Yeah, I found that, too, for sure. And, you know, I the this new collection really was written the rough draft was written the first two years post treatment, and it seemed, and then I revised it a lot for several years. So be and some of some of the poems were written after that. But I did find those first two years were really key in that it took me about that long to sort of feel like I had recovered, you know, of course, I don't know, to what degree I might feel differently at my age if I hadn't gone through that experience. But it really was about two years before I stopped, you know, maybe that was enough time to start to process the trauma. You know, maybe it was enough, that was enough time to feel like it was somewhat in my past, you know, that had a certain amount of perspective. But it was also that feeling that physically, you know, I was starting to feel kind of kind of back to normal, even to the degree that you know, I had pretty severe neuropathy, or nerve damage, or nerve pain during treatment from from the chemotherapy. And I don't anymore, but that was a great that probably took about two years for that to really go well. Even even the significant scarring I have from surgeries. I was amazed that the the nerves in my skin eventually reconnected and healed. You know, my, my abdomen where the major surgeries were, was cut was pretty much numb for probably about two years. Yeah. And now, you know, they feel just my skin feels just like it used to, you know, yeah, it's amazing. It is amazing. And, and if you're, if you're privileged enough or lucky enough to still be around, it does give you a real sense of amazement and gratitude and astonishment. You know, you can direct that in all kinds of directions, whether it's towards modern medicine, or the healing power of the body or just feeling lucky in the cosmic sense, but yeah, so I'm glad to hear that you're that you pitcher, you know, coming back to normal.
Leah Jones 15:02 Yeah, it was a huge relief on this trip to just literally sometimes look. And I'm like, oh, last year, I had to sit on that bench and that bench. And for the most part, my I just left my cane in my hotel room this time, which was just great. It's huge. It's huge. It was a, it's been this trip really brought home to me that things are better than they were.
Dan O'Brien 15:27 When did you How long has it been since you finished treatment?
Leah Jones 15:31 Um, I was diagnosed in June of 21. So it was like, and then chemo was October to January. So it was October of 22 is when I finished immunotherapy. Okay, yeah. So not quite a year out from finishing treatment.
Dan O'Brien 15:53 Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it really did. I think it was around the two year mark. But that's, you know, that's somewhat arbitrary. But that's when I really did feel like it's hard to explain, I even this is why I think it's good to write poetry about this sort of thing, because it's hard to be too literal about it. You know, it feels like, obviously a psychological if not even a spiritual journey, in many ways. But, you know, it felt like there was almost like a veil between my eyes and the world for about two years. And I don't mean like a veil of depression or something. But I was just I was seeing everything in his in a different way. Maybe there's just the perspective of trauma, you know, and somewhere around the two year mark, that did seem to dissipate and disappear, you know?
Leah Jones 16:42 Yeah, I'm looking forward to that. It is I went to a I had an MRI on Friday. And the friend who took me because I was on, you know, take Lorazepam I don't go sober to those anymore. I don't try to white knuckle it.
Dan O'Brien 17:00 No reason why I do that.
Leah Jones 17:03 So it turns out, like now going for an MRI can be like, a fun afternoon with a friend who just says like, you're gonna be silly, and you're gonna be ridiculous. And you're going to try and tell me stories. And I'm going to fail miserably. And to be at a point now where I didn't cry. I didn't like panicked. And it was just like, like, weirdly, a fun afternoon with my best friend.
Dan O'Brien 17:25 That's great. Yeah. Yeah, there's a poem at the at the end of survivor's notebook, which was about going for a scan. And, you know, people who aren't familiar with this, there's a term for it, scan xiety, which I think is fun, but it under sells, just how terrifying it can be. Because it's really more of an existential confrontation, you know, with your mortality. And within your past,
Leah Jones 17:50 you know, that grows as the date of the scan gets, it's just, once you notice it, you like flip the calendar, and you're like, Oh, the scan is it's eminent. It's like static.
Dan O'Brien 18:03 Yeah. And so in this poem, it you know, there was one scan, I think, near the end of that two year period, where an older woman was leaving just had had had her scan. And she just turned to the waiting room. And she sort of, you know, wished everybody a sort of happy holiday or whatever. And she turned to it, she was just beaming really, with optimism. And she said, to the person in charge of the waiting room, you know, see you next year, and I just loved that, you know, is this idea that, okay, she's got to come back every year, but you get the sense that she wasn't in the thick of it. And that, you know, her, her outlook obviously seemed to be really good. And I don't know, it just seemed like a moment where I saw somebody who was a survivor. In a way, this is cliche, but that idea of, you know, survive to thrive or something, you know, to think of survivorship is not simply surviving in the sense of like, I don't know, desperately clinging to life. But arriving at a place that is, kind of awakens, you know, to a lot of positive aspects of your life. So, yeah, I mean, I felt a lot of that doesn't mean I don't feel a lot of the same, you know, negative or fearful aspects of survivorship. I certainly do. But I will say it gets, you know, obviously, it gets better with time. If that's any help, too. I mean, part of that two year thing was, and I can see it in increments. You know, I feel differently than I did a year ago. Now. It's been almost seven years since I finished treatment. Wow. Which is shocking to me.
Leah Jones 19:43 In the five year mark is like that's the big first one, right? Is it the same for colon cancer?
Dan O'Brien 19:49 It is. Yeah, it I mean, it's. It's hard to tell. Yeah, I mean, I'm very almost superstitious about that sort of thing. because as you know, I don't want to take anything for granted either. But yeah, it you know, the first especially the first two years with colon cancer is very, you know, the recurrence rate is very high. But certainly, yeah, after five years, and usually I think most cancers, they say, if you can make it to 10 year mark, they'll often considered permanent remission. You know, or even some people will use the word cure. Yeah. So, you know, but again, I just tried to focus on, you know, the present moment as much as I can, which is, again, really helpful. As a writer. Yeah, especially I think poetry.
Leah Jones 20:40 Can. Sorry, go ahead. No, go ahead. Can I ask you about your writing process? Because he said, our cancers was written? During the experience? Are you do you have a daily writing practice? And is it poetry? Or is it like how to? I mean, you've got three books coming out this fall? So I suspect you have a daily writing practice?
Dan O'Brien 21:05 Yeah. I do. I mean, I should say that, you know, it's just random, really, that the three books are coming out at the same time. In that, you know, you write and then you put things to the side, and then you revise, and then you hope to find a publisher and, and that all takes off in years. And so, you know, this memoir that I have coming out, I probably started nine years ago, okay. And then wrote, I wrote a lot of it during treatment, again, in a kind of rough draft form. So the memoir does have, it's about my childhood, which was a fairly traumatic childhood. But it's written from the perspective of where I was, you know, when I was in treatment, with that sense of urgency, you know, trying to tell that story, just in case, I didn't have much time. Yeah, do you know, and then I revised it for some years. And so it's just coming out now, just as luck, luck would have it. And the third book is a trilogy of plays that that were written over the course of, you know, 10 years or so. And with the most last plan, the trilogy was written during treatment, so all three books to some degree, you know, deal with my cancer experience, and also to some degree deal with my childhood. So they kind of overlap in a lot of ways. And in terms of a process, you know, maybe the fact that I have three books in three genres that kind of overlap in terms of subject and theme might cue somebody into the fact that I'm fairly compulsive. As a person. You know, I, I have obsessive compulsive disorder, it's fairly fairly mild, and it's managed, but I do channel it into my writing I always have. So I, you know, I tend to write every day I'm not, I'm not a maniac, you know, if I'm traveling, or if I don't feel well, or if I have a family event or something I don't write. But otherwise, I do try to write, you know, every every day. And it's more of a, it's more of a kind of a lifestyle, habit or choice, you know, then then Archie then then some kind of work like, endeavor, you know, there's certainly aspects of the writers career, they feel like work. But the actual writing is just something I've always, you know, it was a survival mechanism. As a kid in a dysfunctional family, I found specifically that time poetry, but then I started writing short stories and eventually plays, and, you know, it was a way to, to, to understand what was happening to feel like I was in control, to find to find some sort of meaning, and maybe even some kind of beauty in trauma. And, and it's always helped me I mean, when Jessica, my wife was diagnosed, and I when I was diagnosed, even at that time, I felt so lucky that I could write about it. I didn't know if anyone would want to read it. I didn't know you know, I didn't know if it would be good quote unquote, good writing. But it was a way for me to, to survive it. Yeah. So yeah, so I tend to write a lot. But it's not not for any admirable reason. And I don't and I don't publish a lot. I mean, it's not like you know, I also revise a lot so it's not like unnecessarily you know, writing so many specific different things. You know, a lot of it is I probably sometimes I think I revise too much. You know, in that kind of obsessive compulsive way to try to be perfect even though of course, I know there's no such thing as a perfect work of art. Yeah, so the short answer is OCD. Yeah.
Leah Jones 25:01 That's OCD and trauma.
Dan O'Brien 25:03 Yeah. Exact finding a way that makes a writer that makes it a writer. Yeah. Do you are you a writer Do you write?
Leah Jones 25:12 I have times in my life when I write Yes. I just I actually just applied for a workshop with Megan steel Sandra, who's an essayist in Chicago. She does a an essay collection in a year at the story studio in Chicago. And I just applied
Dan O'Brien 25:33 for it for this year. Great. Well, fingers crossed, thank
Leah Jones 25:36 you. I was a blogger for from like 2003 to 2013 or 15, like, like blogging from the earliest days of blogging, and I've done live lit performance, and I've done stand up comedy. So I find a lot of ways to get things out there. But yeah, so I think now, on the I took some I applied with two live lit pieces that I had done. Okay, great. Yeah. And I was just like, you know, you don't have to have a big idea yet. And, you know, I've I did a comic. It's an anthology called menopause, a comic treatment. And it was about menopause. So I had a hysterectomy when I was 40. So mine was about going to mikvah, which was a Jewish ritual bath before to mark my last period before I had my hysterectomy. Okay, so I did a comic about that. So so I kind of think like, I don't know, if the world needs another graphic memoir about breast cancer, there are many, but kind of want to do that.
Dan O'Brien 26:53 Well do it. I mean, I know that feel I know that feeling of does the world need another one? But I, you know, I think the world does, you know, obviously, yeah, you know, one thing anytime you go through trauma, especially if you're an artist, but baby, everybody feels this way. You know, to some degree, you realize how everybody has experiences like this, maybe even this specific case of cancer, just how common cancer is. So whether or not somebody has, has had cancer themselves, you know, they've had loved ones or friends who've experienced it. And, you know, sure, sometimes that can get if you're an artist, you can feel like well, you know, is this just another book about that, but then I think, you know, there's no shortage of books and plays and movies about infidelity, or, you know, it's, it's, this is part of the human experience and, and if it's meaningful to you to write it, you know, somebody's going to connect and engage with it. And also,
Leah Jones 27:50 the more you talk about it, the more people get an early diagnosis, you know, I only got my mammogram, so that I could go to a friend's funeral with a clean bill of health. Wow, cuz she had died of breast cancer during COVID. So I was like, All right, Lucy, I'm gonna, for you, I'll, I'll go and I'll get my mammogram. And I got diagnosed the day before her funeral, and then showed up and was obviously a disaster, right, my crying at a level that didn't match our friendship. And so then I had to tell people at her funeral, because I was like, I don't want people to think I'm like, this is like Stolen Valor that I'm overreacting to our, to the loss of someone who was just, you know, a dear friend, but not someone I was close to at the time of her death. So it was like, really? It was messy. But everybody in house was very kind.
Dan O'Brien 28:45 Yeah, and how, you know, I hate to use the word but how, you know, wonderful that something is awful as your friends passing. You saved your life. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, that's, that's the other reason why, you know, I have friends, I'm sure you do, too, who choose to keep cancer or any physical illness, private and that I think that's, that's great. I don't judge them whatsoever. But Jessica and I, we both felt like, one reason why we wanted to be open about it was because why not? We felt like why not? Perhaps if it gets somebody to get tested earlier, you know, than they would have otherwise. And I know friends of mine, you know, who were about my age where you know, at the time when I was 42 when I was diagnosed had no family history. I don't have any of the genetic known genetic markers. And so it was a complete surprise or friends of mine, you know, went and got colonoscopies and none of my close friends that I know of were diagnosed but they did have you know, precancerous, polyps removed and things like that, and averaged out to say they were they were I'm thankful that I was being public about it, you know, because it made them made them want to get checked out. So
Leah Jones 30:07 the same a lot of my a lot of my friends, it pushed them to get their first mammograms. And, to my knowledge, only one person was diagnosed with breast cancer. So
Dan O'Brien 30:21 that's Yeah, but you're done. That's great. And you're all you've got the podcast. So who knows who's listening to the podcast to you know, seeing Jessica, you know, she because of her podcast, and she's heard from lots of people, you know, who've who've been diagnosed, because they were spurred on to get to get a mammogram or, or just to be more aware of possible symptoms. You know, so yeah, I think I think that's a really great reason. I even feel like, you know, the books, our cancers and survivors notebook, like they could be triggering for many people to read. But I also write them because I feel like for some people, they could be, you know, somewhat helpful to read to feel like, you know, here's somebody who's gone through something similar. He's writing about a feeling I've had, or I'm having now, you know, that sort of thing. So I don't think I'm changing the world at all. But I do feel like it's a mode, it's a motivating factor to me to feel like, you know that I want to that I want to try to be helpful. Yeah.
Leah Jones 31:30 Well, I also think that's powerful. I mean, I wish, obviously, that you guys had not had back to back cancers. With the first half of the book, written from a caretakers point of view, it was a solid year, it was only like, this summer or spring that I even came to and realize that the people who took care of me were upset, or were, and they're, it's sort of like, helpful for me to think about what people went through supporting me because everybody was so good about not bringing me their shit in it. You know, it's right. So I think it's a really powerful, I think, for people who have had cancer, who, to the caretaker point of view, I think, is also really important.
Dan O'Brien 32:24 Yeah, you know, I mean, anytime you're close to somebody, like you would be with a partner, or a very, very good friend or a family member, like, Yeah, I mean, I think it's wonderful that you were able to have people surrounding you were burdening you with what they were going through in relation to your your treatment. But yeah, you know, you can't help but as a caregiver, you know, feel a high degree of empathy, obviously, for what, and in many ways, even though your life may not be threatened in the same way, your life still is threatened because you could lose your spouse or you could lose a parent or a sibling or what have you, or child even so. Yeah, so I thought I was reading one book, and then it turned into another. Yeah. And we both Jessica and I both got the experience each other's experience with a year and a half. You know, and it's, and I still think I still think I had it better off in the sense that, because she went first, when I was in treatment, she could be like a coach to me, you know, in a way that I, you know, I was trying to be as helpful as it could to her when she was in treatment. Right. But I hadn't been through it yet. But but to have her say, Okay, I felt this way to write in very specific ways. Or even to have her say, you know, there's no guarantee about everything. But look, I'm, I'm done with treatment. Yeah, you will be to this feels interminable. But in two months, three months, four months, you're gonna be done. Yep. And we're gonna be healthy and happy again, you know, all the things you need to hear, but to have somebody who had just gone through it, right, you know, was really a gift as hard as it was. For her I'm sure to, I mean, she felt like, you know, she had her recovery, her time to recuperate was spent taking care of me, right. So yeah, it was a real, it was a real challenge. But, you know, like I said, in the context of, you know, bad news and extreme challenges, we had a lot of and have had a lot of good luck. And, and I do count the fact that that she was able to coach me through it as as good fortune for me for sure.
Leah Jones 34:47 Survivors notebook, from scar sale, and true story, a trilogy. I will link to a link to everything people should be able to preorder through your publishers or can they preorder now through like bookshop at work and local Indians, yeah,
Dan O'Brien 35:03 they can, they can preorder it, you know, all the usual places, if they go direct with the publisher. The pre ordered books go out earlier like the the poetry book, I think is going out this week, even though it doesn't publish officially till September 15. So that's if you go through the publisher, which is Aker books, but it's distributed by University of Chicago Press. So
Leah Jones 35:26 I'm just gonna drive down there and get my copy. Okay. Pick it up. You're that close? That close? Yeah. Like eight miles away? Maybe. Oh, great. Yeah.
Leah Jones 35:48 Well, Dan, I don't think cancer is either of our favorite things. Even though it's what brought us together to talk today. Yeah. What is one of your favorite things that you'd like to talk about?
Dan O'Brien 36:01 Well, I mean, you know, I'm kind of happy that my initial thought of you sir, my, my favorite thing to talk about is something related to comedy. Just because, you know, talking about cancer can be a little bit upsetting. I mean, the connection. So my favorite thing, what I wanted to talk about was British comedy, TV comedy. Oh, okay. And, you know, to some degree, some of these comedians and different TV shows, I loved before the cancer experience, but many of them were really helpful to me, not just during treatment, but I would say, especially during that year to over recovery, sort of coming back to life.
Leah Jones 36:43 So when we're talking like young ones, and Monty Python, and like, 70s 80s, British comedy, are we talking like modern talk shows and tasks? Like, what, what type of British comedy are we talking about?
Dan O'Brien 36:57 It's mostly I mean, I've sort of made a list, I probably didn't, two of the shows that that I just love and I rewatch over and over again, and, you know, can recite the whole lines of dialogue. And they're really they're, they're, they're recent, you know, they're within the last 1015 years. Or maybe the last 20 with some of the shows, so they're not they're not sort of I know, there's sort of classic, you know, Monty Python in 70s 80s, British comedy. I grew up with Monty Python, you know, like every 14 year old boy. In my high school, I could recite most Monty Python sketches, you know. And, and my father grew up watching the Benny Hill show, which is, I think, pretty terrible, but it Well, it did not all our members, it's like Benny Hill slapping a little bald man's head and running around like chasing women in their underwear around the park. You know? Yeah, it's it's certainly it's problematic as they would say. So the I but I wouldn't, I wouldn't. Benny hills, not on my list. The one I thought to start with is about 20 years old. It's called Garth and aranguiz. dark place.
Leah Jones 38:12 Okay. I've never heard of it. Oh, it's so
Dan O'Brien 38:15 good. You can watch it all on YouTube. It's they only made six, six episodes one season, you know, British TV off in a season or as they say a series might be six or eight or 10 episodes,
Leah Jones 38:29 because there's only 20 actors. And Right, exactly.
Dan O'Brien 38:33 Yeah. And this was so this was based on a stage show, which I think you can tell Garth Miranda's dark place. And it was I think it grew out of the Cambridge Footlights, which is sort of their car, their Cambridge University comedy troupe and a bunch of the actors who put together this Edinburgh Fringe show yeah, called Garth Miranda's dark place. And it was like the big head of the festival and they parlayed that into a BBC Four TV series. That must be the definition of a cult hit, because I don't think anybody watched it at the time. And it's, but it's I think it's pretty hilarious. It's got some pretty well known the four main actors are Matthew wholeness. Richard IOD who's very well known and British, or British TV probably for the IT Crowd is gonna be his most his biggest show, Matt Berry is on who was on it. Alice Lowe. The four of them were really the main characters. And it's kind of it's this it's like a so Garth Moran. Gay is like a Stephen King, character, British Stephen King. And he says these wonderful things like he says it writers who write with subtext are cowards. Just he has all these like pronouncements about writing, which are hilarious. So there's certainly an element of that that I've found interesting. And so each episode basically, the conceit is he's a Stephen King like writer who's written who writes a novel every other month, you know, horrible horror novel. But in the 80s, the conceit is that he wrote, starred in and directed this, like horror TV show about like a haunted hospital. Okay. And it's just, so that's what so you get a little intro from him before each episode. You see the episode from the 80s, purportedly from the 80s. Okay, so it's very self referential and meta in sort of satirizing 80s. TV and a lot. So it's
Leah Jones 40:49 sort of a, like Masterpiece Theater where there's like the upfront and then you watch.
Dan O'Brien 40:55 Yes. Okay. Yeah. And he explains that he because then they're also they cut back to sort of interviews with the actors in the modern day, present day. And he explains why they do that, because he didn't know anything about TV shows. So when they first made this series, you know, that he didn't realize they had to be 27 minutes long, or whatever. So they're filling it out with these little interviews. And but anyway, I think it's a little hilarious show. It's very, you know, it does spoof a lot of sort of, you know, a cult storylines. And, you know, there's, there's one episode involving, I think the idea is that there's like a portal to Hell underneath the hospital. So all kinds of strange things happen. There's is a great episode where ghosts of Scottish Highlanders come back to terrorize our main characters. And it's got this amazing, like, hilarious anti Scottish sentiment among the English characters, which of course, is not to be taken seriously. Anyway, so that that show was an early favorite of mine. And I think I first heard about it because Jessica, no, this must have been how so Jessica, my wife was in a pilot that was an American remake of The IT Crowd. And it never made it to air. And but Richard IOA de who is in Garth registar place was also and was also in the British it crowd was in the American IT Crowd as well. Okay. So, one day, 20 years ago, Jessica said, Hey, we should watch this Garth Marang these thing. And it blew my mind. And since then, it's only I mean, it's there is a huge, you know, following now, if you go on YouTube, you know, huge viewer viewing count for the show. And only I'm, like I said, are yours? Exactly, exactly. And you know, all of them. All of these actors and writers have gone on to some other great shows. Yeah. On my list as well.
Leah Jones 43:06 Do you when you come back to rewatch a show? Is it? Do you have a favorite episode you'll throw on? Or is it it's an easy watch to, to watch the whole series and you'll watch the whole series again?
Dan O'Brien 43:22 Yeah, it's an easy watch. I mean, the other one that I watch all the time, also stars Matt Berry, who was in North America, his dark place, and that's called toast of London. And it was on Netflix for a while. I think now you have to either buy it or stream it on like britbox or something. Yeah. But that's another one, which I will watch any episode of. I don't think I really have a favorite. They're, they're, they're kind of they're all amazing. I mean, now that I talked about it, I see. So toast of London is about an actor in London, who just kind of, you know, a washed up, you know, or not even washed up and never was, I guess, but he doesn't really know it. Who's named Steven toast. And it's just about him and his life and his agent who's this amazing actor, comedian and his rival of whose name is Ray purchase who's played by Oh god, what's his name? Harry Peacock, by the way, is married to the female lead in the British. It crowd so as you said, there are only 20 or so actors in the UK. And they're either married to somebody who's been in another show or right but no, I don't really I don't really have favorites of those two series. I'm trying to think
Leah Jones 44:48 you know that I find them I have to have a favorite episode. I was just I don't know I I find
Dan O'Brien 44:53 them this. This must be what happens with everybody who watches because I don't do this a lot. I don't have a lot of shows that I will watch obsessively. But you get to a point where you know the episodes so well, that it's almost just that it's comforting. It's not even that you're necessarily like, enjoying it the way you did originally. Right? You're sort of just relaxing into the, you know, the familiarity of it. Yeah. My daughter's that way, actually with Bob's Burgers. She loves Bob's Burgers. And so do I show. And she's, I mean, God, she doesn't even watch a lot of TV, but she will watch she has watched probably every episode, you know, 20 times at this point. Yeah. And some of them her mother's mother's on which is kind of fun. That's to have just because voice pop up on Bob's Burgers. Yeah. I
Leah Jones 45:47 think Bob's Burgers isn't that is one that I'll, I'll just let run. Because it's never so complex, a plot that I can't get back into it. Right. If I leave, if I leave the room, they get distracted and leave the room for a while. I don't know. I that is I think a really lovely show.
Dan O'Brien 46:07 It's a great I mean, yeah, exactly. It's funny, but it's it's also, you know, kind of heartfelt I mean, we were we are sort of Jessica and I and our daughter BB. We're kind of obsessed with you how, like any show, because it's been on what, like 13 years or so. It's been around a while. And you can see the progression. It took a few years before it really found its heart. And I think that's really what makes it special. So it's always been funny. Yeah, but it found a certain kind of, I don't know emotional warmth, you know, without being dramatic. That really, I think makes it makes it special.
Leah Jones 46:46 Yeah. Well, that the conflict in the house isn't hatred. Right. They all love each other. Linda and Bob adore each other. And you don't always get adoring, married couples in adult cartoons, right? Yeah, that's true. And there's just a lot of Yeah. And the siblings, when they fight with each other, it's over, like, dumb kid stuff. But it's never hatred. It's never Yeah, they're never really mean to each other. They're just like, fed up with being in each other's space.
Dan O'Brien 47:22 Right. Right. Yeah. And in the end, they're always there for each other. They'll always have each other's back. Yep. If the if the other one needs it, you know? And yeah, so that's a big ingredient. I don't know if that's true. In the case of the shows I just listed.
Leah Jones 47:41 Well, but British comedy. The British never want you to be too full of yourself or have too much. Yes.
Dan O'Brien 47:47 Yeah. That's true. Yes, there. There's always was it's kind of their self deprecating, but they're also self deprecating towards others. Or they're just deprecating to others. They'll deprecate you. But, and that reminds me a little bit of if I can throw on another show, you know, our watch anything with Steve Coogan, especially Alan Partridge, Partridge character and the various shows that he's been a part of. And yeah, there's a you can see that with that character, too. I mean, like, character, I think is very, you know, like, with any performer, you have to wonder how much of that character is Steve Coogan and how much is an invention? I'm sure it's just an exaggeration of certain aspects of his character. But if it is, you know, somewhat autobiographical, he's certainly making fun of himself. Yeah. And, and I just really connect to that. I also think, I mean, maybe it's, I'm being an anglophile but I think a lot of British comedy is just smarter. You know, I think I think it expects more of the audience. Now I've got I have friends, English, British friends who say that's just because I'm only looking at maybe the best of their TV shows struggling to come over here. And they feel the same about the best of American TV shows that pop up in the UK. So that's probably true. But I do think you know, what, even comparing, you know, another show, it's not on my list, but But obviously, a great show is the British office. Right? And comparing the American office to the British office is pretty fascinating. You know, the British office is a lot darker, more. Doesn't coddle the audience. It's certainly not as emotionally warm. Yeah. But it's incredibly specific, and, you know, nuanced and yeah, so I guess I do enjoy a certain amount of darkness in my comedy.
Leah Jones 49:56 I mean, I think one of the other things that's nice It's about British comedy or British TV in general. And you mentioned it with the Garth, what was his name? Garth,
Dan O'Brien 50:06 Garth Marang de ma, r e n g. H. I.
Leah Jones 50:11 M. Is that the they will also in the show when that should be ended like they want? Because the office the UK offices, what three seasons?
Dan O'Brien 50:23 Yeah, I think it's even I think it's two and a Christmas special or special Yeah.
Leah Jones 50:30 That they get in and get out of the joke faster than American. Yeah. TV. Right.
Dan O'Brien 50:37 Right. So you can feel like it has more of a coherent story. Whereas Yeah, you know, especially network TV in the US, at least historically, the longer seasons. And, you know, there isn't necessarily much of a narrative arc, you know, of course of seasons, whereas you watch the original office, and you feel like you're watching a kind of riveting mini series in a way. Because I think the second season was even shorter than the first season. So something I want to say it was, like, 10 episodes and six episodes, and then a special or something like similar to that. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, I don't know how there must have been, what hundreds of episodes how many hundreds of episodes of the American office? Yeah. So it is kind of a totally different thing. And many people prefer the American office and I I'm just I didn't really watch it. So I don't want I'm not casting judgment on that. But yeah, I was I was certainly drawn to the, to the more I mean, I write you know, my plays are dramas. So I'm probably drawn to some of the more dramatic elements that said, there's a lot of British comedy that's very silly to that, and the elements of Alan Partridge and Garth Baranggay, which are just a toast of London that are all just absurd and silly.
Leah Jones 51:51 So as toast of London, so you said it's a it's not a down and out actor. It's a it's an actor who has not made it, but doesn't realize they haven't made it.
Dan O'Brien 52:03 Yeah, he's like he's working like one episode is about how he's never worked at the Globe. He's never been in Shakespeare's Globe. And he's kind of ridiculed for that by other actors. And so he finally gets a chance to be in sort of a trendy, new by sort of a hotshot, you know, young director, a new Shakespeare, that is going to the, the conceit behind this Shakespeare production is that it's going to be played by dogs entirely by dogs, except for Steven toast, and his other Australian backpacker who were cast because they look like dogs, dog like faces. So you know, like he works. And he's often in a play. That's, that's getting terrible reviews and like a cab driver would recognize him from that play, and like, try to beat him up. And you know, he's kind of or like he's in there's one episode where he's in. Do you know the Agatha Christie play that's been running for, what? 50 years? And on the west end of mouse trap, it's called trap. Yes. And so there's an episode of toasted London where he's been cast in the moose trap. And he goes on a morning talk show, and he let slip that the chauffeur did it. And so the whole idea is like, you know, how everybody this whole life goes to goes to pieces, because he's, he's destroyed this show that's been running for decades, you know? So why did I get going on in that direction with that?
Leah Jones 53:35 Just that exists example of how his his Oh, life goes in his episodes. Yeah.
Dan O'Brien 53:42 So he's acting. Yeah. So he's just kind of but you know, he has a roommate he's still in. He's probably one other thing that's interesting is like, he's clearly like, you know, the actor is probably I don't know, 40 or so. But there are there are references to his life and career that would place him as being a young man like in the late 60s, early 70s. So like, it's very confused chronology, like there's an episode where he happens to stumble in a pawn shop, the the filming of of a faked of the fake Moon Landing with, you know, what's his face? Who's the who's the famous director, the shining and Dr. Strangelove Kubrick? Kubrick? Yeah, of course. Yeah. So in this episode, he claims that when he was a young actor, he stumbled upon Kubrick filming, filming the Moon Moon Landing, which of course would not work if he was 40.
Unknown Speaker 54:38 Right today, right?
Dan O'Brien 54:40 So there's a kind of weird, you know, time sequence there. His his roommate is played by Robert bathra. Bat her stunning, as I say his last name, who you would recognize if you google him. He's been on you know, he's on Downton Downton Abbey. He's one of these British actors that usually in dramas Yeah, but is such a well known character actor. As Ken he's he's so hilarious as his roommate, which is just great to see this guy who's known for dramas in this comic or comedic role. And but again, there's
Leah Jones 55:12 no I do recognize them. Yeah,
Dan O'Brien 55:15 they're middle aged men who are still roommates because they don't neither one of them is really working enough to to afford anything better. And then the the show Matt Berry is also a musician. He records and releases albums that are kind of like Africa when he calls them like psychedelic folk, or something. So sometimes, so the theme song of toasted London is his music and him singing. And then each episode is usually Musical interlude of his own music. It's often quite bizarre. It's not even like sometimes they're not even really like fully formed songs. Yeah. So it's like, it's the sort of kind of adventures thing that you would never see on American TV. Yeah. But was not only toasted London was a huge hit in the UK. And they actually just think a year or two ago did another season called toasts of toast of Hollywood, I think or toasts of LA.
Leah Jones 56:11 And it's a bit they bring him. Yeah,
Dan O'Brien 56:14 it's what what's kind of amazing to watch is they still filmed it in London. They found a way to kind of fake it, and they brought it a certain number of American actors like Fred Armisen, isn't it? And a few others, Maya Rudolph, I think, isn't it? And yeah, but they did film it in London. So once you know that, you can see how they're, they're using green screen and and things like that to to fake it. Yeah. But it's you know, it's
Leah Jones 56:44 Tencel town
Dan O'Brien 56:45 toast of Tinseltown. That's what it is. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, it was it was a big hit, as opposed to Garth Marang. Keys, which was, is now a cult favorite, but was overlooked at the time. And then just to quickly throw out a few more, because some of them are sketch shows that I have really loved. The fast show is one of them. The Mitchell and Webb look, it's called the Peter Serafina. Which show which you can watch out again, a lot of these you can watch on YouTube, you can watch episodes on YouTube, the Armstrong and Miller Show, the Harry and Paul show. And these are all in the last 1015 years. And these are all sketch shows. So they're, you know, individual scenes and some recurring characters. Some more more successful than others. I think the Peter Serafina Woods show only lasted about six episodes again, but I think I would I've watched them countless times. And I mean of you need really drives home the subjectivity of art for me, in a lot of ways. Because of course, their shows the billions of people have watched that don't make me laugh personally. And I'll watch a show that only lasted six episodes, you know, 15 years ago, but I'll watch it countless times because it speaks directly to me. You know,
Leah Jones 58:11 it's interesting that there's so many. There's so much more sketch on British TV. Right? Like, we just have SNL black woman's sketch show, which is I think it's been canceled. Right? Right. Like, it's just it's so rare that there's like a sketch show. That's a going concern on TV here. And you just rattled off like, five.
Dan O'Brien 58:37 That's true. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the only the only other one I can think of maybe he's like Key and Peele. Oh, yeah. But, but you're right. That's the main that's not very many that are easy to call the mind. And so many of them, it seems like don't really take off. Right. You know, they don't they don't really find their audience. But then you have Yeah, you're right. Then you have something like SNL, which is been around for what? 50 years? Yeah. And you wonder if that can work. You know, I guess mad TV was around for for a good amount of time. Yeah, I mean, they're the thing I think about what those British shows is that they're often Duo's. Which is like, you know, I know another favorite thing, especially when I was a younger playwright, I was obsessed with the vaudeville and sort of in the vaudeville coming from, you know, from British music hall and a lot of ways Yeah, the musical tradition so you know, maybe British TV is just simply more still connected to the sketch comedy and do Oh, comedy.
Leah Jones 59:58 I spent a while Winter in London. I was a hall director of a of a dorm with 300 international students in London. It was I don't suggest it if you want to make someone love London don't send them from November to March which is when I lived. Oh no miserable
Dan O'Brien 1:00:18 that's the Dark Side of the Moon.
Leah Jones 1:00:20 Yeah, like it was there were days when I didn't literally didn't see the sun. No, cuz it was only up for like seven hours.
Dan O'Brien 1:00:29 And the opposite if you can go between March and like October Yeah, April and October it you can feel it, you know, London and England and Great Britain could feel like the best place on earth. But yeah, winters. Winters are rough.
Leah Jones 1:00:43 But one of the things we did that winter was we went to a, I think it's a British pantomime, like a Smith show. What I do think you once you see that I did feel like it sort of unlocked a lot of British TV I'd grown up on was seeing right, because there's cross dressing. There's the big characters, there's like we went to like a high school, or a community Christmas pantomime. It was, you know, the students were setting abroad. So they needed British culture. And that was one of the things that they did.
Dan O'Brien 1:01:20 Right. Right. So yeah, but people it's very, very interactive, right? The performance really speak to the audience, essentially, or for the audience. And the audience is often encouraged to, to respond right to rowdy, rowdy performance in a way that I think would shock a lot of Americans you probably feel like their experience of theater is much more uptight, you know, or certainly conservative. Er, I mean, that's changing, I'm sure. And it depends on the type of player seeing, but yeah, pantomime or panto is a specific to that culture and, you know, to Ireland to and that, that that whole area. Yeah. And it's, and I'm sure, yeah, it must be, you know, I mean, when I was writing a lot about vaudeville, 1520 years ago, you know, it was it was interesting to me. How, of course, the vaudeville didn't go anywhere, it just became TV. And, of course, we have in this country, a tradition of variety shows for a long time. Right. And it's kind of interesting, that doesn't really exist anymore. on American
Leah Jones 1:02:33 TV, right. There's no variety
Dan O'Brien 1:02:36 shows right now. The trend in my Rudolph have won, like, maybe five years ago, which was kind of fascinating, because it was on like, NBC or something. Yeah.
Leah Jones 1:02:46 And they announced Conan O'Brien was going to do one, but he wasn't Oh, right. Okay, interesting. He left TBS, they announced he was going to do a variety show. And it wasn't in the plans.
Dan O'Brien 1:02:57 Right. Yeah. I mean, I think what I heard around the time when Maya had her show was, you know, that networks are constantly thinking, like, how can we bring it back? Because I think it's actually quite cost effective. Like I think it's a pretty cheap show to produce. I mean, maybe the I guess we have that in the form of reality, like America's Got Talent or the the masked singer or whatever, right? Maybe that's, that's what we have now is that version, because those shows are relatively cheap compared to right, you know, an original comedy or drama. Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. It but it does seem again, I don't know, you know, because these these shows, I'm sort of cherry picking, you know, from 20 years of British TV, so I wonder how you know, I would if we had a British person on right now, if they would say, Oh, well, you know, it's still hard to get those shows on or it's hard to for those shows to catch on. But it does seem like there's a different tradition, and a different appreciation.
Leah Jones 1:04:01 Do any of those comedy sketch duo shows come down from the Edinburgh Fringe?
Dan O'Brien 1:04:08 Yes, I think I think a lot of them do. I mean, definitely Garth Moran gese. Started dark play started there. I went to another show I love it's called the Mighty Boosh and I think that started as a stage show. Or Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Do you know about Mortimer by any chance? No. Okay, do yourself a favor. So he's Reeves and Mortimer were a duo they don't really perform together anymore. Bob Mortimer he's a frequent guest on this panel show British panel show called would I lie to you? And if you just search on YouTube, Bob Mortimer what I lied to you his his segments are just are some of the best TV I think. He just taught that the concept of the show is As they, you know, they the the panelists, they tell you a story about their lives and the other panelists have to decide if it's a lie or not. Yeah. And he has these stories about his life that are just amazing. Most of them are true, but even the ones that he makes up are pretty hilarious as well. And he and he started, you know, he started performing with Vic Reeves on stage and on a little stage above a pub. I think that was the same with with same sort of situation with the Mighty Boosh and Noel Fielding and Julian, Julian Barrett. And so I'm sure some of them also a part of the Edinburgh Fringe at some point.
Leah Jones 1:05:39 Yeah, you can tell that Bob Mortimore tell some wild stories because, right. It's like people also ask, does Bob Mortimer really do his own dentistry?
Dan O'Brien 1:05:50 I was just about to give that example. Yeah. That's one of his lies, that that's not a lie. It's the truth. He does his own dentistry. I mean, you sort of find out that of course, if he has a serious problem, he does go to a dentist. But you have to watch that clip, because he describes the way he does it as he puts a chair on his dining room table, so that he can be close to the light, the light source, uh huh. And then he uses like a mirror, and he's bought his own tools. And I think he does his own fillings.
Leah Jones 1:06:22 That's what it says, Yeah. He has some tooth cement. And, yeah.
Dan O'Brien 1:06:28 And he's got a great show with Paul Whitehouse, who was he Paul White House is another great sketch comedian from the fast show, and many other shows. And, but this show with Paul Whitehouse, and Bob Mortimer is just the two of them go fishing around in different parts of Great Britain. Nice. And it's kind of this amazing, it's very, it's very funny, but it's also very gentle. And it's really lovingly photographed. And it's very, a very relaxing show in a certain way. And it's heartwarming in the sense that the whole concept of the show is about Mortimer and had a really life threatening heart attack, like five or six years ago, and was having trouble kind of leaving the house like Trustaff again. And Paul, uh, you know, now they're both Men of a Certain Age, Paul, kind of, you know, helped him get back into life and into nature and society. And so that show has this real undercurrent of people talking about mortality to some degree. But it's also really funny. And the two of them are clearly good friends. So you talked about a show with heart? Yeah. It's similar to go fishing. Oh, it's called Gone Fishing Mortimer, Mortimer and Whitehouse gone fishing. So that wasn't on my list, but it should be. It's a great yeah.
Leah Jones 1:07:48 And then how do you? Do you have britbox? Do you let the YouTube algorithm help you find? How are you? How do you discover new to you shows?
Dan O'Brien 1:08:01 Yeah, I mean, a little bit of both are a little bit of all a lot of things. I've certainly had, I think I've lived my britbox membership lapse. Because I think I felt like I'd seen most of the shows I want to see and I don't know, but I kind of you know, I sign up for it again once in a while. And, you know, a lot of it was just starting with the show like Garth, Randy's dark place, thinking to myself, well, what are these actors up to now? Because they wrote it themselves, too. So you know, and one show has led me to another over the years. And, you know, Alan Partridge, for example. He's been working for a while with comedian named Tim key, who plays his sidekick on his re on Alan Partridge, his radio show and on the TV show as well. So that's led me to some Tim keys comedy where, you know, he, he's he claims he says he's a poet, and he reads poetry, but it's often quite funny. And he had a new show recently, which was a historical comedy where he played like a witch hunter and Puritan England. Which I have to give it a chance. I didn't I haven't really gone deep into it yet. But yeah, it's that sort of thing of thinking, Well, what else have they done? And it's kind of, it's kind of great to discover not being British, right to discover a different culture. I mean, I've worked to some degree as a playwright in the UK, and I publish poetry in the UK, and I've spent some time living there. So I have a little bit of familiarity with the culture. And I, you know, it's kind of fascinating to have this pair, you know, it's still the English language. So it's, yeah, I can understand it. But of course, I'm fascinated by all the subtle differences. And, and I think also, you know, having my wife who works in comedy, in the US, for the most part Um, you know, we watch American comedies, but that can often feel like work. Do you know what I mean? It can feel Yeah, we're aware of the business side of it. So I think on some level,
Leah Jones 1:10:09 and she may have auditioned or friends auditioned, and they did, what would you have done differently?
Dan O'Brien 1:10:16 Right? Yeah, right. Or she'll let me know, oh, that person, you know, he or she's very funny. But they're a terrible person or something like that, you know, and then when we can watch the show, and so yeah, it can feel kind of sort of freeing and relaxing to have this, you know, other world of comedy that I don't really know anything about and don't have any baggage about? Yeah. And yeah, so, and Jessica, you know, she likes some of these shows, Sunday shows she doesn't quite, she doesn't quite get it. You know, I grew up in a very repressed family. And this is probably gonna offend any British people listening. But I feel like that helps me understand a certain amount of British culture. Yes. You know, even again, in the sense of the absurdity in the way comedy comes out of repression in that culture, right. I know, as a playwright, when I teach playwriting, I often, you know, if the subject of farce comes up, you know, people will talk about why is farce seemingly such a British genre, English genre. And at least this desex farce is probably just because as a culture, it's very rapid. They're very repressed about that sort of thing. America has to but in a much more schizophrenic way, I think. And so anyway, I don't know if that's partly why I connect to British comedy in a way that Jessica doesn't always. She loves toast of London. And she loves Garth Moran keys dark place doesn't always quite get the sketch comedy.
Leah Jones 1:11:53 Yeah. Yeah, I was just going deep on Matt Smith. IMDB to remember. He was in a show called party animals. I don't know if you watched? No, I don't know that one. 2007. It's, like young adults who are working in Parliament. So it's like interns, early career people in Parliament short series. And I will run, I watched that, and that was how I was like, and then he was Doctor Who? And I was like, Oh, well, I liked him in that show about parliament. I guess I'll try to let's see how that goes. But there was this party animals. And then there was a show about a hospital called Green, something that was so bizarre and funny and weird.
Dan O'Brien 1:12:48 Yeah, tell me about it. Because I find speaking of how I find my shows, I have felt lately, like, I've hit a bit of a brick wall, you know, like, and I would love to keep finding more British comedy that I connect to.
Leah Jones 1:13:05 Okay, so it was all I saw. I searched like green hospital British comedy. It's called the Green
Dan O'Brien 1:13:11 Green Wing. The Green Wing. Okay, a funky
Leah Jones 1:13:15 hospital based sketch comedy drama type show. Okay. Sally Breton, Oliver Chris, Olivia Coleman.
Dan O'Brien 1:13:25 Coleman, she, she was I was gonna mention she was one of the, you know, lead players in the Mitchell and Webb look, which was a show. And it's been fascinating to see how she's become, you know, an Oscar winning dramatic actor.
Leah Jones 1:13:39 Um, Michelle Gomez, who is just amazing. She's in it. Yeah,
Dan O'Brien 1:13:48 the green and Stephen Stephen Mangan, right?
Leah Jones 1:13:53 There was there's the scene and they actually it's one of the photos that they have featured. That I was before you could like easily make a GIF that I sent. I asked a friend to like make a GIF of me because he's in an exercise room, and somebody throws an exercise ball at his face. And it's just this huge slapstick moment that I needed to be able to use and I sent it to a friend. I'm like, You're good at computers. Can you make me a gift of the moment? But it's a it's a fun? It's a fun one.
Dan O'Brien 1:14:29 Oh, that's good. I will I will look I will watch it. Yeah,
Leah Jones 1:14:33 I think party animals leaned drama like
Dan O'Brien 1:14:37 Right. Yeah, like I said, I love I mean, you know, some of these obviously sketches, but I do love you know, dark comedies and definitely watch a lot of dramas too. But in terms of something I'm fairly obsessive about, who you know, would be these. And I guess I you know, I thought it'd be interesting to just Because I really did become obsessive about these shows, during during treatment and yeah to afterwards, you know, where you spend a lot of time. I don't know how you felt, but especially during treatment, I couldn't really read very much. I couldn't, you know, I really didn't need pretty light comedy for the most.
Leah Jones 1:15:22 Oh, I did not read I. I remember going to LA after I'd finished like primary treatment, and being at a hotel, having breakfast and then took a book by an author, I interviewed with me down to the breakfast at the hotel, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, I just read, like, for the first time and since I got sick, and I powered through that book until I got to the cancer chapter. And I'm like, Well, I'm out. Yeah, I'm out. No, I couldn't. I couldn't read. I listened to a lot of podcasts. I watched Yes. I don't know if you got steroids during chemo days. Yeah, for sure. So I did steroid Saturdays because my chemo infusions were on Fridays. So on steroids, Saturdays, my best friend and I would go see a movie, like a matinee of something that had been out for two or three weeks. So we'd find essentially a private showing. And we'd go to like, a Burger King that nobody was going to cut so I could take off my mask and have a meal inside and then we would go to be often the only two people and like a 1pm Saturday showing. So I saw a lot of movies. I went to the theater a lot. It was fun.
Dan O'Brien 1:16:47 Oh, that's good. Yeah, I mean, you need you need and that's why I don't you know, I tend to write pretty I don't know heavy or dramatic things. But I don't at all denigrate, you know, storytelling, that's that's meant to lift you up or help you feel a sense of escape. Because I know firsthand. We all need that. And, you know, and I'm the same way if you know I have to I have to be in the mood to see something heavy or dark. Yeah. And yeah, so no, but these these were shows that did the opposite of that. For me. They were probably my version of I don't think I didn't really go to it. I'm not sure why I didn't go to many movies during treatment. But I certainly you know, use the use the heck out of my breadbox. Yeah. britbox account. Also, I was pretty obsessed during that time with like British murder mysteries, too. Even though they're not comedies. I think it's a similar type of purely escapist, you know, experience. And they of course, that's that's a cottage industry over there.
Leah Jones 1:18:02 Have you watched? It's a British? No, it's not British. It's Canadian. The Murdoch Mysteries. It's been on for like, 15 years.
Dan O'Brien 1:18:15 I must have it sounds. So
Leah Jones 1:18:17 it takes place in the late 1800s. Toronto. Okay. And he's a science obsessed detective. So like, late 1800s. Scientists come through Toronto, and they get involved in the cases.
Dan O'Brien 1:18:30 Right? Yeah, I've heard about it. But I don't think I've actually watched it. Yes. 16 seasons. Wow.
Leah Jones 1:18:36 Yeah. So if you ever need a cozy mystery or cozy procedural with it's just fun. Because I think like Tesla comes through in the first episode. That's great. Like, because he's going he's on tour in Canada getting support for electricity. Right. It's great. So
Dan O'Brien 1:18:59 yeah, I mean, my that the show for me was the murder mystery that I watched a ton of, and it's been on was on forever, was called Midsomer Murders. And it's it's kind of like it reminds me of, you know, I lived in New York for many years, and I had lots of friends who were stage actors. And anytime I watched any of the law and orders, I'll see a lot of my old friends, you know, pop up sometimes just as a dead body or something. And it's the same on Midsomer Murders where, you know, it's like every actor has been on that show at some point, especially younger actors, some of whom are now quite famous. They did, you know, had a guest spot on that show. Right. And it's kind of it also reminds me of murder. She wrote in the sense of, you know, midsummer is supposed to be a county in England. But, you know, the amount of murders that take place in this county is just off the charts. I mean, it would be like hurled famous as the most murderous County in England, right. But it's very comforting because you know, it's it's it's handsomely shot, and there's a satisfying little mystery every episode. And that's about all I could handle for this nine months of treatment. So yeah, the comp, you know, I would say the sketch shows, I kind of I think I got more into them after treatment. Yeah. And for whatever reason I can, it's connected in my head to that idea, again, that those first two years of really, you know, starting to trust life again, you know, and these shows, certainly helped me with my anxiety. And, yeah, and a few of them I've probably memorized line by line by this point ethic.
Leah Jones 1:20:51 Dan, this has been a delight. Thank you so much for joining me. Oh, good. Thank
Dan O'Brien 1:20:55 you. Thank you for having me.
Leah Jones 1:20:58 Do you want people to follow you online?
Dan O'Brien 1:21:02 Sure. Yeah. I mean, you know, got social media is so messed up now. But I'm still on. What I will still call Twitter. I'm still on Twitter. At by Dan O'Brien. On Instagram. No, I'm sorry. Twitter is Dan O'Brien writer. Instagram is at by Dan O'Brien. and my website is Dan O'Brien dot org. I'm an org. I'm a nonprofit. And yeah, so David, if people want to follow me, that'd be great.
Leah Jones 1:21:32 Great, and people can preorder the books through all the usual channels. I will link to I have a link. I try to link through bookshop.org so it supports indie, indie bookstores, so that it'll all be linked in the show notes. You can follow finding favorites, finding faves pod on Instagram and Twitter. Please rate and review on Apple podcasts or good pods, because those are the two places that you can actually leave reviews. So thank you so much.
Dan O'Brien 1:22:03 Thank you again, this was a lot of fun.
Announcer 1:22:06 Thank you for listening to finding favorites with Leah Jones. Please make sure to subscribe and drop us a five star review on iTunes. Now go out and enjoy your favorite things.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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