Danielle K.L. Grégoire
Ron “AAlgar” Watt
Written by Ron “AAlgar” Watt & Matt Rowbotham with Nathan LaJeunesse, Amanda Smith, Sabrina Snyder and Jason Wallace
Directed by Ron “AAlgar” Watt
© 2012-2015 AAlgar Productions
Because attempting to explain this madness would be an exercise in futility, I have instead opted to share this piece I wrote on the occasion of Sarcastic Voyage's 5th anniversary in 2014.
In April of 2012, just coming off our first big fooferah at the Emerald City Comicon, Matt presented me with a script for episode 139. It was quite possibly his greatest contribution to, for want of a better word, the canon of Sarcastic Voyage.
The framing device was pretty straightforward: your typical paranoid conspiracy nut was taking calls from an assortment of oddball characters on his late night radio show. But what could have been a standard, fairly forgettable sketch was elevated to a whole new level thanks to the bizarre stream-of-consciousness approach that Matt took. Here’s a sample from that first script:
The government’s been stealing my money. I went into my change closet last night to locate a twenty dollars for the pizza man and I found the president’s wife rifling through my coin purse.
There’s just so much going on in this one line. I’m particularly fond of turns of phrase like a twenty dollars — turns of phrase that I would later discover were more the result of Matt’s “just keep writing and don’t think about it” approach to writing these sketches. I still, to this day, have no idea what a “change closet” is.
At that time, the Unpaid Voice Acting Players weren’t really a thing yet, so we ended up staging the entire segment with Matt as the host and Sabrina and me playing the various guests. Later installments would be more polished, both in terms of production values and voice acting, but there’s a manic energy in this first bit that can only come from three people calming their giggle fits for long enough to deliver some of the strangest material they’ve ever had to read.
Matt, by his own admission, does not have a huge range when it comes to voice acting. He’s quite good at it, is the thing — better than he gives himself credit for, at any rate — but he just doesn’t have a lot of voices in him. Most of his characters just end up sounding like Matt. This was becoming a concern for us even this early in the game (which would eventually lead to us bringing on power performers like Nathan, Joe and Jason), so we did a little brainstorming beforehand to see what kind of spin we could put on this “Aaron Faucet” character that Matt had created. I suggested a celebrity impression of some kind — not to adapt the actual personality or mannerisms of a specific person so much as to give himself a point of departure for a voice that wasn’t exactly like his own. Matt chose Crispin Glover. And, again, Aaron isn’t exactly Crispin Glover, but there’s enough Crispin Glover in there to obscure the inherent Matt-ness of the performance he may have given otherwise. Now I can’t imagine the character sounding any other way.
A number of sequel sketches followed. I’m always very concerned about recurring bits on the show — on the one hand, I want to create characters and situations that warrant repeating. It’s fun to explore new aspects of something you’ve created, and it’s also, frankly, a lot easier on the writers and the performers to not have to invent something completely from scratch every time. On the other hand, though, I’m utterly terrified of that SNL approach of presenting you with the same five catch phrase-spouting t-shirt models episode after episode. It’s good to have something familiar for regular listeners to latch on to, but we don’t want to alienate new listeners or become stale.
The thing about Aaron, though, is that while it’s always the same basic setup (weird guy takes calls from other weird guys), each iteration of it was almost completely different. Aaron’s reactions remained largely the same, the callers just got progressively more strange.
We also changed up our approach slightly. Inspired by the now largely defunct Superego podcast, we’ve brought a pseudo-improvisational element to these sketches. We’ll typically start with one of Matt’s slices of stream-of-consciousness insanity, but then several of us (first just Sabrina and me, but later several of the other Players) bring notes for characters. We throw those characters at Matt/Aaron, and see what sticks. I then take a recording of this hour-long brainstorming session and whittle it down to the best 6-7 minutes, adding in recurring jokes and other elements to give the thing a slightly more cohesive shape. There are, of course, the occasional problems — most notably when Matt delivers a script with stage directions like:
SOUND: THE UNIVERSE DIES.
But we do our best. When it works, it ranks among the best comedy we’ve ever produced. When it doesn’t… well, we’re still having fun, and that’s the important thing, right? Right?
As excited as I am to be bringing a selection of our best material to a live venue for our forthcoming fifth anniversary, something about doing this specific bit in front of people just makes me smile. It sort of encapsulates everything I love about what we do — it’s collaborative, it’s a great mix of strange and clever and it has a certain raw energy that I honestly wish more of our stuff had.
Because of my aforementioned aversion to doing too much recurring material, you’ll probably only hear two or three new Aaron bits per year on the show. But I can assure you: I’m always eagerly anticipating the next one.