I’m a big, big fan of podcasts. My fascination started a couple of years ago when I finished college and started a full-time job, which meant my commutes didn’t consist of hurriedly finishing homework, fretting about an upcoming test. At first I just read, but partly from fear of having my vision damaged (but mostly because Colombian buses are CROWDED and difficult to read in) I decided to find some other medium to find entertainment.
Music was fine, but I wanted to something with more narrative. I started listening to audiobooks, and for a while I was hooked on Big Finish’s excellent Doctor Who audio adventures. After a while, I stumbled on an episode of This American Life and I fell in love with the medium. In the years since, I’ve discovered quite a few fascinating, and unique, podcasts. Some of them give me so much enjoyment that I want to tell others about it, so I’ve decided to start a new recurring feature: The first Tuesday of each month will now consist of me covering a podcast.
To start us off, I’ll be talking about my newest discovery: Hello from the Magic Tavern.
Hello from the Magic Tavern is, quite simply, the most special of any podcast I listen to.
Partly because it’s so clever and different from all the others, but mostly because it’s not fictional, comedy, or investigative reporting. It isn’t even produced on Earth!
The podcast is hosted by Arnie, a man who quite unfortunately fell through a dimensional portal at a Burger King and ended up in the magical land of Foon. He posts episodes through the very faint Wi-Fi signal he’s still getting from the Burger King, through the dimensional portal.
He is joined by the talking badger Chunt, and the wizard Usidore (Wizard of the 12th Realm of Ephysiyies, Master of Light and Shadow, Manipulator of Magical Delights, Devourer of Chaos, Champion of the Great Halls of Terr’akkas! The elves know him as Fi’ang Yalok. The dwarves know him as Zoenen Hoogstandjes. He is also known in the Northeast as Gaismunēnas Meistar)
Usidore, who always introduces himself by his full title, is a wizard, and a wonderfully mystic one at that. He is frequently talking about how great he is at magic, and of course, his great quest to defeat the Dark Lord (still unnamed, but whose name is similar to Candyman, apparently). Usidore’s frequent mentions of his Quest, and particularly the Dark Lord, tend to induce him into the Wizard State, a hilarious parody of magical states, in which he mostly mumbles and rambles on incoherently.
Chunt the talking badger is in fact a shape-shifter, who turns into whichever animal he last had sex with. (Bestiality isn’t a big deal in Foon since animals are sentient. And of course it isn’t bestiality if you’re an animal already, as Chunt says)
Arnie, Chunt, and Usidore talk most weeks with random citizens of Foon. Some goblins, half-elves, eunuchs, etc. It is absolutely fascinating hearing about the bizarre society in Foon, where a gang of baby-smackers is seen as indisputably worse than a kidnapping one, for example.
Mostly though, it is hilarious listening to the ludicrous ways magic and magical creatures work there, such as sword hilts actually being the uh, external sex organs of male swords (because of course, living swords are a thing in Foon).
The podcast is also littered with both subtle and shameless puns, as well as hilarious casual references to Earth culture. For example, look at the following passage from the second episode of the show (you can listen to it here, around 11:48):
Tom: You cannot tell my father that I am here!
Usidore: Aah, your father? Your father, Albain? Yes?
Arnie: I don’t know why I gasped. I don’t know who that is.
Tom: My… my father is Albain Belaroth, King Albain of the North-east.
Usidor: You see here before you Tomlin Belaroth, the very Prince of that land… Yes.
Tom: No longer! I am an artist now. I am the artist that was formerly known as Prince.
I broke into loud laughter in the bus when I first heard that, leading to curious and disapproving stares from the other passengers. Any podcast that does that is worth listening to.
Hello from the Magic Tavern is of course completely real, and most definitely not a weekly show in which various improv performers from Chicago meet to play as magical characters and come up with silly jokes and weird magical laws.
The show frequently plays on this very post-modern way of presenting a story. For example, the official email for the podcast, which you can reach Arnie on, is firstname.lastname@example.org
As Arnie insists, it is absolutely an actual email address (it is) and it’s so unusual because it was the only email address he could open from the strange firewall at the Burger King. (Usidore wasn’t much impressed when he first heard this explanation, as he bragged he could easily build a wall of fire around the building.)
The podcast has many, many gags relating to how it really is very much real, and they’re always funny to listen to. In between the weird laws of magic in Foon, the strange and very entertaining personalities of the people and creatures living there, and the subtle and not-so-subtle hilarious references to pop culture, Hello from the Magic Tavern has plenty of material to draw on, and each episode feels inventive, fun, and very, very funny.
If you’ve never listened to it, please please do. It took me weeks to finally give it a chance, but it took just a couple of minutes for me to fall in love with it, and to feel very silly indeed for taking so long.