Hello from the Magic Tavern (Season 1) Podcast Review
It’s that joke “you had to be there” to get, the one all your friends are laughing at but you were in the bathroom, reading a too long blog post about nonsense, and now you’ve missed the joke. It’s trapped in a time/space bubble to be enjoyed & relived for all eternity by everyone but you. Imagine if all those jokes were available in a time/space-bubble-app on your phone.
This show brings me so much joy & childish glee, but it is incredibly difficult to understand why, unless you were there. So be there!
You can put on your headphones and go on a run through the wardrobe into Narnia. Or hop in your car and drive 88 miles per hour into Middle-earth. That’s where Middle-earth is, right? In the past? And all those dinosaur bones are actually just orcs & dragons but the government is behind some big conspiracy to cover it up? Because Trump’s parents were actually a troll and some bird-shit-covered rabbit-wizard?
Anywho, Hello from the Magic Tavern is about a guy from Chicago who fell through a portal into a magical land called Foon. Due to a series of oddly (in)convenient circumstances, our hero, Arnie, cannot go home, cannot even get into contact with anyone from earth, but is still somehow able to upload a podcast while getting drunk in the Vermillion Minotaur Tavern in the town of Hogsface.
The first “friend” Arnie makes is a shapeshifter named Chunt, who is usually mislabeled as a talking badger. Chunt lets Arnie stay in his hovel until he eventually secures a room in the Vermillion Minotaur. There they meet the famous wizard, Usidore the blue, known by as many names & titles as there are creatures & lands of Foon.
Every week, Arnie, Chunt, & Usidore sit around & drink with a mystical fairy or monstrous warrior or evil flying piglet or an animated blob of blood, urine, semen, & feces, and interview them about their daily lives & what they’re up to in Hogsface. The first season loosely follows Usidore’s quest to defeat the Dark Lord, a lingering evil presence that threatens all of Foon, but our hosts are lazy & easily distracted. Just on that level, taking the show on face value, it is incredibly detailed & entertaining. The actors & sound board operators create a weird & zany world that feels immersive & real.
However very little preparation is put in and everything is made up on the spot. So when a character is talking about their parents and offhandedly mentions a present they received for Christmas, the actor now has to justify what a “Christmas” is in Foon. All the actors band together, they want this world to be real as much as we do, so they all chime in with “Chris Must!” There’s a guy everyone hates named Chris, and once a year, “Chris must” do anything you ask of him. The creativity of these folks is what makes the show so much fun, as well as making Foon complex & unique. They are even pretty good at continuity & cannon, back peddling only when necessary (Chunt will shapeshift into any animal he has sex with, but the amount of time it takes for the shift to occur varies depending on how much he loves the “person”).
Now because everything today needs to be meta- on meta- on meta-, the show also has a framing device: a mysterious man on a space station is monitoring inter-dimensional rifts, like the one our good friend Arnie fell through. That’s one of the reasons the podcast is being received here, on earth. This mysterious man, with the help of a couple robots & clones, opens and closes the show with heavy irony, promising us the show isn’t real. But these meta-layers allow for one-off episodes where we listen to the cowboy dimension, where Chunt is a talking horse named Champ, or mirror world, where everyone is evil and Arnie has become a trickster god.
At first I was skeptical; but the framing device doubles or triples my enjoyment of the show because it allows me to listen on multiple levels. Sometimes it’s funny imagining a wizard in a bar trying to understand what a Burger King is, other times the humor comes from realizing the actors have backed themselves into a corner and listening to them struggle their way out. What do you do when someone mentions “open mic night” in a land that doesn’t understand “microphones?” You explain there’s a guy named Mike who can turn himself inside out for “open Mike night!” …and then he’ll do a few minutes of standup.
I want to close with a bit on my favorite character, Pizza Skull. He is mentioned a handful of times and only appears in a couple episodes, but he gets the opportunity to co-cost “episode 83 – Tree.” I don’t know if he was always a giant floating skull made out of pizza, but he died in a pizza-related incident and had to battle his way out of pizza-hell. Now he not only has pizza-powers that are derived from eating pizza, he also makes pizza! For some reason, this character really resonates with me. I keep hoping he’ll appear in season 2, but after episode 100, well, let’s just say things in Foon will never be the same.
P.S. In Foonish Elvish, “young stain” means “f*** it.”