Pod-Canon 2.0 #3 Andy Daly + L. Ron Hubbard=Hilarity
If you’ve listened to an Earwolf podcast sometime during the last month you’re probably aware that the Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project, the podcast mini-series whose name is impossible to remember precisely but a delight to listen to, will be available on iTunes after an auspicious run on Stitcher Premium.
This is old news to me and my fellow Andy Daly super-fans. I joined Stitcher Premium specifically so that I would have early access to the second season of the Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project and the Hollywood Handbook Pro Version. It was a fine decision.
I’m nevertheless overjoyed that Earwolf is giving the second season of the Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project a huge push. Daly is a comic I have written about so often, and so effusively, in Pod-Canon and outside of it, that my column might as well be called the Listen to Andy Daly’s Podcasts Project but that would be both redundant and confusing, not to mention inaccurate, since that’s the message of many of the entries in this column, but not all of them.
For example, I have used this column to sing the praises of Daly’s gut-busting, eminently re-listenable episodes of The Dead Authors Podcast as pulp writer, cult leader and world-class conman L. Ron Hubbard.
Daly specializes in playing genial lunatics so Hubbard was perfect for his skill set. Daly must have agreed because he once again slipped inside the disgraced Battlefield Earth author’s crisp white commodore’s uniform, festooned with medals of questionable legitimacy for a standout episode of the second season of the Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project entitled “Ship to Shore with L. Ron Hubbard.”
The premise of the Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project is that host Andy Daly and co-host Matt Gourley have been sent fully produced cassette tapes from hungry aspiring podcasters hoping to make it past the gate-keepers and land a podcast on Earwolf. This is obviously a little different, since Hubbard “dropped the body”, to use the Scientology term for kicking the bucket and becoming a worm buffet decades before Serial (which is adroitly spoofed in the Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project second season as well) totally made podcasting a thing and legitimized a medium that previously was about as respected as bum fight videos and the sketch comedy films of ShamWow spokes-jackass Vince Offer.
So the conceit here is that during one of his many years at sea in the late 1960s, Hubbard recorded the pilot for a radio program he hoped would be syndicated around the world, and help spread his message while delivering a death blow to Hubbard’s enemies in the psychiatric, tax-collecting and cult-debunking industries.
As with the Dead Author’s Podcast where Daly so hilariously and unforgettably channeled one of the most morbidly fascinating hucksters in American history, reality gives Daly almost too much to work with. Merely summarizing the salient and surreal details of Hubbard’s life in a sharply sarcastic tone is enough to deliver giant, explosive laughs, like when, during a brief but potent description of how he came to found Scientology and uncover the secrets of Dianetics that doubles as a sort of superhero origin story for Hubbard, he humble-brags, “Most inconveniently, my sexual performance, once considered to be without parallel anywhere in the continental United States, was severely compromised, to the point of necessitating testosterone injections and ritualistic group scenarios. My Doctors told me to forget about returning to any kind of normal life and to settle for an existed imprisoned by dependency and sex majick.”
The gorgeous thing about that passage, beyond its exquisite construction and Daly’s masterful delivery, is that it’s fundamentally true. Before Scientology was big business and maybe, theoretically, an actual, legitimate religion of some sort Hubbard used to run with a heavy crowd that was all about the sex magick, including legendary rocket scientist and sick fuck Jack Parsons, some of it involving attempts to bring into existence a “Moonchild” through which Satan himself would be reborn.
“Ship to Shore” takes place in 1968, after Hubbard and his organization took to the sea in an attempt to outrace the long arms of the many countries after it for perpetrating a massive, international mind-control human rights-abusing fraud. Hubbard taking his long con to the high seas might have looked like an act of desperation to everyone else, but the big-dreaming, truth-averse Hubbard spun it as a grand sort of Boy’s Own adventure partially devoted to an international treasure hunt to find valuable jewels Hubbard claims to have buried in former lives. Astonishingly but unsurprisingly given Scientology’s too-crazy-for-fiction history, that is an actual thing that happened, and that otherwise sane adults were commanded to treat seriously and not as the crazed delusions of a lunatic.
Gourley does double-duty as a genial man Hubbard has dubbed a true “Clear”, that is to say a man who has retained a state of spiritual and mental perfection that, for example, renders them impervious to disease and bacteria as well as hypnotism. There’s more than a hint of Freck, the psychotically chipper monster of a husband Gourley played in various versions of The Complete Woman, in this exemplar of Scientology’s miraculous virtues whose ostensible perfection and faultless mind is ever so slightly called into question by his unfortunate predilection for being wrong about most things. For example, he clearly, confidently but incorrectly answers, “What was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?” with an assured, “A Beethoven!”
There’s more than a bit of Rush Limbaugh’s blowhard radio theatrics and Donald Trump’s crazed, violently un-self-aware egomania in Daly’s Hubbard as well. It’s easy to see Hubbard getting excited about an idea like Space Force. Like Trump, Hubbard sees the real world as a poor substitute for the rapturous self-mythologizing that is both men’s true art form.
Beneath the affability and mindless enthusiasm for Hubbard and his miraculous discovery of the world’s true nature and ultimate secrets lies an undeniable undercurrent of menace. Nobody other than Hubbard is ever more than a faux pas or two away from either being over-boarded or detained in the ankle-chain locker.
Treasures like “Ship or Sail” were a big part of what attracted me to Stitcher Premium in the first place. It was a jewel in its crown but I’m delighted that these episodes will be available to the public for free, even if doing so weakens the streaming giant’s fundamental, Andy Daly-derived appeal.
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