Folks my age remember that exquisitely Mozart-esque 80's TV action show "The A-Team," where four fugitives from justice took on dangerous assignments. No matter what the assignment was or what trouble the four renegades ran into, you could count on two constants: the guys would succeed at their assignment through brilliant planning and tough-guy cracks, and at least one car would flip over. Now imagine a quartet of podcasters embarking on similar assignments, but not only do they wreak havoc all over the place, you can't even count on all of them showing up. And yet, despite a lack of direction, with tangents a-blazing, subjects a-mutating, and random conversational fireballs of musicals, gay sex, science fiction, home repair, central Illinois, Texas, collapsing octogenarians, and torch song-squeaking rodents, the gang gets the job done AND the car flips over. Of course, the car flips over on ducklings or starving orphans, but you still laugh and applaud at the end. This is Don't Quit Your Day Job, one of the craziest and funniest podcats out there. Originally spun off from the hilarious We're Mean Because You're Stupid (itself spun off from the QCast Connection, the best gay comedy podcast in iTunes-land), DQYDJ has since eclipsed the former in sheer number of laughs and is coming perilously close to catching up with the latter.
It was comparatively more subdued in the beginning. Two sci-fi/fantasy writers and frequent podcast visitors, Melanie Fletcher and Jerry J. Davis, declared on their first podcast that they would discuss "anything in [their] tiny little minds," but specifically about sci-fi & fantasy, writing, movies, or comics. The first dozen or so episodes were eccentric but genial, a couple of geeks with dirty minds and helpful suggestions on selling one's writing. Funny but stable, Melanie and Jerry made the perfect podcast geek couple. Melanie, the producer of the podcast, boasts a wealth of knowledge and great comedic timing. Jerry, her co-host, is the amiable nerd whose calming presence keeps the podcast from falling off a cliff. Remember the good guy in high school or college who was every girl's "best friend" but could never negotiate that into a quickie because he was too nice? That's Jerry, all grown up. Whether or not that accurately portrays Jerry in real life is irrelevant. Behind the headset, he's Joxer to Melanie's Xena, the heroic dork who may not always hit the comedic bullseye, but whose heart is in the right place and you can't help but root for him.
As with all entertainment shows, chemistry is paramount. Adding players to or subtracting from one's program can radically alter the show's personality, for good or ill. One cannot deny that the 1972 version of, say, "Happy Days," had very little to do with the 1983 lineup. Depending on the size of the production, the addition, subtraction, or replacement of even one person can make or break a program.
Patrick Gaik's arrival on DQYDJ was a change in chemistry, all right: adding Patrick to the podcast was a bucket of cesium tossed into a bathtub. Patrick, an actor based in Bloomington-Normal and a childhood friend of Melanie's, has one of those personalities that could incite drunken gay orgies at a Promise Keepers convention. Saucy, sweet, outrageous, and immensely talented, he injected both vulgarity and wit into a podcast that lacked neither. Not long afterwards, Melanie's sister Stacy was thrown into the mix as an occasional "news anchor" but was rapidly absorbed into the gang. Stacy, who outside the podcast could very well be the most stable of the four, displays little of this online; shrill, oddly maternal, and creative, she hides her comedic skills inside a "What the hell am I doing here?" persona, contributing to the chaos being wrought.
What's crazy about this chaos is not that it works, but that it works so well. A half-hour, two-person podcast is difficult enough to pull off; but juggling a four-person podcast, all with very distinct personalities, has to be insanely difficult. Part of the way DQYDJ pulls it off is by rarely having all four podcasters around. Since Melanie produces and edits the program, she's the sole constant in the DQYDJ universe, but one cannot download the latest podcast knowing who the lineup will be (Patrick once complained that getting everyone to the podcast was "like folding gravy"). And yet this works because each podcaster combination represents its own little podcast, with a slightly altered chemistry. For instance, when Jerry excused himself for a run of shows recently, the sci-fi/fantasy angle took a back seat, and the Melanie/Patrick relationship took over. Like the Melanie/Jerry rapport, this comedic partnership runs deep; no matter how outrageous one gets, he or she can count on the other to try to top it, sounding like college kids tipsy on Boones strawberry wine in their dorm room on a Saturday night.
Is the resulting comedy scatological and immature? Sure, but it's damned funny scatological and immature humor. And if I wanted intellectually droll humor 24/7, I could listen to old Mark Russell routines and read Roy Blount Jr. until I succumbed to my valium addiction. The overall humor, with the exception of the occasional stray inside joke, is infinitely accessible and worth a listen. You're guaranteed to react, whether in laughter or a pained groan. Don't Quit Your Day Job doesn't try to make you laugh: like the anarchic format, the laughs are scattered into the air, and if one hits you, so much the better. But watch out for that flipping car.