Splitsider

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Talking to the Guys Behind the Podcast 'Superego' About Their New Country-Rock Album

There's no shortage of great comedy podcasts these days, but one of the funniest ones going is Superego, an improvised audio sketch show created by Matt Gourley and Jeremy Carter. The show, which added members Mark McConville and Jeff Crocker early on, has developed a cult following since it began in 2006 and began attracting big-name guests from the comedy world like Paul F. Tompkins, Patton Oswalt, Jason Sudeikis, and Dan Harmon to name a few.

With Superego currently on hiatus, the gang is releasing a musical comedy album today called Mount Us More from their fictional outlaw country-rock band The Journeymen (led by Superego characters Shunt McGuppin and Mutt Taylor). I recently had the chance to chat with Gourley, Carter, McConville, and musician James Bladon, who did an oustanding job of turning the gang's funny songs into authentic-sounding country tunes. We discussed the new album, future Superego plans, and how Matt Gourley came into the possession of Waco cult leader David Koresh's guitar.

How did you guys meet each other originally?

Matt Gourley: We were in a comedy group called ComedySportz. He was doing it in Kansas City, Missouri, and I was doing it in LA. We met at a tournament in San Jose, like a comedy tournament.

Jeremy Carter: It was a West Coast tournament, and for some reason, Kansas City was invited.

Gourley: [Laughs] I don't think I realized that.

Carter: Yeah, it was the West Coast tournament, so Bakersfield, Los Angeles, San Diego…

Gourley: San Jose, Santa Barbara…

Carter: …Portland and Kansas City, for some reason.

When was this?

Carter: '95, '96. Something like that.

Gourley: That was when we met, and it wasn't until he moved out here and joined the group in LA that we started hanging out. We had this ridiculous job where we were paid – this is gonna sound really weird – but a bunch of us were paid to fly first class because some company found a loophole where they could earn more frequent flier points doing these flights, so they'd pay people like us fifty dollars a round trip to fly to Las Vegas or San Francisco. We'd do like three legs in a day, three round trips. Then, we'd hang out and watch World War II movies together. That's how we became buddies.

When did you guys start writing comedy together?

Carter: Channel 101.

Gourley: Even before that though, kind of. We were in on the early days of Channel 101. We're friends with all those people. Right around the time that started, we were all kind of making movies together, so we collaborated specifically for Channel 101 on Ultraforce, a retro futuristic action spectacular.

Carter: Very much in the vein of a Stephen J. Cannell [show]. Have you ever heard of that movie Megaforce? It's based on that.

Gourley: Yeah, but it got so heavy in production values … we could have kept going, but we ended up killing the characters 'cause it was too much work to do. So, we just took three episodes and then killed the characters.

Carter: An idea we had before we killed the characters was, "What if we let somebody else take over?"

Gourley: Girls, specifically.

Carter: Oh yeah, yeah. But we let somebody else take over in kind of the vein of The Dukes of Hazzard when they didn't wanna pay the two original guys. But it wasn't until afterward that we made that clear, and people were like, "Oh, I would have loved to taken it over!" and it was like, "Oh, well."

Gourley: We took a break, and when I heard this mysterious podcasting was starting to happen, I was like this is perfect for us because we both loved doing audio cassette recording improv when we were little and that sort of thing.

Carter: Filming is so hard. Filming is just so time consuming. Just to shoot five minutes was a months-long escapade.

Gourley: We could record any audio and put full production value to it a lot easier, so it was the perfect medium for us. We just got together and recorded – not even on a computer – on a digital 8-track and didn't really know what we were doing. [We] kind of learned along the way, built a website, put it on iTunes. Nobody was listening for the longest time, which was probably a good thing 'cause we felt like we could just do any kind of comedy we wanted. We weren't thinking anybody would listen to it, so we had no censors or inhibitions.

Do you remember what the first stuff you recorded was?

Gourley: Yeah, it's basically on the first episode of Superego. That first Shunt thing was one of the first things we did.

Carter: And Imogene Kanouse.

Gourley: Yeah, that was in the second episode, but there was a sketch on there called  "Del on the Dial," which was a conservative radio host that existed before Superego that I just put on there. But also, that Mutt Taylor stuff existed before Superego. We just kind of needed material. We weren't really producing a ton, so we just threw that on there because it kind of fit in. And then, Shunt was invented that day, even though that character type of his was around.

Carter: Both the Shunt McGuppin and Mutt Taylor characters were in an early thing you did for Channel 101, which was "Buckle Up." And I was Big Earl Bucket and you were…

Gourley: Mutt Taylor. Am I doubting that?

Carter: I'm not sure.

Gourley: No, Mutt Taylor played-

Carter: Mutt Taylor played Mustang and Rooster Boy, that's right. So, anyway, we'd always kind of toy with these outlaw country characters.

Gourley: We did a whole season of Superego with not that many people listening, and when I say not many…

Carter: Maybe 300. Mostly friends.

Gourley: That's giving us a lot of credit for having a lot of friends.

Carter: Yeah, It was mostly people that we worked with, who just kind of spread the word that way.

Was it hard to keep going with that small of an audience?

Gourley: Towards the end of the season, yeah.

Carter: I feel like this has happened with every season. Toward the end, it's kind of like, "Just get to the finish line. Just get to the finish line." I think maybe we should shorten that [Laughs].

Gourley: I know, you're right. The first season, we just kind of finished because I moved and it was just tiring and we needed a break and we didn't necessarily know that we would do a second season. But he ended up recording with Jason Sudeikis and we thought, 'This is enough reason to at least do another episode.'

Carter: Yeah, Jason Sudeikis and then Joe Lo Truglio happened to be there, so we recorded this sketch in my car with a laptop and a microphone.

What was the situation?

Carter: It basically turned out to be three assholes on the way home from Vegas.

Gourley: Luckily, it took place in a car 'cause it kind of sounds like it's recorded in a car. It makes it sound like the audio designer… "Wow, that really sounds like it's in a car." It's into a laptop mic.

Carter: So yeah, we came back and really decided to pour some energy into getting the word out and publicizing, which none of us are good at.

Gourley: No, we hated it.

Carter: Really hated it. [It was] the marketing of something that we believed in, and [we] were like, "Okay well, at least I believe in this and not hocking someone else's wares."

Gourley: That's when we brought Jeff and Mark onboard.

Carter: Mark was in the first episode. He was in the first episode, and we brought Jeff on to do – we thought we'd do a lot of video stuff. We have done a fair amount.

Mark McConville: It was always super fun to do in that first season, so when it was like, "Oh, we're gonna need more of an organized, bigger thing," I was like, "I'm in. Let's do it!"

What would you say your influences are for Superego. Is there other audio comedy that particularly inspired you?

Carter: Well, before we started doing Superego, Matt and I were watching a lot of Little Britain, which is a very similar style. I think that influenced us quite a bit.

Gourley: Yeah, the Mighty Boosh. I think I was pretty heavily influenced by Johnny Carson, actually. His sketches and straight man/crazy person and they were often making each other laugh and that sort of thing really appealed to me.

Carter: And we would do that in the car.

Gourley: Our girlfriends or whatever were very – we would drive them nuts by doing bits while we were driving places. That's how a lot of it started.

McConville: I would put Carol Burnett Show to the list.

Gourley: I know James is a big Carson fan too.

James Bladon: Oh, I am too. I used to watch him constantly at my mom's.

McConville: I also too, I was a kid Ha! was the comedy channel, before that was Ha! I just watched whatever was on there. Like, I didn't care who it was. There were just people telling jokes and doing comedy.

Was the Firesign Theatre ever an influence?

Gourley: That's a good question. That comes up a lot, and none of us were really listeners to Firesign Theatre.

Carter: We didn't really listen to Firesign Theatre.

Gourley: But we're flattered by it, having found them later in life, you know.

Carter: I certainly knew of them, and I know I'd heard them, but we get compared to them most often but we honestly weren't [listeners].

Gourley: Only because we didn't have exposure to it. There wasn't one of us that had listened and thought, 'Oh, I don't like that.' I think we'd all appreciate it.

Carter: I think when I was a kid too, I listened to a lot of – my friend had Billy Crystal cassettes and Andy Griffith.

Gourley: Andy Gibb, when he did that comedy album.

McConville: [Laughs] Bill Cosby, Himself.

Bladon: What about National Lampoon? Did you guys listen to that?

Crocker: I didn't listen to a lot of the Lampoon.

McConville: I listened to a lot of Monty Python audio comedy. I had a lot of their audio CDs, which I just loved.

Carter: I watched a lot of Python as a kid. I loved Eddie Murphy: Delirious.

McConville: You should rewatch it.

Carter: Yeah, I know. I saw part of it, and it doesn't quite hold up … Steve Martin, too. I think I said that, I can't remember. I loved Phil Hartman. He was my favorite on Saturday Night Live for years and years. Everybody would be in the Dana Carvey camp or the Mike Myers camp, and I was like, "Yeah, but Phil Hartman. He was great." Well, that brought it down.

Bladon: Did you mention the Marx Brothers?

Carter: Oh yeah.

McConville: Big Marx Brothers fan. They're somewhere in there. Yeah, I love those guys.

Carter: The Three Stooges.

McConville: Pee-Wee Herman.

Carter: I didn't have as much, but okay.

It seems like at some point you guys started to attract bigger guest stars to the podcast. Did you seek that out?

Gourley: No, it was all when Paul F. Tompkins followed us on Twitter, and we went, "Wow, this is something. When did this happen?" We just waited a couple days, and Mark saw him at an event and asked him if he would like to record with us and he already knew Mark's name when he walked up.

McConville: It was like walking up to one of the prettiest girls at school and being like, "Would you go to prom?" And it was like, "Fuck yeah, I'll go to prom. This'll be awesome. It was like, "Oh, awesome! Great!"

Gourley: And then, once he recorded with us, he kind of took us under his wing, really promoted us and all the other guests came from that, basically. And I think he just got a lot of people to listen to us. I mean, that really is where things took off for us. We've just been trying to maintain or better the quality ever since, which is why we don't put one out every month because sometimes we get a little burnt out…

Carter: …or busy.

How did you guys start doing live shows?

Carter: It was something we'd always kind of toyed with. We did a live show in the end of 2008 and another one the spring of 2009, but it was more of a sketch with costumes and props. We thought, "There's no way on earth we're going to take this anywhere" because it was too busy. Too much work.

Gourley: I think some opportunity for SketchFest came up, and we had thought, "Why couldn't we do the way we record on stage and just put some filters and effects on it and background music." We just started looking into that, and it made a lot more sense. It was very complicated at us at first, technically, but Mark came up with some great, simple solutions. Now, this live show's pretty streamlined, and we're able to do, I'd say, about 70% production wise to what the podcast itself is with just cues and audio stuff. Being able to still completely improvise, but be able to have cues ready and the background music that you know you'll need and things like that.

McConville: I don't know that we've ever discussed it, but we sort of started Superego to avoid doing live shows. I enjoy that it has come full circle to where we actually dig it and enjoy [it].

Bladon: I think what's impressive is that the podcast itself is really edited quite a bit, but you guys are able to do it live to where it's like a Superego show.

Gourley: The pressure of a live audience really makes you understand that you've got to [do well], where, when in the recording in the room, there's a lot less pressure. You can just go, "I'll try something that will never work."

McConville: In fact, somewhere on a hard drive, there's probably a giant compilation of us individually or as a group bailing on sketches, characters, trying just whatever in the room and then just going, "This will never work!" mid-character. A character will be like, "Well, this isn't going on, so why would I continue talking?"

Do you guys each have a favorite character you do on the show?

Gourley: My favorite characters are these guys who don't really have their own sketches but tend to pop up in other sketches. There's this guy I do on the call in show, just named Koch. And then, there's a guy who's like, [old guy voice] "Hello, I'm so-and-so Jim, come to town on a wishin' well, leavin' on a hopin' spring." I don't know what it is, but those little guys are my favorite or the predator guy. Otherwise, maybe H.R. Giger, I don't know.

Carter: I like to play Shunt because it's kind of easy to put that on.

Bladon: Harder to take it off.

Carter: Probably harder to take it off, and I like to play women. My mom is visiting right now and … right now, she's upset at her husband Roman, who sold a tractor and bought a Polaris, which is like a little golf cart kind of thing only it's slightly trimmed down. So, every time she mentions the Polaris, she doesn’t just say, "Polaris";  she says, "Well, that Polaris." She grits her teeth. I enjoy playing various women.

Gourley: Working some issues out through it.

Carter: [Laughs] There's just so much there.

McConville: Well, I like doing Janice because that's a character that I think is pretty funny, but at times, that character can get Matt, Jeremy, and others into that thing where they can't keep a straight face when I do it. I also really enjoy playing women and old people.

Gourley: Yeah, that goes for all of us, I think.

Carter: I love playing old people.

Gourley: We have this running joke in our group that we have about three to four characters each and we've run out and we're really limited on resources. Part of the reason we don't do every months is we've gotta find some new characters. [Laughs]

Carter: And at some point, everybody's gonna catch on. "Hey, these fuckers only do three or four characters each!"

Gourley: They space 'em out …

McConville: I think you can tell whose characters are whose by of the names that are made up.

Gourley: Well, Jeremy's especially because they're always Clydia Verbiliac or Clorosol McCagniac

McConville: There are names that if they didn't get recorded, we wouldn't know what they were ten seconds later.

Carter: What's the guy with the scissors?

Gourley: Stetch Maldonay.

What's the process of coming up with those names? Like, when one pops up in your head, do you write it down?

Gourley: I think it's the opposite. It's that it doesn't pop into your head, and you start speaking. Like, "Hi, I'm Cam Jabwost."

Carter: Stetch Maldonay came from – I put the note in my phone because I was talking to myself in the car, like you do. I was just doing commercials and "Stetch Maldonay" came out, and I just thought, "Oh, I'm gonna write that down."

Do you guys have plans for another season?

Gourley: I'm hopeful.

Carter: I think we're all hopeful.

Gourley: At least specials. If we don't do a full season, I'm sure we'll do some specials, and if we do do a season, it'll be with the understanding that these will come when they come. It won't be a month to month thing. There's just so much work involved.

Carter: We haven't ironed out the process, I think. [We might] alter something to alleviate some of the workload, but we just haven't figured out what that is.

McConville: I think it'll just be in a different form. Like, we set this standard for ourselves [of putting out a monthly show], and it made people expect it and now, we're like, "I don't know if we want to do exactly that anymore." I get a little nervous about that, but I do think we will continue to put stuff out. I don't think it'll look what it looks like [now].

Gourley: We get the most heartwarming bitterness from some fans, where it's so nice to hear that they really want something else, but at the same time, the way that they say it sometimes is like…

McConville: "Hey! Hey, it's May 1st! It's May 1st, guys!"

Gourley: But I will say, there is this weird little symbolic or spiritual thing that always tends for me – at least in my mind – to begin a season, and that's finding some piece of James Bond music that can be the new opening theme. It was one piece for season two, one piece for season three. I remember not long ago finding a piece that like, "Oh, that could work for a new theme song." I could hear the voices cutting into it. If there's ever that for a stumbling block, that’s taken care of. That won't keep us from doing this.

James, how'd you start working with these guys?

Bladon: I knew Matt because I went to college with an ex-girlfriend of Matt's, so because of that, we ended up doing some Shakespeare shows together. We did one in LA and one in Santa Barbara, I think. That didn't really do it, but [Laughs] later …

Gourley: We started hanging out, and you just came down for a Superego night, right?

Bladon: That's right, that's right.

Carter: And we did "Gentlemen's Caller."

Gourley: It was like an auto-tune voice for a strip club ad, basically, and he had brought all this music stuff because James works as a music editor.

Bladon: Right, so then I started doing that. Then, they asked me to make some music for the Andrew Lloyd Weber/Shunt sketch – to sort of retroactively make music after they recorded to be Andrew Lloyd Weber playing along. After that, they asked me if I would just make music as needed for the podcast, which I was thrilled to do, and that's kind of how it started. Then, I appeared on a few sketches … But it was about that time – not to make my own segway – where the album came up. I think this was in about 2010. Does that sound about right?

Gourley: Yeah, I think it was. We've been working on this thing, not consistently, but for three years.

Carter: The album was something that I know I'd been thinking about, and I'm sure we'd talked about since probably 2006 or 2007.

Gourley: Yeah, we always wanted to do something. We're such huge, non-ironic fans of old country and outlaw country and Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed, and we were bonding over all that stuff. It's a comedy album, but we really like that kind of music. I think all of us basically use comedy as a thinly-veiled reason to do this kind of music for whatever reason, even though our styles still differ. Even on this album, I tend to go more towards a folky thing, and he goes more towards raw, bluesy country.

What were your guys' music backgrounds before this?

Gourley: I played guitar and a little banjo and a little bit of other things. I don't love singing; I love songwriting. It's always been something that I've had a love/hate affair with. I love doing it but I don't always love taking it out to the public, and this was a way that made me love doing it because you could just have a lot more fun with it; you didn't have to take it as seriously. I really liked playing guitar and writing songs, and I guess I've been playing guitar for 20 years now? Jesus. Oh my God. I like recording music a lot, and I've had a couple bands in the past. Just little folk groups, but nothing serious.

Carter: I basically learned all the open chords when I was a kid, and I didn't touch a guitar until about a year and a half ago, so I didn't play guitar for 25 years. I've always loved singing. I like singing songs I like. I was into metal in the '80s. I'm a big Rolling Stones fan; went through a big Elton John phase when I was younger.  I just always liked that '60s, '70s, '80s rock, and in the last year and a half, I've learned to play the guitar because I really enjoy it.

Gourley: I should mention to that I once bought – I still have it – but I bought a vintage electric guitar, and it turned out to be David Koresh, the Waco, Texas cult leader, owned it. So, I always felt like I had to play or die, like I would be killed.

[Laughs] You didn't know it was his?

Gourley: No, they told it to me after I bought it.

I feel like they should have to tell you that. It's like selling you a house that a murder took place in.

Carter: A murder took place on this guitar.

Gourley: [After I was told that], I was like, "Are you kidding? I would have paid more, you idiot."

McConville: That guitar's not on the record though, right?

Carter: No.

Gourley: Oh, we should have though, just to give it a second.

Bladon: Well, the next one, guys.

[Laughs] Speaking of which, would you guys ever want to record another music album, or did this one take so long that you're tired of it?

Gourley: Yes and yes.

Is there another genre that you'd want to tackle?

McConville: Yes! Oh my God, yes!

Gourley: We've already talked about doing a progressive rock album, like a Yes-style, Rush, Jethro Tull-style thing. And then, we've also talked about doing a '70s soft rock kind of thing.

Carter: Yeah, I love it.

Gourley: Me too.

Bladon: I love that '70s prog rock because I grew up with that stuff too, but I don't know if I could do a whole album of it. I would be burned probably after one. I loved like all that nerdy rock, like Yes and King Crimson. I didn't listen to that much Jethro Tull.

Gourley: Genesis.

Bladon: Rush, I almost consider prog rock.

McConville: Lyrically, I think the prog rock genre has fun to be had. For me, it's like, musically, I was a heavy metal kid growing up. Now, I'm much more into traditional bluegrass, folk, country stuff, but I still like rock too. Neil Peart's lyrics are so crazy and weird, and I think we'd have so much fun writing those lyrics.

Gourley: We always go back to this one lyric that came out one night: "The Leviathan warned the shorekeeper." [Laughs] It's just, that's what stuck in our heads.

McConville: Just envisioning Geddy Lee singing it as high as possible. Let's do it.

Carter: [singing] "The Leviathan warned the shorekeeper that his riches weren't aligned." [imitates drums]

Bladon: It's very "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" if you're familiar with that Rush song.

Gourley: If not, more power to you.

Carter: I feel like there's a lot more Shunt songs.

Gourley: I bet there's a bottomless well of Shunt songs.

Carter: I would love to do another album. I think that would be fun. Only, give ourselves a deadline to do it. That's all.

Wrapping up, can you guys just tell fans what they can expect from the album and how it's available?

Gourley: Well, it's available at GoSuperego.com/merchandise. You can do a digital download. You can buy a signed copy of the CD, signed by members of the band as well as just the four of us, front and back. It's also in the usual places [like] iTunes, but we like to sell it off of our site because iTunes takes a lot. But jeez, emotionally, what do you get from this album?

Carter: You're gonna get love-making songs, and you're gonna get partying songs.

Gourley: Hate-making songs, love-taking songs. If you're in a relationship, you won't be after listening to this. If you're not, you will be. That's a guarantee.

Carter: With multiple people.

  • Evan Roche

    Good to know my favorite characters are also Gourley's. Giger, Koch, and so-and-so Jim are insanely funny.

    • Koch voice on Leroy Jenkins

      Will you be a vessel?