When ‘The Flop House’ Delightfully Deconstructed the Most Nightmarish Children’s Movie Ever
Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.
Being snarky about bad movies can be a pointless and dispiriting endeavor, especially in an online and digital realm not exactly hurting for sarcastic takedowns of notorious flops. It’s a much more worthy endeavor to find the joy and pleasure in the mocked and reviled, which is something I have been trying to do with my column at The A.V. Club, My World of Flops, which began in 2007 and I recently returned to following a two year hiatus. And it’s something that the Flop House podcast has been doing spectacularly for roughly the same amount of time.
I always thought that if My World of Flops had been a great podcast I had nothing to do with, it would be The Flop House, just as I always thought that if my fourth book, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me about Phish and Insane Clown Posse, had been a similarly great podcast I also had nothing to do with (other than appearing on an episode) it would have been Analyze Phish.
I was shamefully late to the game on The Flop House, only discovering it earlier this year, but once I started listening, I couldn’t stop until I had listened to every episode. It’s that addictive. I was particularly delighted to discover that the trio had covered a bunch of wonderfully insane camp classics I had been championing, as much as it is possible to do so, like Bratz: The Movie, Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure, Easy Rider: The Ride Back (the Easy Rider sequel no want wanted, starring the lawyer who sued to get the rights to make an Easy Rider sequel) and this entry in Pod-Canon, Foodfight.
The chemistry of the show’s three perennials is so strong and consistent that they don’t even need a particularly juicy movie to be entertaining but when they lock onto a true fiasco the results are a goddamned delight. Each of the perennials play an essential role on the podcast. Eliott Kalan, the head writer of The Daily Show, is the podcast’s resident know-it-all, an unabashed intellectual who isn’t at all shy about dropping highbrow references about the most lowbrow of trash entertainment. He is the podcaster most likely to reference the jackal-headed Egyptian god Anubis in a reference to Foodfight protagonist Dex Dogtective, but he’s also wonderfully silly, an unabashed proponent of silly wordplay and hastily improvised songs (generally to accompany the “letters” segment of the podcast). Kalan’s fellow The Daily Show writer Dan McCoy, the host, is a figure of Charlie Brown-like melancholy, a perpetually sighing wisenheimer who combines world-weariness with a razor-sharp wit, while Stuart Wellington is the Spuds Mackenzie party animal of the group.
When it comes to giving The Flop House fodder for jokes, Foodfight is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s a film so staggeringly misconceived, so deliciously insane that even after watching it it’s hard to believe that it actually exists. The Flop House approaches the film with a sort of warped appreciation for its infinite perversities. They methodically and hilariously dissect the film’s bizarre shortcomings, from a wildly inappropriate and unrelenting emphasis on sexuality and the cartoonish contours of the female form that leads the podcast to guess that the film originated as bestiality porn before seriously losing its way and becoming a kid’s cartoon without losing its unmistakable porn movie vibe, to the similarly incongruous and offensive deployment of Nazi imagery, which would be jaw-dropping even if the heroes weren’t nicknamed “Ikes” (which is just a letter removed from being a slur for Jews). The podcast even discovers the ideal audience for a film seemingly designed to offend and alienate every conceivable demographic: a single dad masturbating sadly to the film’s many near upskirt shots and creepy T&A while weeping.
But as is generally the case with The Flop House, some of the best moments also take the form of gleeful digressions that have very little to do with the film they’re ostensibly discussing, like a long tangent involving an elderly southern obsessed with Tintin. The Flop House offers a rich treasure trove of inside jokes and running gags for die-hards to become obsessed with, from Elliott’s penchant for rattling off the theater credits of the actors in Flop House flops to McCoy’s knee injury. The podcast has such an insanely devoted following that its Facebook group recently embarked on an epic podcast, recorded in parts, that explored A Talking Cat!?! on a minute-by-minute basis (titled A Talking ‘Cast!?! of course) inspired by a single offhanded comment from one of The Flop House’s fixtures.
Yet for all their wit and wordplay, there are moments in Foodfight so horrifying and viscerally disturbing that even the Flop House bon vivants are at a loss to do them justice, images beyond even the worst nightmares of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, most notably a grotesque human baby and a palsied, crazy-eyed figure of pure terror voiced by Christopher Lloyd. But The Flop House is also gracious enough to single out the rare moments of relief and pleasure in the films they cover, like Larry Miller’s delightful supporting turn in Foodfight as a bow tie wearing, elderly gay blind bat. Miller is generally the best thing in the worst movies, and Foodfight is dire even by his standards.
As the original peaches (as they are informally known to fans) say during the podcast, people who have suffered through Foodfight want to share the movie with the world, both as a means of proving to skeptics that the film actually exists and is not a drug or insanity-fueled hallucination, but also because experiencing an intense trauma like Foodfight bonds people together in the same way fighting a war might. And watching a buddy get shot in the face in front of you is every bit as likely to engender post-traumatic stress disorders as watching A Talking Cat!?! or Easy Rider: The Ride Back. I’m just lucky to have such gifted pop culture soldiers to fight the bad movie wars alongside me.
Nathan Rabin is the former head writer of The A.V Club and the author of four books, including Weird Al: The Book (with “Weird Al” Yankovic) and, most recently, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me.
Previous entries in Pod-Canon:
–The Best Show Hit New Heights of Insane Hilarity with “The Newbridge Mayubinatorial Debate”
–Todd Hanson on WTF