The Perfect Double Tribute: The ‘B*A*P*S’ Episode of ‘The Flop House’
Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.
There are certain incontrovertible milestones in podcasting. These include landmarks for the medium like President Obama’s appearance on WTF, Comedy Bang Bang’s 500th episode, Harris Wittels’s final podcast appearances, and that one episode of The Nerdist where Chris Hardwick got way too excited about something.
But some podcasting milestones are a little more niche. That’s the case with the latest episode of The Flop House, the life-affirmingly hilarious bad movie podcast featuring The Daily Show writer Dan McCoy, Mystery Science Theater 3000 head writer (and former Daily Show head writer) Elliott Kalan, and Stuart Wellington, owner of the bar the Hinterlands. The episode, devoted to my beloved Ishtar, marked the podcast’s tenth anniversary. Yes, the cult bad movie podcast debuted in the early, Wild West days of the internet, when, as Kalan quips, its only competition were Hey, Is My Mic on? and Hey, I’m Trying to Record a Voicemail Message. Did I Press the Right Button?
On a more bittersweet note, the episode marks the last one that will be taped in McCoy’s apartment with the three men together since the podcast catches Kalan a mere ten days before leaving his current home of New York for Los Angeles. This lends a melancholy air to the episode, although McCoy’s baseline level of melancholy is already “saddest parts of a Wes Anderson movie” so the episode finds him even more melancholy than usual. Yes, this represents the end of a certain version of a show fans have come to know and love.
There’s a certain magic that comes from these three men being in a room together, watching movies and joking around. There’s a chemistry that makes these singularly complementary voices more than the sum of their considerable parts. And, to put things in slightly hyperbolic terms, for bad movie podcasts, Dan McCoy’s apartment is like the early Sun Studio. Magic happened there, but now magic will have to happen via the cyber-magic of Skype.
Since one version of The Flop House is ending, it seems appropriate to honor another ending: Martin Landau’s recent death at 89. What better way to honor both Landau’s life and career and the electric chemistry of The Flop House than with the episode devoted to B*A*P*S, which paired this Oscar winner with future Oscar winner Halle Berry?
The Flop House generally watches and talks about new movies. They unhappily made an exception for B*A*P*S when a contest winner chose the movie. To say that they are unenthused would be an understatement. The three white gentleman describe the movie as something of a racist trap, since it’s so full of racist stereotypes that it’s hard to even talk about it without seeming racist yourself.
Some movies are inspired by books or television shows or video games or children’s building and stacking toys. B*A*P*S seems inspired by the racist stereotypes of the distant, and sadly not so distant past. As the gents here acknowledge, B*A*P*S is so backwards-looking and regressive that it’s hard to believe it was released twenty years ago and not forty years ago.
As the podcast acknowledges, the movie’s desperate reliance on creaky old archetypes beloved by racists is even more egregious considering it was directed by Robert Townsend, who made his name with Hollywood Shuffle, which took devastating satirical aim at stereotypical blaxploitation horseshit like B*A*P*S. Townsend now has the curious distinction of having directed one of the ultimate satires of racism, Hollywood-style, and one of the most shamelessly racist comedies of the past quarter decade.
Then again, the Queen Latifah/Steve Martin “comedy” Bringing Down the House came out long after B*A*P*S, was equally full of anti-black racism and was an enormous hit. With each successive year, Spike Lee’s Bamboozled looks less and less like a wild, outrageous satire and more and more like a documentary.
As McCoy notes early on, the deeply problematic nature of B*A*P*S requires a certain amount of sensitivity, and the podcast’s funniest moments are devoted to an extended riff from Kalan where he imagines Landau as the vampire host of a Tales from the Crypt-like horror anthology called Tales from the Martin. The Crypt-Keeper is one of Kalan’s go-to references, and he has entirely too much fun imagining ghoulish nicknames for the movie’s star, like “Halle Scary” and “Halle Buried.”
The alternate-universe Landau-vampire is not a famously cranky, cantankerous acting heavyweight but rather a mischievous ghoul, “Bapsula,” as it were. The riff illustrates the enormity of Kalan’s contributions to the podcast. He’s one of those rare figures in comedy and pop culture whose infectious, palpable enjoyment of their own work and words makes them funnier and more ingratiating rather than annoying. On The Flop House, Kalan comes off as both an overly cultured patron of the arts and an impish sprite forever delighting in his own transcendent silliness and dad jokes.
My hope is that Martin Landau is just like the title character in the little-loved late-period Mel Brooks parody flop Dracula: Dead and Loving It: deceased but enjoying the experience of being formerly living. I also selfishly want eternal life for The Flop House, not unlike the kind the title character in Dracula: Dead and Loving It both experiences and enjoys. I want it to never end, and never die, regardless of how it’s recorded, or the geography at play.
And if I had an opportunity to pick out one late-period, poorly received Mel Brooks parody for what fans lovingly call “The Original Peaches” to watch and comedically dissect? Why that’d have to be Robin Hood: Men in Tights, of course.
Nathan Rabin is a father, the author of 5 books, a columnist and the proprietor, owner, Editor-in-Chief and sole writer for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place, which can be found at nathanrabin.com.