Production Journal: "Selfish Express"


We’re flattered when listeners tell us how “natural” or “off-the-cuff” we sound. Dozens of men and women on our crew toil for weeks to achieve the ralaxed, conversational tone that characterizes our show. If they’ve done their jobs well, even the close listener should be fooled into thinking we don’t do any preparation at all.

But with so many moving parts, things don’t always go smoothly. Here’s a peek at the production journal for our most recent episode, “Selfish Express”:

Oct 7: With just a month before we’re set to record, Adam spills Jamba Juice on the only copy of the script, rendering it illegible. Back to square one.

Oct 9: Our team of 14 writers quits, citing “creative differences” and “promises to be paid” not being “kept.”

Oct 12: Speech experts, whom we hire to remove any trace of regionalism or accent, infuriated Merlin by asking him not to sound so “San Francisco.” As revenge, he’s been speaking nothing but fake Spanish. In an Irish brogue. For two weeks.

Oct 17: Acoustic modelers survey the recording studio. They recommend the building’s foundation be repoured to correct for the room’s weak sonic profile. Two days lost.

Oct 20: Coulton and Hodgman are busy on other projects and cannot attend every rehearsal. The child actors we’ve hired as their stand-ins are pretty darned funny. Conundrum: go with the kids instead?
Oct 27: Scott loses his voice at a NASCAR rally. Our insurance company refuses to cover the medical bills, claiming erotic massage is not a valid course of treatment.

Oct 29: The Bolivian tin mine, whose output finances our show in lieu of sponsorships, is nationalized. Cash reserves: low.

Nov 3: Coulton is refusing to learn Aramaic. Now we have to totally rewrite Act III.

Nov 8: Dress rehearsal. We’re forced to abandon the costumes after our designer forgets to FedEx the novelty-sized pince-nez.

Nov. 9: Finally! Recording day! Yes, we flub a few lines, forget some facts, and stumble a bit. But it’s no big deal—our impersonators can fix that in post.

Photos #3 & #4 by Ryan Carver. See larger versions of #1 & #2 here.

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more bad news, mon freres

Also, re the production number we cut from Act II. Guys, I’m sitting here and I’m looking at a multi-multi-thousand “dollar” invoice from Cirque du Soleil for the giant 4-headed ostrich/turtle and the 11 ladies they sent to run it.

I understand that it’s part of “the process” to leave imperfect stuff out of the final cut, but I wish the Québécois production staff had talked with the SF stage crew a little earlier in the planning about the problems with the green screen interfering with Jonathan’s “Pansexual Robin Hood” costume. With respect I thought the bit was week, under-rehearsed, and could easily have been replaced by an animatronic ostrich/turtle and eleven ladies from Montreal.

At this point, I shouldn’t need to remind you guys: we’re not made of money or ostrich/turtles.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Is that the script of Glengarry Glen Ross I see through the paper?

Good eye!

Good eye! YLNT Official Greeking Style Guide mandates passages from GGR, not the usual “Lorem Ipsum.”

65% laugh

Hey guys, just wanted to ask how you came to the loudness of 65%? I mean it works and all but is that industry standard or was it more of a trial an error. I mean the last thing you want is to much of a reaction to a joke that only warrants so much laugher..

You guys nailed it.. so well done! Have a latte

It’s an algorithm, partly

It’s an algorithm, partly based on the formula the Army uses to allocate bullets among battalions. We start with a finite number of Laugh Units (based on the total running time, usually 50 units per 10 minutes), then we apply the algorithm. Because of the finite nature of our laugh economy, a “65% strength” laugh is actually quite rare. In our entire twenty-some episodes, we’ve had three 80%’s, one 85%, and just one 95% (which we could sadly never air because that single joke’s setup took an hour and a half).