It's always funny until you're the one being made fun of
March 11, 2008 8:20 PM   Subscribe

"We need to make a comic so I can eat lunch." You're in your office sitting at your desk. There's a hot mic in the room. It's 45 minutes 'till lunch, your tummy's grumbling and you still have to write a comic. Fortunately your best friend -- who is also the co-founder of your decade-old business empire -- is sitting at his desk a few feet away. You are "Gabe" or "Tycho" of Penny Arcade, and the next 45 minutes will be captured on tape and published for all the world to hear as a podcast. But only if it's good. "Downloadable Content, The Penny Arcade Podcast" is practically a documentary on collaboratively authoring webcomics. The most recent episode is a particularly good example of that.

The March 7th episode, "Our Crucial Pamphlet" [MP3], typifies the process.

It starts with an informal brainstorming session to discover topics for the day's comic (and associated essay/blog post). The brainstorming is frequently interrupted by digressions. A short list of choices is produced. A topic is chosen and the layout, dialog, and action is discussed. The final comic is written out (dialog and description) panel by panel. One participant is the writer and one the artist, but you won't be able to tell who is who; no strong division of labor is evident in the give and take. Finally, the written description is read aloud, declared good and the recording ends. It's lunchtime.

The March 3rd episode, entitled "PON PON PATA PON" [MP3], diverges from the pattern. But only in that the final comic is a Hitchcock-influenced horror scene with no dialog. We hear Tycho and Gabe remove lines of dialog one by one until only the action remains.

The "pennyarcade" tag is alive and well here at MetaFilter, but the podcast has not yet been discussed. This is only my second post to the Blue, so criticism is welcome.
posted by sdodd (22 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Get Out of My Brain! (I'm listening right now)

The PA Podcast is a great audio window into the minds of super nerds (and I mean that with the utmost I am only a mere mortal nerd)
posted by device55 at 8:40 PM on March 11, 2008

I love these podcasts, listening to other people's creative process is really inspiring.

"Hammer. Okay. So which side is out?"
"Either one is going to be bad."
"Alright, we got it."

posted by patr1ck at 8:43 PM on March 11, 2008

One thing I've noticed from these comics-- especially the Metroid turn-into-a-ball-one-- is that Gabe (the artists) frequently has funnier ideas than Tycho. In fact, in more podcasts I've listened to, Tycho has watered down or altered a previously funny Gabe joke. Maybe it's just that I've got a different sense of humor and Tycho's more in touch with the mainstream... But it seems to me that Tycho's chief job is to provide the pair's motivation rather than actually "write."
posted by ®@ at 9:01 PM on March 11, 2008

that should be *artist, btw.
posted by ®@ at 9:01 PM on March 11, 2008

man, listen to that nerd lisp. It's all I hear.
posted by boo_radley at 9:23 PM on March 11, 2008

Off on a tangent, but I highly enjoyed this DDR video they linked from the patapon blog.
posted by empath at 9:25 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm a huge Penny Arcade fanboy, and the happenings of Gabe and Tycho are discussed regularly in my household, but I have resisted listening to the podcasts because I'm just not "into" podcasts. I suspect it will turn out like when I wasn't "into" RSS for years and then cursed myself for adopting so late. Onward to podcasts!

Should I listen before or after I read the strips? I know the podcasts typically run behind the strips, but I suppose I could wait.

I've met the duo a handful of times over the years, and they definitely have a great rapport. I had breakfast with them before the first day of Necrowombicon 2 - Tycho ignored my e-mail invite, but Gabe convinced him to attend after a second e-mail from me. In retrospect, it's strange that the socially-anxious Gabe was the one to accept the fan contact, but his motives may have simply been juice. When he learned that I was happily buying everyone's breakfast he proceeded shamelessly to put the waitress on juice alert. During the breakfast me and my friend Nick tried carefully not to be fan-boyish, but if we stopped asking PA-related questions for even a moment, Gabe and Tycho just started riffing off one another, going into that rarified domain of true heterosexual life mates.

Since then, I've only had chances to chat with them separately, and Gabe is a lot more accessibly funny in person but less comfortable to talk with than Tycho, who has his unique polish, but a more conventional conversational technique.

I *heart* Gabe & Tycho.
posted by chudmonkey at 10:31 PM on March 11, 2008

The (10 minutes? 15?) discussion of how people who back into parking spaces are uppity was just utterly goofy. It's kind of charming, how upfront they are about their neuroses.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:38 PM on March 11, 2008

Which one is which?
Like, which guy is talking right at the 1 minute mark?
posted by geodave at 10:50 PM on March 11, 2008

The guy with the lisp is Mike Krahulik, aka Gabe.
posted by joedan at 11:01 PM on March 11, 2008

> Should I listen before or after I read the strips?

I prefer to have the strip open so I can listen to them converge on the final product.
posted by sdodd at 11:09 PM on March 11, 2008

Nice post!

[fist pound]
posted by davejay at 11:50 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

One thing I've noticed from these comics-- especially the Metroid turn-into-a-ball-one-- is that Gabe (the artists) frequently has funnier ideas than Tycho. In fact, in more podcasts I've listened to, Tycho has watered down or altered a previously funny Gabe joke.

Eh, you can argue the same thing about, say, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but ultimately it's the partnership that produces the fruit.
posted by davejay at 11:52 PM on March 11, 2008

I just caught the most recent episode earlier this evening. Even though I never ever know anything about the games they're talking about, it's always hilarious. I was laughing out loud to myself alone in the car while they went on about the "fist bang," and looked up the correct term online. I hadn't quite believed before that point (after following the podcast since New Year's) that they were actual nerds.
posted by lostburner at 11:57 PM on March 11, 2008

His description of why people who backed into spots thought they were "hot shit" and felt they were better than him...

That was hilarious!
posted by geodave at 2:13 AM on March 12, 2008

chudmonkey, the PA podcast is literally the only one I listen to. It's often times more funny than the resultant comic (which I always find amusing at worst and absolutely hilarious at best). I can't recommend it enough. These guys are my kinda people.

It helps that I'm in the 'biz' and have a long-standing passion for gaming and thus get most of the stuff they're talking about. But even so, I'm happy that Mike and Jerry are doing so well for themselves and have not 'sold out'. The advertising on their website is all decided by them and they will not advertise anything they have not played (even if it's an early alpha build) and enjoyed, which I'm extremely impressed with. Especially with advertising for Army of Two and its mediocre ilk invading every gaming site. Combine this with PAX and Child's Play (which started off as a 'fuck you' to Jack Thompsons of the world) and you've got two rather stand-up-guys who have done a lot for geeks worldwide.

This was the strip that started my fandom back in the day. The joke is so specific that, unless you were a serious gamer at that point, you have no idea what's going on. It made me realise that I really wasn't alone in my geekdom and that videogames were becoming 'mainstream' enough to be laughed with rather than laughed at.

I could go on about my hetero-boner for those guys, but I think I've embarrassed myself enough already.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:03 AM on March 12, 2008

I rarely know what PA is talking about since I'm not a gamer at all, but I still frequently find them hilarious. Even my wife subscribes and compared to her, I'm....Gamey McGamersons.
posted by DU at 4:31 AM on March 12, 2008

I've known about these for ages, but I kept putting listening to them off. I guess this is the spur I need to sit down and give them a go.

I only read two web-comics with any regularity, and Penny-Arcade is one of them. Mainly because I believe Div to be the second coming of my messiah, and I'm just waiting for the holy trinity of Him, the Fruit Fucker 2000, and The Cat to tell me it's time to ascend to gaming heaven.
posted by quin at 10:52 AM on March 12, 2008

Hmmmm. My favorite has long been the one for "The Broodax Imperiate," for its extended toddler-story introduction, but I haven't listened to these in awhile. Time to start again!
posted by jinjo at 11:33 AM on March 12, 2008

The biggest danger to these podcasts is that after you listen to several of them, you feel like you've been hanging out with your buddies Mike and Jerry and you fire off a couple chatty e-mails to them which they mercifully ignore.

They're all fun, but some of the more memorably entertaining ones include "The Lidless Eye," "We are Only Trying to Help," "Doctor Feelgood," and "The Same as it Ever Was"
posted by straight at 12:05 PM on March 12, 2008

I couldn't find a way to work this into the post, but one thing that makes this podcast unique among the 'casts I subscribe to is its complete and utter lack of production. They press Record and just talk to each other. No introduction, to welcome, no theme music. Often, the show is one long cut -- no edits at all. In the first episode linked above they wander out of earshot, but don't bother to edit that out. They almost never talk to the listener. There's no teaser for the next episode, no breaks, no reset at the top, no signing off at the end.

It's refreshingly bereft of the time wasters so common in professionally-produced entertainment -- the often useless, redundant fluff some podcasts aim to emulate (I'm looking at you, The Naked Scientists). I guess I like being treated like an intelligent adult who can be trusted to overlook the unpolished parts and not wander away like some easily-distracted mental patient. (Okay, I am easily distracted, but I have a pause button and know how to rewind. I can work it out.)
posted by sdodd at 12:21 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

They have done a good job of improving the sound quality, though. The first few episodes were almost painful to listen to. Still, the first episode remains one of my favorites for mentioning the penis well.
posted by graventy at 1:31 PM on March 12, 2008

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