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How Really Bad Television Inspires an Offbeat Richmond Podcast



If you’ve ever seen Hulk Hogan’s early-’90s TNT show, “Thunder in Paradise,” you know it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

A typical episode starts like a low-budget “Baywatch” with badly overdubbed beach girls in neon bikinis giggling to jumpy camera cuts while a cabana band sings, “Girls really turn us on!” You know, just in case you were scared that they weren’t red-blooded American heterosexuals.

Scowling alpha male Hulk Hogan saunters to the beach bar in aqua-blue polyester pants jacked above his orange navel, while no-name actors, seemingly minus brain-stem reflexes, begin to deliver hilariously bad dialogue. That’s when the inadvertent humor really ratchets up. The show makes “Miami Vice” look like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog.”

Which makes it prime fodder for Ben Canary and Josh Huff, two Richmonders who aim their quirky Blastpods podcast at offbeat cult television. So far they’ve critiqued episodes of the Hogan show, a few episodes of “Walker Texas Ranger” and other short segments in which they discuss famous people.

“Thunder in Paradise” started off as a bad movie idea in 1994, which doubled-down and was split into a two-part television pilot. “The show is kinda like ‘Night Rider’ with a speedboat,” Huff says. “His Scarab jet boat talks to him. In the last episode we figured out the voice of the boat is actually Hulk Hogan [laughs].”

The Blastpod boys scored recently with the episode, “Thunder With a Chance of Rainn: Plunder in Paradise Episode 5” featuring surprise guests actor Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight Schrute from “The Office,” and his writing partner, Lawrence Crimlis. Huff met Wilson while working for three weeks as a set dresser on the film “Permanent,” a comedy set in the ’80s that stars Wilson and Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette “She was brilliant,” Huff says. “I had a conversation with her about South Korean cloning of woolly mammoths.”

It was a T-shirt that originally caught Wilson’s eye.

“I had a ‘They Live’ shirt on with Rowdy Roddy Piper so we started talking about wrestlers. I told him about the podcast and he seemed really interested,” Huff says. “He brought it up later and said he’d love to do [the podcast]. He’s a fan of off-the-wall stuff. He has a zonkey as a pet — that’s a zebra donkey.”

A week later, the podcasters took a television and DVD player over to Hanover Avenue, where Wilson was staying in a larger home. “It was awkward at first,” Huff says, “but they rolled with it, it was so natural it was unreal.” During the hour-long episode, the conversation turned to bizarre tangents like sword canes.

“Hogan has beautiful eyes, I’ve never noticed that,” Wilson says at one point. (The well-prepared star also calls the podcasters some of the worst he’s ever heard when they don’t know that co-starring actor Chris Lemmon was Jack Lemmon’s son. “The amount you guys don’t know could fill a book,” Wilson says. “It’s fantastic!”)

“We make fun but it’s out of a pure love,” says Huff, who also worked on an Ashland set for the “Loving” film. “Hogan gave all these old wrestlers a chance to be famous on his crappy TV show.”

Canary originally bought the Hogan DVD off a website called iOffer, which has plenty of schlock. “This guy has all these random shows — like ‘Renegade’ and ‘Acapulco Heat,’ ‘Baywatch Nights’ [laughs] with the ’90s commercials included.”

Canary started out in hip-hop production, and wanted to be a rapper or wrestler growing up. “But I realized that would never happen,” he says, though he still has a thousand original instrumental tracks that he uses on his podcast. His day job involves operating an on-demand delivery service, Same Day RVA.

For future episodes, the duo would like to feature diverse guests — from local comedians such as Beau Cribbs to reporter Mark Holmberg and “homeless people.” They’ve also spoken with hometown voice actor Mike Henry, known for “Family Guy” and “The Cleveland Show,” about being a guest. He’s in town shooting an independent film short.

Meanwhile, Canary and Huff also have a television script with the working title “Frankie Two Boys,” about a gangster in the witness protection program. Their real goal is to break into television — Blastpods basically offer trial runs for these aspiring writers’ brand of humor.

“Podcasts are nothing new. It’s just a way to show that normal people are funny,” Huff says. “Anybody can thrive in comedy if you have the drive.” S