Podcasts come in many forms from scripted content and documentary to straight up interviews. “The Novelizers with Andy Richter,” a high concept new comedy program with a strong local connection, isn’t quite like anything that has happened before.
“The Novelizers,” which posted its first episode on May 29, is presented as an audio book of a fictionalized film novelization. Each chapter has a guest narrator such as Wayne Brady, JK Simmons, Felicia Day or Ira Glass. The podcast was created by Stephen J. Levinson of Oakwood, a former writer for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” It also features Dayton rapper and improv comedian Kevin Carter as co-host with Richter, formerly of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
“This is something I’ve been kicking around for years,” said Levinson, who moved back to the Miami Valley from New York in 2021. “People today don’t really know what novelizations are, but before you could just stream anything anytime, if you saw a movie and you ever wanted to experience it again, you’d have to buy (a) pulp novel. It would usually have a well-known movie written in prose by an unknown author.”
In an attempt to put his own spin on the process, Levinson took a different approach.
“I realized I was not an amazing author so I couldn’t do that myself,” he said. “I didn’t think I could talk any truly great writers into doing that, but I do know a lot of comedy writers. So, we kind of did the reverse where we take a classic movie and we split it into scenes. Everybody picks a scene and then writes it into a chapter style.”
Levinson’s idea began taking shape during the coronavirus pandemic when he and some of his comedy writing friends were looking for a collaborative virtual project.
“We like writing jokes, and we don’t necessarily like writing plot, so this was perfect,” he said. “We were thinking of some kind of story tag, but we didn’t want one person to have to wait for another person to finish their part, which would cause a bottleneck. So, I combined that with the idea of the novelization.”
For the first film, he and his collaborators chose “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.”
“A ton of people I asked said yes because it removed the problem of having to think of an idea to write about,” Levinson said. “You could go in and write jokes. We split the movie into scenes, and everyone picked a scene they wanted to novelize. It was amazing and nobody phoned it in. It’s a lot of comedy writers so everyone wants to one-up each other. Nobody wants to phone it in. I’m amazed at the quality of the writing. It’s just hilarious. Mine is the worst one, honestly.”
Credit: CONTRIBUTED BY DON THRASHER
Credit: CONTRIBUTED BY DON THRASHER
More than prose
Each installment of the first season’s 10 episodes has two chapters linked together by an improvised section featuring a special guest and Carter.
“When Stephen brought the idea to me, I was open to it,” Carter said. “When he talked with me more about the idea, I got super excited. When you think about all the podcasts out there in this world and to be part of it, to have someone even consider me, I’d be stupid not to do it. It started off just doing some improv every now and then and we ended up doing it every episode.”
Richter introduces and back announces each chapter. Carter, who appears as Richter’s intern, also interviews guest improvisors like Matt Walsh and Will Hines, portraying minor film crew members who worked on the making of “Star Trek 2.”
“When I tell people about the podcast, they stand there with their mouth open,” Carter said. “Then they go, ‘That’s interesting, I’ve never heard of anything like that.’ It is a crazy idea but there are so many movies out there that don’t have books to them so it’s almost endless. This has been a lot of fun and the best thing about working on this project is the (professionalism).”
Breaking new ground
“The Novelizers” may be a hard sell on paper but listening to the podcast is a different story. It is incredibly funny. The writing is smart, and the guests naturally add more humor and an extra sheen of professionalism.
“I’m excited but because it’s a new idea, it’s hard for some people to understand,” Levinson said. “For a while we were trying to pitch it to a podcast network, and they were like, ‘Well, this isn’t exactly what we do.’ It’s not two guys just sitting around talking. In the end we’re just doing it on our own, which is fine with me.”
He hopes the podcast has the potential to break through and build a strong following.
“I think people will find it because we have some great people narrating it like Patton Oswalt and Jon Benjamin,” Levinson added. “Hopefully it will be successful, but even if it’s not, it’s out there. People can listen to it, and they’ll get what we’re doing.”
HOW TO HEAR
What: “The Novelizers with Andy Richter”
Where: Streaming on all major podcast platforms. New episodes are posted on Mondays.
More info: Visit thenovelizers.com.
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.