Baltimore-based comedy troupe Wham City Comedy has always straddled the dirty railing that is dark comedy and horror. If you’re like me, then they clearly speak to you and your spooky-365-days-a-year kind of soul. Lucky for us, they’re back again with something for those dark and rainy Halloween nights.
Wham City returns this week, with a departure from their very visual style of comedy in the form of a scary and thrilling audio book. Reverse Transmission is what I would imagine Stephen King’s Christine and Knight Rider of Hasselhoff fame would be in 2018, with a pitch black sense of humor.
Available now, Reverse Transmission tells a very Black Mirror telling of a self-driving car and its reluctant would-be driver, opening with the beginning kill. With the car voiced by Wham City’s own Alan Resnick, Reverse Transmission keeps the pace quick with a new shock and WTF moment just as you think you can relax. Spoiler Alert: Just accept that you won’t be relaxing, get comfy on that pointy edge of your hardwood chair, and you’ll be fine.
While the comparison to Knight Rider or Christine is not intentional, Wham City’s Ben O’Brien gets it. O’Brien, who directed the audio book and came up with the initial idea (along with his brother and writer Param Anand Singh), just figured that the timing for it might as well be now.
“It was such a great pitch in the sense that we knew we had to do it quickly before it got taken,” said O’Brien. “A self driving car driving people over, is so very of-the-moment right now. We were all ‘Let’s get this out there’ because it’s so very Black Mirror and other things right now, but at the same time it’s very fun and the idea just immediately excited us and pulled us into it. We developed the way the story would go, and the characters and stuff, and just let the story go from there.”
Anyone who loves Wham City Comedy as much as I do will be quick to tell you that most of their unique blend of comedy relies heavily on visual elements and cues (such as last year’s Cry of Mann, and This House Has People in It). O’Brien shared that what makes this such a departure from their previous work, and what made it more of a challenge, was the simple fact that they could not rely on the visuals for this. Their sound cues and punches had to be just right in order for it to work.
“[This] really took a learning curve for me,” said O’Brien. “Being audio, the emotions and acting, there’s a lot of emphasis on character and actor performance. If you can’t have these big visual moments, you have to rely on these big emotional moments. We tried to have a big moment in every chapter, something that was just the juicy part of that chapter.”
But will there be more audio books in the future for Wham City? While naturally the numbers and response will be the final telltale, O’Brien fervently hopes so.
“I personally am definitely going to continue [with audio books] because I fell in love with the format,” said O’Brien. “I’m very interested. It all depends on how this one goes, I mean that’s always the nerve-wracking thing. Normally we get aired at 4a on a TV and they’re not looking to closely at our analytics so that may or may not be a good thing,” he laughed.
As I spoke to O’Brien about Reverse Transmission, I would be remiss if I didn’t notice and point out just how stoked he sounded for this to be released. Ultimately despite the challenges, his favorite part about working on this was being in the director’s chair.
“Definitely it pushed me as a director, and that was the most exciting thing,” said O’Brien. “Having to go for real emotions, and kind of getting the humor out of that and really diving into the scenes and working with actors was such a pleasure. Immediately I was like ‘I wanna do this again.’ We directed, I think, fourteen days of taping straight — and I wasn’t tired by the end. I was energized.”
So pull up your dusty Victorian-style high chair, set that fire pit aglow, and load up Reverse Transmission on your computer or your iPhone. This is no doubt going to be a go to Halloween classic for years to come.