If you’re a fan of podcasts chances are you’ve run into the McElroy brothers. The trio got their start with My Brother, My Brother, and Me, a comedy “advice show for the modern era.” From there they launched a D&D podcast, The Adventure Zone, spin-off projects like a short-lived TV show, and basically cornered the market on wholesome whimsy. But among their ever-growing list of podcast projects, perhaps my favorite is the most obscure: Till Death do us Blart.
An Annual Show of Gratitude
If you haven’t heard of the show before you shouldn’t be surprised. You won’t find the program in your standard podcatcher. Instead you have to go straight to the source on libsyn. And despite its 5-year runtime, the show has only produced a scant six episodes. The reason for this is in the show’s premise. Teaming up with Guy Montgomery and Tim Batt from The Worst Idea of All Time, the gang sits down every year at American Thanksgiving to do a deep dive into the world of Kevin James’ Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015). The show’s slow release schedule and frankly bizarre premise have relegated it to a cult following. But don’t be fooled. Death Blart—as the gang refers to it in shorthand—is one of the most consistently enjoyable podcasts I’ve listened to.
A Dead Horse Made Better by the Beating
Now it should surprise no one to hear that Paul Blart 2 is not a good movie. Not by any metric. But the hosts of Death Blart are undeterred by this fact. They are determined to mine those 94 minutes of cinematic filth for whatever enjoyment can be leached from it. And in the past half-decade they have managed to do just that. Year after year, the boys bring new offerings to the table. Sometimes it’s behind-the-scenes information filling in logical gaps made by the movie’s editing process. Other times, it’s praise for jokes and performances like the “old banana scene” which have become beloved favorites. Often, it’s intense meta-narrative theory-crafting like Griffin’s “Shadow Man” theory, imbuing the tepid comedy with supernatural stakes. And year after year, they manage the impossible: to make you want to go watch the film yourself.
The joy of discovery and camaraderie in hatred that the boys delight in is infectious. The show is especially good to binge. Hearing the annual gap between episodes pass in an instant adds a whole new dynamic. The stark contrast of the 2017 and 2018 episodes is a perfect example. In 2017, rejuvenated by a group viewing and a hairbrained plan to pair the film with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), the boys sang the film’s praises for over an hour. This imbues Justin’s words with all the more weight when, beginning 2018’s episode, he declares, “Gang I don’t like this fucking flick.” The statement returns the boys to a standard 2-hour lambasting of James’ cinematic sin against mankind.
I think the reason Death Blart works so well for me is because it exemplifies why I love podcasts. Podcasting at its best feels like you’re listening to a group of friends just hanging out: edited for polish, of course. It reminds me of the best times I spent with my own friends. That world of memory devoid of awkward silences and failed goofs, packed with the funniest jokes and most memorable experiences. The kind of escape that is perfect for family holidays when you feel just a little suffocated. And the kind of interactivity I think we all miss right now. Till Death do us Blart is the sound of unadulterated friendship, delivered at the time of year it’s most needed.
Thumbnail image from Roger Ebert.com.