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Ben Acker And Ben Blacker Talk 'Thrilling Adventure Hour,' 'Deadpool'

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 29, 2015 7:15PM

Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, photo via the Thrilling Adventure Hour website

We’re still recuperating from all the excitement of C2E2, including hanging out with the cast and creators of the Thrilling Adventure Hour, a popular podcast on the Nerdist network done in the style of old-time radio shows.

We were thrilled to see them all over the con schedule in their second appearance, and even in the midst of all the signings, screenings, improv and comic adaptation shows, "The Bens" (creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker) made time to sit down and chat with us about all the recent TAH developments, including ending the live show and podcast and expanding into graphic novels and a comic series.

CHICAGOIST: There’s so much that’s changed since last year, it’s hard to believe. Obviously though, we want to ask you about the end of the live show. What was that like for you?

ACKER: It was every emotion. It was exciting, like hooray, we're moving forward! And also totally sad. We spent ten years doing this thing. It was all the emotions, but also all of them were buried and suppressed by the fact that we're doing a show. That is the thing that is happening right now.

BLACKER: Yeah. We have a job right now.

ACKER: So we can't focus on that. The ten-year anniversary show was the core cast only. It was the smallest show we ever had, and that was so wonderful to just have the main players for this thing. There was a sense that we should have done this all the time. And then we had 30, maybe 40 people come out; we opened the door for special guests for the last show.

BLACKER: There was NO room backstage.

ACKER: And Blacker said to me, 'This is why we didn't do that all the time. We love all these people. And this is only the ones that could make it tonight.' It’s been such a warm and kind reaction. So while it’s an ending of a thing we did, it’s totally not an ending. We’re gonna work with these people forever.

CHICAGOIST: We're so glad to hear that! One of the questions we had was 'What are you gonna do with Hal?' [Lublin, the show’s emcee].

BLACKER: Oh. Hal’s out. Hal’s out.

ACKER: He knows why.

BLACKER: And so does everybody else, right? I think at this point it’s clear that Hal has been hanging on.

ACKER: Just talenting it up or whatever.

BLACKER: He’s been more than carrying his weight and, uh, we don’t like that.

ACKER: Right? Yeah, phone it in ... Hal is dead to us.

BLACKER: He’s not! I feel like we’ve unwittingly created this monster that’s like, the most humble monster of all.

ACKER: Frankenstein.

CHICAGOIST: What has the fan reaction been like?

BLACKER: To Hal? Oh, they hate Hal too!

CHICAGOIST: To the podcast ending?

ACKER: Uh, it’s been through all the stages of grief. It’s been...

BLACKER: ...The same as we have! But we had a jump on it, because we knew first. But actually, it’s been amazing. With as many feelings as there can be around it, ultimately the fans come around to 'We trust you guys, and we’re excited for what’s next.' And that’s as humbling as anything has been in this whole experience.

The cast and creators of The Thrilling Adventure Hour at C2E2. Photo by Marielle Shaw for Chicagoist.

CHICAGOIST: We admit, our first reaction was 'nooooooo!' And eventually we got to 'well, okay.'

BLACKER: It was really interesting to see what happened when the announcement came. It took a while. People maybe didn’t quite understand. There was a lot of confusion about it. But we have a core group of fans, the Senior Adventurekateers, and they spread the word.

ACKER: They keep the wiki, and they welcome new fans. When someone tumblr’s 'Hey what is this thing,' they’re like, 'We’re here for you.'

CHICAGOIST: You guys are going to Sydney after this, right?

BLACKER: Sydney, Auckland, and Wellington. We’ll be there throughout May for a bunch of shows, and almost everyone is coming. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It feels like a big, fun, last hurrah for the live show experience.

CHICAGOIST: We’re seeing a new show type of yours at C2E2, what is that going to be like?

ACKER: It’s a live adaptation of the 'Sparks Nevada' comics. It’s a different thing but with really the same feel, just unplugged.

BLACKER: Ben put it the best way. 'It’s Thrilling Adventure Hour unplugged.' It’s a little looser, a little more casual, but it’s still the characters, stories and actors you love.

CHICAGOIST: Thrilling Adventure Hour Comics just came out recently, didn’t it? We just saw an alternate cover for the Beyond Belief comic and it’s gorgeous!

BLACKER: Thank you! Yeah it came out about two months ago.

CHICAGOIST: And you guys work on Deadpool as well, right?

ACKER: We wrote a Deadpool annual about two years ago. And we wrote the Thunderbolts featuring Deadpool.

BLACKER: We have a story in the most recent issue of Deadpool, where Deadpool dies, and then they had a bunch of backup stories written mostly by L.A. comedy types like Paul Scheer. For that we wrote a story about Kid Apocalypse, just a short five-page story.

BLACKER: It has art by Natalie Nourigat, who did the USSA story in our graphic novel, and really we encourage you to just look at everything she’s done. Find her on the Internet, follow her on Twitter. She’s an up-and-comer, but she’s already so great.

ACKER: Working with someone like Natalie, it feels like working with Marc Evan Jackson or Mark Gagliardi, or Hal or Annie or Craig in the early years of the show, where you have discovered someone you didn’t really know about or know very well who gets your material 100% and elevates it.

CHICAGOIST: That’s so nice, when you come into something and you feel like someone’s already on your level.

BLACKER: And more so. We have to work to be on her level.

CHICAGOIST: One thing we wonder about with the podcast, to switch gears again, are people going to be able to still listen all the way back through the archives?

BLACKER: Yes. There are no plans right now to take them down. Nerdist is leaving them up, and we haven’t really talked about removing them.

CHICAGOIST: Do you think you’ll do more shows coming up, like what you've done for C2E2?

BLACKER: We have Brooklyn in October where we'll be adapting the Beyond Belief comic, and we’ll see how it goes. It’s a different beast. We’re kind of learning it’s almost as much work as the monthly show, but we’ll see. We love working with these actors, we love writing these characters.

CHICAGOIST: We’ve heard whisperings about a TV show.

ACKER: I will tell you, we are trying to produce a pilot presentation of Beyond Belief, which means we are essentially pitching the show. That's not to say there’s a pilot made or that it’s going to be on TV or not be on TV, we’re in the early stages of it.

CHICAGOIST: Would casting be the same? [The Beyond Belief saga currently features Paul F Tompkins and Paget Brewster, as well as Janet Varney, in the major roles]

ACKER: The goal is to have Paul and Paget. And Janet. They’re all amenable. Is that the word?

BLACKER: They’re super down with that.

CHICAGOIST: We’d also be super down with that. Thank you for a wonderful show and a great talk!