A little over a year ago, we had an idea for a TV show: a mock-PSA program hosted by a character named Hairy Legs Hannah, who would (supposedly) teach children about liberal values – but she, and the rest of the cast, would end up behaving selfishly, fumbling each episode’s lesson in a decidedly not-suitable-for-kids way. As fans of Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman, and due to the faux kid-like aesthetic the show would require, we instantly saw it as animation, and set out to write the first two episodes of what would eventually become Hairy Legs Hannah’s Feminist Quarter-Hour.
Another reason we wanted the show to be animated is that, unlike most of the current satires, which take aim at Trump and the GOP in general (and have begun to feel tired), we wanted to make fun of both sides of the aisle. Everyone is a target in the fictional New York/LA mashup that is Woke City, and we feared that if we made it live action, the show would come off as too cruel, or seem to make fun of causes that we believe in, instead of the people who misappropriate them. With animation, the joke would be clearer. After getting positive feedback from our peers, we submitted it to the competition circle, and made it to the semifinalist round of the Austin Film Festival’s digital series competition.
Not long after submitting to Austin, however, our hunger to get this produced grew beyond our patience. Animation is expensive and neither of us had any drawing skills, but the insane news cycle that has been the Trump presidency told us that the time was right for our show, and we wanted to see it out there. Then, as we checked the Austin lineup, which was podcast-heavy that year, an idea came up: a supposedly government-sponsored show to educate children has a very old-timey feel to it, so why not a radio show? Animation and audio have a lot in common: they both often rely on exaggeration, they both can support hyperbolic concepts that a live-action show would struggle to make engaging, and they both demand actors whose voiceover work conveys body language effortlessly. The thing they don’t have in common: audio is so much cheaper. So we got to work.
The first challenge was rethinking the script with sound in mind, and although there weren’t a lot of podcasts doing what we were going for, other TV shows came to our aid with their audio-based jokes. Arrested Development, for example, has an amazing tradition of creating specific sounds that are triggered by names or phrases, so in our show, when someone says the name of Woke City’s favorite drink, Le Pamplemousse, you always hear a can opening and a refreshing “ahhh.” Bojack Horseman had a hilarious episode tackling abortion that was framed around an outrageous pop song, so we included songs, both an opening theme and a collection of catchy, ridiculous tunes on episode two (as well as the in-development episode seven). Then, when the scripts were radio-ready, we cast it with a group of friends we knew had the chops, and enlisted the aid of fellow NYU students (we were by then a few months out of school) for studio space, sound engineering and mixing, and music arrangement and scoring. By the time we made it to Austin, we had two episodes recorded and a timeline for when to start releasing (which we adjusted after getting invaluable feedback from all the podcasters we met at the festival).
At the beginning of April, we began releasing episodes, and will continue to every Sunday night until mid-May, when we will go on hiatus to start a Kickstarter campaign to fund the rest of the season, which has a total of twelve fifteen-minute episodes. The process has been incredibly rewarding, but has had its up and downs; not surprisingly, podcasting proved to be like a micro-TV show – we are writing, directing, and producing this, and have to make every decision, even the tough ones. Recently, we had an episode on sexual harassment that was already cut, scored, and ready for release, but we realized we weren’t adding to the conversation in a meaningful way, and made the tough, but ultimately 100% correct, decision to pull it.
Regardless of the ultimate success of this project, what makes it worthy is the fact that we had an idea we loved and we didn’t stand around waiting for someone to produce it. In spite of our limited funds, we now have a finished, polished product that we can proudly showcase. And more importantly, we didn’t begrudgingly record a podcast because we couldn’t do a TV show: we reshaped the idea around the medium to the point that it’s now, at heart, an audio project, and we can’t see it as anything else.