From Geek Goes Rogue TV Editor Zach W. Lorton, who would like everyone to know that he doesn’t necessarily condone harsh language, but it does exist in places on this page…
The art of television viewing has morphed in the last 10 years. More and more, people are watching their favorite shows on the go, through subscription services, or even through the media center knows as Xbox. Almost every DVD and Blu-Ray disc sold today comes with a way to either save a digital copy to your preferred device, or access to your movie in a digital cloud.
So, when I see something on YouTube, I don’t always consider it a form of television. But I believe that since we are redefining television, I have to. More and more, web-based shows have become the way artists and filmmakers flex their creative muscle. The production quality is near the same or better than what you might see on most networks, and the rise of pay services like Netflix and Hulu Plus have given way to new series that have lasted multiple seasons, some of which show no signs of slowing down. Orange Is the New Black is one such series that made a major splash this summer, receiving a 79% rating on Metacritic, and becoming a huge hit with the show’s fans.
However, I stumbled upon a musical act within the last year that doesn’t have a series on the web. They did have a recurring gig on a a couple of television shows… in Australia. I discovered their music through a comedy channel on Pandora, and their tight harmonies, offbeat and geek-centric humour, and witty onstage banter have cemented them, at least in my mind, as one of the best musical comedy acts to exist ANYWHERE.
Tripod is made up of three gentlemen from Australia — Stephen “Gatesy” Gates, Scott “Scod” Edgar, and Simon “Yon” Hall — who weave fantastic comedy songs about mundane life (“The Hot Dog Man”, one of my personal favorites), geek culture (“Hot Girl in the Comic Shop”), feeling alienated (“Lingering Dad”), and expressing their distaste for how long it takes a good movie to get going (“King Kong”). Their appearances on the television shows skitHOUSE and ABC’s Sideshow, where they were featured regularly, showcased their ability to work with an audience and displayed their improvisational skills. Their acapella performance on Sideshow of the hymn “Meet Me in the Middle of the Air” with singer Eddie Perfect launched a project called “Perfect Tripod”, in which the foursome performed, and ultimately recorded, acapella versions of notable songs by Australians, including music by BeeGees, Gotye, Men at Work, Kylie Minogue, even the Little River Band, among others. The tours gave way to a brand new recording, which was released last week on iTunes, and has been receiving generally positive reviews.
The new album proves they can swing as talented musicians and don’t need to rely on their comedy to carry a show, as evidenced in this video of them performing their version of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”:
But the single work that I believe may be their crowning achievement, at least thus far, is their full-length stage comedy musical, Tripod Versus the Dragon, a work that was based on the experience of playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons on a Saturday afternoon. This show, while not available in North America, was premiered in 2010 at the Massachusettes Museum of Contemporary Art, and a DVD was made of the performance. Unfortunately, it is a Region 0 DVD, so there’s no guarantee it will work with every DVD player in North America, only those that are “region free” DVD players. On the plus side, someone took the entire DVD and uploaded the full show to YouTube so that others could enjoy it. I won’t link to the video here, since it’s not hosted by the band’s YouTube channel. But believe me when I tell you that the show is worth every bit of your time. The wonderful Elana Stone joined them for the performance, rounding out the cast as a 4th member who played the Dungeon Master, the Dragon, and the accordion (!!).
Using a combination of acapella singing, do-it-yourself graphics, and theatrical lighting tricks, the story follows three friends as they play D&D, embarking on a quest to fill in an ancient map that hasn’t been completed. Unbeknownst to them, legend tells of a dragon who was born at the dawn of time, when a branch was cut from the Tree of Knowledge, and her duty is to guard that place from man’s return. In the interim, the dragon meets one of the three, who falls in love with her (because he rolled and got low intelligence stats), and the rest of the group tries to not get killed by the legendary beast. The final two songs of the show really take me back to what I experienced when I was in school, even though I never got into role-playing games. But I believe this story speaks to the geek in all of us, and it gives those who loves us insight into the world we live in.
Now, to be sure, there are phrases and references in Tripod’s comedy that are unique to Australians, but once you get the hang of the subtle differences, it makes sense. Also, this is definitely NSFW stuff. Australians are much more liberal with the F-bomb than we are in North America (their television appearances weren’t censored, so that gives you some idea how okay they are with it), so if you’re offended by language of that type, you would do best to steer clear. However, there’s no denying the skill with which these three blend their voices and talents to create some truly entertaining work.
In the coming week or two, I will offer a review of some of Tripod’s audio releases, including the new album, “Perfect Tripod — Australian Songs”, but for now, I’ll leave you with this sublime piece of twisted comedy, “The Hot Dog Man.” Again, this is NSFW, kids. And headphones will help if you’re not too keen on the Australian accents.
Zach W. Lorton is a media producer and professional DJ/MC by trade, and a comedian, actor, and musician by default. His debut music project is set to begin recording in 2014, and will likely take the world by storm, possibly in the form of a Sharknado.