Recorded in studio by Eban Schletter. Thanks to Charles Burns, Jake Gideon, Barre Duryea, and Brian Stack.
Tales from the Black Lagoon, “The Search for Marnie Bennett” (part 2)
Jay Silverheels: John DiMaggio
Jimmy Stewart: Mark Gagliardi
Marnie Bennett: Annie Savage
Cary Grant: Paul F. Tompkins
Commentary from Ben Acker:
Acker: When we started the show, we had Sparks Nevada and Beyond Belief pretty much in mind. I don’t remember where the idea for Hollywood Noir: Tales From the Black Lagooncame from, but it was in there from the start and has always been so fun to write. it is the only truly serialized story in the show and for maximum enjoyment, please go and listen from the very first episode.
Despite rampant silliness throughout the Hollywood Noir pieces, these characters are more driven and heroic and flawed and dragged through the mud than any of our other ones. The formulas for noir and comedy are pretty similar. A guy tries to do the right thing, screw in a lightbulb or save a pretty girl from the trouble she got herself into and it’s not as easy as it seems, the chair breaks underneath him, sending him crashing down on the table, catapulting the new bulb out the window, so there he sits eating a sandwich under a burnt out bulb, or the girl he’s trying to save isn’t an innocent (he never thought she was, because dames are dames are trouble, but he falls anyway) – maybe he can save her from that which took her innocence and in the end, she’d rather shoot him and frame him than be saved. In either case, good intentions are rewarded by ruin. In both cases, the nobler the character, the more fun it is to drag him through the mud.
This piece focuses on Jay Silverheels, Tonto from the Lone Ranger, out for redemption. John DiMaggio does great work here. You can’t hear it, but he physicalizes all his characters and his Silverheels is as wooden in his movements as in his speech. DiMaggio’s precision as a voice-over actor has him playing nearly 85% of the characters in cartoons. As a writer, it’s a bit of a challenge to throw something at him that he’s never done before. He’s played Indians before. But never Tonto. Never Tonto with a dark past who is kind of dumb who would do anything to undo the darkness of his past. And like any voice challenge you’d care to throw at DiMaggio, he absolutely nails it.
There are few characters more fun to write than the bebop-talking, opium addled Jimmy Stewart. As with all characters Mark Gagliardi plays, his humanity is on his sleeve. He is deep down good. So to have that at the core of a character shining through means that you can write as silly as hell and it’ll work. That’s why Gagliardi is a go-to for Martians, over-the-top vampires and Cuban Elephants in all-animal jazz combos.
Paul F. Tompkins‘ Cary Grant impression is one of my favorites too. It is Cary Grant when he’s not turning it on. A conversational Cary Grant. Not the stuff of comedy impression. Which makes it that much funnier to me. Also there’s nuance there that speaks to a Cary Grant who manages to be left wanting by his life. A pissed off Cary Grant, who is pissed off by more than just the situation at hand. Rather, this Cary Grant knows that the world is his and it’s not enough. But there’s nothing else. Just the world. And it was disappointingly easy to get. There’s a lot going on in Paul’s angry cannibalistic Cary Grant. It’s a great performance that speaks so directly to the depths of the character. And while the character is Cary stinking Grant, it is wonderfully relatable, boiling down to the universal feeling of disappointment.
Also Annie Savage is great. She plays Marnie Bennett. Like Gagliardi, she is a reliable chameleon. Far be it from me to go off on a tangent, but she was so good this past weekend in the stage show. She played the voice of the doors in a space saloon and just nailed it. Nailed it right out of the park. She broke hearts, she was so good. Anyway. She is also great and a heartbreaker as Marnie Bennett. She plays in this character a person who carries herself in way evocative of Old Hollywood performance, that sheen of old timey, while still playing her emotional life in a real post-method way. Her persona is for show, but her emotions aren’t. It’s like telling an actor to play two opposite things at once. No, it’s not ‘like’ that. It is that. And what’s fun with Annie is watching (or just listening to) her play those things one at a time and then together. Dammit, she’s so great.
They all are. They all really are. We’ve got one hell of a group here. It’s a damned silly show. But these actors are for serious.