Sarcastic Voyage - Nick and Willikins - Nick of Nick Hall
• This story was the first time I felt completely confident that "fully produced radio dramas" was a good direction for us. We had done a bunch of Nick and Willikins prior to this, but Nick of Nick Hall actually moved the characters forward a little bit, and felt more like an actual story instead of a series of loosely connected sketches, barely joined together by a rudimentary narrative. I mean, it's hardly an intricately plotted comedic masterpiece like, say, Arrested Development, but it was a huge step forward in finding SV's voice and discovering how to make this medium work for us.
• I went back and forth for a long time over whether or not to re-record/re-master this one as we'd done with the previous three series of Nick and Willikins. I decided against it, largely because I got tired of mucking about with our old stuff and want to push forward with some new material. I may very well end up circling back to this, though, because this is one of the last projects from that era when I didn't really understand how to edit radio plays in a way that rendered everyone, you know, audible. For now, the existing copy will just have to be good enough.
• It starts, appropriately enough, by mocking the British. The actual British. Our friends English Gav and Irish Gav (who both, incidentally, actually live in England) had come to visit for the spectacle that was Emerald City Comicon 2012, and one of the delightfully weird (from my insensitive cultural perspective) things they reported during their stay was this thing about eggs. Apparently being asked how you want your eggs prepared when ordering breakfast at a restaurant is not a thing that happens in the UK. You order eggs and you just... get... eggs? I don't know. I thought it was funny. I also, apparently, thought it was enough to kick off our first new Nick and Willikins story in about a year!
• Getting Nick drunk was fun. Maggie, as I have mentioned in the annotations for other projects, is a much better voice actor than he realizes sometimes. We took Nick through a fairly wide range of emotions in this one and Maggie completely sold every one of them.
• Okay, 3 minutes in and I'm calling it: we're definitely re-recording this at some point.
• It's always a bit of a struggle to keep Dave's Exasperated Narrator engaged in the story, but I'm pretty happy with what we came up with for this set of adventures.
• I definitely didn't feel like we had much left to say with our tired old "what, you mean this?" "No, sir, that's this" gag, but this Arthur riff manages to breathe a tiny bit more life into it.
• The remake of Arthur does indeed feature Dame Helen Mirren as the butler and Russel Brand as the entitled rich twat. Remember those names — they'll appear again later in our story!
• That's me as Russel Brand as Arthur, which is a clever (?) reference to the fact that I used to do Nick's voice from time to time.
• Nobody seems to know what "identity theft" actually is. This was also an element of the Nick Bounty radio play we produced not long after this.
• Lizards and budgies come up again, later in our story. By design!
• Jo Brand is a regular panelist on QI, which is the ultimate sampler platter of British and British-adjacent comedians and personalities. She's delightful, but she does make a lot of very specific cultural and regional references that I don't get.
• All this stuff about Nick's fortune and heirs and so forth came about because I had started watching Downton Abbey,which is not the high-brow, sophisticated drama that people would lead you to believe it is. It's actually a pretty tawdry melodrama, and my guilty pleasure in consuming it is almost certainly responsible for the eventual creation of Contentment Corner. The earliest episodes of Downton dealt — exhaustively — with the complex laws of English entitlement.
• As we will discover later, the world does cease to exist if Nick dies. But I don't think I knew that yet.
• Nick saying "stop this car at omce!" was Maggie being an impish little jerk and reading exactly what I put in front of him. Naturally I meant to type "once," but that's not what it said, so that's not what she read. Because she never broke character, this ended up being hilarious and it eventually became the canonical way that Nick pronounces that word. (Of course, he says it at least twice prior to this, and did not say "omce." Which is another reason we need to go back and fix this. Obviously.)
• It wouldn't be Nick and Willikins if we didn't make at least one dumb reference to British people spelling things differently than Americans do.
• Nick's pursuit of a male heir actually gave him what some writer's call "motivation," which we'd never before felt the need to grant him. This may have something to do with why this was the first story we did that I didn't completely hate. Or it may be a coincidence, I guess?
• "Old habits die hard with a vengeance" was one of the many embellishments that Brian put on my original material to make it better. That particular one is one of my favorites.
• The series of sound effects as Errol hands back all the things he's stolen is something I'm pretty happy with.
• Obviously if we were going to keep riffing on Downton Abbey, we'd need more servants than just poor Willikins.
• Yeah — that's me as Mrs. Pumphrey. I don't exactly do a flawless northern English accent, but I was the best we had available at the time.
• I have no idea where Nick's "nude phase" even came from, but I found an excuse to pay it off a couple of times hence. Nudity is funny!
• All of the overtly anti-French stuff was almost certainly inspired by BBC Radio's excellent Bleak Expectations.
• Everyone's navel gazing about how much the world changed during the Edwardian era is also a Downton reference. I suppose we can now pinpoint exactly when in this story I spent the most time watching that show.
• Errol kissing Nick and then never mentioning it again is a pretty blatant reference to Evil Gay Thomas from Downton.
• We strayed a bit into farce territory as Nick is continually beset by things that baffle him. I'm pretty comfortable with that.
• Chapter six is my favorite part of this — it was a sort of "mid-season finale" at the end of 2012, just before SV took a bit of a holiday break. It's a lot longer than a typical Nick and Willikins installment and there's a lot going on in it, but I feel like it moves at a nice clip and the performers really keep us engaged.
• Obviously Nick would bristle at all this "proper gentleman" junk. It just doesn't suit him at all.
• Maggie's read on Nick's Shakira-inspired "ungh-ungh-ungh-RIGHT!-ungh!" makes me laugh every time.
• Turning Good-Great Aunt Petunia into the tough old broad who really runs the show was not difficult. She was already about 90% of the way there. I just added a bit of a Terry Pratchett-inspired flourish to get her the rest of the way.
• Also, we may not have made it completely clear in this story, but Good-Great Aunt Petunia's repeated whacks to Nick's head are responsible for his eventual transformation. Which sets up his Flintstonesesque further transformations later in the story.
• God, I hate the Victorian era. It's nowhere near as interesting as literally everyone seems to think it is. Still, it felt a bit inevitable to spend some time there (every English story seems to, eventually), so I did it in a way that least disgusted me. (Honestly, I'm quite pleased with the logic of someone becoming so English that it just sort of magically catapults them to the Victorian era on the power of its own Britishness.)
• I'm pretty happy with the opening of chapter 7, where the Narrator comes to us via wax cylinder. We had, as I mentioned, taken a bit of a break. So this was a good quick audio cue to remind you of where we left off.
• Maggie plays three entirely different versions of Nick in this story and she's really good, you guys. Like, good-natured ribbing aside, I always knew she was funny, but she really earned some serious voice acting cred in this serial.
• "Mutton Chop Charlie" is indeed an ancestor of my favorite SV character, Mustache Charlie. This was me putting my toe in the water of "everything we're doing is part of a vast, interconnected shared universe."
• India, Hong Kong and South Africa all fell under the British empire in 18-whatever-this-is-supposed-to-be, and "coal dust, fine particles of iron and phosphorus for matches" were the three leading causes of worker death in this period. I did my homework! (My homework was consulting Wikipedia.)
• That's Nathan LaJeunesse as Queen Victoria. I adore this take on Her Majesty.
• See, Prince Albert refers to Victoria's beloved husband and also to a genital piercing. Comedy!
• "Nick as the Doctor from Doctor Who" was a well we returned to a few too many times, but having him frantically running around in caves was still a lot of fun.
• Remember when I told you that lizards and budgies would come up again? Here they are!
• Gonna break my own arm patting myself on the back here: I love how this ending turned out. I managed to bring the story to a satisfactory (for me, anyway) conclusion, including a ton of callbacks (Alan Moore, Helen Mirren, Russel Brand) and getting one of Maggie's best performances in his "suddenly switching back to his old self and demanding that something be done about Russel Brand" line. Seriously, this ending was the template for a number of subsequent things I wrote. I'm really happy with it.
• Fading out on "What a Wonderful World" is, obviously, a Hitchhiker's Guide reference. I mean, if you're gonna steal, steal from the best, right?
• The time traveling events of this story will have ramifications for Nick and the entire SV universe in the succeeding serial, The Omce and Future Nick.
Duncan Boszko - the bobby
Mark Boszko - Nigel, Royal Scorekeeper
Terry Drosdak - Abigail
Dave Fields - Exasperated Narrator
Brian Lynch - Errol
Nathan LaJeunesse - Lady Cunstpire, Queen Victoria, Dame Helen Mirren
Chris Page - Good Great Aunt Petunia
Josef Ravenson - Lord Cuntspire, Alan Moore
Maggie Rowbotham - Evil Industrialist Nick, Adventure Seeking Nick, Nick
Sabrina Snyder - Beatrice Cuntspire, Dame Judi Densch
Amanda Smith - Victorian Urchin, Dame Maggie Smith
Ron “AAlgar” Watt - Willikins, Russel Brand, Mrs. Pumphrey
Written & directed by Ron “AAlgar” Watt
© 2012-2013 AAlgar Productions