Sarcastic Voyage - Radio Plays - PhD PI in A Considerable Topor

Extremely well-educated private investigator Mortimer Dulcimer takes on his first case and it's a doozy!

Annotations

  • This was a concept that came to me in title first (PhD, PI) and the premise sort of wrote itself from there. I'm hardly going to claim I invented the idea of a nebbish doing a job traditionally associated with tough guys. But we were trying to go a little broader (not dumber, just more relatable) with SV Theatre, so simple premises were very much the sort of thing we were looking for.
  • “Mortimer Dulcimer” is a play on the most famous of the classic noir detectives, Mike Hammer. Also, Mortimer is one of those classic nerd names from pop culture.
  • It was important to me that Mortimer actually be good at detectiving, particularly since most of the existing stories about “the wrong guy for the job” end up with them realizing this and... I don't know, being true to themselves or something? This is not the story of someone in the wrong job. It's the story of someone you wouldn't expect to be good at the job actually being great at it. He loves all the trappings of the gritty PI world, but he's only ever read about them in books and he's excited to finally be getting his hands dirty. Once I'd worked that out (and the comedic possibilities therein) it became a whole lot easier to write.
  • I read a bunch of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer books as reference and... they're pretty not-great. Like... even allowing for the standards of the time, they're wildly misogynistic and homophobic. Oh, and one book ends on a seriously seriously transphobic... punchline? Also, the writing is repetitive and the main character is profoundly unlikeable. I've seen plenty of gritty antiheroes who manage to maintain my interest by virtue of being charming. Mike Hammer was not one of these. Also, he talked about the goddamn rain more than an actual weatherman.
  • Noir stories are always so convoluted, sort of by design. And that's one of the reasons I've always been kind of put off by them in the past. Because, as I mentioned, we were trying to streamline SVT's material a bit (I got pretty ridiculous with my plots in Contentment Corner), I didn't want to make things hugely complicated here. That's why this story effectively turned out as a two-hander (mostly Mortimer and Ursula, with a brief appearance by my “Todd” character), though we do have some jokes about the off-screen action being suitably complex.
  • I broke my usual “only use original music” rule for this because I found a perfect piece by Raymond Scott. (He also unwittingly — because he's long dead — gave us SVT's theme music.) I listened to a lot of Raymond Scott while we made SVT. It fit the tone beautifully.
  • Bob did an amazing job in this role. We'd played around with a typical nasal, nerdy sort of voice, but that didn't really feel right — or like someone you'd want to listen to a lot of narration from for 20 minutes. What he ended up with was basically his own voice, but with some wonderfully subtle changes in cadence and inflection.
  • The character was largely based on Gary Cooper's in Ball of Fire, which is straight up one of my favorite movies and maybe the best thing to come out of our deep dive of classic film research for SVT.
  • It just doesn't rain as much in Seattle as people think it does, and that's one of those axes I'm totally going to grind in a script, as I have done here.
  • I loved giving Mortimer characteristics that seemed odd in 1938, but are completely normal and admirable in 2018. Small things, like asking Ursula if she's okay being called a dame.
  • I'm always so reluctant to ask our lady performers to be sexy. Not because I think they can't do it... mostly because I want to be extra careful that I don't unintentionally come off like some kind of a creep. But I'd been working with Kara (and also Kristy) long enough now that I felt more comfortable writing parts like this. Kara completely nailed this femme fatale.
  • I also very much enjoyed using Mortimer to poke holes in the fundamental logic of your typical noir detective: don't you kinda need to follow at least most of the rules if you're a deputized officer of the law (as Mike Hammer was)?
  • “My deadbeat louse of a ball and chain is stepping out on me.” Awww, I missed writing 30s dialogue.
  • I always have a soft spot for characters who are oblivious to sarcasm, innuendo, et al.
  • Boxing was in a lot of old movies, but this scene was very specifically influenced by a 20 minute piece by John Zorn called “Spillane.” It's sort of a jumble of musical snippets, sound effects and voice acting — hard to explain, but very good.
  • Old movies are, in so many ways, still incredibly relatable to us now in so many ways. It's amazing to me that stories produced 80 years ago still deal with fundamental issues of humanity that haven't changed in nearly a century, and that they're still effectively in the same language. All that being said, everyone's obsession with not daring to go anywhere without a hat is baffling to me.
  • I love that Mortimer's hero is the bookkeeper from The Untouchables.
  • The code Ursula is shouting to her husband isn't great, but it's better than “hours would seem like days” from Wrath of Khan.
  • “Twist” is not, as far as I know, particularly offensive. But we've been running with that gag since Bury the Lead and I loved being able to bring it back.
  • Not gonna lie — I'm very pleased with this ending. Because of the aforementioned tradition of “nerd is bad at being a tough guy” stories, I actually felt like “he completely figured it out and outsmarted everyone” was somewhat unexpected. Genre awareness!

Credits

Mark “Bob” Boszko - Mortimer Dulcimer

Kristy Brannon - Boxing Patron

Kara O’Connor - Ursula

Amanda Smith - Boxing Ref

Ron “AAlgar” Watt - Todd, Another Boxing Patron

Written & directed by Ron “AAlgar” Watt

© 2018 AAlgar Productions