I co-host a radio show with my roommate called The Bowels of D.C. It airs on Friday nights from 11 p.m. to midnight. You know, right when all the kids like to tune into the radio these days. Our most devoted listeners (of which, total, we have about six) are our moms, which gets a little awkward, as toilet humor is kind of our specialty.
Sometimes we write our sketches well in advance of the show; other times, we write them in the few hours between our last Friday classes and airtime. Occasionally we get really bold, or just lazy, and we improv some sketches. They aren’t always funny. And they rarely provide any kind of hard-hitting political insight, although we do fancy ourselves fringe satirists on our best nights.
But if nobody listens, and if it isn’t that good, then why do we do it?
For one thing, it’s a break from the monotony. It gives me a chance to write in a creative space where just about anything goes and very little judgment is leveled upon what I produce. It’s kind of freeing in that way. Schoolwork forces me to write decent, coherent papers every week about highbrow literary topics. So it’s nice to spend a few hours every week producing mindless comedy that isn’t for a grade, for a professor’s approval or even for a big audience. It’s just for me.
It’s similar for my roommate. She’s a pre-med Exercise Science major, so she doesn’t get many chances to just play around. My roommate spends more time reading textbooks and practicing rote memorization than I have the stomach to even imagine for myself. So it came as a bit of a shock to me the first time I learned how much she loves to improv. Now, our show relies on her ability to pull things out of nowhere to fill time.
For a few hours each week, we get to do this silly, stupid, chill thing together to blow off steam. It’s work, in the sense that we do need to put some preparation and effort into it, but for all practical purposes, it’s often more of a vacation than anything else.
Some of our sketches are brief, bite-sized bits of comedy. My favorite sketches to write are fake commercials, like a Geico commercial narrated by a serial killer or infomercials for fake products or campaigns. They break up the show without resorting to a music break and losing our flow.
My roommate is more dedicated to honing her regulars. She does a few different bits each week: In one Sarah Palin takes us on a tour of her closet. Then in another, a Domino’s delivery boy bemoans his awful job delivering food to rich kids for minimum wage. We do a lot of jokes about the rich and privileged, because how could you not at George Washington University? And in the last bit a depressed freshman boards school transit and monologues about his sad existence.
There’s an assortment of other one-off bits that are almost always tragically awkward. I often seem pretty concerned by some of the raunchier bits my roommate puts together, especially since our parents are our biggest fans. Others, though, go shockingly well.
One show landed on April 20—you know, 4/20. So we had to do a weed-themed show, which actually produced some decent sketches.
We did “A High Guy’s Movie Idea,” where a high guy tries to explain his genius idea for an epic blockbuster. And I consider it one of my few successful improvisations during our run.
Of course, we mess up a lot. Sometimes we forgotten to turn the mic back on and left the show on dead air for painful seconds on end. Other times I see “haha” written on a script, and accidentally say the words “ha, ha” instead of actually laughing. And many times we try to use a censor beep, only to horribly mistime it and frantically resort to Grandma’s euphemisms instead (“GOD DA–uh, crap, uh, GOD BLESS AMERICA!”).
Beyond our technical incapabilities, we’re just not actors or writers. Our early shows are some of the most embarrassing things I know of that exist out in the world with my name on them.
But I also love listening to them, partially due to the fact that we improved rapidly over the course of our run last semester. Our final shows were actually, legitimately funny in a way that didn’t even scandalize my parents. Well, okay, maybe a little. But we’re The Bowels of D.C. Where would we be without crappy humor?
We didn’t even initially pitch this show as a sketch comedy show. Our original concept was that we would literally just review a different bathroom in D.C. each week. Which, first of all, could never actually fill an hour time slot. And second of all, even if it could, who would want to hear that? I honestly have how no idea how why they even gave us a show. So no matter how rough our show is, it’s an improvement upon the original concept.
What’s really incredible is that we’ve been allowed to come back for another season this semester. We’re going to prepare more and market better. But honestly, it doesn’t really matter if anybody’s listening.
Our show may be a dumpster fire, but I like to think of it as the kind that homeless people use to get warm in the winter. It’s rudimentary, it’s irresponsible and it’s weirdly necessary to our survival.