Old-time radio format proves perfect vehicle for Los Angeles writing duo to hone craft.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour takes a little longer than that. It's actually about 80 to 85 minutes on stage, says Ben Blacker, laughing.

He and writing partner Ben Acker created the fake old-time radio show which heads to New Zealand this week after 10 years of monthly performances in Los Angeles and five years as a podcast, which has spread its cult appeal around the world.

If the live show overruns the 60 minutes promised in that title, well, that's because it's got a lot to get in.

A typical TAH includes regular episodes of interplanetary cowboy tale Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars. Also there are the supernatural follies of Beyond Belief, featuring Nick and Nora Charles, a pair of sozzled high society ghostbusters. In between those are a couple of other genre tangents plus faux commercials.

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Ben Blacker (left) and Ben Acker created the concept of the mock radio show 10 years ago.
Ben Blacker (left) and Ben Acker created the concept of the mock radio show 10 years ago.

The stories might sound like retrofitted radio plays mixed up with 1950s B-pictures but Blacker says the format was borne out of practicality.

"We knew some of the actors we wanted to have were working actors and we didn't want them to have to memorise a new script every month, so having the script in their hands made it a lot easier.

"Part of the reason we started doing it 10 years ago was because we were young and we did not have much entree into the TV industry, which is where we wanted to be.

"We said 'let's learn to write and get something on its feet and learn to write for actors and learn to write for an audience and hopefully that will serve to be our entree to the industry. Somewhere along the line that became the thing we did instead."

And their take on old-time radio doesn't really have a lot to do with being influenced by the genre.

"We were doing what we imagined old-time radio was in the same way that we imagined the Indiana Jones movies are not slavish to the serials that inspired them, but what its creators wanted it to be."

Over the years guest stars at the monthly performances have included, Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris, Jon Hamm, Emily Blunt, Melanie Lynskey and many more.

"Yes, we love Melanie. She is unbelievable. We tried to get her to come to New Zealand with us but her HBO show has her tied up.

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"She's good friend of ours and a great friend of the show."


The touring show, though, is bringing its core of a dozen or so regulars - the WorkJuice Players - plus the Andy Paley Orchestra. It's a last hurrah of sorts as the writing pair have now pulled the plug on the LA gigs.

Blacker says they need a break after writing 75 pages per show for the past decade between their other writing jobs.


"Eventually the industry jobs did come but they were never as much fun as the thing we made ourselves."

Still, the TAH characters will live on after the tour. There are Sparks Nevada and Beyond Belief comic books out and Blacker wants to evolve the show into other media.

The WorkJuice Players from The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
The WorkJuice Players from The Thrilling Adventure Hour.

Comedy preview

What:

Where:

Logan Campbell Centre

When:

Wednesday 8pm

Also:

The WorkJuice Improv Experience at the Classic, 7pm and 9pm Tuesday.