The Better Off Undead Story (Plus Our 10 Best Episodes)
Because think about it. If you listen to Better Off Undead, you know what I mean. Who would want to listen to a podcast with no value, that adds nothing to the world?
And if you don’t listen to it, why would I try to convince you to? Do we really think you have nothing better to do? Do we really believe that our misery should be your misery?
But then I relented because as horrible as Better Off Undead is and as much as we don’t think anyone should ever listen to it, it’s still the best hour of my week. It’s still the time I most enjoy hanging out with my friends. It’s still given me some of the hardest laughs I’ve ever had.
We make fun of Better Off Undead a lot — enough, in fact, that loyal listeners have emailed us to request that we stop shitting on it. But in truth, we actually like it a lot. A LOT. And at the same time, yes, we realize it adds no value to the world. We realize it’s a train wreck. In no way, shape, or form do we think it’s right for everyone.
But the people it is for? Man, oh man do they love it. And so do we.
Like so much at Sterling & Stone, the idea for Better Off Undead veered so sharply from its original conception that it’s basically unrecognizable today. In the beginning, we wanted to do some guerrilla marketing for our books, so we decided to take our own advice: create content for the people who might enjoy the stories you tell. For the three of us, the only genre we all shared was horror. Dave writes horror without even realizing it (“Dear diary: today many kittens died horribly), Sean writes horror despite his personality, and I’d dabbled in horror satire with Fat Vampire. It was the loosest sort of technicality upon which to hang a podcast, but hang we did.
We decided to start a second podcast, which we’d record each week after the Self Publishing Podcast. In it, we’d discuss horror stuff we liked: horror movies, horror books, horror tropes, haunted fucking houses for all we knew. We put “undead” in the show’s name, Dave drew the three of as zombies for the Apple Podcasts art, and off we went.
We probably should have realized how off-track we were with the whole “horror” thing when we decided to kick off with an absurd premise. Instead of talking about the finer points of Barker and King, we decided a sensible way to begin would be to spend the first show reviewing the worst horror movie we could find: Birdemic: Shock and Terror.
Recording that show was a height of my hilarity experiences. I’d watched Birdemic on my iPad while my wife Robin was watching Hell’s Kitchen beside me, and she kept looking over at my guffaws. “Aren’t you watching a horror movie?” she asked. But I couldn’t answer because I was laughing too hard at the animated sprites used for the birds, the coathanger attack scene, and the sledgehammer dialogue. (“Where’s Becky?” / “She’s taking a shit.”)
But after that initial high, we didn’t know what to do next. “How about a show about fast zombies versus slow zombies” “How about a show where we talk about horror movies that didn’t work for us?” We had no clue. Each show was ridiculous in its horror content and only shone when we were being assholes. To whit: the “What Would Happen in a Real Zombie Apocalypse?” show’s best moments were 1) Dave’s paranoia over the immediate appearance of roving gangs at his door and 2) a completely off-topic discussion at the beginning wherein Sean yelled at Dave for not wanting to write a western because “there’s too much research needed.” (Side note: That joke turned into the quarter-million-plus-word Unicorn Western franchise, which Sean and I wrote specifically to mock Dave.)
So we limped along. The show was barely about horror. We took sidelines into talking about the week’s news, recapping TV shows, and, eventually, a stint wherein each week we tried, on-air, to decide if we should cancel the show.
But through it all, there was a pattern: The best shows were the ones where we all made fun of Dave.
Dave revealed his greatest fear: That his Apple Podcasts playlists would begin playing random songs, and he’d be unable to control it.
Dave expressed shock when Sean told a story about being mugged — not that Sean had been mugged, but that he didn’t carry a decoy wallet like Dave does.
Dave told the story of the “poisoned” cookies made by his neighbor during a boil water alert (the fool washed his dishes during the alert!), the described his difficulties in throwing the cookies away without his son seeing and without attracting a bear to dig through his garbage. (The problem, by the way, wasn’t the bear itself. It was that the bear’s digging might reveal the cookies in the trash, thus offending Dave’s neighbor.)
Dave talked about how to win his marriage.
So we gave in. The show’s name didn’t change, but unofficially we began to think of it as “Better Off UnDave.” It became half therapy, half abuse. And now we just bust on Dave each week.
Better Off Undead, if you choose to give it a shot, comes with a very stern warning: BOU is not for everyone, by a long shot. Do not listen to these shows around kids and do not listen if you are easily offended (this is VERY, VERY true for episodes like the “soggy biscuit” one). We are at our rawest during these shows. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
But that said — and with all indemnities duly signed — here’s our list of favorite Better Off Undead episodes, in chronological order (they would be impossible to rank):
BOU 001 – Kicking Off With Our Review of “Birdemic: Shock and Terror”
BOU 007 – What Would Happen in a Real Zombie Apocalypse?
BOU 030 – When Apple Podcasts Attacks
BOU 056 – The Decoy Wallet
BOU 066 – Have Yourself a Very Davey Christmas
BOU 071 – How to Win Your Marriage
BOU 076 – Wherein We Waste Voice Actor Ray Chase’s Time
BOU 080 – The Newly Undead Game
BOU 084 – Carl and Darren Teach Us About Dogging and Soggy Biscuits
BOU 086 – Rules for Meeting Dave
BOU 099 – The Very Nice and Well-Dressed Panera Man
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