Third Eye: How Felicia Day and Co. Innovated Snarky Comedy Podcasts
Third Eye sees Felicia Day innovating the audio comedy fantasy with banter and encouraging the cast to adlib to make it feel alive.
Audible's Third Eye is one of the funniest audio podcasts out there right now. Felicia Day's snarky fantasy comedy that makes fun of the Chosen One trope that also works as an allegory of a failed celebrity whose life was messed up by a narcissistic showbiz mother works because of its very funny and game cast (including Day herself in the lead) making its breathless script feel like the constant banter was tripping right off their tongues.
Day admits that Third Eye was originally pitched as a TV series, but studios turned it down, so when Audible agreed to produce it, she turned it into an audio series reminiscent of BBC Radio 4 comedy series. This brings up how audio drama podcasts have evolved since they were reintroduced in America just over a decade ago. Podcasts in the US have mostly been nonfiction talk shows, the most popular centred on True Crime. Radio drama and comedies died out in the 1950s when television came along, with minor exceptions like the PBS radio adaptations of the "Star Wars" films back in the early 1980s. American creators of audio dramas, which can now be released online as podcasts for listeners to download and consume at their leisure, have been self-consciously learning the craft and dynamics of audio drama, still mostly reliant on voiceover narration telling the listener what was happening. It's only been in the last few years that some American podcast scriptwriters have gained the confidence to leave out narrations and let the dialogue, acting, and sound tell the story. Third Eye adds a layer to its narration with snarky descriptions and opinions, giving the narrator a personality. That personality here is Neil Gaiman. His persona as a beloved British fantasy writer is used to the hilt here, including the snarky irreverence that comes with being British.
Director Jonah Ray Rodrigues, who has directed live-action comedy, also talked about encouraging the cast to improvise and bring their own attitude to Third Eye to make the series feel more spontaneous and alive. Felicia Day, as writer and lead, can riff on her own lines and adds asides and adlibs to the jittery, nervous, self-effacing, and neurotic heroine's exasperated mile-a-minute verbiage. Thus, British comedian London Hughes brings more and more of her sass to the already-sassy fairy Sibyl. This is the snarkiest Neil Gaiman has ever been, though people who have talked to him would know that he has that side of him. It's part of being British. In fact, the whole British Science Fiction and Fantasy writing community share that snarky outlook. In fact, Gaiman, like the other cast members, improvised or embellished his lines where he could and apparently got snarkier as he went along. Late in the series, he even breaks the fourth wall to express an opinion on the writing itself (which may or may not have been scripted – it's so natural it's impossible to tell). None of the cast sounds like they just read off a script, as some podcasts threaten to sound like.
Audio drama podcast is still a relatively new medium and art form for American audiences, even if it rose from the ashes of radio, and Third Eye is a good example of its continuing evolution. The beauty of audio is that the sky is the limit. You can create fantastic worlds with just sound and dialogue when a movie would need millions of dollars to create through sets, locations, and effects. You can use narration or not. You can determine how many actors are needed in each scene. Day innovated online content when she launched her independent video series The Guild and then her online channel Geek and Sundry years ago. Now she has once again innovated an art form by pushing the envelope for audio drama podcasts and how actors can play in them with Third Eye. And if you want to create your own audio drama podcasts, you already have a recording device in the form of your smartphone and programs available on your computer.
Third Eye is available now on Audible.