By: Vanessa Ruiz
Making balloon animals for a child with a sharp object obsession, battling Power Rangers, traveling through outer space… it’s all in a day’s work for the performers on Paperback Radio. As the side project of Iowa City’s longest-running improv comedy troupe, Paperback Rhino, the performers hone their comedic talents every Sunday by performing a narrative-driven improvisational long-form that combines outlandish scenarios and quirky characters to create a truly unique (and hilarious) listening experience.
Since its creation in 2009, Paperback Radio has opened up a new creative outlet for its members, who typically perform their improvised comedy show live at Public Space One each month. The main difference between performing for a live audience and performing over the airwaves is “a lack of visuals,” says Ben Mackey, Paperback Rhino co-captain and performer on the show. “When performing live, you can interact physically with the world around you, and create a sense of atmosphere on the stage. On the radio, this just can’t happen.” As a result, the show centers around dialogue, relying on soundtracks, sound effects and distinct character voices to paint a vivid scene for their listeners.
This lack of a visual element is not a detriment to the performers, however – in fact, they see it as an advantage. “One thing I really like about the radio show is our ability to do more than what we could do on stage,” Mackey says. “On the radio, more importance can be given to the story or environment. A Tyrannosaurus rex can burst through the studio wall without a moment’s notice, and all that is needed to convey that to the audience is yelling and a thunderous roar.”
Most of all, the performers on Paperback Radio strive to provide a fun respite from some of the more serious radio programs that exist today by giving listeners a dose of absurd, off-the-wall humor. As Mackey says, “Reality is at the bottom of our checklist. We prefer the zany predicaments not possible in real life.”
Tune in to Paperback Radio on The Lab every Sunday from 5:00 – 6:00 PM, or catch them live on Friday, March 4th at 9:00 PM downtown at Public Space One.
Listen to archived Paperback Radio shows on: