Bestcasts asks podcasters to discuss the three most memorable episodes of their podcast. Ties are allowed/encouraged. For more podcast coverage, see Podmass, The A.V. Club’s weekly roundup of the best ’casts out there.
The podcasters: As members of the New York-based comedy collective Private Cabin, the guys of We Hate Movies spend almost as much time making films as they do criticizing them on their weekly podcast. So while a standard episode might skewer a specific performance or plot point, it may also play into the gang’s love of absurdist gags and creating their own loosely defined universe. In the WHM mythos, Wilford Brimley’s a threat to children, every female T. rex wears a pink bow on her head, and editorials penned by Jim Belushi have the ability to come to life.
When hosts Andrew Jupin, Stephen Sajdak, and Eric Szyszka (fourth member Chris Cabin is currently on sabbatical) recently came to Chicago for a live taping of Predator 2, The A.V. Club met them over breakfast to chat about their three most memorable episodes. Unsurprisingly, each of their picks is significant not just for its cinematic analysis, but for how it elevated the show’s humorous sense of world-building.
Episode 41: “Halloween III: Season Of The Witch”
Andrew Jupin: I wanted to highlight Halloween III because it was the first time we realized fans were making a bigger deal out of our stupid bits than we had thought. We had this bit where [Tom Atkins] is going into this fake bar we made up called Muldoon’s. He spends the whole movie lamenting that he’s not drinking.
Eric Szyszka: And where would he hang out? A werewolf bar. He’s a regular and could get in there at 10 a.m. if he wanted to.
AJ: That was the genesis of it, because he gets called in to work at some point in the movie. “Where did you find him?” “On the floor at Muldoon’s.” It was your bit, Steve.
AJ: people got really excited about that idea. It was when we first started realizing that people were getting something out of the show, in a weird way.
SS: It was when we started building this fake world, or whatever it is. It’s nothing super specific; more like these benchmarks. This guy talks like this. Holly Hunter talks like Gary Busey for some reason.
ES: And that stays.
SS: The show builds its own rules.
AJ: Also, when you’re describing what that bar is, everybody can get it. We’ve all been to that bar. “Oh yeah. That’s what they mean by Muldoon’s.”
AVC: Where did you first notice that people were paying attention to the world-building? On social media?
AJ: Yeah. It was stuff like “You should put Muldoon’s on a T-shirt.”
ES: Which we ended up doing.
AJ: We took their advice.
ES: That’s also a good Chris Cabin episode, who’s no longer with us. [Laughs.]
AVC: Where did he go exactly?
AJ: His wife’s getting her doctorate, so she’s studying in Europe for a bit.
ES: That’s the CIA cover story.
AVC: He tends to get the most fired-up out of you guys. Do you feel like the Halloween III episode’s a good example of that?
ES: A little bit. Whenever you have Chris around, you’re going to get a rant in there.
AJ: We tried to think of some good ones with him in it.
SS: It also took place during the first or second “listener request month,” which is a neat thing we started doing where people get to call in. For a while, we were rigging the system. Halloween III was one of Andrew’s favorite movies, and I had watched it with Cabin about three months prior and was like, “Oh my God, this movie’s like this?” Then, when someone requested it, we realized we had an outlet to talk about it. Because that’s what the whole show was back then: sitting around and getting drunk and/or other things and watching bad movies. Then Andrew had the idea to put a microphone in front of it.
AJ: I also remember that episode being really easy, which some of these aren’t, especially in the early going of what we were trying to do. Some of them would be a real slog.
AVC: What was challenging about some of those early episodes?
AJ: We just didn’t know what it was we should be talking about. If you look at a lot of the early episodes, they’re 20, 25 minutes, some of them. We’ve just learned how to expand that and figure out what the show needs to cover.
SS: It’s the only thing we’ve ever done comedically where the audience is so important, but we also pretend that there is no audience. And that’s one of those episodes. Let’s just sit around and talk about Halloween III. It’s what we’d be doing anyway. But in some of the other earlier episodes, there was too much artifice and us trying to be like, “Welcome to the show!”
AVC: Eric, you’re not on that episode. What are your feelings on Halloween III?
ES: It’s a fun time. It’s really ridiculous and I guess there are robots involved?
AJ: It also has a very pessimistic ending because the guy still gets away with his plan.
SS: It’s a nice Twilight Zone ending where they don’t have to do any cleanup afterwards. They’re just going to kill every kid, have Tom Atkins screaming, and then cut to black.
ES: The fourth Halloween movie should have been Michael Myers in a world without children. That would have been great.
AVC: The movie has no bones about harming children. There’s that scene where the kid’s Halloween mask explodes into a mass of snakes and insects.
SS: Also, the fact that the main character’s an alcoholic and it’s never really addressed. It’s just there. It makes him ineffective in that movie. It hampers him as a character.
AJ: So much so that he tries to call his wife and is like, “You gotta get the mask away from the kid” and she’s like, “You’re drunk, you asshole!”
AVC: There’s not a ton of action on his part.
ES: Well, there’s some action with that lady.
AJ: That’s just another gross, inappropriate thing.
AVC: Gratuitous nudity isn’t as rampant these days as it was in the ’80s.
AJ: No, not in that way. There’s lips-on-nipple in that movie, and nobody’s asking for that. She’s like 20 and he’s almost 50. It’s just disgusting.
SS: That’s the fun part about having a 10-year rule, which is totally fake, but we try to keep to it for the most part. You get that context. We just did Batman V Superman, but afterwards, all these people were like, “You missed this, you missed that. How did you not know that Jimmy Olsen gets killed in that scene?”
AVC: Wait, what?
SS: Jimmy Olsen is the photographer in the beginning of the movie who gets shot in the face.
ES: It’s not said in the movie. This is trivia you have to figure out by reading the credits.
AVC: But isn’t there a woman in the Daily Planet office named Jenny? I thought she was being set up to be the female Jimmy Olsen.
SS: That’s what I thought, too!
AVC: Did they change it to someone who gets killed just to give it more weight?
ES: I think it’s more like, “Jimmy Olsen, CIA Agent. How cool! How cool is that?”
AJ: It’s not cool at all because it lasts four seconds!
SS: It’s a timeless character for no reason. And the 10-year rule gives you more time to pick up on those kinds of things. “Remember in the ’90s when we were doing this?” If you get stuck, you can be like, “Look at that cell phone.”
AVC: Was there a point where you decided to not just talk about movies you hate, but also movies you kind of enjoy, like Halloween III?
AJ: Initially—and no one ever believes this—we had no idea that there were other shows like this, because I had never listened to podcasts. But after we started recording and figured that out, we realized there are other shows that do nothing except new movies. How do we distinguish ourselves? We liked watching stuff from the ’80s and ’90s, so we made that our thing for a while.
ES: We take these forgotten movies and highlight them so people can remember them. We recycle them for humor.
Episode 161: “Mortal Kombat”
SS: That was one of those nostalgia-buster episodes. But I also think it might be the best video game movie ever made.
AJ: I would tentatively agree with that.
ES: It’s really dumb, but so is the game, so…
SS: It’s one of the only video game movies that hits all of its beats. “I want to watch Johnny Cage do that ball punch.” And he does it.
AJ: It doesn’t overthink what it is. That Mario Bros. movie overthinks itself, just trying to create this world.
SS: Is there ever going to be a Dark Knight of video game movies?
AJ: Someone who makes a video game adaptation so great…
SS: …That it gets nominated for an Oscar.
AJ: No, that’s never going to happen. Wait, didn’t Wreck-It Ralph get nominated for Best Animated Feature?
SS: That’s a good movie.
AVC: Are there any moments in Mortal Kombat that you consider to be legitimately good?
ES: The Scorpion/Sub-Zero fight, maybe.
AJ: I guess that holds up.
AVC: Wasn’t there a rumor that it was Jean-Claude Van Damme secretly playing Scorpion under the mask?
SS: I think he was supposed to play Johnny Cage at one point. There was a bidding war between the Mortal Kombat movie and the Street Fighter movie, and the Street Fighter movie won.
AVC: Have you guys ever thought about doing a Street Fighter episode?
AJ: We recorded it as a live show at some point, but we’re talking about re-recording it. It was one of our not-as-great live shows.
ES: It was in the early days where there weren’t as many people coming out.
SS: Back when I used to post on the Podmass boards.
AJ: Oh, you sock-puppeted the shit out of those boards.
SS: I never sock-puppeted! I always said who I was.
ES: I think your name was WeHateMovies Guy.
SS: In the early days of Podmass, I was just trying to turn peoples’ attention to it.
ES: Because honestly, no one’s going to care otherwise. Three whoever guys are talking about a movie—you have to try and get over that hump, and it’s a tough hump to get over.
AVC: Did the Mortal Kombat episode grow your fan base like Halloween III did?
AJ: I think it opened us up to new people. We have to balance what we do. We like doing both tentpole movies and these weird things that nobody’s heard of in 20 years. But obviously, it’s much easier with the big films for someone to be like, “Hey, you should listen to this. They’re talking about this thing that you’re aware of.” And Mortal Kombat was a huge one for that.
ES: There were also some really memorable moments, where we talked about there being a themed resort for Mortal Kombat, with Raiden narrating the info channel at the hotel.
AJ: That really catered itself nicely to our question of why anyone on Earth would try to do an impersonation of Christopher Lambert. But that’s what we were doing, and it was just Peter Lorre-slash-Triumph The Insult Comic Dog.
AVC: Did the episode get a lot of listens?
SS: I think it’s our second or third most popular episode.
AVC: What’s the first?
SS: I think it’s Mrs. Doubtfire.
AVC: I’ll always watch that if it’s on, even though the concept is inherently creepy.
AJ: Robin Williams is so totally watchable in that movie.
ES: It’s a creepy classic.
AVC: There are so many instances of him having an argument with someone, then they’ll leave, and he’ll quietly say something wily to himself like “showtime.”
ES: It’s like, “What did you say, Mrs. Doubtfire?” [Laughs.]
AVC: Some friends and I used to think it was funny to say “showtime” like Williams does in Mrs. Doubtfire right as a movie or a concert was about to start. But after he died, doing it just felt sad.
AJ: That’s something we’ve discovered on the show. If you do something long enough, people are going to die.
ES: Paul Walker was the big one.
SS: We had that running bit in the She’s All That episode: “Don’t worry about Paul Walker. That guy’s doing fine.”
ES: “He’s got a gazillion dollars.”
SS: Then two weeks later, he died.
ES: And the curse was born.
AJ: What’s amazing is that you have people still finding the show. Just the other day on Twitter, someone was like “Jeez, I just got to the Skulls episode. Wooowww. Awkward, huh?” But that episode came out four years ago. What do you want us to do about it? We’re not going to take it down.
ES: Once a month, we’ll get a comment about Paul Walker.
AJ: And they’re always the first one who’s letting us know, as far as they’re concerned.
AVC: Has anyone directly involved with a movie ever lashed out at you guys?
ES: We haven’t been discovered yet. If they do, then they’re going to get us. Larry The Cable Guy’s going to hunt us down.
SS: I feel like when and if that happens, I’ll buckle like a belt. I will just be like, “I’m so sorry, sir!”
AJ: You will apologize to Larry The Cable Guy. “Cool! I’m gonna break your legs.” Actually, I just remembered a director who came after us: the guy who directed Free Enterprise. You guys remember that? He came after us hard.
ES: Oh yeah. What he did was basically say, “Oh hey, I really like this, you guys.” But then he kept casually mentioning it to his fans, and they realized we were making fun of the movie. He was basically sicking his fans on us passive-aggressively.
AJ: It was a real, “Get him, boys.”
ES: A couple guys commented about how important Free Enterprise was to be understood as a geek in those days. And I’m like, “I guess so, but do you really have to hate women?”
AVC: How many fans did he get to come after you?
ES: He has four. Maybe five.
AJ: They got really aggressive though. It was weird. If you have to come on the internet to defend something, why are you picking Free Enterprise to be that fight? That movie’s trash.
ES: I remember one of the other big ones was Mystery Men, which apparently is a cult classic for people slightly younger than us. A lot of people went crazy. It might have actually started with Cocoon. That was a definite nostalgia buster. No one ever looked back at Cocoon until us.
AJ: Ghostbusters II. We ate shit for that one.
ES: Some people have made the argument that we’re looking back and punching down on the past. But it’s a film. We get a lot of flak for PC stuff. If we point out gay jokes that hit like a thud today, we have to, because it’s there.
AJ: The argument from these people is always, “Why are you ragging on this? That was just the time.”
SS: We get a lot of shit for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey because we point out that they say “fag” a couple times. But to me, looking back at that movie, those guys probably wouldn’t say that word. Those are guys so fun-loving.
AJ: They’re just gentle stoner kids.
ES: You mean they aren’t skinheads?
SS: They wouldn’t say that. The screenwriter wanted to say that, for whatever reason.
AVC: You guys also bring that word up on the Freddy Vs. Jason episode. When I saw that movie as a teenager, I didn’t think anything of it. But that’s the whole point of looking back on a film. You realize something’s a problem when you didn’t before.
ES: It’s like certain people not being allowed to sit at lunch counters. “Why are you making fun of that? It was just the time!”
Episode 229: “Star Wars: Episode II—Attack Of The Clones”
AVC: When you did Episode I back in 2012, you said you would never do Episode II or III.
ES: We went back on our word a bit.
AJ: Yeah, that was us lying for ratings. When The Force Awakens was coming out, it has been almost four years since we did that.
SS: It’s also one of those things where I’ll listen to old episodes and say, “I wish we could do that again.” I just know that we’re better now at what we do. We wouldn’t have thought to do as many Cliegg Lars jokes if we had done [Episode II] back in 2012.
ES: It goes back to that idea of world-building. Let’s not be laborious with describing the plot. Let’s just have fun with it.
SS: Whenever one of us does a bad impression, that’s a cue for everybody else. This is now how that guy sounds, and that becomes a dish for jokes.
AVC: And with something like Episode II, 99 percent of your viewers probably already know what the plot is.
ES: So instead, we’ll do Nick Nolte as Cliegg Lars.
AJ: The episode was fully formed like that. We were just firing on all cylinders. It’s also condensed into a nice running time. Sometimes, we just flap our gums, and it can get long and old. But this is a 90-minute thing. We’re playing in that world, and it’s just really loose and fun.
ES: It also gave us an opportunity to talk about the prequels when Anakin Skywalker’s not a baby. There’s more happening. It’s not just a pod-race. It’s him being an insanely sexually creepy adult.
AVC: George Lucas’ idea of romance might be the most unsettling element of II and III.
SS: That should be so central to the plot.
ES: Show them falling in love or something. Instead it’s just, “Duuuh, I want to marry you!”
AJ: The thing I don’t get about it is that [Lucas] has a wife who he naturally met and married. But you hear that dialogue, and it’s like, “Did you just get a mail-order bride?” There’s no understanding there of how these things naturally develop.
SS: [Anakin and Padmé’s] relationship is like people that met at summer camp a long time ago, then meet each other again and have nothing in common.
AJ: Because one person is way more into it than the other person.
AVC: I have friends whose kids have grown up absolutely loving the prequels.
ES: That’s part of the bad reaction we get when covering the prequels. There are people in their 20s who love them, and it’s like, “I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.”
AVC: I remember convincing myself I liked them when they came out.
SS: That’s what I did every single time. The first one was terrible, but I was like “It’s great, because it’s Star Wars!” And it ends with that Darth Maul scene. Then the second one doesn’t have a baby in a spaceship, so you’re like, “That’s cool. That’s so much better!” Then two years later, you’re like, “Oh, that kind of sucked.” And then the last one comes out, and it’s like, “Ooo, this is the dark one.”
AJ: I was sold on the darkness and was just preaching that everywhere.
AJ: “It’s just a little airborne!”
ES: “It’s still good! It’s still good!”
AVC: Do you have a personal worst moment in Episode II?
AJ: That wedding scene for me, where he goes on in the other movies to not remember that these two droids were at his wedding. How do you not remember that, Darth Vader?
ES: Someone actually tried to call me out on that line—how Vader and C-3PO never actually meet in the original trilogy. So I went back to look through it, and nope, they share some screen time in The Empire Strikes Back when Han’s put in the carbon freeze.
AJ: “Oh , there’s that droid that was the best man at my wedding.”
SS: And Vader built him! I guess that’s the ultimate version of droid racism that happens in those movies. “They all look the same.” He doesn’t even notice that that droid was his best man. The other scene that sticks out is the one where Anakin tells Padmé that he killed all those Sand People. It’s the ultimate instance of the movie not working. That’s the scene where this character has to be dark, and it just falls so flat, emphasized by the fact that he tries to throw a cup and it doesn’t hit a wall. It just goes off camera. If it hit a wall or something, it would be more dramatic.
AJ: Look at him throw that mug!
SS: It doesn’t make any sense. If my fiancée asked me what I did here in Chicago, and I said, “Oh, I just killed a bunch of Sand People,” I think she’d be like, “What the fuck is wrong with you? I’m calling the police,” as opposed to, “I’m so sorry.”
ES: Jumping off of that, the worst/best part of that movie for me really is that Cliegg Lars. Not only do I have to see Anakin Skywalker as a baby, now I have to see his deadbeat stepfather?
SS: That is the worst case of a stepdad. “Oh, by the way, I lost your mother.”
AJ: And he’s just not doing anything. That search is called off. There’s no point now.
ES: It’s a lost cause.