Looking at the lighter side of this crazy, mixed up world
It’s a tricky time for American comedians who want to comment on pop culture without dipping too deeply into their country’s political turmoil.
For eight years, actor/DJ Ralph Garman and filmmaker Kevin Smith have been skewering the strange and often absurd world of celebrity on their podcast, Hollywood Babble- On, and building an international audience of listeners in the process.
They set their sights on the usual subjects: Gwyneth Paltrow’s unhinged health advice, Lindsay Lohan’s carousing, virtually anything to do with Justin Bieber. (That bit even has its own theme song.)
But how could any commentator resist talking about the most strange and absurd celebrity of them all, who just happens to currently occupy the White House?
“We do dabble,” Garman said in an interview from his home in Los Angeles. “Because there is a big cross-
over now between show business and American politics. When the president is taking a serious meeting with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and the guy used to host a reality show himself, you can’t help but realize there’s a connection between the two in this country.
“But, also, you get inundated over here with it so much, and our show has always skewed toward the lighter side. We like to provide, not really an escape, but maybe a relief, where we don’t harp on it too much. I think Kevin and I both have personal feelings about it that we would like to express. But you have to know the time and place for those things. We’ve kind of discussed it and feel that Hollywood Babble- On should be, not a safe zone, but a place where
you can go see the show, laugh and not have to pick a side.”
Besides, the inherent goofiness of celebrity culture isn’t a well that’s likely to go dry anytime soon. Garman and Smith will bring Hollywood Babble-On to Calgary’s Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University on Friday. The pair has always performed their podcast in front of a live audience in Los Angeles. But over the years, the show has continued to evolve beyond the confines of the podcast. Now, it’s more of a multimedia show, with video and theme songs and audience participation and improv.
Up until 2017, Garman was the longtime morning host of KROQ in Los Angeles. Part of his duties included doing a roundup of the entertainment news.
Smith, whose film credits as a director include the indie classic Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Mallrats, would often make guest appearances on the show when he had a new project to promote. Eventually, he became a fixture during Garman’s segment, and the idea was hatched to make it a permanent thing. Hollywood Babble- On was born.
“I prepare the show,” Garman said. “I read all the emails that people send in and collect all the stories that we’re going to talk about that week and I put the show together. Kevin has no idea of what we’re going to talk about or say when we hit the stage.
“When we get out there, it’s 100 per cent improvisation of how we relate to the news that I’m talking about, or how we relate to each other. So that’s half the fun of us, going out there without a net, so to speak, and just rolling with it.”
Garman, who also hosts his own podcast on Patreon called the Ralph Report and does a variety of voices on the animated series The Family Guy, said the chemistry he has with Smith isn’t unlike classic comedy duos such as The Smothers Brothers or Martin and Lewis.
“Kevin is very much a stoner,” said Garman. “He’s the cute, cuddly, nice one, and I like to drink Jack Daniel son the stage and I’ m more cranky and persnickety. It’s the salty and sweet combination of our personalities that just works.
“More important than anything else, and the reason this whole thing started, was because we make each other laugh. We get up there onstage and I think we laugh at each other as much as the audience laughs at us.”
Kevin Smith, left, and Ralph Garman have built an international audience by skewering the strange and sometimes absurd world of celebrities on their Hollywood Babble-On podcast.