Saturday, January 19

Lost Moon Radio plays with pace and rhythm through songs and sketches from Jovian moon


Last Thursday evening, in a second-floor apartment in West Hollywood, the cast and crew of the sketch comedy and musical group Lost Moon Radio met for the first official read-through of their new show. During her opening remarks, director Lauren Ludwig pointed out that the script might contain a few too many skits.

“There are one too many puns here, and two too many spoonerisms,” added Frank Smith, one of the show’s head writers.

There is certainly plenty of wordplay in Lost Moon Radio’s latest production, structured, like past shows, as an hour-long radio program hosted by the DJ Jupiter Jack, who left Earth in the ’70s and now broadcasts from the lost moon of Jupiter.

This episode, following the theme of “Love and Death,” is the group’s fifth since its inception in February 2009. It debuts on March 18 at the Club Fais Do-Do, to be followed by two hours of live-band karaoke.

That comes out to exactly two weeks of preparation time between the first read-through and opening night, almost a luxurious window relative to the history of Lost Moon Radio. Its first show was supposed to be a one-time affair, with no set design, no costumes and no director, booked without preconceptions or expectations in April of last year.

“Essentially the night before we performed (the first) show, we were in no way sure that anyone was going to like it,” said Ryan Harrison, a founding member and head writer. “We thought we may be performing an inaccessible psychedelic freak-out.”

But that show sold out, and the audience seemed to respond to their combination of absurdist skits, fake jingles and parody tunes, the likes of which are rarely seen in the days since “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

“Our first move of any sort of longevity was simply scheduling a second performance,” said Dylan Ris, another of the founding members, a comedy and music writer, and the group’s lead guitarist with a graduate degree from the Berklee College of Music.

When the second performance did just as well, circumstances called for a new Lost Moon Radio show. The creative process now takes roughly two months from start to finish, the first few weeks of which are mostly dedicated to stewing and brainstorming the overarching theme.

“It’s like a gestation period,” Smith said. “We’re putting the whole production together and then there’s this big climax of performing it, and then you go back into a dormant state where things ferment and gather again. We’re like serial killers, essentially. It’s cyclical.”

And if that comment conjures images of the Lost Moon Radio cast lurking in dark alleys with butcher knives, well, in a strange way, that’s the point. This episode will certainly be more sophisticated than the first one, but the show is still married closely to the aesthetics of a radio program, where the audience is often left to determine the context of a skit as it progresses.

“I think the thing that attracted us to the radio format is that it leaves so much to the imagination,” Harrison said. “The picture that someone draws in their own mind will always be more graphic or silly than one that you could draw for them.”

The radio format also makes logical sense of the combination of comedy and music: Jupiter Jack appears at regular intervals to give a recap of what he just played, treating the sketches as if they were songs too.

“Music and comedy work on such different almost physical levels for people, they come at you in a different way,” Harrison said.

“Comedy tends to come through the mind first, and music more through the body first, so you can be doing something really talk-y and cerebral that you have to pay attention to, you can’t miss a word or you’ll miss a joke, and then you can wash that away in less than a second with the strum of a guitar chord.”

Those guitar chords, and the rest of the band, lend a rhythm to the show that doesn’t develop from comedy alone. Smith credits this inherent musical quality with allowing Lost Moon Radio to include rather unconventionally-paced sketches, featuring the reading of Civil War letters or guided meditation.

“With this show, you have all these short little pieces and songs, but they have such cumulative power over the course of an hour,” Smith said. “So you can do these things where you ratchet people up to this crazy level of energy and then you bring them back down, and everyone’s really listening carefully.”

But the future may prove dissonant for Lost Moon Radio if the members cannot reconcile their goals. Ris would like to see the group become a local institution, but Smith has far bigger dreams.

“I’m not going to feel we’re successful until we’re living like a never-released Rolling Stones documentary,” he said.

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