Dan McCoy, Elliott Kalan, and Stuart Wellington discuss their three favorite episodes of The Flop House

Dan McCoy, Elliott Kalan, and Stuart Wellington discuss their three favorite episodes of The Flop House

Bestcasts asks podcasters to discuss the three most memorable episodes of their podcast. Note: Ties are allowed/encouraged.

The podcasters: Started in Dan McCoy’s Brooklyn apartment in 2007, The Flop House is one of the very first bad-movie podcasts. It has also, through the years, become one of the very best. Initially co-hosted by McCoy, a comedy writer, and his pals Stuart Wellington and Simon Fisher, the show has a humble premise: Three buddies watch a recent bad movie and then discuss it over a few drinks, gleefully pursuing every conceivable tangent along the way. After the first seven episodes, Fisher moved away from New York, and comedian and The Daily Show writer Elliott Kalan—one of many who sat in as guest co-hosts during a brief transitional period—proved himself as a terrific, hyper-verbal, and hyper-silly counterpart to McCoy’s humorously wistful sighs and Wellington’s sharp, laconic irreverence. Kalan became a full-time co-host. Since then, McCoy has also joined the writing staff of The Daily Show, and The Flop House has slowly but surely accumulated a fervent and increasingly large fan base, joined the podcast network All Things Comedy, and received recognition from mainstream publications such as Entertainment Weekly and Parade

Episode #14: Bratz
Dan McCoy: That was still pretty early on. Elliott’s first episode was number eight, and then he was gone again until episode 11, and he’s been steady since then. But Bratz, I feel like, was the first one that we had where we had any sort of sense of joy while watching the movie. [Laughs.] It’s not necessarily the funniest episode, listening back on it, but I feel like it’s a seminal one for us—one where there’s a lot of energy, because of that enjoyment.

Elliott Kalan: The episode is a lot less silly than what we do now. We really examined that movie. As much analysis and examination as Bratz deserves, we did two or three steps beyond that.

DM: Yeah, it doesn’t have any classic tangents. But Bratz is an interesting movie, because it’s in constant, frenetic motion, which happens with a lot of children’s movies we watch, like recently The Oogieloves. And that ends up being a lot more surprisingly fun to watch than bad movies made for adults, often. And also, you can tell watching the Bratz movie that there’s someone involved in the process who’s having some sense of fun.

Stuart Wellington: That’s a funny episode, because I think we started off so giddy from watching the movie, and we bashed it a little bit, but I think over the course of the podcast we all realized that this might be the first time we really enjoyed one of the movies we watched. And I think it’s kind of funny watching that develop, because we know how the podcast is going to end, but every time we start up, I’m surprised at how kind of irritated we are that we watched Bratz.

DM: Now we watch movies that are streaming, most of the time, but this was back still in the days when I was going to the local DVD store, which has long since closed.

EK: It was called Bratz: The DVD Store.

SW: Yeah, someone bought the space and burned it down.

DM: But the fact that I actually went out to the DVD rental place and rented Bratz: The Movie… [Laughs.]

EK: That means that your picture and name are now on a government watch list. [Laughs.] One of the things that struck me about Bratz is that we didn’t go on a lot of tangents, but the unnecessary referencing that we do a lot of, there’s plenty of. Seven minutes into the show, we had already compared Bratz to the novel Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini and to a Henry Fielding novel. And then later on, for almost no reason, I started comparing it to the Babylonian exile of the Jews. And I remember while listening to it, I was like, “What the hell am I talking about?” [Laughs.] I also noticed, listening to that episode, that I interrupt Dan a lot less than I’ve come to. And maybe it was because I was still relatively new to the show, and I was like, “I’ll let Dan and Stuart do a lot of the talking.” But now, after over a hundred more episodes, I feel so comfortable not letting Dan finish a sentence. [Laughs.]

DM: Well, you’re like the crazy side character that has taken over the show.

SW: That’s also a good episode because it starts the trend of Dan recommending movies he watches on planes.

EK: [Laughs.] Yeah, Stuart and I take—well, actually, no—I take the movie recommending section very seriously. Stuart, of course, recommends one of his three favorite movies…

SW: I’m serious about that, though.

EK: And Dan recommends whatever movie he saw on a plane most recently. But listening to that episode was a shock to me in some ways, because it doesn’t sound like a current episode, but it was nice to go back and hear what we were like when this was much more of a movie podcast than a comedy podcast, and how we are capable of doing much better analysis than we usually do. But I like to think that’s a choice and not laziness.

DM: Oh, I always wanted this to be more of a comedy podcast than a movie podcast. I’m glad that we’ve finally accomplished that goal. In our minds that’s a feature, not a bug. That’s part of our mission statement.

EK: Yeah, eventually the podcast will not be about movies anymore. It’ll just be called Tangents.

DM: It’ll be called Three Buddies.

SW: Wait, is that name taken yet? We should do that.

The A.V. Club: You guys really dissect the movie, and you all obviously have a vast knowledge of filmmaking and screenwriting. Do any of you have any aspirations of seriously pursuing those fields of work?

EK: I actually would love to get into film seriously at some point, and I know Stuart has a film in Cannes this year. And Dan’s been looking to break into the soft-core market for a long time now, either as a director, an actor, a writer, makeup guy, cameraman, wardrobe—anything. If he gets to hang around women with no clothes on, he’s okay. ButI was a screenwriting major at NYU in their dramatic writing program, so film is my academic background.

DM: And Elliott and I have both written spec screenplays. But I am a film school dropout. I went to a trimester of film school, because I thought I wanted to be a director. And then I realized that the stuff I liked about moviemaking was the writing and the performance and, to some degree, the editing. And I didn’t really like all the stuff about lighting and various production things that you had to do to actually make a movie. So then I moved into pursuing writing and performance.

SW: I think when it comes to that kind of creative expression, I get a little more enjoyment out of making comics, which I do in my spare time, as I’m kind of a control freak and I’d rather not have other people involved in the process.

DM: I would say that, as much as we say it’s a comedy podcast first, we’re obviously film buffs, and that’s why this is what we gravitated toward.

EK: There’s a reason we’re not doing a comedy podcast about cars or sports. We genuinely enjoy talking about movies, and The Flop House Facebook page has turned into a pretty nice forum for people to talk about movies in a way that’s actually more serious than we do in the podcast. But we genuinely have a background and a love of film. And, speaking for myself, I know I’d love to get into that side of entertainment at some point.

DM: If they would let us. I kind of feel like we may be pre-burning some bridges by making fun of all these movies.

EK: Well, there was that time we lit Jeff Bridges on fire. I thought he was a hobo!

SW: It’s weird, because Beau Bridges was so appreciative of it.

DM: Finally! It’s Beau’s time to shine!

Episode #34: Mirrors
DM: Mirrors was an interesting episode to me because Stuart is large and in charge in that episode. And Stuart tends to be the most laconic member of The Flop House.

EK: There are whole episodes where it will go for a while, and Stuart will just occasionally interject things, and I’ll kind of forget he’s there when I’m listening to it until he makes a cat noise or something. [Laughs.]

DM: Stuart saves his gold, is what it is. And it always is gold.

EK: Yeah, that’s true. As opposed to me, where I’m the prodigal son of jokes—just throwing it all out there. It was strange to hear Stuart doing most of the plot summarizing, and doing a fine job of it. But he usually doesn’t play that role.

SW: No. Listening to this again, it is funny, because not only am I mixed louder, I think, than anybody else, but I feel a little bit like I was the drunk buddy that you guys are looking after. And I stumble through all these different phases of drunkenness, of, like, challenging Dario Argento to a fistfight…

EK: Yeah, which he never responded to, by the way.

SW: I think I’m more gratuitous in my description of women, I guess. I’m definitely like the drunk loudmouth in this episode, and I throw out so much stuff. I put out some really good stuff, and then I also miss a bunch.

DM: Well, this has your classic “Wait, what?” bit. I feel like an asshole describing anything on our podcast as a “classic bit,” but there are fans who have really taken to certain bits and certain episodes.

EK: Yeah, and “What, what?” was one of them. And I feel like, Stuart, your devotion to the role of Stuart is so great that, when it actually happened, and when we were listening to it later, I’m still not totally sure whether you actually remembered what happened in the movie or if you were just pretending.

DM: We should clarify, for the benefit of people who don’t listen to the podcast, that at the end of the movie Mirrors, Kiefer Sutherland is trapped in a mirror dimension. And when we explained this to Stuart, his incredulous reaction goes on for about five minutes.

SW: And there’s a lot of tangents in this episode. It’s all over the place. And we comment on it many times, but I think, in a way, that’s why it’s an important episode—because it’s a good example of a crazy episode of ours, where we are all over the place on this relatively bland movie.

EK: And it was kind of surprising, listening to it, that we were much more generous in our evaluation of the movie than I remember. And I think we were a little easier on movies back then because we hadn’t watched as many really boring ones. At this point we’re much quicker to reject the movie wholeheartedly.

DM: The interesting thing about Mirrors is that it’s directed by Alexandre Aja, who’s a filmmaker with some actual flair. He’s just tied to this go-nowhere premise of the fact that there’s this other world of mirrors that are terrifying people.

EK: One of the things I liked most about this episode was that we managed to pinpoint the problem with every ghost movie, which is that the ghosts are so bad at communicating what they want from people. And that this one ghost has very clear wants, and the way he communicates is by killing people until they do what he wants, but he never tells anybody what he wants. Every ghost movie has a detective story where the ghost could at any moment just be like, “I want this thing,” and people could give it to him, but instead they’re forced to puzzle out clues. I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like to see a ghost movie where the ghost is very straightforward with people.

DM: I also want to say that one interesting thing, re-listening to this, is that a key piece of Flop mythology starts here, which was me complaining that Elliott and Stuart are more popular members of The Flop House and looking to distinguish myself. Which, now I’ve come to wish that I had not brought up. [Laughs.] Now I’ve come to sort of be annoyed that I have branded myself as the boring one.

EK: Well, we helped brand you as that. It’s not like we were arguing, like, “No, no, Dan, you’re not the boring one.” We were like, “Yes.”

DM: [Laughs.] The thing is, in life, I am a man who has done comedy in New York City for nearly a decade now and had some success at it, and has a television-writing job. But I have managed to forever cement myself in the minds of our fans as the default human being, with no bells or whistles.

AVC: That’s the first time Dan was branded as the Leonardo of the group.

EK: Yeah. One of the things I love about doing this podcast, and what I love about Dan and Stuart as people, is that there are times when one of us will say something, and immediately the other one understands exactly what you mean. To say, like, “Yeah, Dan’s the Leonardo,” and we all instantly understood that he is the leader, but he is the boring one, he is no one’s favorite, he’s not a bad guy—there’s nothing wrong with him—but…

DM: Yeah, the Ninja Turtles would fall apart without Leonardo, but who ever says that Leonardo is their favorite?

EK: [Laughs.] Exactly. And there are certain moments like that where it’s like three minds coming together to form one. And I think that’s what a lot of people respond to in the podcast more than anything else, is that it feels like it’s three guys who are really in sync with each other and have a chemistry that comes from understanding each other and that people either relate to or are entertained by. We don’t argue a lot on the podcast, unless it’s Dan yelling at us to stop interrupting him when he’s trying to raise money to fight cancer.

DM: [Laughs.] But I think that’s true in all the other podcasts that I listen to and enjoy. They tend to be done by people who have genuine friendships off the air, and have that kind of chemistry that can’t be faked.

EK: I want to mention a couple other things that came up in these episodes that have become staples, like movie pitches for other movies. In “Bratz” we did a pitch for a different type of movie where the Bratz are dolls from another dimension. And in “Mirrors” we pitched a Crypt Keeper comeback movie. [Laughs.] And that’s something that still comes up a fair amount. We don’t do as many runs of things that sound like other things, which was a staple on the show for a while, but we still do movie pitches.

SW: I think that might have been the first time we started doing a lot of Crypt Keeper jokes, in that “Mirrors” episode.

EK: Yeah. That again is a thing that… We never sat down and we’re like, “Hey, do you like the Crypt Keeper? I like the Crypt Keeper too!” It just kind of naturally came up in the conversation. [Laughs.]

DM: Of course you love the fucking Crypt Keeper. Why wouldn’t you? He’s a corpse that spews puns!

EK: Yeah, terrible puns that he finds hilarious. The Crypt Keeper’s puns would not be as funny if the Crypt Keeper wasn’t taking such obvious joy in them. [Laughs.] But in the “Mirrors” episode, we’re still working out our characters. Stuart was a lot rougher—he talks about boobs a lot more and about gore a lot more.

DM: And if there’s one thing I know about Stuart, he hates boobs.

SW: I hate boobs and gore, and I’d rather always be fighting Dario Argento.

[pagebreak]

AVC: It seems like all of your jokes are off-the-cuff, since everything comes up conversationally. But as you guys are watching these movies, are you stockpiling lines in your head at all?

DM: We are constantly talking, which is why Elliott eventually took over the duty of synopsizing the movie: because he’s the best at being able to comprehend the plot while maybe not paying as much attention to it as one should.

EK: While paying kind of like half attention to it. I happen to be somewhat gifted only in having a natural feel for plot structure, I feel like. So I know what will happen in a movie most likely, and then it’s like, “Oh, that did happen.”

SW: Oh, okay, so you’re like the guy from Next.

EK: Yeah, exactly, I’m like Nicolas Cage in Next. [Laughs.]

DM: So we are throwing out jokes sometimes while watching the movie, and if it’s something particularly good we will cycle back to it. But a lot of the time it is 100 percent off-the-cuff.

EK: I would say, of what we say on the podcast, maybe 3 percent of it is stuff that we said to each other while watching it. Maybe as much as 5 percent, but not more than that.

SW: A lot of times when we say stuff to each other while we’re watching it and then try to bring it back up while we’re recording, it just doesn’t have the same feel. It doesn’t feel as new or as interesting or as fresh. So we’ll bring it up, but then we then we drop it almost immediately.

EK: Yeah, because the fun of doing a podcast is the talking, I feel like, and what comes out of just us talking to each other. And so to be reading off of notes or anything makes us a little more stilted. But, no, we don’t do too much prewriting.

Episode #124: Stolen
DM: The whole thing about the trailer really just came from… There was a day at work when I was just watching trailers, and I watched the one for Stolen, and I was like, “Wait a minute.” The trailer for Stolen is a normal trailer that has a voiceover that seems, you know, a little low budget but totally fine, up until the end, when the voiceover guy pronounces Nicolas Cage’s name with two syllables in the last name. And no one along the line bothered to do retake on that.

EK: They were like, “Good enough, great, Stolen, whatever.” But I had forgotten how funny this episode was before I listened to it. Not to toot our own horn too much, but I was laughing a lot listening to it, and it’s such a good example, I feel like, of what we do now on the podcast. It opens immediately with us laughing at each other and just making up nonsense as if right before the show we each ingested ten gallons of nitrous oxide. [Laughs.] And the tangents go instantly, and also another thing we do now, which is a lot of referencing of past episodes.

DM: Which can be infuriating, I’m sure, to new listeners, but I think it has solidified our fan base as being very passionate. It turns it into kind of a cult show, in a way.

EK: And it’s so weird to think about a movie podcast that has a mythology of any kind, that ours seems to have now in the way that, like… The only thing I would compare it to—not saying we’re as good this—is when Venture Bros. started, it felt a little like one joke that went on different adventures, and by this point it’s become such a rich series of characters. And we are not like that. But our references to past episodes and our in-jokes have become so thick now that at times I’m sure it’s impossible to comprehend for new listeners.

SW: It’s a lot to unpack.

DM: It’s a rich tapestry. It’s rich with allusion.

EK: Yeah, something like that. And there’s a moment when Dan somehow ties together Nicolas Cage and the movie Castle Freak, and it’s always funny to me, because we’ve spent dozens of episodes talking about both of those subjects separately. [Laughs.] There’s not as much analysis of what was good or bad in the movie. It’s mostly a lot of plot summary with crazy tangents off of it, like the Battlestar Galactica Hunchback Detective tangent. Which is one of those things where, when you ask if things are written ahead of time, there’s no possible way to write that ahead of time and not be like, “That’s stupid.” [Laughs.]

DM: Yeah, we somehow end up creating a CBS mystery movie where a Columbo-style detective solves crimes where a Cylon is always the killer. [Laughs.]

EK: There’s a moment where in it where I think Dan just says the words “Thank you,” and for some reason I decide to speak-sing the entirety of the Golden Girls theme song. [Laughs.] And I feel like I never would have done that back in the “Bratz” or “Mirrors” episodes, but at this point with the show, it’s okay. [Laughs.]

DM: That’s what I wanted to say about the show, is that I feel we’re now finally, after 130 episodes, in a weird way, now just hitting our stride. And we could have picked any recent episode, like Oogieloves or The Paperboy. I stuck with this one because we didn’t have a Nicolas Cage movie on our list, and we have done 10 movies with Nicolas Cage now. I was actually just saying on the Facebook page that I worry that we’re reaching peak Cage as a culture. There’s all these Nicolas Cage memes on the Internet, which kind of frustrate me. It’s becoming one of these ironic signifiers, and I guess that we’ve been a part of that in our own, small way. But Nicolas Cage isn’t just an ironic signifier to us. He’s a guy that we genuinely enjoy.

EK: Nicolas Cage is genuinely a great actor. He just makes terrible choices, and he is crazy. If you see him in a movie like Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans, he’s amazing. But he makes so much garbage, and he’s like John Carpenter in a way, where he can’t seem to tell what the bad ideas are from the good ideas. So his good ideas are fantastic, but his bad ideas are also execrable. But the show has gotten so much looser and sillier, and it’s almost like I wish people could experience the progression of how the show got that way before they get to it now, but…

DM: I would not necessarily recommend that anyone starting to listen to the show now start at the beginning.

EK: No.

SW: I think Stolen is a good one too, though, because despite all the tangents, I felt like we give a pretty good idea of the movie.

EK: We give an idea of what happens in it and why we enjoyed it. I have been called out in the A.V. Club comments for having an irritating voice, and one of the notes I wrote while listening to the Stolen episode was, “It’s true—I have an annoying voice.” [Laughs.] I wish I had a deep bass like Stuart’s, because Stuart’s got a very sexy voice, but…

SW: Then the podcast would have no need for me, and I’d be gone.

EK: [Laughs.] But the upside of my voice is that Stuart’s voice sometimes gets lost in the mix a little bit because it’s so deep, whereas my voice cuts through all other sound like a knife, ready to puncture your ears.

DM: Just like Moe said about the laughter of children.

EK: [Laughs.] But “Stolen” is an episode I laughed at a lot. I don’t listen to too many other podcasts, because I don’t have a lot of time for it, and I feel bad that the one podcast I listen to regularly is this one. And oftentimes my wife will see me listening to it, and she’ll be like, “Laughing at yourself, huh?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I guess so.”

DM: I listen to every episode as I post them. And people make fun of me for that, but, to the point before about how nothing’s written, honestly, after one of these things is done, it goes out of my brain. So it’s a surprise to me.

EK: That happens to me, too, and I think to you, too, Stuart. I instantly forget what just happened, and so I’ll see someone mention something on the Facebook page and I’ll be like, “What?! What the hell?” [Laughs.] Someone said something in the A.V. Club comments not too long ago about something called “Titus Androgynous” that we did, and I was like, “What? What is that?” So I had to listen to the episode.

SW: And when you read it, it immediately made sense to you.

EK: No, but when I heard it I was like, “Oh, yeah, that.” But when I read someone’s reference to it, I was like, “I don’t know what that is. That’s not something we said.” But it was. I think that’s our brains, again. One of us says, “Titus Androgynous,” and I think Dan and I both said, “David Bowie” at the same time. [Laughs.] Of course that’s a David Bowie movie.

DM: Also one of the unsung heroes of the podcast is my inherent inability to say words sometimes. I will misspeak and, for two people who have no improv training whatsoever, Stuart and Elliott are great at jumping in immediately and turning that mistake into something.

SW: Like a couple of jackals.

EK: [Laughs.] I feel like there’s a certain amount of this podcast—or maybe the whole thing—that is three friends kind of ripping on each other, and I feel like, even less than improv training, it’s the training of hanging out with your friends and ripping on any tiny mistake they make, and applying that to this. Stuart, you once told me about how you had a long drive to make, and you were listening to Flop House episodes, and it was like you got to hang out while you were on this drive. And I feel like that’s the experience I have listening to it, too. For me, at least, it’s like a fun memory of hanging out with you guys that I get to relive while I’m walking to work.

SW: Yeah, I have really good friends who I don’t get to see that often because they live far away, and they always tell me that because they listen to the podcast regularly, they feel like they get to see me a lot. And in a way they also feel weirdly close to you two guys. They feel like they’re good friends of yours, even though they’ve maybe met you once.

EK: And I’ve heard that about people I know who don’t really know you that well, Stuart. It’s the same thing. But it’s one of those reasons why I understand why I like The Flop House, but I’m still a little unsure why anyone else wants to listen to us dick around and hang out. [Laughs.] But I’m very glad that they do, and I love that a fair amount of people seem to enjoy it. When we got a burst of publicity at the beginning of this year, there was something really satisfying about seeing a thing that the three of us have done as a hobby for fun for like five years now be taken seriously by other people as something they enjoy listening to. It’s a passion project in every sense of the word in that we only do it because we enjoy doing it, and we don’t get paid. [Laughs.]

AVC: It’s interesting that you mention Stuart’s character being rougher back in the “Mirrors” episode, because in the “Stolen” episode he uses the term “cum gutters.”

EK: [Laughs.] Oh, yeah, that’s a favorite of his.

SW: But everybody says that!

EK: He also once to referred to a woman’s butt as a “turd cutter,” and it was maybe the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. [Laughs.]

SW: I’m glad you said “once.” Like I just accidentally said that one time.

EK: [Laughs.] Well, I remember you said it in front of my wife, I think, the first time you met her.

SW: I have this nervous thing where I say horrible things to people.

EK: [Laughs.] But, yeah, every now and then that rawer Stuart will come out.

AVC: Obviously The Flop House is an extremely silly show, and this is one of the most purely and consistently silly episodes. Is that typically your off-mic rapport, too, or are you turning it up a bit in front of the microphones?

DM: I think we dial it up a little.There’s an awareness that there’s a performance going on, and we will shoot glances to each other to be like, “All right, I’m running out of something to say. Please jump in here with something.” [Laughs.]

SW: Elliott never gives us that look, for some reason.

EK: [Laughs.] Even 10 minutes after I should.But I feel like the three of us play ourselves plus. Slightly dialed up but otherwise… You know, it’s not like, “All right, guys, let’s flip on the goofy.” We don’t do any exercises beforehand to get in the goofy mood.

SW: Dan does his knee exercises.

EK: [Laughs.] Actually, Dan does do his physical therapy exercises while we’re watching the movie, but that’s not really to get into character.

DM: Yeah, I kind of wish that I didn’t have to do that.

More Bestcasts