‘Fallout Lounge’ is comedy album disguised as podcast

(The Fallout Lounge is Bob Merlotti’s latest creation)

It’s incredible what a failed online search can lead to. In the case of former DDB Chicago and Grey creative director Bob Merlotti, his failed online hunt for audio sketch comedy led to first, a dead-end, and now the very funny and original podcast, The Fallout Lounge.

“Some of my favorite comedy sketches exist only on audio—like the Monty Python records and National Lampoon Radio Hour, but I couldn’t find anything comparable in podcasts” says Merlotti, who has written jokes for Jon Stewart, Steve Carell, and Barack Obama.

Merlotti’s search took place in 2017. It was then he decided if he wanted a particular kind of scripted sketch podcast, he’d have to create it. Merlotti had written commercials for years, and became his own client. “I started keeping a list of concepts, and wrote up whatever struck me as funny,” Bob shared with Reel 360, “There weren’t time constraints, or brand names to flog—unless, of course, it was a commercial parody.”

Merlotti at play

Launching a sketch show required help, though: voice talent, recording facilities, and a professional recording engineer.

“I’m lucky to have talented friends who claim to enjoy doing this,” Merlotti laughs. Second City legend David Pasquesi, who Bob calls a “comedy cheat code,” regularly shows up in sketches. So does Andy Bobrow, who played the main stage in the Groundlings, and Andy’s VO wife Kathy Nagler.

Lori Alan of Sponge Bob, a former neighbor of Bob’s, appears in several early episodes. As the show became established, more friends volunteered, like Chicago editor and VO Katherine Pryor.

WATCH: Scoop here they are – BTS of Geico’s spot with Tag Team

“I’m barely in my own podcast,” he laughs. “That’s by design. A lot of my comedy heroes are writers—people like Doug Kenney, Jack Handey, and Robert Smigel. I want the best actors for each sketch, so I’m usually the character who knocks on the door and says, ‘5 minutes, Miss Hepburn.’”

For the show’s recording engineer, Merlotti contacted a favorite collaborator from Chicago, Dave Gerbosi. In a stroke of serendipity, Gerbosi was taking early retirement, and agreed to mix sketches. “Listeners are always commenting on the production values,” says Bob. “That’s all Dave. He produces the music, too. And sings like an angel.”

What’s the show’s aesthetic? Absurd, subversive, often dark—and laugh-out-loud funny. “I don’t want ‘clapter.’ I want belly laughs, hopefully leading to belly injuries,” Bob says. Most of the material is evergreen, “because people and things are evergreenly terrible.”

There are only two mentions of the former president in 60-plus sketches. “I wanted the show to feel contemporary, but he’s covered elsewhere, if I’m not mistaken. There’s plenty of other cultural phenomena to mock,” the creator mused.

The pandemic, for example. His frustration with people who refuse to take precautions inspired him to write a parody about an aerosol that’s 100% COVID-19. “Freedom Huff” is one of Fallout Lounge’s most downloaded sketches. Take a listen below:

During production, The Fallout Lounge drops a new sketch every Monday. “The length varies, depending on how long the premise can sustain,” Bob says. When new sketches reach about 20 minutes combined, they drop a compilation. Bob feels that’s the best way to introduce new listeners, as 20 minutes is roughly the length of one side of a comedy album.

Nominate Someone You know For The Reel Black List OR Reel Women

The lockdown has meant no more group recording sessions, but that hasn’t slowed things down. “Everyone’s becoming an expert in home acoustics,” Bob says.

When Merlotti was asked, “What’s next?” he replied, “Sponsors. Podcast sponsors all seem to be meal delivery or boner pill companies. We want Big Boner to invest in us. Then, eventually, a Netflix special with no pictures.”

The Fallout Lounge has a 5-star rating on Apple podcasts, with a steadily growing audience.