Off Book: The improvised musical podcast that keeps me laughing and singing along
The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):
It takes years for a Broadway musical to hit the stage, but on OFF BOOK: The Improvised Musical, you get a brand new original musical every week! Each episode, Jessica McKenna, Zach Reino and a special guest create a new musical on the spot.
Series or standalone:
Standalone (but seriously, listen to them all, even if it takes you months)
Begin listening to:
Any episode. There are not many in the regular podcast apps, but the complete catalog is available on Stitcher Premium, which you can trial for free. It's not that expensive, so even if you have used up your free trial, it's worth going back in the archives to listen to every episode.
During quarantine, I paid for Stitcher Premium and went back and listened to the entire catalog again. It was worth it!
Improvised musical comedy
Zach and Jess, two talented performers and comedians!
Excellent. They have a live band playing every episode!
Teen/adult. Some of the episodes are a little spicier than others.
Approximate length of episodes:
Probably none, unless you teach improvised musical comedy (which is a legit thing)
Similar recommended pods:
There's nothing quite like it, but Punch Up the Jam and Barely Composed are in the same realm
Podcast Librarian’s Review:
As a former theater kid and current occasional community theater performer, I can’t believe I slept so long on this pod. Each episode, Zach, Jess, and a guest or two chat a bit at the top and from that conversation comes the completely random topic of their improvised musical. For the next hour or so, they create a musical score including tropes like the opening, “I Want” song, villain song, showstopper, love ballad, and finale. It’s hilarious, but the real kicker is that the hosts (and even many of the guests) have fantastic voices and come up with great lyrics and harmonies on the fly. I’d be remiss not to mention the amazing musicians (a LIVE improv band) who help make the magic happen. I often forget that it’s all being improvised in the moment. That said, the quality of the episodes can vary based on the guest or the topic, but I’ve enjoyed every episode I’ve heard so far (probably about 8 of them). At least once during every episode, I find myself laughing uncontrollably—I look totally nuts seemingly laughing at nothing when I’m driving. The content skews to the adult humor side, so sorry parents, but this isn’t one to listen to with little ears around. I first found out about the pod through a crossover with Switched on Pop, and that’s a great episode (Switched Off Book) to begin with because the hosts explain the structure of their show while Charlie and Nate of SOP comment on some of the music theory behind musicals. Another favorite episode is Knights of the Wow Table with Demi and Miel of another fave pod, Punch Up the Jam; it features a ballad “Put Your Neck On My Shoulder,” which has been stuck in my head for 3 days. The ultimate proof that I love this pod? I’ll probably sign up to pay for Stitcher Premium (which houses most of the old episodes) to listen to the back catalog.
I did sign up for Stitcher Premium, and I did indeed go through the entire back catalog, loving pretty much every episode. Then, in March 2020, when the world went to hell in a handbasket, I signed up for Stitcher Premium again and listened to every episode again. It was just what I needed. Off Book continues through quarantine and has been recording on Zoom with some trial and error. The newest episodes are good considering that fact, but start with some older ones to get a feel for the classic style!