Reunion Rules by Stephen Winchell

The Telethon was a long-running sci-fi/comedy/variety show I was a part of. It ended. Done. Gone. Kaput. Sean Rose wrote about it on this very blog right before we closed up shop for good. Goodbye, Chicago. Goodbye, cruel world.

But, wouldn’t you know it, that itch still had some scratch in it. The Telethon boys - Ben Vigeant, Greg Guiliano, Sean Rose and myself - couldn’t keep away forever. After a year and a half, we decided it’d be fun to remount it for a four-show reunion.

The thing is, we wrapped things up pretty well back in 2013. We had a nice emotional ending, we resolved a bunch of hanging plot points, and there was really no reason to come back to the well other than the fact that we all wanted to jump in again. How would we make this work? How COULD we make this work?

We all sat down and discussed what we liked and didn’t like about reunions, and came up with these six house rules.

Rule 1: Let’s Ignore The Plot

The Telethon was a show built around a crazy backstory that developed an even crazier ongoing plot. Why were the hosts trapped there? Who trapped them? What year is it? Is the theater BYOB?

By the time the show ends, we revealed our long running secret scheme: the earth was destroyed, and the only two humans who survived the apocalypse were our two hosts, Sal Stevens and Marty Fleming. They’re trapped in a secret underground studio that’s run by a bizarre A.I., and they’re constantly broadcasting signals into space in the hope that someone will find them.

But when we came back, we were like, “WHO CARES” and we wrote an episode called ‘Prank Squad’ that had seven pie-in-the-face gags.

I do believe there’s a time and place for a slow-building storyline, but in the case of a reunion, we wanted to have some fun and we wanted to make some fun shows. While we do lean on this premise in some of these episodes, our first concern was having some laughs.

Rule 2: Let’s Not Force any Nostalgia

Over the course of three years, we built up a stable of lovable characters. Baseball Ghost. Detective Cluesman. The World’s Smartest Dog. We all came into this reunion with a list of characters we wanted to see again. But it became pretty tough to write an episode with a list of wants. How could we fit lovable Johnny Popcorn in there?

When we stopped caring about working in familiar recurring characters, we realized these episodes should be able to stand on their own and not have to lean on any nostalgic callbacks. Sure, some old standards have and will pop in, but we got to meet a whole new mess of characters, like enthusiastic 90s-kid hacker Databyte, or The World’s Strongest Baby (no relation to the World’s Smartest Dog).

Rule 3: One of the Episodes HAS to be A Wrestling Episode

This was must. There was no compromise with this.

Sean and I have been getting into wrestling lately (because it’s the greatest thing in the world), and Greg has always been a wrestling fan. We’ve dabbled before, but we wanted the real deal: a full hour of nonstop wrestling excitement.

The resulting episode, Dr. Hornet’s League of Champions, was a blast, and resulted in a bruised chest, a pulled groin, and a hand injury that hasn’t quite healed yet. It also gave me an opportunity to meet my way-too-forgiving downstairs neighbors, who apparently had a pool going to guess what we were doing during our noisy rehearsals (wrestling won, narrowly beating out LARPing).

Rule 4: Let’s Work with our New Friends!

Between the close of our run and the start of our reunion, the four of us have met and worked with some of the best, greatest folks in the Chicago comedy community. Please forgive me while I name drop and gush like a champion.

We featured Katie McVay, Gabe Liebowitz, and Goodrich Gevaart after I met all of those idiots running the webcomic Little Boys Room. Allie Reid worked with Ben and Greg on ‘Disaster!’ and ‘Murder on the Moon.’ Our video features a voiceover from Erica Reid, and our miracle worker in the tech booth is Sarah Gilmore, both of whom I worked with on the Snorf! show. Lovable mokes Chris Blake, Alex Honnet, and Colin Hudson joined us for the wrestling show. And all of this wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Public House Theater, who have been a real dream to work with.

But you know what they say, make new friends, but keep the old…

Rule 5: Let’s Work with our Old Friends!

How could we leave our old favorites behind? We were lucky enough to feature The Rhinestones, Oh Theodora, Chad Briggs. We even got John Eisenrich to sing his House Boat song.

Sarah Shockey, Alan Metoskie, Zack Mast. Buck LePard, Lisa Dellagiarino-Feriend. John Szymanski. Thank you all, you wonderful people, you.

And as always, we had James Teniya, our rock in shining armor. No one could ask for a better prop and costume guy. The work he did for the Worlds’ Strongest Baby’s man-sized bonnet is worth some kind of trophy.

And that leads us to our last rule….

Rule 6: CM Punk did the right thing.

Seriously, did you hear that podcast? Good for you, Punk.

Our last show is Saturday, December 6th, at midnight. It’s called The Telethon Prom. Aliens show up ready to boogie, but dancing has been outlawed by the adults. Whatever will happen!

So come on out! Get a PBR! Watch us sing ‘When You’re A Jet’! Stick around and watch the four of us glow with friendship and PBR!

-Stephen Winchell