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The Making of “Screwed!”

by Brian Dunning, May 21 2009

Recently I hit a milestone on my audio podcast Skeptoid: the 150th episode. I wanted to do something really fun, and decided a lavish broadway musical was the way to go. Normally my listeners expect 10 minutes of me talking in a dry and boring manner, so I figured this would be a fun way to surprise everyone.

The concept was a musical version of a secret meeting of the Illuminati, ruing the fact that the population has discovered alternative and faith-based everything, and thus profits are down.

It’s all well and good to make a plan like that, but how does one accomplish such a feat when one has no musical background or ability? One opens one’s rolodex. If you’ve seen my short film Here Be Dragons, you’ve heard the work of my friend, film composer Lee Sanders (visit him on Facebook or check out his web site). Lee recently won his second BMI Music Award for reality television with his work on The Amazing Race. He knows how to turn an idea into music, so I sprang my proposition on him at one of our OC Skeptics in the Pub nights a few months ago.

What followed was primarily weeks and weeks of minimal progress, mostly me waiting for Lee to give me a melody so I could write lyrics that match it, and Lee waiting for me to give him lyrics so he could write a melody to match them. Lavish broadway musicals require casts of hundreds, so I put out a few calls on Twitter and Facebook for any skeptical friends who can sing and who wanted to donate their time and talents to a fun project. Three replied: Peter Zachos (also a talented film composer), Gus Dunn, and Chris Humphreys. But three does not a cast of hundreds make, so Lee called up his friend Eric Santiestevan (yet another film composer, these guys are like weeds), and Eric managed to wrangle in a bunch of hired hands, bringing our total vocal strength to 19. And then, to put it over the top, Lee also hired a Votox programmer. It’s a synthesized symphonic choir which, properly mixed in the background, made our 19 sound like the Mormon Tabernacle.

Pieces all in place, recording began. I recorded my part separately at Lee’s studio, aptly named The Gulag. (People have complimented me on my singing, but it wasn’t really singing. It was really just a lot of shouting and whining, not unlike my normal daily routine.) The choir was recorded at a studio in Los Angeles, with Lee conducting, which was pretty damn fun to watch.

I didn’t want to be only one to have fun watching them, so I brought along my camcorder to tape as much of it as I could. And I now present for you as much of the footage as I was able to cobble together: The Making of “Screwed!”, Skeptoid Episode #150. Click the HD button if you have good bandwidth:

19 Responses to “The Making of “Screwed!””

  1. Rick Smathers says:

    Heheh… I think I enjoyed the video more than the original audio. I particularly liked watching your expressions while you were recording Brian. Do you make faces when you record regular Skeptoid episodes too or were you just hamming it up for the camera?

  2. Andy says:

    That was an awesome effort Brian, and totally worth it.

    When I heard it a few weeks ago, you really had me scratching my head at how the heck you got something sounding so professional.

    Now I know :)

  3. It was really just a lot of shouting and whining, not unlike my normal daily routine.

    You know, a smart-ass like me would note that such behavior is analogous to what Ben Stein did in Expelled!, so it seems to fit.

  4. Christo says:

    Brian, you are amazingly a fun genius. Congrats and good job!

  5. Nancy Wilson says:

    Brian, you like a bit like a young-ish Treat Williams (the actor)! Cute!

  6. Andrew says:

    fantastic. what a cool idea.

  7. shoshidge says:

    I heard this a few weeks ago, when the music kicked I was like…ohh, no…he’s not going to sing is..?..hey!? it was actually pretty good!
    well done.

  8. Shawn S. says:

    It was a great way to do the 150th ep! I was cracking up the whole time, and my S/O was laughing as well. Especially since she is now a budding skeptic and had heard other Skeptoid eps. This disproves the claim that skeptics are a bunch of killjoys.

  9. Frank says:

    Great work! Really enjoyed it.

  10. Karel says:

    Now I know what I want to do when I grow up. (Bravo!)

  11. Bill says:

    LOVED this episode!

    The only one that might have had me laughing harder was “The Most Effective Homeopathy Podcast Ever”.

  12. Baded says:

    Told ya on Twitter and I’ll say it again.

    Best. Episode. Ever.

  13. Steven Meyer says:

    This would make for a cool animated short film.

  14. Greg Dardas says:


    That was really fun, and tremendously creative. Thanks for posting the video version too, it really helped me to appreciate it even more. It looks like it took a lot of work but was a fun time for all!
    I hope we don’t have to wait another 150 episodes for the sequel!


  15. I wasn’t expecting it and I loved it. Everyone that walked into the technician room asked what it was. I think Skeptoid may have a few new fans.

    This would make an excellent film clip.

  16. Kapten Kalabajooie says:

    Episode 150 was an especially curious moment for me, as it coincided rather well with the Maximum PC No-B.S. podcast’s 100th episode, which happened to be – you guessed it – a musical.

    After listening to the last 90 or so episodes and watching “Here Be Dragons,” I never would have imagined your voice was so dynamic. Bravo, and keep up the fantastic work.

  17. Jeshua says:

    Can’t wait till i get back to the US where YouTube is not banned so i can see it for myself!