The following is a guest post by Alex Hargreaves as part of his Creative Writing course at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.
Tofop/Fofop: A free ticket to an extra seat on the train
It starts with the smile. There’s nothing wrong with the smile, but when they hear the strange
noise you make after suppressing the giggle, people start to look in your direction. Your
face contorts as you try to hold in the laughter in; an expression of half pained suffocation,
half sheer glee. Suddenly you realize you’re that guy. The guy on the train making strange
faces or laughing to himself. At least you know you’re not crazy. You know the laughter, the
smiles and most of the strange noises you make are caused by the podcast you’re listening to.
Fofop, formerly known as Tofop, is the source of this morning’s embarrassment. But you’re
not about to let anyone know that, you enjoy the extra space on the train. After all, who wants
to sit next to that guy?
Thirty Odd Foot Of Pod, referred to as Tofop, is one of my favourite podcasts. Comedian
Wil Anderson and actor Charlie Clausen started recording their interesting conversations
in July of 2010 after years of keeping their friendship private. The comedy podcast took its
name from Russell Crowe’s band “30 Odd Foot Of Grunts” and quickly shot into the Top
Five downloaded podcasts on the Australian iTunes. Sitting behind the podcasted version of
Hamish and Andy’s radio show, Tofop became the most popular Australian comedy podcast
not originally broadcast on the radio, with over 50,000 followers in 70 countries.
What I really love about Tofop is that unlike other popular Australian podcasts, such
as ‘I Love Green Guide Letters’ where Steele Saunders and guests discusses the letters to The
Age’s Thursday lift-out or ‘The Little Dum Dum Club’ which aims to interview new guests
each week, Tofop has never had an agenda. It’s amazingly refreshing to just hear two good
friends talking. If Seinfeld was the show about nothing, this is definitely the podcast about
Some of my favourite topics the guys discussed include movies they loved (mostly
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy), ideas for gritty reboots and movies of their own, and
long discussions of hilarious hypothetical situations. If you’re not a fan of movies, don’t
worry; Wil isn’t either, as he frequently tells the listeners and Charlie. Despite this, the
movies Wil and Charlie would brainstorm and pitch to listeners are hilarious, such as a bread
themed Anti-Christ movie (The Anti-Crust) featuring puns such as “the Father, the bun
and the holy toast.” They also had dreams of producing an indie live action reboot of the
Muppets, casting Michael Cera as Kermit, Emma Stone as Miss Piggy and Will Ferrell as
Fozzie Bear to name a few key characters. Some of their wild hypothetical situations ranged from Charlie having a lucrative relationship with a time travelling Kathy Bates, to how Will
would react to a strange man named “Bertie Blagowrie” claiming to be his cousin and asking
to stay the night at his place. The hypothetical situations were easily some of the best parts of
the show; I’d find myself constantly smiling as the situations inevitably rose further into the
absurd. I can’t wait to hear more like this from Fofop.
In September of 2012, after a two-month break, Tofop returned for the boys to explain
that Tofop was done, or would at least be on a long hiatus. Charlie explained that he had
been cast in a television show, and that the network thought Tofop didn’t fit with the family
friendly image they wanted. By late 2012, Charlie had appeared on the popular Australian
soap-opera Home and Away. Wil Anderson returned to the world of podcasting in February
2013, with a new podcast Fofop. It wasn’t until the release of the sixth episode that the
listeners found out the new name was a reference to a previous discussion on the subject of
Tofop from a parallel world, inspired by the TV show Fringe. The new podcast replaced
Charlie with a series of guest hosts, nicknamed “guest-Charlies”, among which so far have
included the hilarious Dave Anthony, Justin Hamilton and Rove McManus.
One thing that has changed in the transition to Fofop is the recording quality. Finally.
The worst thing I can say about Tofop was that while the boys were unarguably funny and
charming, neither had any skill with setting up the equipment. Unlike radio podcasts like
Hamish and Andy, where skilled technicians are paid to set up the microphones and translate
the show into podcast format, Wil and Charlie had to handle that responsibility themselves.
Admitting to have no idea how to work their microphones, the boys frequently swapped
which end they would talk into, resulting in some nearly inaudible episodes and some that
apparently never recorded at all. This problem has finally been solved for good (we hope),
with Wil’s purchase of new equipment, and “guest-Charlie” Dave Anthony’s know-how.
One other problem Tofop possessed, that I’m sure Fofop will share, was the high
potential for Wil to get lost in a conversation. It’s infuriating how often over the past two
years, he would start telling a story, get distracted, go off onto a tangent leading to an hour
long discussion of something new and never finish the original story. Adding to this is his
unofficial catchphrase of “have we talked about this before?” which even when answered
with yes, wouldn’t stop him talking about the subject again. Even when hearing a story for
the second time, I’d be entertained.
While this is a fun and refreshing podcast, it’s clear why the network didn’t want Charlie
to continue. It’s certainly not for everyone. Both the content and the language used are often
vulgar to say the least. It seems that the language of Fofop changes with the host, as Rove
McManus’ debut as “guest-Charlie” had a very small amount of obscenity, especially when
compared to episodes with Dave Anthony guest hosting.
Fofop, as well as archived episodes of Tofop, are and will always be available in the
iTunes store for free. If you enjoy listening to Fofop, you should try ‘Walking the Room’, the
American sister podcast of Tofop, hosted by Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt.
From the John Deeks intro, to the plugs at the end, Fofop is loaded with laughs, stories
and a quiet charm. Check it out, and enjoy the extra seat on the train ride to hilarity.