It’s that time of year again. A time for eggnog, bad TV specials, and of course terrible Christmas music. Philip J. Reed over at NoiselessChatter.com is no stranger to bad Christmas specials. Now in its fourth year, preparations are being finalized for The 4th Annual Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!!!! Part fun, part charity event, and all terrible, this is the one night of the year that brings together people from all walks of life and joins them together over their love of really bad TV.
Premiering Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., The 4th Annual Xmas Bash!!!! promises to be five hours you’ll never get back…and its a good thing. Deck Ape sat down with Phil and talked about The Bash!!!!, ALF, and whether Wario could stand up against Master Chief.
The 4th annual Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!!!! is on December 17th. I’ve read the post on your site about the beginnings of the Bash!!!!, but can you summarize how the idea started and how it became the five hours of bad TV that we know and love?
It was actually a spinoff of the ALF reviews, which is something I keep forgetting. I foolishly decided to review ALF, in order, in its entirety. It sounded fun at the time, but what I really did was fence myself into long form television analysis that spanned three damn years. I thought I was just going to make fun of a dumb puppet. Stupid me decided that each review would be a 15,000-word epic, however, looking more deeply at the show than any reasonable human being ever should.
Anyway, the first year I did it, the Christmas episode’s review would have fallen the week after Christmas. I thought about shuffling up the episode order or something, so that I could publish it in time for the holiday, but that felt disingenuous. I figured instead that I would stream the Christmas episode ahead of time, so that we could all watch it and poke fun at it together, in a chat room. I love Mystery Science Theater 3000, and always have, so being able to host a live riffing session just seemed perfect. Christmas is a time for togetherness anyway; it seemed appropriate that we’d come together to make fun of terrible television.
But I figured…why stop there? We can stream the ALF special. That’s fine. But that’s only about 22 minutes of our night. What if we’re having fun? Wouldn’t it stink to quit as soon as we got going?
So I found a bunch of other Christmas specials that we could stream afterward, and made a whole night of it. We’ve done the same thing every year since, with new specials each time. Had I started my ALF reviews just one week earlier, none of this ever would have happened.
And now it’s not just Christmas specials. There are musical numbers, vintage commercials, magic, host segments. We do it like one of the old telethons. Good cause, lots of variety. It’s well-meaning, but part of me wants people to view these as the kind of telethon you’d see in hell. That’s the kind of thing that will only really appeal to a certain kind of person, but it’s the kind of person I’d like to cater to, anyway. They get the Christmas party of their dreams, and I always love when I hear from somebody who tells me that watching it is a tradition for them now. That’s a genuinely great feeling.
All donations collected go to The Trevor Project. Why them?
It’s funny you ask that, because I always expect people will ask, and they never do. They just say, “Oh, The Trevor Project, that’s great!” So, that’s nice. The Trevor Project has a positive reputation and it’s not something I ever really need to justify. I’ll take that.
But, basically, I had an idea that for the second year. I figured I would solicit donations and put it all toward a mental health fund. As in, I’d do all of that personally. I’d take the donations, set up some system by which people could apply for it, and then I’d award a kind of mental health scholarship. I suffer from depression and anxiety myself, and I know how hard it is to reach out, to get the help you need. If you don’t have the money for the help you need, it’s even worse.
I basically drove myself nuts trying to figure out how to pull this off…how to screen applicants…how to emotionally handle the fact that most applicants wouldn’t get the money they needed…and a good friend of mine talked some sense into me. She said, “Just find someone who is already doing this, and solicit the money for them.” I looked into it, and found The Trevor Project. It was perfect.
The Trevor Project is obviously not exactly what I had in mind, but it benefits LGTBQ+ youth, who have additional obstacles of their own, and can feel even more alone as a result. It worked out really well, and it means the world to me that anyone who tunes in to make fun of old garbage sitcoms would open their wallets to help people who aren’t laughing. There’s something beautiful in that.
How do you choose what you show that night? Any teases as to what we can expect this year?
This year we have all new shows. Many shows have multiple Christmas episodes, as you know, and I thought about including some of them, from shows we’ve already covered. Instead, though, it worked out that every show this year is brand new to the stream.
That’s a hint, I guess. We’ll also be airing both the oldest and the most recent shows ever on the stream, so that will be fun. And we’re ending on what I’m sure is the single worst thing to ever actually air on national television. To the point that I fully expect people to doubt that it did ever air.
It did. I can confirm it did. But nobody will look at it and believe that for a moment. It’s that hideously amateur. Needless to say, I adore it and can’t wait to force everyone to sit through it.
Choosing episodes is a nightmare. A fun nightmare, and one I choose to endure, don’t get me wrong. But it is a nightmare. Every year I have something in mind, some pretty solid idea of what I’ll show. Then I edit it all together and I’m done early! It’s great! Whatever will I do with all my free time?
Inevitably, though, I end up re-sequencing things. Or I add something I discovered later, and is too good not to include. But it’s animated, for instance, and I already had a different animated show in the block. Do I want two animated shows? Is that too much? Are they too close together?
Maybe I realize I have two specials made in the mid-90s next to each other, so I want to space them out. Doing that, though, bumps something else into a different time slot, where it no longer seems to fit. Some shows work only as openers, some only as closers. Some are calm and sedate and really work best as palate cleansers, and need to come right after another show that was batshit insane.
Last year I dropped one show because it used almost the same…sexually problematic mistletoe sequence as another show. Seriously, it was appalling. The sort of thing that twenty years ago probably played just fine, but now we are enlightened enough that we see strange men manipulating women into letting them probe them with their tongues as being…y’know. A bit much.
So, okay, two shows use the same joke, but the problem then becomes that we have a live chat, and part of the fun is riffing on these shows. Two identical sequences, though, means the riffs won’t be as varied, and I feel like I’m gypping the viewers if they’re stuck making the same jokes twice. Sitcoms are sure lazy, but I’d feel like I was betraying a kind of trust if I didn’t keep things as varied as possible.
If you remember making mixed tapes in the early 90s, you know how obsessive you can get over sequencing that literally nobody else will care about. You’ll lie in bed at night, unable to sleep because you know you should have placed something differently.
Thanks to the Xmas Bash!!!!, that’s me for three months out of every year.
How did the whole Noiseless Chatter website come to be?
I’ve written for many sites over the years, professionally and as a hobby. And, basically…it’s a weird relationship I have with writing for the web. I love doing it, but I also sort of hate it.
Every site has their own in-house style and expectations, which is fine, but they also have their own rules. That’s also fine, but I find myself clashing with them frequently. I want to do something, the rules say we do something else. So, the answer is I do something else…but I don’t want to do something else. I want to do that first idea I had, that I loved, that I got excited about. And why would I be writing for someone’s site if I’m not enjoying what I’m writing?
I know that sounds really negative, but the fact is that I write because I love writing. I have a job that gives me plenty of rules, so when I write in my free time, I just want to be me. I started Noiseless Chatter so that I could just write what I wanted to write.
The trade off was hard. With other sites you get the sometimes pretty rigid rules to follow, but you also get a built-in audience of existing readers, which sure is nice. Writers know what it’s like to labor in silence, so the moment you write something and have a little comment pop up saying “Hey, I liked this post! Very funny! Awesome work!”…well, it’s kind of seductive, as you know.
My audience is much smaller now, but I also feel like they mean more to me. Anyone coming to Noiseless Chatter is coming because they want to read something I wrote. People reading my stuff on another site may just be seeing my work because they were there anyway, for some other reason.
There’s benefits to both, but I’m happy that I am where I am. And I appreciate my audience in a way I never could on a larger site.
I’m a fan of your Alf reviews. What made you start doing Alf and are you ever going to be done with him? (I secretly hope not)
ALF was a thing, for sure. I remember finding the excellent Full House Reviewed online, and blowing through the archives over the course of a few weeks. I didn’t immediately think, “I want to do this, too,” but eventually I guess I had that impulse.
It felt strange, because I don’t like seeing someone else’s great idea and just lifting it. That’s actually a pretty horrible thing to do…but I reached out to Billy, who ran the site, and got his opinion on it. He was actually really supportive, and that made me feel a lot better. He encouraged me to review something of my own, and that helped to feel like less of a thief. Of course, my reviews went in a totally different direction anyway, but I was certainly worried about being a lesser duplication at first.
I decided to do ALF due to reader poll, actually. Which is odd to me, now. Had the vote swung another way I might have covered Perfect Strangers or Mama’s Family or something, which I can’t even imagine. ALF ended up being such a perfect fit for dissection, and a perfect fit for me. I remembered the show from when I was a kid. I loved it then. I don’t mean “I watched it.” I mean I really did love it. I had the toys and the dolls and God forbid I was out late enough to miss the opening credits.
I cared about ALF, so I had a lot to say in my reviews. Any other show I would have had to reach for things to say, but ALF was a spoil of riches for me. I could write about the nostalgic aspect, the adult viewpoint, the sitcom conventions, the sci-fi elements…and that would have been enough. But also ALF was a puppet show. And it was created by an insane egomaniac who strangled his own franchise to death. And it was cancelled in the middle of a cliffhanger. And the TV movie intending to tie it up featured none of the other actors and didn’t tie up a damned thing. And nobody could act. And the dad smoked crack and had sex with hobos. Like…how in the world could I ever have asked for a better show? It was spoon feeding me jokes, like it was genuinely only created in the first place to serve as a punchline.
I am done with ALF, only because there’s not much left to cover. There’s the cartoons but, come on, you can’t hate me that much.
There is an exception, though. If that constantly-rumored ALF movie gets off the ground, or if Netflix picks up a reboot series or something, I’ll come out of retirement. But only then. And I won’t like it.
I still get emails from people telling me how much they enjoyed my reviews. That, without putting too fine a point on it, means a lot to me. Just last week someone wrote to me to say the he was feeling depressed, so he went back and re-read my ALF stuff from the beginning. Like the Xmas Bash!!!!, it’s amazing how much good can come of something objectively bad.
Is there anything big in the works for Noiseless Chatter or you in 2017?
Being finished with ALF is a bit like getting out of prison. Now I get to write about things I like! The freedom is almost overwhelming. So, to be totally honest, I’m not sure what the next big project will be.
I’m going to do a reader’s survey to get a sense of what people would enjoy most, but for now I know I’ll be finishing Steve Zissou Saturdays, which analyzes the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou scene by scene. That was my favorite film when I started the series. It’s since been surpassed by The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I’d like to analyze in a similar way at some point, but at this rate I’ll get to it four years after I’m dead.
I’m also going to try to post a new Fiction into Film every two months, which a series in which I look at page-to-screen adaptations. It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing any series, and I’m always so proud of those posts. Sometimes they get some nice traction, too. John Carpenter himself shared my post on They Live, calling it the most insightful thing he’d ever read about the film. He even messaged me through Facebook to thank me, which is something I know the creative team behind ALF would never do, so that’s kind of nice!
Otherwise…time will tell! But I am excited. For the first time in years I have an open field in front of me rather than a plan. And that can be a pretty great feeling.
What terrifies you more: a clown, ALF, or ALF in a clown suit?
Willie in his birthday suit.
I hear that you are an avid reader. What are a few of your favorite books and why?
I do love to read. I’ve always suffered from depression, and reading’s been such an important escape for me. It’s still what I do now, when things get difficult. I’ll get a book, make some tea, and just drift away into another world. It helps a lot.
Book recommendations are tough, because I take them so seriously. I don’t want to give you a list of five books…I want to know about you. Other books you’ve enjoyed. Books you haven’t enjoyed. How many books you’ve read. How many books you read in a year. Your tolerance for silliness and smarty-pants philosophizing. Basically, I want to analyze your DNA before I ever get near recommending something, because you have a finite number of books that you can read before you die, and I don’t want to eat up one of those slots carelessly.
Which should tell you both how much I love reading, and how insufferably neurotic I am.
I am running a feature on my blog right now, though, where I spotlight a different novel every day until Christmas. I’m hoping that helps to give people reading suggestions without me accidentally feeling like I’ve ruined someone’s life.
Who would win in fight: Master Chief (Halo), Kratos (God of War), or Wario (Super Smash Bros.)?
None, if I’m controlling them.
I’m actually oddly bad at video games, but just certain ones. For instance, I can beat (and have beaten) every stage in the classic Mega Man series without taking damage, but it took me probably five years to beat Resident Evil 4. I’m pretty sure if it’s not a puzzle game or a 2D platformer in which every characters has huge eyes, I’m terrible.
But, if I have to pick one, Wario.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Be sure to tune in to the 4th Annual Xmas Bash!!!! I hope to see you there.
Also, I get a lot of suggestions for awful Christmas specials to air, and I do appreciate that. But if you’re sending suggestions, it’s the Christmas music that’s harder to find.
Maybe that’s because we blow through around 20 of those in a night, as opposed to just seven. But it’s also because I really want a great balance of stupidity and listen-ability in those songs. I don’t want them to just be…awful. Like, to the point that you want to close the stream and do something else with your life. I want them to be catchy. Fun. Interesting in some way…yet also really bad.
I don’t always find that balance, but I try, and that’s why so many shitty novelty songs never make the cut. They’re just shitty; they’re not sincere, they have no interest in being good, and that makes them not worth listening to.
They also can’t just be “traditional” songs. You won’t hear “White Christmas” or “Jingle Bell Rock” or any of that crap. You hear that all the time, everywhere you go around the holidays. I want to play songs that literally nobody in their right mind would listen to otherwise, and I think people appreciate that.
This year we have a woman singing about her chicken dinner. If you don’t want to tune in after finding that out, you’re dead inside.
The 4th Annual Noiseless Chatter Christmas Bash!!!! live stream begins on your internets at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17 at NoiselessChatter.com.
All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!