Sketch comedy for kids— meet the creators of 'The Plop'
Sketch comedy, but make it kids-friendly.
The Plop is a sketch comedy podcast for kids (8-13). From an adventure with a mower to talking towels, the episodes are filled with dynamic, funny stories written and narrated by comedians.
The goal of the podcast, however, is more than just to get some laughter out of the little ones.
A pandemic project for children and comedians
When the pandemic came into full swing last year, Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring, from CBC Radio's well loved satire program This is That, decided to create a project that would help two groups of people — children who are stuck at home and comedians who struggled to find work.
"The idea for The Plop, which was Pat's idea, was the notion that maybe we could come together and find some content for kids that they could enjoy," says Oldring.
"And also content that could be worked on by a lot of comedians who were also at home looking for something to do."
Kelly and Oldring have collaborated on a range of different podcasts and audio projects (e.g. This Sounds Serious), but The Plop is something completely different.
When creating content for adults, they were often poking fun at social and cultural issues through a satirical lens, says Kelly. But to entertain kids, it's about being creative and goofy.
"Doing sketch comedy and entertaining kids is just fun," he says.
"It's been liberating."
Meet Larry Dobbs
The host of The Plop, Larry Dobbs, is voiced by Peter Oldring. Cheerful, talkative and clumsy, Larry guides the Ploppers through the different stories in each episode.
"Most of Larry's stuff is just improvised," says Oldring.
A father of a four-year-old girl, Oldring says spending time with his daughter also helps him better play Larry in a way that resonates with kids.
"You learn a lot about things that captured her imagination, things that she said, things that are funny, or things that confuse her or engage her."
In the podcast, Larry is always fuelled by enthusiasm and trying new things — even things he isn't quite skilled at and can't really pull off.
Through a character, Larry can fail on their behalf... it's sort of showing kids that it's okay to not be perfect and maybe to be a bit clumsy.- Pat Kelly
By being part of Larry's journey of trying and failing, the listener is reminded that it is okay to make mistakes as long as you can learn from them.
'Audio is theatre of the mind'
Bizarre premises and silly tales aside, the creators say they want the podcast to stimulate and challenge children's imaginations.
Kids are a lot smarter than we give credit for… they don't necessarily like to be talked down to, they want to be talked up to.- Pat Kelly
Though children seek constant stimulus and can be easily distracted, Oldring says stories with variety can help capture their attention and interest.
"So that there's a quiet moment where they can also sit down and exercise a different part of their body — their incredibly growing brain."
With podcasting being a highly intimate experience, Kelly says they want to create stories and characters that really invoke the children's imagination.
"Audio is theater of the mind," he says.
Something new, something great
Started as a crowd-funding campaign, The Plop has offered comedians across North America the opportunity to contribute and "perform" through audio.
"Doing audio sketch comedy is new ground for me and I love the challenge," says Graham Clark, a standup comedian based in Vancouver, BC.
"I appreciate the imagination it takes to come up with a project that so many comedians can be a part of and get some money out of it to boot."
Clark has written and narrated several sketches for the podcast. In Zeke's House of Sound FX , he shares all the peculiar sounds that are on sale in his warehouse — from the sound of a cauliflower bouncing off a trampoline to zombies opening a root beer.
In the same episode, 17-year-old Louis Brady improvised the sketch "Rhyme On a Dime" with the host Larry.
"School is fun, when you're with your friends. And those are the times when you hope it doesn't end… homework isn't fun, neither is math. Math often likes to kick me in the butt," Brady sings beautifully while taking on the Larry's rhyme challenge.
A young comedian based in Windsor, Ont., Louis says The Plop allowed him the opportunity to entertain an audience who would enjoy his clean humour and creative oddity.
"I really enjoyed creating my own songs off the top of my head and being pushed creatively."
As someone who is 17 but looks like a 13-year-old boy... It is not only hard to be taken seriously, but to gain opportunities when a lot of them are in bars where I can't legally go yet."— Louis Brady
Kelly and Oldring say they want to continue this project and reach out to more comedians.
"It's an opportunity for up and coming comedians to learn how to write sketches for kids and exercise their own voice over abilities," Kelly says.
"Giving people that platform is something that we'd want to keep growing."
You can listen to The Plop here.