Review: ‘Under Cover’ Is More than Just Music


Under Cover. Produced by The WorkJuice Players. Copyright 2018. (Seen February 3, 2018.)

I’ve already expounded on my love of the Thrilling Adventure Hour, the podcast from the devious minds of Ben Acker and Ben Blacker that — alas — is no longer a podcast in production. One of the first things I did when coming to LA was attend a book signing for the TAH comic that I was a Kickstarter backer, getting autographs on a postcard since I still had yet to receive my book. Finally, in my review of The Good Place for F-BOM, I mention that knowing TAH’s Marc Evan Jackson had a recurring role was part of why I ended up giving the show a shot.

And if you know me at all, especially on Facebook, you know I have a thing for ‘fun’ cover songs. Whether it’s Hayseed Dixie doing “Fat Bottomed Girls” or pretty much ANYTHING from Postmodern Jukebox, this is enough of a fascination that it may be getting an article all by itself. (Probably a 5 Fandom Friday.)

So, add these two loves together, and of course I was going to buy tickets to The WorkJuice Players (what the TAH crew is called) benefit for Education Through Music LA, which played at Largo at the Coronet on Saturday evening.

While this is technically labeled a review, the fact that it was a one-night benefit — plus that I enjoyed it so much — I feel it’s more just me raving about it like one does to their good friends.

My autographed postcard when I met them. Photo by Angie Fiedler Sutton.

Hosted by Craig Cackowski and Janet Varney, and backed by a glorious band whose name I can’t remember, the theme was supposedly ‘songs about songs’. But in true TAH tradition, the memo of said theme seemed to get lost in the shuffle, as the joke of the players not knowing that became a running theme.

This casual fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants evening of music was filled with some great comedy, the highlight for me (of course) being Marc Evan Jackson, singing ‘the jazz stylings of a standard from the American song book of the 1980s’ — Erasure’s “Chains of Love”, completely deadpan. But a close second had to be Varney doing the whitest cover of “Word Up” I’ve heard (and that’s including the country version that was in Kingsman: The Golden Circle).

It wasn’t just comedy, though: Mark Gagliardi and Autumn Reeser sang (and did a dance routine) to “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing”; Cackowski did a cover of Tom Waits’ “The Piano Has Been Drinking”; Annie Savage did June Carter; both Busy Philipps and Tawney Newsome did some belting; and we even got a fairly serious couple of songs from both Johnathan Rice and Eric Kufs.

But what truly sold it was the casualness of the whole thing: from drinking on stage to Cackowski mocking Jackson’s interactions with the band, it felt like a group of friends that decided to get together and have fun singing songs. And I felt like I was a part of that group. It was a night to remember. (Especially for Jackson’s description of a flugelhorn: “it’s like if a trumpet looked at a better instrument … and tried to become it.”)

While you can’t catch this again, you can catch all previous episodes of the Thrilling Adventure Hour on iTunes. I’d recommend the musical episode, “The Piano Has Been Thinking”.

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