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The King of POP (Culture)

Dustin Meadows has had his hands in many pots around Columbus the last few years. An active stand-up comedian not long ago, he has drifted toward writing (mostly in the form of bits for the popular sketch comedy production Monday Night Live) and increasingly toward commentary. His particular area of expertise is pop culture, but not the annoying Internet kind: he looks instead at the enduring influences presented to us as we seek our entertainment, whether from the silver screen or the big screen.

Or a comic book.

Pop culture is your bread and butter. You host a podcast, How Have You Not Seen This?, wherein you watch a classic movie with someone who hasn’t and then discuss the movie on air; your live show, Struck a Nerve: The Pop Culture Mixtape, is a collection of sketches, essays, character acts, and more about everything from genre films to Batman or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Where did the idea for this kind of monthly retrospective come from?Initially, it was inspired by a show I saw in Chicago called Paper Machete, essentially a pop culture take with a Daily Show format, covering a range of pop culture topics. We realized that the 75th anniversary of Batman’s creation was coming and thought to ourselves, “What if we make the whole show about Batman?” So it was kind of born from that. I literally have a degree – a Bachelor of Arts in Popular Culture from Bowling Green State University, the only accredited university in the United States, possibly the world, to offer such a degree. So the majority of my coursework was delving into the things I love: film, comic books, some genre literature like science fiction and horror. I was able to explore my passion without being burned out by academia. 

You’re a scholar of pop culture. Bonded and insured.I feel like it’s something I’m knowledgeable about. Some people hear the phrase “pop culture” and there’s this immediate negative connotation. They’re like, “Oh great, what, 20 GIFs about Hocus Pocus or whatever,” whereas I am much more interested, not in the flash-bang of it, but in the substance, and what it means for us…why it’s so important to us. The podcast was born of this, too; of my love of film. Movies are my greatest interest in the realm of pop culture. 

“Some people hear the phrase “pop culture” and there’s this immediate negative connotation. They’re like, “Oh great, what, 20 GIFs about Hocus Pocus or whatever,” whereas I am much more interested, not in the flash-bang of it, but in the substance, and what it means for us…why it’s so important to us. ”

With both of your shows, the podcast and Struck a Nerve, while pop culture is at the core, in fact the execution tends to lie in the intersections between our regular lives and the popular culture that shapes and informs those lives.  Is that intentional? That’s certainly part of it. My bottom line: I want people to either listen to the podcast or watch the show and be entertained. Whether it makes them laugh or they hear someone talking about how Batman changed his life. Obviously, it’s a comedy show first and foremost, but I’m totally fine when the show goes into those more nuanced, “human” moments.  It’s not necessarily funny then, but it is meaningful, and it resonates with the audience, and I want both of those kinds of presentations.  

BeFunky_final layoutIt’s interesting how much vulnerability you manage to wring out of your presenters. Sometimes it gets a little dark.That’s the thing. When I book people, I am looking for people who are passionate and truly appreciate the thing they are working on. My only stipulation is that presenters cannot do “stand-up comedy,” unless they are presenting it as a character. I don’t tell them that it has to be funny – I don’t want to start demanding specifics from the people who perform because I feel like every show we’ve gotten really unique performances, really nuanced pieces, really funny pieces…if I start setting too many parameters, I think it could limit what people bring to the table. I haven’t seen a single piece over the eight months the show has run and thought, “Well, this is no good.” Everyone has just been knocking it out of the park, every single month. 

In a three-way, “Mexican-style” standoff between John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Godzilla, who blinks first? Who’s the loser in that gunfight?Hard to say. They all have their merits; they all have their flaws. I would say it’s between Godzilla and John Wayne. Wayne, while a prolific actor and larger-than-life figure, unfortunately has not weathered the test of time as a personality. His actual character has, over time, bled into his iconography, so when you see John Wayne, you still think, “Get along, Pilgrim,” or, “Take him to Missouri,” but now you also think, “Oh yeah, John Wayne was also in real life a racist.” Godzilla, on the other hand, has been the topic of so many spoofs, and even in the remakes he’s been handled poorly. I’d say it goes Godzilla first [to lose], then John Wayne. Clint Eastwood is starting to get into that territory. His legacy is less, “This guy is a terrible person,” and more, “Is Clint Eastwood just getting super weird?” Which is okay. “Weird” is totally fine. Godzilla is hard to take seriously, and John Wayne is just not a good person.

Pop culture is in a phase where it’s recycling and updating and remaking so much stuff. Does that give you an opportunity to swing at pitches that would otherwise predate our times, or would you prefer there be more original work coming from Hollywood?I’ve absolutely capitalized on recycled franchises twice this year. We had a Spiderman show and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show, both of which entirely because there was either a reboot or a sequel to a reboot of those franchises. 

And Batman, of course. Oh yeah, and Batman, with the Nolan films. I think it’s interesting because those movies are also responsible for introducing a new generation to those properties, which at the end of the day – I used to get so frustrated with all the reboots and remakes – but there’s no reason to take to the streets after [an unsuccessful reboot] because a crappy reboot doesn’t make the thing I love cease to exist, or reduce its original impact. I get excited when I see original things come out.  But there’s no year in movies where you look back and say, “Oh, that was the year. Oh, The Godfather came out in 1972.” Yeah…so what? There were also a lot of dogshit movies that came out in 1972.

Dustin Meadows hosts Struck A Nerve: The Pop Culture Mixtape on the third Monday of every month at Wild Goose Creative. Doors open at 7:30, and the show starts at 8. Each show is $5 and BYOB. His podcast, How Have You Not Seen This? is available at www.howhaveyounotseenthis.podomatic.com, or you can get regular updates by following him on Twitter (@dustinmeadows). You can also catch Meadows and a plethora of other comedy nerds at the Columbus Comedy Festival, at Wild Goose Creative, October 23–25. 

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