In their weekly podcast Hollywood Babble-On, Smith and Garman skewer pop culture
Hollywood Babble-On is the perfect kind of Friday night show. To cap off a stressful work week audience members, ranging from millennials to baby boomers, come from near and far to watch filmmaker Kevin Smith and radio host/actor/voice-over performer Ralph Garman demolish the banality of entertainment news. With segments that range from discussing unexplainable popular fads in Japan to the size of a certain Irish actor’s lower organ, Hollywood Babble-On is an off-the-wall event that is best experienced live.
When the house lights went down Friday and the two babblers took the stage, the audience went nuts. A standing ovation began the show, which started at 8:00 p.m., two hours earlier than the regular start time.
“Right now I feel like my mom’s gonna pick me up after the show,” Smith cracked to start the show.
Smith and Garman both have extremely loyal followings. #Garmystrong is a term adopted by the Babble audience to describe their affection for master impressionist Garman. And Smith has been an important voice representing everyman’s view on popular culture since his 1994 comedy classic Clerks.
Smith has always been a mover and shaker in terms of creating content. He hosts a handful of podcasts, directs films and television shows and writes comics books. And even after suffering a massive heart attack in February, he hasn’t slowed down one bit. In fact, at Friday’s show he was spryer than ever and leaner to boot. After dropping 40 pounds since the heart attack, he’s like the Energizer bunny with a new battery installed. He never stops moving. In July he was in San Diego interviewing celebrities at Comic-Con for IMDB along with hosting his own Hall H panel. In August he went to Sarasota, Florida to complete filming on his horror anthology Killroy Was Here.
“We started in August. I went back in December. I was going to back in May but I had the heart attack at the end of February,” Smith recalled offhandedly as if it were a cold that came at the worst possible time.
“Selfish bastard, holding up everybody’s schedule,” Garman mocked his babble brother to much laughter from the audience.
“I know I’m such a dilettante,” Smith mockingly confessed.
One of the most exceptional aspects of Hollywood Babble-On is the feeling of comradery that the audience shares with the hosts. Though Smith and Garman are both successful, there isn’t a hint of Hollywood pretentiousness between them. They exude the sensibility of regular, relatable guys, a trait embodied during the shout-outs section of the show. Prior to each week’s show, audience members, who are traveling long distances or celebrating special occasions, email Smith and Garman for shout-out requests, which leads to some intimate conversations between the stars and their guests. It also typically leads to Garman breaking out the voices of his many celebrity impressions.
As a voice- over artist, Garman has mastered the craft of transforming himself into different people. Watching a pro impressionist like Garman firing on all cylinders live is pretty remarkable.
“Is R. Morales and Vanessa here?” Garman asked to cheers from the two audience members.
“I call you R. Morales because you said you were drunk when you wrote this email and you didn’t sign it.” Morales requested that Garman have Sylvester Stallone explain to his girlfriend what she was in for tonight. Morales ended the email with a “P.S. I’m drunk!”
“Don’t close with that, man!” Smith chuckled. Garman was more than happy to oblige Morales’ request and immediately dove into Stallone’s iconic, slurred vocal rhythm with spot on droopiness.
Throughout the show Garman also brought to life Ray Romano, Kermit the Frog, Al Pacino and David Bowie, wishing happy birthday to various audience members. But the audience reacted strongest to Garman’s Donald Trump reading the opening crawl to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
“…Pursued by the empire’s sinister agents, not all bad though some of them are really good guys,” Garman ad-libbed in a brilliant take on Trump to howls of laughter. The segment received the longest applause from the audience and for good reason. It was hilarious.
Smith and Garman’s affection for one another is apparent and further helps warm the audience to them. Many times throughout the show Smith would sit and gaze in delight at Garman’s impressions, even filming them and the audience’s reactions on his phone.
It’s a kind of love story told perfectly. Garman assumes the role of sharp-tongued pessimist with Smith as the wide-eyed empath.
When Garman was tearing apart the highly derided 1996 film Kazaam where Shaquille O’Neal plays a genie trapped in a boom box, Smith became transfixed with wonder.
“You’re actually making me want to see this, man!” Smith announced.
“No, No, No,” Garman shot back quickly, like a father denying his child after being forced to watch too many Disney movies.
Physical comedy makes Hollywood Babble-On a visual experience: Smith performed sexual acts on the microphone to intro the Babble-On headlines; Garman’s face contorted in sheer rage while discussing Justin Bieber. There is a dark sense of joy that the Babble audience seems to get watching Garman give annoying celebrities their comeuppance.
“Speaking of lunatics, Tara Reid is in the news!” “And sadly also still alive is Justin Bieber,” Garman quipped during two different segments. Both of these lines received roars from the audience. Those moments, with their casual hilarity, feel a lot like hanging out with your funny uncle or your older brother’s friends.
The last part of the show is interactive. “How big is it?” the audience collectively cheered to set Garman up for the final punchline of the evening describing Liam Neeson’s private area. “It’s the only natural predator of The Meg!” answered Garman, referring to the new flick which features a gargantuan shark.
“Ladies and gentleman, have you had a good time this evening?” Smith called out to close the show. Immediate cheers made that answer abundantly clear. As the comedy duo left the stage delivering high fives to exuberant audience members, it was obvious that this show started everyone’s weekend off on the right foot.
“I didn’t get into film to win Academy Awards,” Smith revealed in an interview from 2010. “I wanted to have a conversation with the audience.” And on Friday night that conversation was alive and thriving.