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The Thrill Of Being NPRmageddoned And Why The Podcast By The Same Name Is Exploring Dystopian 'Lost Angeles'

An illustration of two men with light-toned skin — both wear glasses. The man at the left has long brown hair and wears a shoulder pad with tusks. The man at the right has short brown hair and is grimacing. His shoulder pad has treads on it; he carries a shield.
Bryan Keithley, left, and Peter Podgursky, right — in their cartoon forms.
(Courtesy NPRmageddon)
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If you’re not already familiar with the Twitter account @NPRmageddon, here’s a brief tutorial:

Listen: Behind the new series and what NPR really stands for in NPRmageddon

Imagine the heads of public radio reporters, editors, hosts, and other staff photoshopped onto the bodies of sci-fi superheroes. Or, just check out the examples in this story. We're holding weapons, crashing through walls, and just generally flexing impressive muscles that aren't our own.

For public media folk getting NPRmageddoned — it’s kind of a rite of passage.

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“I want this more than a Pulitzer,” Jackie Fortiér, our senior health reporter, messaged me when I was hunting around for others who got the superhero treatment.

Back in 2015, they put my headshot on an image of Ellen Ripley from Alien holding a massive gun.

I asked one of the co-creators — why?

“I think journalists are quite heroic,” Peter Podgursky told me. “They speak truth to power. If you're confronting power all the time, you have to be fairly strong.”

I think journalists are quite heroic.
— Peter Podgursky

Now Podgursky and his co-creator Bryan Keithley are out with a new audio series. It's every bit as apocalyptic as those NPRmageddon mashups they’ve been creating for years.

About the show

The 10-episode podcast series imagines L.A. as "Lost Angeles," a horrible place to live in a dystopian, polluted, corrupt future — it’s a fake radio show with imagined sponsors, mostly focused on surviving.

Like this message for a water purification company:

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“Our team of highly skilled water technicians personally sample every batch of Ideal Water, making sure there’s enough bleach to kill the germs without killing our customers…”

Keithley, a video game designer from Culver City, plays the series anchor. Podgursky, who lives in Torrance, plays a reporter on the show.

Three men with light-tone skin pose for a selfie in a red room. They're all grinning or smiling.
From left to right: Bryan Keithley, Fred Willard and Peter Podgursky
(Courtesy NPRmageddon)

Podgursky is a freelance editor and videographer who also loves making photo mashups. He started the Twitter feed back in 2015 to build awareness of the NPRmageddon name, as well as filling time while they were scripting the series.

“The first day we got together to write it, I just whipped up a Photoshop and I go, 'Oh, I'll tweet it out. Oh, I'll make a Twitter,'” Podgursky said. “And within a week, people started, 'Hey, hey, you should do this guy,' or 'do this person,' or 'oh, hey, can you do me?'”

Why it's National Post-Apocalyptic Radio

Finally this year, after waiting out the pandemic, they were ready to start releasing episodes of NPRmageddon. This NPR, by the way, doesn't stand for National Public Radio. No, it's National Post-Apocalyptic Radio.

The satiric bits are set at familiar places around L.A., but those places are oppressively changed — like the Kawabunga Dude surfing competition held at “Broken Glass Beach.”

“You don't want to go barefoot out here, that’s for sure — but for waves this gnarly, people are willing to get a little cut up,” a surfer character says.

There’s a warehouse in Eagle Rock where people are so desperate to be fed that they work as slave labor. There’s a religious cult focused on children’s toys that talk. This list goes on as the series follows the rise to power of President Skullgore — a corrupt, vain man.

“NPRmageddon is a story about power. It's about government power, religious power, corporate power, and how it gets passed back and forth,” Podgursky said. “A lot of the humor comes from just reporting on the general vicious brutal corruption that goes on in our dystopian Lost Angeles.”

NPRmageddon is a story about power. It's about government power, religious power, corporate power, and how it gets passed back and forth
— Peter Podgursky

There's a sophomoric raunchiness to this series, so it may not be appropriate for kids on a family road trip. In the first episode, a reporter gets kidnapped into a sex cult; in episode two, there’s talk of dinosaur porn.

Over the 10 episodes, you’ll hear some 80 voices, several of them familiar. Showing how long it's been in the works, the show features the late actor Fred Willard, who died in 2020, and sci-fi author Harlan Ellison, who died in 2018. It also features singer Jello Biafra and viral "Chocolate Rain" vocalist Tay Zonday.

“It's a passion project. it's probably the reason why we were able to kind of keep it going,” Podgursky said.

But with an eye on raising their profile in showbiz — hey, they have screenplays — the creators hope NPRmageddon the podcast will open up some new opportunities.

Our LAist NPRmageddon gallery

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