Recent Cutbacks is an ensemble of immensely talented comedic creators that are responsible for some of my favorite theatre experiences in New York City. Being fans ourselves, we were super excited to learn about their latest project and how it has gone digital; allowing for an even larger audience to enjoy what they have to offer.
Their latest offering Master Lecture Series: History of the 3rd Robot War, comes in the form of an Audible Original. With so many communities struggling and having to resort to new ways to keep the spirit of theatre alive, we love how creative Recent Cutbacks has gotten with their latest release.
We had the chance to chat with Nick Abeel, Kristin McCarthy Parker, and Kyle Schaefer about Master Lecture Series: History of the 3rd Robot War, what the experience and collaboration was like, and how their latest project came to be.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Recent Cutbacks below:
Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us! I’m so excited for your latest project.
You just recently released your Audible original Master Lecture Series: History of the 3rd Robot War. This is a bit different from your previous projects. Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind that and how it came to be?
NICK ABEEL: When Andy Potoczak, our producer at Audible, approached us, Kristin McCarthy Parker, Lanie Zipoy, Kyle Schaefer and I wrote up a ton of pitches. The ultimate pitch for Master Lecture Series came about when a friend of mine mentioned she’d seen a funny post from a girl who was so into Harry Potter, she assigned herself all of Hermione’s homework on like werewolves or whatever.
I thought: Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a graduate level, in-world history class on Harry Potter? Or like the story of Star Wars but in a lecture format of an actual historical event? And the professor is a T-Rex!
It was very, very different from our other projects, which is maybe the most Recent Cutbacks thing about it. The sheer length of the project scrambled our brains pretty good a few times; it was a steep learning curve. But it was a perfect medium for us in some ways because there’s no subtext in audio. You have to be a little bit more declarative with words and sfx and music. In Hold On To Your Butts, our foley artist would just say “Crowd sounds, crowd sounds”. That kinda encapsulates our brand of comedy in an audio-only format.
For fans of Recent Cutbacks, I loved how it brought so many familiar faces together. How was that experience working with friends and people you trusted?
KYLE SCHAEFER: That’s how we like to do it! We have such an amazing group of collaborators, and every time that community grows, we get better. So I also love meeting new folks and working with them as if they’ve always been a part of the fam–because in a way, they have been! It felt overwhelmingly special to be able to work together (even remotely) during this time of separation. Jamming with our people always feels like returning home, and we were all trying so hard to make each other laugh, just like in the before days. Such a soul booster.
KRISTIN MCCARTHY PARKER: When we found out we’d be recording remotely due to the pandemic, we were a little bummed until we realized how it opened up our pool of potential collaborators! Cast members (many of whom we hadn’t seen in a very long time) were able to rehearse and record from around the country.
It was a gift in disguise! And the whole process felt like a wonderful venn diagram of everyone’s talents: Nick and Kyle dreaming big and being silly, Lanie ensuring safe passage, the cast making something beautiful and alive from our words on the page. It was a very different process than what we’re used to onstage, but it was still very RCB.
NICK: Oh my gosh so wonderful. KMP knows all of the actors so well and we all trust her so much to lead the way. We are truly blessed to have so many wonderful collaborators, including behind the scenes. Our producer Lanie has such a wonderful ability to support everyone’s experience on every project. It’s so crucial.
How would you describe Master Lecture Series: History of the Third Robot War to potential listeners? What kind of a ride would you say they are in for?
KRISTIN: Master Lecture Series is a lecture series given at the Galactic University in the year 300,020. It tells the history of the Third Robot War in 200,020…
NICK: (trailer voice) In a world… a long time ago… in a galaxy close close to here because it’s this galaxy… (regular voice) [laughs] History of the 3rd Robot War (or RWIII) is a mashupalooza of epic proportions. It’s a fake future history class with a T-Rex Professor.
KRISTIN: Brimming with multiversal characters! The Third Robot War and the story of Viviendorf the Chosen One offer a reference-rich ride through sci-fi and fantasy tropes you love, all culminating in a massive battle that completely alters reality as we know it. It’s silly, adventurous, and chock full of fun characters, from stuffy academics to space pirates to 19th-century walruses.
NICK: We use the faux-seriousness of the academic setting to be unabashedly goofy. The logic of the world builds on itself and we employ lots of different ways to tell the story throughout with guest lecturers, historical audio archives, audiobook snippets, and even a Robot roundtable discussion. Finally, the a capella accompaniment of Richard Sears and our vocal foley underscoring make it a unique audio experience.
This past year has been absolute garbage with the pandemic hitting theatre and Broadway communities the hardest. What are your hopes moving forward as things slowly get back to normal?
KYLE: There has been so much loss this past year, and it has put into stark relief what is truly important and precious, but also what is broken and stuck and needs to be entirely demolished and reimagined. I am eager to feel safe enough again to create in live spaces with my friends and collaborators.
There is such creative energy and a diversity of voices that have been ready for a long time to explode the current paradigms of storytelling and the entertainment industry. I can’t wait to see what this new movement brings, and hope that I get to be a small part of supporting that revolution.
I can’t tell you guys how devastated I was to hear the PIT was closing. I’m so grateful for all the amazing performers, talent, and productions I got to experience there. What will you miss most about the People’s Improv Theater?
KRISTIN: The PIT was one of those rare spaces that was happy to just let us create and show our stuff. It was accessible for us as artists as well as the audience… The welcoming, have-a-drink-and-laugh-with-us vibe was exactly right for our brand of comedy. It was the space where we discovered who we were as a company and creators. We’ll miss it very much.
KYLE: It feels cheesy to say, but I think there was a certain holiness to that space that emanated from the people and culture that inhabited it. There was a lack of preciousness, a perpetual spark of infinite possibilities, and a dare to get messy. In one night, we would get to perform parodies of 90’s movies after pet improv and before improvised rock musicals with full bands.
You never knew if you’d find remnants of silly string, glitter, toys, wigs, or what. It was a truly unique, not-so-neutral space, that hosted an infinite amount of entertaining worlds. That fit us to a T. It was our Caffe Cino–our first creative home. And you’ll always miss your first home.
NICK: The closing of the PIT hit me hard as well. I knew the energy of that space so deeply. People came there ready to have fun. Mostly, I feel sad that that part of our lives is over and subsequently gosh where do we go now? I think a lot about the big red LED clock at the back of the house. Our time on this stage and this earth is limited, and I feel grateful to have had so much time there surrounded by funny friends. It also felt fitting that the PIT closure coincided with the release of this exciting new adventure for Recent Cutbacks. Onward into a world forever changed.
Is there anything you can share about any future projects that may be in the works? What would you love to do next?
KYLE: We always have a thousand ideas, and love jumping into new opportunities as they come, especially when it’s something we’ve never done before. We’re excited to be expanding our brand of creation into the digital space, and are currently brainstorming the many avenues that could take us down (look out, Tik Tok!). Also, now that we’ve written something from the blank page (albeit, pulling from many many references), we’re interested in seeing how we could apply that process to making a film. As always, we have a deep backlog of films to tackle live in unexpected RCB fashion.
What else? Podcast? Animated series? Pulp novels? Concept album? We have no shortage of ideas. You’ll have to stay tuned! We’ve always wanted to collab a cameo with Jeff Goldblum, but he has yet to reach out when we tag him on Instagram.
Thank you so much to the Recent Cutbacks team for taking the time to speak with us! Special thanks to Nick Abeel, Kristin McCarthy Parker, Kyle Schaefer, and Lanie Zipoy.
Be sure to head over to Audible to check out Master Lecture Series: History of the 3rd Robot War.