In 'Monkey Man,' Dev Patel gets revenge through gorilla warfare : Pop Culture Happy Hour The new action film Monkey Man is Dev Patel's film – he serves as star, director, and co-writer. He plays a young man whose village was destroyed and mother murdered by elite members of society. He sets out to infiltrate their corrupt, rarified existence and seek his bloody, bloody revenge. There's plenty of gunplay, knife-play, ax-play, bone-crunching, tuk-tuk chases, and gouts of blood.

In 'Monkey Man,' Dev Patel gets revenge through gorilla warfare

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GLEN WELDON, HOST:

The brutal new action film "Monkey Man" stars Dev Patel as a young man whose village was destroyed and his beloved mother murdered by elite members of society. He sets out to infiltrate their corrupt, rarefied existence and seek his bloody - really, no kidding - bloody revenge. I'm Glen Weldon, and today we're talking about "Monkey Man" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. Joining me today is Andrew Limbong. He's the host of NPR's Book Of The Day podcast and a reporter for the culture desk. Hey, Andrew.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Yo. What's up, Glen?

WELDON: What's up? Also with us is New York Times food reporter and author of the bestselling cookbook "Indian-ish," Priya Krishna. Hey, Priya.

PRIYA KRISHNA: Hi.

WELDON: And also with us is The Philadelphia Inquirer's arts and entertainment editor and film critic Bedatri D. Choudhury. Hey, Bedatri.

BEDATRI D CHOUDHURY: Hello.

WELDON: "Monkey Man" is Dev Patel's film. He came up with the story. He stars in it. He co-wrote the script, and it's his first time directing. Patel plays a young man carving out a brutal existence as a fighter in an underground club where he wears a monkey mask inspired by the tales of Hanuman, the monkey god. He gets a job at an exclusive nightclub frequented by the same corrupt leaders who destroyed his village as a young boy. What actually happened that fateful night is revealed slowly over the course of the film. There's plenty of gunplay and knife play and axe play. There's bone-crunching. There's car chases - tuk-tuk chases, technically - and gouts and gouts and gouts of blood. "Monkey Man" is in theaters now. Andrew, kick us off. What'd you think?

LIMBONG: It's a big day for everyone who, like, pretended a rice bag was a punching bag, you know, just going, pow, pow, pow, while you're supposed to be, like, helping your mom, just going, whoop-ah (ph) - got him, (laughter), you know? I thought it was sick. I mean, like, the kills are sweet. I mean, I read a couple, like, reviews that kind of noted on how, like, thin the plot was, which, like - well, you know, come on. What are we doing? What are we looking for?

WELDON: What are we talking about here?

LIMBONG: Yeah. I mean, and there are some sort of, like, clunky storytelling, you know, devices used on the way to get to all the punching. But the punching was sick as hell.

CHOUDHURY: Yes.

WELDON: Bedatri, next up. What do you think?

CHOUDHURY: Yeah, so plus one to everything Andrew just said. But also, I think Dev Patel is doing very interesting things to the genre of, like, these very, very violent films. And, you know, there's so much talk about, leave your brains at home when you watch these films. But actually, I think he is asking us to think. And we'll talk more about it.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: He's asking us to bring our brains along as we watch this film and make some very important, I would say, political choices and decisions when we watch it. So I think I really liked it.

WELDON: OK. How about you, Priya?

KRISHNA: I thought for a directorial debut, this was really awesome. I love action-adventure films.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: And I just, like, could not take my eyes off the screen. It literally felt like virtual reality. You are in it...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...With every single punch he was throwing and taking. It was just such a fun and, like, highly entertaining with a capital E movie. I felt - I agree with Andrew that I feel like it was trying to do a lot. It was trying to be, like, a pulpy action movie, but it was also trying to be a political allegory and a religious allegory. And I think parts of that felt a little bit heavy-handed for me at times. It felt like it couldn't choose what kind of movie it wanted to be, but, like, I just had such a good time watching this movie. And, like, it just needs to be said. This is, like, a two-hour Dev Patel thirst trap.

CHOUDHURY: Oh, yes. Oh, my God, yeah.

KRISHNA: People in the movie were, like, hooting and hollering every time he took his shirt off (laughter).

CHOUDHURY: I've actually never seen - like, I've seen that a lot back home in India where, like - people hooting and hollering and whistling.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: I have not seen that sitting in Union Square ever. So it felt great.

WELDON: Well, that's awesome. Yeah.

KRISHNA: I was also so excited to see Sobhita, who I love in "Made In Heaven." I thought she was kind of underutilized in this film, but I think she's an amazing actress.

WELDON: Yeah. So Sobhita Dhulipala - she plays Sita, a woman who works at the club that a lot of the action takes place in.

LIMBONG: It's a very seedy club. It's a very, like, apropos for all the (laughter) - like, all the women dancing is very - so what I found interesting about all the shots in the movie - I know I've, you know, read a couple of interviews that, like, they had to shoot in Indonesia on location and - which is where I'm guessing most of the extras came from, you know?

KRISHNA: Yeah.

LIMBONG: So I was like, oh, interesting. We're looking a little (laughter) - looking a little, like, island-y, looking like my people here, look like my cousins.

WELDON: Yeah, there you go.

LIMBONG: Just to point out.

WELDON: It's interesting. Yeah. To everybody's point, this is a really solid action film that delivers what I love in a film like this. You want a number of moments that are so brutal that the theater starts laughing...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

WELDON: ...In disbelief. It is pulpy. It's literally pulpy - plenty of pulp in this movie.

KRISHNA: The holding the knife in his mouth...

CHOUDHURY: Oh.

KRISHNA: ...Elevator shot...

WELDON: That's a thing.

KRISHNA: ...Was...

CHOUDHURY: And the number of times he bites people...

KRISHNA: Yeah (laughter).

CHOUDHURY: ...And you can hear a crackling sound.

WELDON: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: (Laughter) You're like, yeah, that's good Indian teeth.

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: And, yeah, of course, as people have mentioned, it's wearing its influences on its sleeve. "John Wick" - everybody's mentioning "John Wick" but "Oldboy" and "The Raid" and Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

WELDON: And, as you mentioned, Andrew, you know, a revenge plot. As narratives go, it's the simplest linear infrastructure to kind of peg a movie to because it works. You know, that goes both ways 'cause I knew exactly what beats needed to be hit. I did get a little impatient in the beginning, but then I relaxed because I realized that the beats are going to be exactly the same. But the touchstones - the cultural touchstones are new. So it's not reinventing the wheel. It is attempting to recontextualize the wheel.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

WELDON: And that's what I need some help unpacking, though, because I want to know if it succeeds in that because watching this outside the culture, I can't really tell if this is a really effective ground-up reimagining and recontextualization or if it's just gesturing towards certain aspects of the culture, layering references over top of the story. Bedatri, do you have any thoughts on that?

CHOUDHURY: Yeah, of course. I mean, of course, there's Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, a lot of you know, Korean influences. But, you know, Bollywood also in the 1970s has had this trope which made Amitabh Bachchan the star - is the angry young man, 1970s, out to seek revenge.

KRISHNA: Yep.

CHOUDHURY: And, you know, the society is constantly failing him, his people and - which gives rise to this anger, constantly brooding film hero, like, you know, I do think he's also definitely recontextualizing. And it's a very big nod to that kind of Hindi cinema.

KRISHNA: I couldn't help but, like, compare it to the first movie I saw Dev Patel in, "Slumdog Millionaire," in which it was very much, like, India through a Western lens.

WELDON: Right.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: A lot of poverty porn. This felt really different. It had much more of, like, a for us, by us quality to it. I think there was a lot of intentionality in, like, what was translated and what wasn't translated. The moments that took place in Hindi, the moments that took place in English. I saw all of that and I thought it was very effectively done in that sense.

CHOUDHURY: And there is a very strong social commentary. And yeah, he lays it on too thick sometimes, as is want in these films. But there are a lot of us - a lot of people my age - who've grown up with an idea of Hinduism and like, you know, it's true of any religion. Like, children hear these stories of their gods and goddesses when they're young, and then to grow up and live in a reality where, and again, it's true of most religions where your religion is weaponized. It's used as an excuse to be violent against people of other religions, of, like, people who belong to, you know, historically underrepresented communities.

So I definitely feel that is something, I don't know if he struggles with it as a person personally, but that struggle between that idea of religion that we grow up with and then to become adults and see what politicians and people in power do with that idea. It is a disconnect that I think a lot of Indians and people of Indian descent are dealing with right now. I was very heartened to see that in this film.

WELDON: Right. Because Patel has said in interviews - many interviews - that he loves the action genre. And I'm paraphrasing here, but he knows he can do more than just be crassly commercial.

CHOUDHURY: Yes.

WELDON: He wants to bring his culture into it.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

WELDON: And there is a lot in this film maybe it's gesturing toward, maybe it's really engaging with it, things like class and right-wing hate and transphobia that I think an American audience is going to think we recognize.

CHOUDHURY: Yes.

WELDON: Because we have class in America, we have right-wing hate, we have transphobia. We get it. Get on with it. But that is a reading of the film, completely stripped of cultural context. He is attempting to grapple with that cultural context. And I'm just wondering how successful you guys felt it was.

KRISHNA: I thought it was, like, medium successful...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...For me.

WELDON: OK.

KRISHNA: Parts of it just felt a little too on the nose.

CHOUDHURY: Yes.

KRISHNA: I remember there was a point at the end where the villain basically is like, Ravan built an amazing empire. He was this great guy. And, you know, Ravan historically, very, you know, infamous villain in Hindu mythology. And I really - I literally, like, mutter under my breath, like, we get it, we get it, we get what you're trying to do.

WELDON: Yep.

KRISHNA: Parts of it felt a little too spoon-fed and laid on pretty thick for me. I think there could have been a little bit more subtlety and nuance to that particular messaging.

CHOUDHURY: But there is - I would say, there is a scene, and I don't know if I'm giving too much away, where a certain body part of a bad person is cut away...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: ...In the film. And for us who've grown up in, like, Hindu mythology, I found that scene it's still sticking to me because, you know, it harks back to...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: ...The legend of Eklavya, who wanted to be trained by the same archer who was training the princes, but he was not from the royal caste...

WELDON: Right.

CHOUDHURY: ...And he wasn't trained by him. So he stood at a distance, watched this guru teach his disciple, and taught himself the art of archery, and got so good at it that he posed to be a danger to the guru's students. And the guru walked up to him and said, you have to pay me. It's called gurudakshina in Hindi. You have to pay me for my lessons. And he demands this body part of Eklavya, the archer. I think that plays out in this one particular very pulpy scene, but I don't think anyone who knows this myth and legend will not see that coming. And again, it's too on the nose. He's modeling himself on the legend of Eklavya maybe because he also grows up in the forest and all of those things.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: But, you know, I would say it's very brave because there are not many filmmakers in India who can make this film. They're busy dancing at weddings. So I think it's very brave.

KRISHNA: Yeah. I will say, like, I watched it with a non-Indian...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...And it just felt like our viewing experiences were totally different. And I kind of loved that.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: Like, I sort of love that there are elements that you're just not going to understand...

WELDON: Exactly.

KRISHNA: ...If you just aren't part of the culture.

WELDON: But I love that feeling.

KRISHNA: Yes. Yeah, yeah.

WELDON: As a white guy, I don't get that feeling very often...

KRISHNA: Totally.

WELDON: ...When I go to the movies, but I love that feeling. Andrew, talk to me about the action in this movie. I think it nails the action elements. I have to say, it does go there. If this were made for a wider audience, it would be watered down. If you've ever watched a revenge movie and the hero cuts through the bad guys like a hot knife through butter, then they get to the head bad guy, and then somebody says, don't kill him. If you do, you'll be no better than them. And then, like, I always feel, like, cheated. There is never any worry in this film that it wouldn't commit to the bit.

LIMBONG: Yeah.

WELDON: What did you think?

LIMBONG: I will say, if I were to pick a first movie to be directing, I would definitely make it about just, like, two sad people talking quietly to each other and not go for something like this (laughter).

WELDON: Yeah.

LIMBONG: You know what I mean? I mean, there's a way - there's a sort of frantic energy, and there's a way that the camera moves a couple of times. It sort of, like, it goes, like, in and out and in and out, which, you know, I think lends to some of the inside-the-fight kind of feeling of it. I think there were a couple shots actually, where you're kind of...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

LIMBONG: ...When he's in the stairwell running away in, like, the sort of first half where you're kind of, like, in his point of view, and then you kind of get, like, knocked out of it.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

LIMBONG: That leads...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

LIMBONG: ...To that sort of, like, visceral feeling. It's just, like, impressive moviemaking. Again, for, like, a debut filmmaker, it couldn't have been easy to do all of this and think about all this while you're also the guy doing the punching and being punched, you know?

CHOUDHURY: Yes.

LIMBONG: Who knew he had it? Who knew the kid from "The Newsroom" had it in him, you know?

WELDON: This is not the kind of cheating that the - not that the Jason Bourne films cheated. That is really effective editing. But it is editing, right? This is...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

WELDON: ...All long shots. Medium takes.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

WELDON: You can see the action. What did you guys think?

KRISHNA: I thought these were, like, some of my favorite - some of the best fight choreography that I have seen in recent years.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: You know, there's parts of action movies where during, like, the really intense part, it cuts away and cuts back. The camera, like, lingers...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...On the shot. And you're just like, oh, my God, we're going to see this (laughter).

CHOUDHURY: I was shaking...

KRISHNA: And it was like...

CHOUDHURY: ...In the audience.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: I was, like, literally drumming...

KRISHNA: Yeah (laughter).

CHOUDHURY: ...My feet saying, I can't look, but I also can't look away. You know, it's...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: But also, you know, and to Andrew's point, it's very impressive because Dev Patel, I think recently on a Reddit AMA said this film almost didn't get made.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

WELDON: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: They were supposed to shoot in India. COVID struck, so they moved the entire crew to this little island in Indonesia where, like, there were days where they didn't even have money to buy glass tops for the table. And if you've watched this film, we know...

WELDON: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: ...How vital they are to this film.

KRISHNA: One really small thing as a food writer that I noticed is, you know, there's, like, a part where they're, like, scooping their fingers into caviar, and I literally was like, oh, that's not caviar.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: I could just tell (laughter).

LIMBONG: Wait, what was it?

KRISHNA: I don't know, but it was not caviar (laughter).

LIMBONG: Oh, OK.

WELDON: Tiny, tiny boba.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: But what do you think of the kitchen scenes? Priya, now that you're here, I have to ask you.

WELDON: Yeah.

KRISHNA: Yeah. Oh, my God, I, like, love when action-adventure takes place in a kitchen. I just love the - like, the sterileness that a kitchen provides. I love that it's - there are sort of these mazes and, you know, that scene where he's basically, like, moving through the kitchen and, like, one by one, taking these guys out, I just like - I also just loved the way the movie is, like, it's very vertical. Like, he sort of starts at the bottom at the kitchen...

WELDON: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...He's, like, making his way up, up, up and the kitchen is, like, very much, like, where, like, the lowest class of worker is working and then, like, slowly you move up. I just thought that was so cool. It was so well shot. Especially, when he's, like, going in the elevator and, like, literally just, like, one by one, taking these people out. Again, I just, like, can't get over how well this film was shot. I couldn't take my eyes off it.

WELDON: Well, yeah. And let's also talk about Patel, the action star. I mean, I think of this guy as a comic actor, always...

KRISHNA: Yes.

WELDON: ...Self-effacing, with a very haunted, kind of wounded quality. He's got that long face, those very soulful eyes. And it's odd to see somebody with such a soulful expression kicking butt and taking names the way he does in this film. Do you see more action in Patel's future?

LIMBONG: You know, I hope so, because, in particular, I know - not to dote on his body too much as we were before. Like, it is a very nice body.

CHOUDHURY: No, but please do.

LIMBONG: Yes.

WELDON: No complaints.

LIMBONG: For like, an action star of this era, he's not, like, you know, who knows what he's doing, but it's not, like, he's not presenting like he's obviously on gear, right? He's not, like, beefed up.

WELDON: Right.

LIMBONG: Right? He's lithe. He's long. He's lanky. In, like, the training sequences, he's very sinewy. I think on that AMA that, you know, we mentioned, I think he said he did a lot of Jane Fonda, sort of, like, calisthenics sort of workout instead of just, like, you know, overloading on hypertrophy or whatever. And so I think that's such a, like, an interesting way to approach an action movie 'cause, like, I don't - I can't - off the top of my head, like, I can't think of any, like, long and lanky action dudes.

WELDON: Yep, I agree with you.

CHOUDHURY: Now we are all thinking.

LIMBONG: Yeah.

KRISHNA: I will say, Amitabh Bachchan in the '70s.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah. Yeah.

KRISHNA: That was a long and lanky action hero.

WELDON: Yeah.

KRISHNA: There were so many times where I was like, oh, this reminds me of, like...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...All the, like, Amitabh Bachchan action movies that I used to watch in the '90s with my family.

CHOUDHURY: And it's very interesting, the long and lanky versus the beefed up...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: ...Protein shake body. I hadn't thought of that. But Andrew, that's a very interesting point. And again, like I started this conversation off air, like, you know, I spent all these years saying, oh, Dev Patel, I don't see it. And, like, this film is like, no, no, no, I see it.

WELDON: Now you see it.

CHOUDHURY: I know what's going on (laughter).

KRISHNA: It was, like, every scene of him walking down a hallway in a well-fitting suit.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: I was like mmm-hmm...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...Mmm-hmm. Yep.

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: All right. So is there anything else you guys want to talk about?

CHOUDHURY: I do want - I want to talk a little bit about the music. Like, big props to Sneha Khanwalkar who is a younger woman working in the Hindi film industry today. And she is amazing. And one of the greatest living Indian classical musicians is in this film, and it's so amazing to see him.

KRISHNA: So good.

CHOUDHURY: So good to see him do what he does in the film. And, yeah, we're talking about Ustad Zakir Hussain, who arguably is one of the greatest living Indian classical music musicians. And he just won a Grammy, one of his many.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: But yeah, it's so amazing to see what he does in the film.

WELDON: Absolutely. Like, you could tell - as somebody not versed in the culture, you could tell the camera was spending so much time on him, and he was so charming and so charismatic...

KRISHNA: Oh, my God.

WELDON: ...That you're like, oh, this is a guy.

KRISHNA: I was going to say, when his name flashed across the screen, everyone cheered...

CHOUDHURY: Yes.

KRISHNA: 'Cause everyone was just so excited...

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...For him to be there. I totally agree. The music, I cannot wait to listen to this entire soundtrack. There's, like, particularly, there is one scene, an action scene set over a Bollywood song and I, like, I remember the Bollywood movie where that song comes from...

CHOUDHURY: Oh, my God.

KRISHNA: ...And the context, and it's so gleeful and upbeat, and it's the fight scene with, like, an axe.

LIMBONG: Oh, yeah.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: And I was like, oh, my God, this contrast is, like, simply perfect. I'm, like, thinking of, like, a young heroine running through the grass in the actual movie than what's actually happening.

CHOUDHURY: In a chiffon saree. Yes.

KRISHNA: Yeah. In "Monkey Man." And I was like, oh, this is so good.

LIMBONG: I don't know, there was that, like, slowed down rendition of "Roxanne" that played in the club that kind of made me roll my eyes a bit. I was like, OK, OK, buddy.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah. Yeah.

KRISHNA: Loved that.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: Yeah. Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: But also, the way this film is lit, it doesn't have that dusty, third-world filter, which was so amazing to see in a film in this budget, because there's always that, like, dusty, yellowish warm filter that gets, like...

WELDON: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: ...Slapped on in anything that's not shot in the West.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

CHOUDHURY: And, like, a cast of mostly, you know, actors of color. And they do such a good job of lighting in the film.

LIMBONG: I don't know if this is, like, a nitpick. Sorry. Did anyone else expect more fighting with the monkey mask on?

WELDON: (Laughter) Yep.

LIMBONG: He, like, takes it off. And I was like, oh, OK, are we - do we not...

WELDON: Goes through a lot of work to prepare the monkey mask in a certain way and I thought, well, this is going to be...

LIMBONG: Yeah.

WELDON: ...This is going to see us through the end. Nope. OK, there it is. I could just toss it away.

KRISHNA: Here's my second nitpick, which is a big one, which is, like, how do you endure that much physical trauma and like stay hot? You know? Like...

WELDON: (Laughter) Yep, there's some swelling.

KRISHNA: It's a little frustrating.

WELDON: The body has an inflammation response.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

WELDON: Yes, we should see it.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

LIMBONG: Yeah (laughter).

CHOUDHURY: Yeah.

KRISHNA: It can't just be punching rice bags.

CHOUDHURY: Drop the routine, Dev Patel.

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: Well, reading between the lines, we dug it. Tell us what you think about "Monkey Man." Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/pchh. Up next, What Is Making Us Happy This Week.

Now it's time for our favorite segment of this week and every week. It's What's Making Us Happy This Week. Andrew, kick us off.

LIMBONG: All right. So a couple days ago I just saw Jeff Rosenstock live. He's, like, a pop-punk guy. He's been doing it for years. I've been a fan of him since his old band, Bomb The Music Industry! I've been, you know, seeing those bands in, like, crappy Brooklyn basements or whatever. But the show that I just went to, I've been elated and it's been keeping me alive all week because it's the first time since both COVID and having the kid that I was, like, OK being in the mix, you know, just, like, being in the pit and being in the push-pit with everyone. And it just made me forget how much I missed it and how, like, welcoming of an environment, you know, it can be. It's - needs a lot of curation to be there. I don't want to be so corny as to say that as, like, being in community with my fellow punks or whatever.

WELDON: But you're going to say it. You're going to say it anyway.

LIMBONG: But, like, being sweaty with a rose and just, like, high-fiving after the song. I'm just, like, living off of that. I think he's definitely still on tour. So if you're around, go see him or go visit your local push pit. His name is Jeff Rosenstock.

WELDON: OK. Thank you very much. Priya Krishna, what's making you happy this week?

KRISHNA: I recently finished a galley of a book that's coming out in a couple of weeks by the novelist Rachel Khong. It's called "Real Americans." It's, like, a story of multiple generations. It's got romance, humor, biology. It is so good. And Rachel authored another book called "Goodbye Vitamin" that I loved. And somehow I loved this one even more, and I'm really excited for it to be out in the world. So that's "Real Americans" by Rachel Khong.

WELDON: Thank you very much. Sounds great. Bedatri D. Choudhury, what is making you happy this week?

CHOUDHURY: In a complete 180 from the tall, lanky, hot, bleeding Dev Patel, what is really making me happy this week is this acapella male voice choir called Featherstone Male Voice Choir from Featherstone, U.K. So how I came to know about these very esteemed gentlemen is there is a perfume company called Ffern. That's two F's, E-R-N. And for spring '24, they've brought out this new perfume. And to review it they got the members of the Featherstone Male Voice Choir, and I think it's a social media campaign. I saw it on Instagram Reels, but one of those reels is this choir, and they're adorable older British gentlemen in red sweaters singing an "Ode To Rhubarb," which is the main note in the perfume.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ODE TO RHUBARB")

FEATHERSTONE MALE VOICE CHOIR: (Singing) Rhubarb. Rhubarb. We owe this plant a lot. Of all the things that crumble, it should never be forgot.

CHOUDHURY: Yeah. It's just beautiful. I didn't think I had it in me to be this weepy over a social media campaign, but here I am.

WELDON: So that's the ad campaign for Ffern. Thank you, Bedatri. You sent it around beforehand. I can co-sign it is disarmingly charming. What's making me happy this week is we lost Joe Flaherty this week. That's not making me happy. That's making me sad. But his memory is making me happy. And going down a YouTube rabbit hole is making me even happier. If you don't know him, he was the dad in "Freaks And Geeks," but he was also part of the cast of "SCTV," which I watched religiously as a kid. Shaped my comedic sensibility.

This guy had an everyman quality to him that I think was best captured on "SCTV" for the character of Floyd Robertson, whom he played. The conceit of "SCTV," of course, was that it was a low-budget Canadian television station. Floyd was the local newscaster, and he had to double up by taking a gig as the host of their afternoon kiddie horror show (impersonating Count Floyd) "Monster Chiller Horror Theatre" as Count Floyd.

And Count Floyd, he'd just throw on a vampire cape and a turtleneck and adopt a really half-assed Dracula accent. But what made Count Floyd so funny was you saw how hard he was working. He really wanted these movies that he was showing the kids to be scary, but he would not put in the work. He completely winged it every time. So he'd show up and he wouldn't know what film was playing. And the films were always these "SCTV" sketches, like "Dr. Tongue's 3D House Of Pancakes." And one of my favorites is where he just enters, and every week he tries, like, he really tries to sell it, as he does in this clip here.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCTV")

JOE FLAHERTY: (As Count Floyd) We really have a frightening movie for you tonight, kids. This is really going to be scary. I'm not kidding you this time. This movie is called "Blood-Sucking Monkeys from West Mifflin, Pa."

WELDON: Flaherty was never one of the breakout stars of "SCTV" because what he did was so specific. He found the humanity, specifically the discomfort in every character he played. Do yourself a favor, type his name into Google, crack open a Molson or a Moosehead and just go on a trip. And that's what's making me happy this week. If you want links for what we recommended, plus some more recommendations, sign up for our newsletter at npr.org/popculturenewsletter. That brings us to the end of our show. Bedatri D. Chaudhury, Priya Krishna, Andrew Limbong, thank you so much for being here.

LIMBONG: Thank you.

CHOUDHURY: Thank you.

KRISHNA: I loved this one. This was a great chat.

WELDON: Oh, appreciate it. This episode was produced by Hafsa Fathima and Liz Metzger, and edited by Jessica Reedy. And Hello Come In provides our theme music. Thanks for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Glen Weldon, and we'll see you all next week.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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