Episode 64 – Meet Zack Files

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If you’re standing, you may want to sit down. If you’re sitting, you may want to lie on your back.

Today a truly rare treasure has been unearthed: unused audio from the pilot of a show no one has ever, ever heard of: The Zack Files. We assure you nobody has ever heard of this show, and after our exclusive look, probably never will again. IMDB doesn’t even have an entry about how everyone involved in this show vanished from the face of the earth.

After all, it wasn’t a show in America. I mean I never heard of it. So it’s not a thing.

PLUS: another quiz that hurts Mikey’s heart! Listen in real time as his valves shrivel and harden shut. Post your results in the comments!

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41 Responses to Episode 64 – Meet Zack Files

  1. anonymous says:

    I had heard of the zack files.

  2. Panda-s1 says:

    The Zack Files was a series of books for kids, no wonder the show didn't last lol

  3. MikeyNeumann says:

    Gonna start a new discussion trend this week.

    Hi, I'm Mikey Neumann from the chainsawsuit podcast; ama (about this week's episode)

    • krisstraub says:

      q: how'd you make zack so GOOD!

    • Kyle_Douglas says:

      You mentioned the phone being something you "shouldn't have". Was this a comment on the time period of the story or a more wide scope comment that you think children shouldn't have cell phones in general?

      If you opened up a fortune cookie with some ominous message ("Bad Luck and Misfortune Will Infest Your Pathetic Soul for Eternity"), what is your reaction? If it directly addressed you by name would that cause more distress or would you immediately dismiss it as a prank?

      If you were commissioned to create a new puppet for Jeff Dunham, what would it be?

      Should I buy the Veronica Mars movie or wait for it to inevitably hit Netflix streaming?

      Hm… those second and third ones I could have saved for a Choose-a-Topic submission. Oh well.

      • MikeyNeumann says:

        re: phone comment. Yeah, for sure the era. It actually blows me away considering the date on the script was 1993 and included a kid with a cell phone at school. 😀

        re: bad fortune. I always had this idea to make a prank fortune cookie company where some of them say stuff like: "Bobby. You don't know me and I don't have time to explain, but the man behind you in the blue shirt is attempting to kill you." Like, that mostly will never work, but MAN, there's some dude named Bobby that just broke out in a cold sweat somewhere!

        re: Jeff Dunham puppet. "Johveth, The Secular Humanist." The character has no jokes, no silly voice, just straight forward messaging for pragmatic reasoning. The audience finds it HILARIOUS AS SHIT. It is already the most popular character.

        re: V-Mars. Have you watched the show? You won't get much out of the movie unless you've seen the show. If you HAVE and liked the show, then pick up the bluray to support independent artists bringing their struggling, though beloved, shows back from the dead.

        *exhale*

        • Kyle_Douglas says:

          I did watch Veronica Mars, but it was so long ago it's possible I might get it confused with some other things I watched around the same time period.

          Veronica's best friend was a "CGI-assisted" talking jalapeño, right?
          … I should probably rewatch the series before the movie.

          Consider my anythings answered. 1 upvote out of 1 upvote, would ask again.

    • frostyplum says:

      Q: How did you find this beast??

      • MikeyNeumann says:

        We found it about three minutes before we started recording by looking for a bad TV script — Kris came across The Zack Files, and the rest is history … from 2 days ago.

  4. Kyle_Douglas says:

    Quiz: A completely unfair victory of 8/10 over Mikey's 4/10. Unfair because I watched a Dunham show many years ago. I missed the final question since apparently that's been Dunham's sole innovation in the past decade (all the other puppets were there in 2006). I also missed the "Sweet Daddy" character due to some sort of mental block so strong that I saw it and still couldn't believe it.

    Now to crack open the Zack fortune cookie and see if it was trying to teach us anything.

    So last week I said I was worried that Mikey was exhibiting psychological regression… and now he's “13 and Cool” – hm. I'm pretty sure that Zack Files sequel script mentioned at the end would just devolve into “Mikey Zachmann/Samantha Sax” fanfic.

    Regardless of Mikey's obviously deteriorating mental state, I always enjoy the in-character bits on the show and this was no exception. Although I think I would have preferred if there had been only one Zack segment with a "come back next week for the exciting conclusion" since it was quite a lot of time to spend in that world in one hour. Having it broken up by the quiz did help.

    My only other complaint about this episode is that Kris' pitched up laugh at 36:43 will haunt my soul until at least Episode 65. Minimum.

    As you were winding down on the second Zack segment I started doing exactly what you ended up doing immediately afterwards: looking at episode synopsis and where the actors were now. The only two things I found of particular note were the Veronica Mars connection Mikey found and that "Cam" went on to be the alternate for Spider-Man in the "Turn Off the Dark" musical.

    There were a few synopsis Kris didn't mention which I liked:
    “When Zack accidentally uses girl power deodorant, he becomes a girl who is targeted by Vernon while Cam tries to date Sarah. “
    “Zack's mother decid to pay a visit and brings him his favorite soda. However, Zack is torn between his two parents sice his father wanted to spend more masculine time with him. Every time Zack burps, he can teleport where he wants but Spence discovers his new power is limited.”

    And my favorite: “Zack discovers he can only talk with dogs if they're in a vehicle which functions. “
    What?!

    Note that there are several errors in those quotes from Wikipedia which no one has bothered to correct since they were edited in 2012. I like to believe there's some kid out there that watched Zack Files a decade after it went off the air and took it upon his or herself to give it a Wikipedia presence because no one else cared. They will soon find this podcast episode and be ecstatic to hear about someone still interested in Zack Files besides themselves.

    That wraps up another K-Doug comment essay. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find working hunter green Cadillac and a schnauzer for some experiments that could be critical to the possible Episode 65 totally-canon Zack Files sequel.

    • MikeyNeumann says:

      I agree that the Zack stuff is probably a little long for some people. But at the end of the day, stuff like that isn't that easy to fix. We had a ton of fun recording the script and it took quite a while to cut it down. At the end of the day, I don't want to be cutting stuff to tighten it up if there's funny stuff in there, you know?

      I appreciate the feedback, though — I just don't know if there's much I can do to *up* the already considerable production requirements of each episode. I don't know a weekly podcast on the entire internet that puts as much work into each week as we do.

      I don't know if I'm being defensive or beating myself up in a round-about way for it not being even tighter.

      The reason I didn't want to split it up is because everyone would have forgotten it next week and also that when we do themed episodes, it's good to have it be the "scarinol episode," the "live episode", etc.

      Maybe my mental state really is deteriorating …

      • ThomasG says:

        Here I will acknowledge that K-Doug is brilliant but also note that I have a very different view of this episode.

        I LOVED the Christmas Carol episode, the batman/dr neumann vs. murder in murdertown screenwriting faceoff, and this hit on the same notes in a new and funny way. Hearing you guys go through dialogue unrehearsed adds to the fun, for me at least. It's one thing to slog through a script or play or whatever; it's entirely different to hear you guys commenting on the thing as you're doing it. it probably doesn't have enough weight to be all that you guys do, but i really like how y'all have been doing it.

  5. Jeff Keys says:

    For serious, the Chainsawsuit podcast is one of my favorite things on the internet. It turns my interminable commutes into something I look forward to.

    • MikeyNeumann says:

      Glad to hear it! That's why we do it (well, and we really like each other and have so much fun doing the p-cast, that I think we'd still do it anyway).

  6. frostyplum says:

    This is why I can't listen to chainsawsuit before bed. I'm all wounds up now. What 13-year-old wants lobster? How did past-Cam know (or at least automatically accept) that Zack traveled back in time to fix everything? How can this show be an X-Files spoof when X-Files came out the same year? Where the hell did Kris pull that Mickey Mouse voice from? And what happened to Samantha "Sexual MacGuffin" Sax?

    This was a departure, but a welcome one. I love the behind-the-scenes, "process"-type stuff, and I especially love hearing you guys laugh at each other, and at how ridiculous the script was. I wasn't even sure the show was actually real until the very end, when you were looking up IMDb info. Oh, and excellent Cannibal Corpse s/o.

    Some interesting tidbits about the author of the books the series are based on, Dan Greenburg: 1. yes, that Dan Greenburg (he based the books on his son, Zack); 2. he was married to Nora Ephron (but she is not Zack's mother); 3. he also wrote the books Scoring: A Sexual Memoir, Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips, and Something's There: My Adventures in the Occult; 4. Zack was in Lorenzo's Oil when he was five, now works for Forbes and wrote a biography about Jay-Z. Sorry if everyone knows this guy but me, I've never heard of him before. Seemed to work in very different veins before and after he had Zack.

    As for the quiz, I got 7 out of 10 and hate myself for it. What gets me is, MST3k (at least under Joel's reign, since he had the closest ties with comedians and prop comedy) frequently made reference to Jeff Dunham's character Peanut, and not necessarily in a bad light. His brand of comedy doesn't seem like the kind of thing they'd endorse. However, I could be taking things out of context; I haven't looked too deeply into Dunham's "oeuvre."

    BTW, I listened to the show while I was doodling, and couldn't resist mocking up a petulant Zack: http://wighthousecomic.com/css-zackfiles1.jpg
    as well as Zack and Cam stuck in the scrapheap, complete with anachronistic phone: http://wighthousecomic.com/css-zackfiles2.jpg

    • Kyle_Douglas says:

      Was Zack's uncanny resemblance to another lad associated with magical abilities deliberate?
      Because if it's coincidental I'm deeply disturbed by the fact that such exact imagery (striped shirt, backwards cap with small flip of black hair in front) could permeate the very nature of the universe for that type of character. A universal constant.

      Er, and, show related art: yes!

      Regarding Dunham: As mentioned above, it was many years ago I watched one of his shows. I recall it being genuinely funny and set itself apart from most standup comedians by being relatively clean humor.
      One can easily argue that the sort of unassuming, "harmless" acceptable stereotypes/caricatures used by him are more worrying and harmful to society than the more blatant in-your-face racist jokes of other comedians.

      I think that's a legitimate argument, but I honestly don't think I share it in this circumstance (or, at least, for Dunham circa 2006). Dunham likes his characters, people like his characters (including MST3k, apparently), they're all very over the top and cartoonish, and none of it feels mean-spirited. I think the situation is more comparable to Apu on The Simpsons than more problematic characters. It's the difference between laughing at a character's jokes or laughing simply at the character itself that, to me, creates the distinction.

      "Apu, there are rumors that you are a Hindu. Is this true?"
      "By the many arms of Vishnu, I swear it is a lie!"

      • frostyplum says:

        I wish I could claim that sweet Earthbound street cred, but alas, I never played the game. I'm pretty sure my mental image came more from Sunny D ads.

        Interesting perspective on Dunham. I think in this instance, I'd have to judge for myself.

  7. krisstraub says:

    i'm so glad to hear this feedback! week after week mikey is like "let's do something really cool" and i say "i'm worried it won't work!" and i'm almost universally disproven. i think we are always a little apprehensive to try a radically new thing. but you guys have always given us a pat on the butt and pushed our bicycle ahead, sans training wheels.

    i hope someday i can learn a bicycle was inside us all along.

    • MikeyNeumann says:

      You're always game to go for it though! Even when the ideas are crazy, and even when some of them didn't really congeal (Chainsawsuit: The Movie).

      I'm always gonna push to challenge the form, though — even if that form is comedic podcasts, I still wanna push the boundaries and expectations.

      So, *glasses up* for Zack Files. Put this one in the win column.

  8. Josh says:

    Love the show guys, it's always the first thing I listen to when it's available… Gotta say though, I'm not a fan of these type of episodes where you guys do characters the whole time or just read scripts.

  9. LMcCJ says:

    Loved it! The best was probably at the beginning when you two were figuring out what you were doing. You both went for the same character (obviously you don't discuss anything before taping). "Bring your cool up, I'll come down." Later, "Do your line. We gotta get this joke in." Critiquing the script as you delivered the lines. It was funny and we got to see the two of you enjoying doing it together.

    As far as the script itself, I found it interesting that Zack Greenberg found Jesus Christ. Didn't see that coming. 😉

    8/10 on the quiz. One of my "roommates" was obsessed with Dunham a couple of years ago. Netflix had many, many shows.

  10. If you guys are interested in great Canadian teen shows from the late 90s, I strongly recommend Breaker High. It's about a high school that is on a cruise ship(??), and features a young Ryan Gosling with a bowl cut.

  11. Liz says:

    I did way too good on the quiz this week. I would be ashamed of myself, except I missed the newer puppets as my Jeff Dunham viewing ended in 2008. It's been 6 years since I thought of that jalapeno on a stick. And now I must scrub that out of my head again.

  12. Brent says:

    I actually love episodes like this where it's just a whole ironic/ dramatic reading of something terrible. I also loved the Scared Yet where Kris just read all of Jeff the Killer out loud.

  13. ThomasG says:

    8/10 by guessing all correct (and having seen bits and pieces of it before; honestly, Dunham's stuff seemed pretty boring. I get that ventriloquism is some kind of skill, but comedy doesn't seem better if it's done while juggling or tap-dancing, you know?)

    Sometimes I find myself thinking about accents/background versus racism in comedy. I've seen people calling Strong Bad a racist character, but I look at him and think "Ok, he's luchador-inspired and that's pretty legit, right? not racist at all, right? right?" Similarly, I hear Mikey do a blues accent and I think "he's not making a racist joke about blues, right? and maybe it's not something that's always got a clear line, but Dunham's stuff has a kind of spirit that doesn't work for me; maybe the background forming the butt of the lame jokes is why, or maybe it's just downright racist and i'm not thinking of it as such an explicit thing. these are some related thoughts.

  14. Giggleloop says:

    Listening to this episode while sidelined with a cold was definitely interesting. Felt like I was dreaming half of it. (Better this one than the Scarenol one, good lord can you imagine?)

    Kris' Mickey Mouse voice blew my mind, outta nowhere! Who knew! Those descriptions of other episodes also sounded like they could have been reworked as Buffy season 1-2 episodes.

    I got 9/10 on the quiz. I have no defense for this, other than a combo of living in the Midwest and having really good guessing skills this week. The only one I missed was the last one, which I reacted to much the same as Mikey did. Yikes.

    I fully support a Zack Files spec script, Mikey. Add it to the project pile. :) Zack Files TNG, coming soon to a YouTube channel near you.

    OK back to bed with me. Thanks for the diversion from my sniffles, lads. Much appreciated as always.

  15. sheanam says:

    I unfortunately knew about all of Dunham's puppets already, and much like Mikey I whispered 'false' every time just in hopes that that might actually render them as such some day.

    Oof, that script. A very funny performance, but the writing is so atrocious that I kinda like to pretend that this is fake as well.

  16. Renata_V says:

    After listening to this episode, I went to google Jeff Dunham, but I had forgotten his name, so I just typed 'racist puppet guy' into google. The first result was his Wikipedia page.

    I loved this episode, it was sort of like when you guys did 'A Christmas Carol' a while back. I would love to hear more about the Zack Files. :)

  17. knowonesdesigns says:

    Yes more Zach files!

  18. Sean says:

    I just want to know what kind of horrible person Zack's mother was if not even for a moment he considers to wish for her presence.

  19. @lowguppy says:

    I just want to start by saying that I hate Jeff Dunham and can't stand him.

    That said, when he first did the Akhmed the dead terrorist bit, it came at a time when terrorists felt like a real and immediate threat. It was a tense time and we needed someone to diffuse that with some humor. The bit was clever, with tight jokes and snappy banter. In a way, it made the terrorist a more human instead of the unseen monster that could be anywhere they were made out to be.

    He's basically been riding the wave of success that brought him ever since. Everything else he does is pretty much just racist garbage, but that bit, at that time, was perfect.

  20. I like the idea for this episode, but I felt like The Zack Files script actually wasn't QUITE bad enough to make it work. Like, I kept waiting for the part where it would get ungodly dumb, and it was mostly the kind of thing I remembered from Nickelodeon back in the day.

    I'm sure you can find some really, really putrid scripts if you try. Come on, guys! Challenge yourselves!

  21. Ricky says:

    I meant to comment like a week ago, but I scored 8/10 on the quiz. My sister loves that guy.

  22. Jesse Lamb says:

    Man, I read a bunch of the books as a kid and totally forgot about it. Didn’t know they ever made a show, thought it was a joke until you started playing audio from the actual show. Show sounds pretty bad, the books were pretty cool (probably biased)

  23. @pfresh85 says:

    I'm a little late to this, but I enjoyed this episode. Up until you started playing clips from the real thing, I thought you had just made up a terrible (but plausible) kids show. After the clips though, I had to google and read up about it because it was just too weird not to. Keep up the good work, gentlemen.

  24. Not Zack Files 52; Zack Files 502.

    Give us that post-apoc, where Spence and Cam are on the run, poor Samantha's dead, and Zack shed the husk of his human form and ascended to become some terrible demon-god.

  25. Messra says:

    I would kill to see the episode when cam tried to give Zack the life of kiss.

  26. Messra says:

    sorry *the kiss of life

  27. SCH says:

    Hilarious to see how you guys played out the show, and then the actual episode on YouTube!

    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghz8uafJ8gY

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