For Bears, hoorays from Hollywood, via comedy podcasts
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org August 19, 2012 4:50PM
Matt Walsh (left) and Scot Armstrong sometimes take the low road in poking fun at Bears-related topics. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 21, 2012 6:07AM
A couple of transplanted Chicago-area natives who made it big in Hollywood but can’t get a certain football team out of their blood have a creation that “bears” listening to.
One-time South Sider Matt Walsh — who has appeared in “The Hangover,” “Old School” and “Bad Santa” among others — and comedy writer Scot Armstrong run the “Bear Down Podcast,” a funny, strange and highly irreverent comedy podcast that spoofs topics related to the Bears.
The game plan is simply to have fun, even a half-continent away in Los Angeles.
Take the show during which Bears quarterback Todd Collins blamed a midlife crisis for his abysmal play against the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship game. Or when God called in to profess his love for Tim Tebow. Or when Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov detailed his seduction of 89-year-old Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey.
Sure, the interviews are imaginary. And if the audience is, too, that’s OK.
“We do it for ourselves and send it off into the ether and we hope people like it,” Armstrong said.
Walsh and Armstrong try to gather with fellow Chicagoans in Los Angeles every week to discuss the Bears.
When they record a podcast, the show is broken up into four quarters, with Armstrong, Walsh, Joe Nunez and someone who goes by “Jim U-Boat” — the “poet laureate of Calumet City” — bemoaning or celebrating the prior week’s game before they move on to the improvised segments.
Nunez, a graduate of Gordon Tech High School on Chicago’s North Side, breaks up the segments by reading phony ads. But there’s also an ad for a “Bear Down Podcruise” that Walsh and Armstrong insist will set sail out of Chicago in the near future.
Walsh joked that Paul McCartney will perform on the cruise — wearing Gary Fencik’s neck roll — and Danny Bonaduce will lead a limbo contest.
Like the ads, the “exclusive” interviews are phony, improvised by the guests whom Armstrong and Walsh wrangle up on their way to the studio. The lineup of those who have appeared includes Paul Scheer (“The League”), Ron Livingston (“Office Space”) and Horatio Sanz (“Saturday Night Live”).
“It’s fun that we are working in the comedy business and are able to get a lot of people who have no business being on such a stupid podcast,” Armstrong said.
Walsh opens up the show saying, “We might live in Los Angeles but that just gives us perspective.”
Walsh grew up in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community before moving to Darien after fifth grade. Up until the time he left, he attended Queen of Martyrs School in Evergreen Park. He said plenty of Walshes still are involved in the South Side parishes of St. Christina, St. Bede and St. Denis.
Walsh is one of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe and theaters of the same name that have launched the careers of Amy Poehler, Sanz, Rob Riggle and Rob Corddry, among others. He stars on the HBO show “Veep,” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Armstrong, whose credits include “Old School,” “Road Trip” and “Heartbreak Kid,” grew up in Wheaton and was a backup safety for the 1987 state champion Wheaton-Warrenville North football team. He met Walsh when the Upright Citizens Brigade was performing at the Improv Olympic in Chicago in 1994.
Walsh moved to Los Angeles in 2005, in part to start a new Upright Citizens Brigade theater, and Armstrong joined him there two years later. The two maintained their friendship and mutual love for the Bears.
They watch all Bears games and try to catch at least one game together in person every season. This year, they plan to see the Bears play the Indianapolis Colts.
“We do tailgating next to McCormick Place and we steal electricity from McCormick Place every year,” Walsh said. “We use extension cords to plug our televisions into McCormick Place.”
Due to their fandom and background in comedy, they talked about starting a Bears podcast and launched their first episode around the start of the 2009 season.
Walsh calls the project a labor of love and says that “practically nobody” listens.
“We check the computers for listeners, and it says ‘nobody,’ ” Walsh said. “The people who do are awesome and strong.”
Armstrong, however, boasts that “Bear Down Podcast” has millions of listeners and falls somewhere in the middle of Fox News, CNN and the Olympics in the ratings.
“We have higher 18-to-34 demographics, but (the Olympics) have more viewers overall,” Armstrong quipped.
According to the website where the podcasts can be found — www.beardownpodcast.com — former Lockport resident Kelly Wrather also is part of the crew.
Armstrong and Walsh said they don’t know what’s next for the “Bear Down Podcast” other than the cruise and possibly an “exclusive interview” with imprisoned former Bears receiver Sam Hurd, who is facing federal drug trafficking charges.
“We love the culture of the Bears,” Armstrong said. “We love poking fun at it but also embracing it and celebrating it.”