The Comedy Podcast About Mortal Kombat Lore You Didn’t Know You Needed
If you thought there was nothing funny about over the top gore and sci-fi backstories, you thought wrong.
en Mekler’s Mortal Kombat experience is similar to what most kids of the 90s probably remember. Recounting his upbringing in South Florida, Mekler reflects, “I’d usually hit the arcade with a few quarters tops. I couldn’t exactly spend the time to get really good at anything. So I’d spend a while just browsing the arcade cabinets, and I always wound up gravitating towards Mortal Kombat.”
It was there, in the dusty arcade, that Mekler’s fascination with the surprisingly deep lore behind Mortal Kombat’s IP.
“The whole aesthetic and the bizarre mix of characters always fascinated me. I’d stand there and read the character profiles that flashed by while the cabinet was in attract mode. I learned the gist of the game’s mythology that way, and kind of just became hooked on it all. I’ve never gotten good at Mortal Kombat, I can’t remember combos or anything like that. But I’ve always played enough of each new game to find out what happens over the story and to spend some time in that world.”
Ben’s fascination with storytelling would lead him on a path towards the entertainment industry where he is now a seasoned screenwriter (most recently with his writing partner Chris Amick).
While the writers have found success on shows like Final Space, and the upcoming Netflix animated series Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, the pace of episodic storytelling can leave creative gaps for writers like Ben. That’s where the idea for a podcast came in.
The hand-drawn 2D-animated series is executive produced and created by Radford Sechrist (How to Train Your Dragon 2), and is executive produced and developed for television by Bill Wolkoff (Once Upon a Time).
“I was between shows and wanted some kind of creative outlet while I worked on personal projects with my writing partner, Chris Amick.” Mekler explains, “the time between making something and getting it in front of people can be daunting, especially in animation which has been most of our work lately. So a podcast seemed like a good way to regularly create something to entertain other people.”
It’s no secret that entertainment industry podcasts have become more and more popular for everyone from upstart writers and comedians to industry heavyweights like Conan O’Brien. “I am the 2,000,000th person to have that thought [about starting a podcast].”, he adds.
Initially, his concept for the podcast was much broader.
“I figured maybe I’d do a movie podcast because I’m obsessed with movies, or something scripted, but then I half-jokingly tweeted “what if I made a podcast where I make people sit with me and talk about Mortal Kombat for an hour” and folks took to that idea. So I thought okay, great, I’ll do that.”
Part of the fun of Mortal Podkast is in the interaction between Ben and his guests, who are usually friends of his, many of which are working in the entertainment industry as well. While a comedy podcast about Mortal Kombat lore could easily come across as quirky and cheap, Mortal Podkast is refreshingly respectful and appreciative of the narrative depth behind the longstanding video game franchise.
Ben recounts one character each episode in the “greatest detail I can. I really focus on the storytelling of it – finding the emotional beats, the act breaks, etc”
The magic of the podcast is how it leans on the interaction with Mekler’s guests who, by and large, are entertainers themselves. Every episode Ben is joined by a big personality who brings a fresh spin on the conversation; writers, comedians, actors, hosts… the list goes on.
Ben (center) posing for a photo with Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit, screenwriters of Detective Pikachu, after recording an episode of Mortal Podkast featuring discussions on the storyline behind Johnny Cage.
“As often as I can, I grab guests who have little to no knowledge of MK which I think makes it a lot more fun. Oh, and then we end things with the guest imagining themselves in the world of MK – deciding what kind of creature they’d be, what realm they’d be from, etc. It gets goofy. “
The balance between comedy and respect to the lore, is all part of the concept of the show. It’s what makes it work.
“It’s the combo. I intend for the show to be funny. I also don’t think I could help it being funny. If I’m hanging out with a friend, we’re going to be goofing off. Plus, Mortal Kombat has always been a funny series – comedy has been mixed in with the violence from Day 1. It’s always managed to walk that tightrope between tongue-in-cheek slapstick and melodrama. I don’t think the podcast would be worth listening to if I didn’t respect the lore, but you can absolutely have fun with something you respect. “
So if you’re ready to jump in with Mortal Podkast, and you already have a favorite character, you can simply start on the episode where that character was featured.
If you don’t have a favorite Mortal Kombat character, Ben recommends the episodes with comedian/writer/host Demi Adejuyigbe and Sub Zero, actor/writer/host/streamer Ify Nwadiwe and Liu Kang, as well as the episode with his writing partner Chris Amick and Kintaro.
Personally, I found the episode with his wife, one of the few, non-entertainment industry guests, to be highly entertaining. There’s a kind of humor that comes from deep personal relationships, and that’s what makes this podcast different to the other 2 million shows out there.
Ben adds, “a lot of folks enjoyed the episode with my wife, Kirby, because she knew the least about Mortal Kombat and the whole genre is very much outside her wheelhouse. She just had a great response to Reptile’s story.”
Yes, that is Ben singing/chanting through all the Mortal Kombat characters in the intro music.
So, does Ben have any grand plans for Mortal Podkast?
“Absolutely not. This is it. I’m gonna do it just like this until I run out of characters. Then I’ll do something else.”
As a screenwriter, I had to ask: any Mortal Kombat movie pitches in the works?
“I haven’t written any Mortal Kombat scripts. I’d love to be hired to do that. I’m not gonna give away my pitch here. Honestly, I’m insulted that you even asked. Also, there’s a reboot coming out next year! Or like 2021? Soon, though. They just started filming. Okay fine, if I had my druthers I’d do it just like the podcast: episodic. Roughly 100 hours long. Shifting perspectives. Let’s just go for it. WB please give me one billion dollars to make this.”
On the subject of screenwriting though, Ben has some dreams. Regarding his dream project, “We (Chris and I) would love to remake Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó.”
At least, I think he’s serious about remaking Sátántangó, the 7 hour, black and white, Hungarian masterpiece… I’m not the only one who has a hard time discerning when he is being serious, and when he’s making a joke.
To keep up with Ben and Mortal Podkast please follow Ben’s detailed instructions below.
“Follow me on Twitter at @benmekler, or follow the official Mortal Podkast Twitter @mortal_podkast, or whisper “Mortal Podkast” into a jar at dusk, then seal the jar, and in the morning a very small Ben Mekler will appear inside and recite episodes for you until he asphyxiates. “
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