I do not recommend this piece to children (seriously). I recommend it to basically everyone else, though.
I play it for my friends, I’ve played it for romantic partners, and I’ll be playing it long after radio is succeeded by whatever medium comes next. “Darth Vader Impersonator Impersonator” was put together by Sean Cole and Benjamen Walker-- two public radio stalwarts-- and it has to be one of my all-time favorite pieces of radio.
So what have we got here? What we have is, not to overstate it, but, the perfect story. A compelling character? Check. A struggle? Check. Change? Check. Something to teach us? Check.
The story goes through a series of extremely interesting events and revelations: the main character Bo was teased as a child, which prompted him to embrace Darth Vader. He built himself a Darth Vader suit, and obtained a contract from Lucas Films to officially represent their company. He even got a tracheotomy so that his voice would have that metallic, Vader ring to it, and then. . .
Let’s pause for a moment, and go back to our list of perfect story ingredients.
Compelling Character: The Character of Bo is every radio producer’s dream: a compelling and articulate individual who is totally different from you or me. All three parts of that equation are important. If the person isn’t compelling, no one will want to hear their story. It’s up to you, the radio producer, to figure out what compelling is. If the person is too much like you or me, well, that works for some stories, but I already know what I think and what I want. I want to know what someone who is completely different from me wants. And what does this character want?
To be evil. How beautiful. And an evil we all know, an iconic evil from one of the best known stories of our generation, Star Wars. Something we all can relate to. Except this is reversed. Here’s someone who wants the bad guy to win. I want to hear more.
Struggle: For most of the story, everything goes well for Bo. Or as well as things can go for an adult obsessed with a movie character. But we need a problem. Otherwise this won’t be an interesting story. And what’s that problem? Bo gets a request from Lucas Films to represent Vader’s “inner goodness.” He fights.
Change: Bo ends up losing what he’s worked so hard for. He’s in trouble. Then we see him get into (more) trouble, choking the kid at the mall, getting caught masturbating in the security booth, being mocked online. So things get pretty bad.
Something to learn: In the end, we see how Bo’s doing today. We find out he’ll be ok (because we really don’t want anything that bad to happen to him.) So we have a beautiful story, well-told. We also have a narrator who remembers to wrap the story up with a moral: “Evil chooses its own constituency.”
And did I mention it’s all made up? (But you knew that all along, didn’t you?)
Darth Vader Impersonator Impersonator
Produced by Benjamen Walker and Sean Cole for Your Radio Nightlight.
[10:43] (includes some profanity)