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Originally published on August 29, 2018 4:24 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The new podcast from Radiotopia, Everything is Alive, features one long-format interview in each episode. What sets this podcast apart is the guests.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "EVERYTHING IS ALIVE")

LOUIS KORNFELD: (As Louis, the can of cola) My name is Louis, and I am a can of Go2 Cola.

IAN CHILLAG, BYLINE: That's a store brand?

KORNFELD: (As Louis, the can of cola) Go2 - G-O-2.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "EVERYTHING IS ALIVE")

MAEVE HIGGINS: (As Maeve, the lamppost) Hello, my name is Maeve. I don't know if you - how you chose me out of all of the lampposts 'cause a lot of people are like, they're all the same.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "EVERYTHING IS ALIVE")

DENNIS PACHECO: (As Dennis, the pillow) My name is Dennis. I'm a pillow, obviously.

SHAPIRO: Each guest is an inanimate object brought to life by an actor. And the interviewer is Ian Chillag, former producer on NPR programs, including Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me and Fresh Air. And he joins us now. Hi, Ian.

CHILLAG: Hello.

SHAPIRO: What was the elevator pitch for this podcast?

CHILLAG: Pretty much that. I talk to things - interviews with inanimate objects.

SHAPIRO: And someone thought that would work - besides you, I mean?

CHILLAG: Well, yeah. I mean, someone gave it a chance.

SHAPIRO: What made you think this was an idea with potential?

CHILLAG: Well, I mean, it's a way that I kind of think and joke around, you know? Like, think about - think about how the chair feels about being sat on. Like, what a miserable existence that would be.

SHAPIRO: There are moments that I just can't believe you are able to stop yourself from laughing. Like in the conversation with Maeve, the lamppost, it's just this little digression.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "EVERYTHING IS ALIVE")

CHILLAG: Actually...

HIGGINS: (As Maeve, the lamppost) Yeah.

CHILLAG: ...I will tell you, when I moved in with my girlfriend, you know, just sort of - we were getting rid of things - duplicate things that we had.

HIGGINS: (As Maeve, the lamppost) Like, if you had some children, you were like, I've already got one?

CHILLAG: That - I think, had that been the situation, we would've tried to keep them all.

HIGGINS: (As Maeve, the lamppost) Keep the best ones.

CHILLAG: Keep all the children.

HIGGINS: (As Maeve, the lamppost) Oh, really?

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) I just love that so much.

CHILLAG: Yeah. It really does feel like interviewing a person, you know? I don't know what they're going to say. I try to pay attention to them, try to listen. I'm really trying to get to know a thing and find a story.

SHAPIRO: There is a moment from the episode with Louis, the can of cola, that just felt like quintessential podcastiness (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "EVERYTHING IS ALIVE")

CHILLAG: Do you think about the human that you want to be in?

KORNFELD: (As Louis, the can of cola) If and when I'm finally consumed, I hope I'm consumed by someone who enjoys it. But I like to imagine that if you're drunk immediately, that instead of being a painful process, there's the sort of first moment of relief the can is cracked open.

SHAPIRO: Just that ambient music underneath - underneath this deep, existential thought.

CHILLAG: Yes.

SHAPIRO: Is this satire, or is this earnest?

CHILLAG: It's - I mean, it's earnest, I guess. You know, I'm not making fun of Louis, certainly. And I'm not making fun of podcasts. But I guess what it is is I think that there's something very funny in treating an absurd premise very seriously. So the idea that a thing can talk is absurd, right? But if you treat that as seriously as possible, that's the most fun way to do it.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. I don't want to give away the ending, but that episode with the can of cola takes a really kind of surprising and poignant turn. Did you know that that was where it was going to go?

CHILLAG: No, no. And I will also not give away the ending, but I will say that it was a very emotional taping (laughter)...

SHAPIRO: Wow.

CHILLAG: ...With a can of cola. Yeah. And so...

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: I'm sorry.

CHILLAG: No. And you played his voice just now, and I just - I felt - yeah. But I really miss old Louis.

SHAPIRO: You say you have thought for years about what it would be like to be the chair that gets sat on all the time. In these interviews, have you actually had insights into what these objects go through that you might not have thought about in the years that you were mulling the existence of the chair?

CHILLAG: Yeah. I will say especially - I was thinking about this this morning in the shower. The most recent episode with a bar of soap named Tara...

SHAPIRO: Right.

CHILLAG: ...Who is...

SHAPIRO: She's resentful of shower gel.

CHILLAG: Yeah, yeah. Body wash is really stealing her thunder. But she's, you know, she's at this point in her life where she's not her original bar of soap. The letters have been worn down. And I do think about her every time I look at the bar of soap in our shower. And I think about, when I use this, I'm going to make it smaller. I'm going to bring it closer to its end. But that's also what it wants.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. I have a streetlamp outside of my house that I see every single day. And after listening to the episode with Maeve, the streetlamp, I just sort of gave that streetlamp a little bit of my attention that it never had before and contemplated its streetlampness (ph).

CHILLAG: I love it. Yeah. You have a new friend on your street.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, I do. Ian Chillag, thanks so much for talking with us.

CHILLAG: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: His new podcast is called Everything is Alive from Radiotopia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OBJECT")

WEEN: (Singing) You're just an object to me. I'd like to get to know you better. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.