As with many of us from a certain generation, Sam Osterhout, head writer and host of the Radio Happy Hour at (Le) Poisson Rouge, began loving the idea of a murder mystery after he saw a classic ’80s film as a kid.
“When I was 13 or 14, I got a VCR for Christmas. My mom had gone to the movie store and just picked out a bunch of movies from the bargain bin to give me. One of those movies was ‘Clue,’” Osterhout explains. “I watched it over and over again. Sometimes we’re doing a rehearsal of the script and I realize that I’ve accidentally pulled a line from the movie. It’s just so pervasive in my mind.”
The script he’s talking about is for Radio Happy Hour, in which Osterhout and his associates invite a musical guest and actor/otherwise notable person to participate in a live show that harkens back to the radio plays of the ’30s and ’40s (if you can’t make the live event, each show is recorded and posted online at www.radiohappyhour.com).
“I love the campiness of those old-time radio dramas,” Osterhout says. “My intention is to engage the guest in a different way and to show the audience these stars, [people] they’re familiar with through television or music, in a way that they never even imagined.”
The show is divided up into a few sections — a musical performance, audience quiz, interview with the guests, and of course a 20-minute murder mystery, in which the guests normally bumble their way through the performance.
“I tell them that they don’t need to read it or do anything [to prepare],” Osterhout says. “They show up at noon and we’ll do a run-through of the script and usually that’s the first time these guests are reading it. On stage, they make little mistakes, they skip lines, but it’s hilarious. It’s really funny to watch these guys struggle through these really easy scripts.”