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Improv Duo Choose F.C. as the Home of Their Fictional Cast of Characters

Lauren Morrell and Peter Narby. (Photo: Courtesy Lauren Morrell)

“Educated,” “wealthy” and “fit” are some of the words that probably come to mind when thinking about the people of Falls Church. “Funny,” on the other hand…not so much. But don’t tell local improv comics Lauren Morrell and Peter Narby that, as they found the Little City to be the perfect setting for the fictionalized characters at the heart of their zany podcast.

Titled “Interview Hour,” Morrell and Narby take turns questioning each other, with one doing their best NPR host voice while the other has to learn about their character on-the-fly right as they’re introduced.

The project is a continuation of the improv roots both cultivated together. The duo met while at a Washington Improv Theater class back in 2016, where they soon became chummy and found chemistry on stage.

Of course, life then got in the way. Narby moved out of Washington, D.C. to New York City for a job and the two had to get creative with how they maintained their improv connection. That was when the idea of a podcast in interview format came to be.

“We knew we wanted to do an interview show where we could do character work,” Morrell, who lives in Falls Church, said. “We learned long form improv together, which isn’t short form like ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ but instead is more like the Upright Citizens Brigade where you create a scene out of nothing.”

As you might expect, it’s made for some hilarious skits where even the hosts pull a Jimmy Fallon and join in on the laughs.

One example was when Narby interviewed Morrell as Opal O’Keeffe, the great niece of artist Georgia O’Keeffe (through marriage). It’s easy to see why the podcast recorded back in September 2019 stands out as one of their favorites — an eccentrically sad and insecure Opal discusses how, prior to entering the studio for her interview, a passing car chucked a bag of garbage at her that then exploded and was immediately ridiculed for screaming about it.

Morrell came with vivid descriptions of what she had been tagged with, and it left Narby in tears.

Another standout was when Morrell questioned Narby and his cutting edge occupation as a “prance therapist.” While Morrell commented that she was surprised about the class’s emotional intensity — specifically when Narby’s character had to pause his instruction for an extended period so he could sob uncontrollably in the fetal position — she half-heartedly encouraged everyone to give it a try at the end.

The pair have been going at it since 2018, logging over 150 episodes and rarely missing a week where they record. And they’ve mostly done it without preparation or even tracking what kind of characters they’ve done, staying true to the “wing it” nature of improv.

“We used to, in the beginning, keep a list of occupations that people would have in names so that we never crossed, but then eventually we kind of threw that out the window,” Narby said, adding that some occupations are repeated even if the characters are different. “We just know that every interview is going to be different, even if it’s about a real estate agent, or, you know, the person who arranges the Christmas trees in the White House, which is one joke that we had once.”

Those characters could range from the more conventional, such as a snowplow truck driver or train operator, to the completely absurd, including “Eek,” a graveyard loving child or a special appearance from Greek goddess Aphrodite around Valentine’s Day.

The question likely lingering in all of your minds is one this article started out by challenging — what makes them think Falls Church could serve as the backdrop for this Simpsons-level cast? Sure, the Little City has people who are world travelers and behind-the-scenes influencers in our nation’s capitol, but they don’t strike anyone as the oddballs that you’d necessarily want to listen to on a podcast.

The podcast has been a good way for them to put their improv skills to good use while also paying tribute to Falls Church. (Photo: Courtesy Lauren Morrell)

It all came down to having an adoration for the city’s homey size.

“Our idea was to be sort of a quirky small town where everybody kind of knows each other, but we were also close enough to D.C. where we could reference some bigger stuff,” Morrell said. “It’s a love letter to Falls Church. I didn’t grow up here, but I grew up near here. And we don’t actually use any real landmarks or people [and] even our street names can be made up. Any overlap is a coincidence.”

The pair said that the only real life location they mention frequently is the Trader Joe’s off Leesburg Pike. Outside of that, if anyone hears about a geodesic dome or haunted house on the pod, they should know it’s purely satirical.

While both would love if their podcast grew to have large-scale acclaim, they’re fine if it doesn’t. The two are just happy that it’s grown past the point where they don’t know everyone who downloads an episode each week.

And it’s also served as a way of keeping their friendship alive. For instance, Morrell will be officiating Narby’s wedding in the near future, so the podcast has not only fulfilled its purpose, but has even deepened their relationship.

Morrell and Narby look to show the world how well their chops have held up over the past 15 months when when they take the stage of ArtFarm in Annapolis (111 Chinquapin Round Rd #200, Annapolis, MD 21401) on June 26. Until then, you’ll just have to sate your appetite with the podcast.