‘Muckey Landing’ podcast takes aim at fictional Delaware town

Clockwise, from left, Bruce Leister, Mike Polo, Will McVay and Claude Warnick lend their voices to “Muckey Landing,” a new comedy podcast created, written and directed by Chris Polo of Dover. Two episodes of the project, which tells the tale of the wacky characters who inhabit the fictional town of Muckey Landing, are available now. (Submitted photos)

DOVER — Chris Polo thinks Delaware is hilarious.

“I’ve been here for over 30 years. I moved here from Texas and I just find this place hysterical and I have for 30 years. I love living here. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life. So I really feel more Delaware than anything else at this point. But there’s just so much to poke fun at here in the state,” she said.

A longtime member of the Kent County Theatre Guild, Ms. Polo, along with her husband, Mike, and good friend, Bruce Leister, produced a series of very popular First State-centric musical revues as fundraisers for the Dover community theater group called “Delaware Unleashed.”

The parodies of songs were replaced with lines taking shots at whatever was happening in Delaware at the time. The shows became so big that people would sleep outside the theater the night before tickets went on sale to make sure they would be able to purchase them the next day.

The programs came to an end in 2011. But Ms. Polo still felt the creative drive to write about her adopted home state and all of its foibles.

“That’s what I loved about ‘Delaware Unleashed.’ We could make fun of our lives here, which people always enjoy. And one thing that I feel very strongly about, I think that people really enjoy it when you make it personal,” she said. “And yeah, the urge never left me.”

Enter “Muckey Landing: A Sort of a Podcast,” which turns out to be a real podcast about a not-so-real town: Muckey Landing, Delaware.

As they say on the program, Muckey Landing has a population of 76 and a half.

Charles Keenan, left, and Jeff Bellon lend their voices to “Muckey Landing.”

“It’s an odd little backwater in a lower, slower corner of the tiny state of Delaware, mostly known for being not too far from someplace you’d rather be. If by some chance you have car trouble and find yourself here — that’s how most folks find Muckey Landing, unless they were born here — be sure to stop by the Muckey Landing Market, Diner and Hardware Emporium at the corner of St. Jones and Broad, and say hi to Virgil Slatter and Harmon Truesdale. They own the place. If it’s Tuesday, try Harmon’s bologna special.,” says the narrator voiced by Mike Polo, who also plays Virgil and acts as the show’s sound engineer and editor.

Ms. Polo is the podcast’s creator, writer and producer.

“I wanted to keep writing and I started listening to podcasts. And a couple of years ago, all of a sudden one day it just hit me that this could be the format I could write,” she said.

“I’ve told people I always thought I had a play in me. I had no clue I was going to write a podcast. But it turned out that it was just right up my alley as far as the writing was concerned because you can do things in a podcast that you can’t do on a stage. I can have a dog as a character all the way through it and that would be a nightmare on stage.”

The dog, voiced by Darin Dell, is introduced in the first episode.

Considered the world’s ugliest dog, Aloyisius is adopted by Virgil and lays around the market, diner and hardware emporium, which serves as the setting for the first two episodes now available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play and other podcast providers, as well as on MuckeyLanding.com.

The cast of characters, in part, includes Mr. Leister as Virgil’s slow-witted business partner and co-proprietor of the store, Harmon; Dick Pack as Chief of Police Neville Cheefe; Cat Timko as Jenny Pilsner, the smart young police recruit working under Chief Cheefe; Gina Shuck as both oversexed artist Myrtle Myrkle and retired Tasty Queen manager Mabel Sprout; Patti Gatto as Doral Bernstein, customer service representative at every company in the area that needs someone to answer the phone; Charles Keenan as Bunny Slatter, Virgil’s former nephew, now niece, who’s also chief of the volunteer fire company; Kevin Smith as radio station owner Mitch Pohunk; Austin Topper as Newt Newberger, recent community college graduate and tongue-tied DJ at RMUK, the local radio station; Will McVay as traveling salesman and unlikely lothario Dickie Butz, and also as Luke Yoder, taciturn Amish farmer; and Claude Warnick as Uncle Yoder, Luke’s even more taciturn (and sometimes confused) uncle.

“It took me three years to write this thing simply because I wasn’t really sure anything was really going to come of it. But Mike and Bruce were really encouraging. And every now and then, I’d tell them ‘I wrote another episode of “Muckey Landing.” Do you guys want to do a readthrough of it?’ And it busted them up and they kept saying, ‘We’ve got to do this. Keep writing.’” Ms. Polo recalled.

Mike Polo voices the character of business owner Virgil Slatter and also acts as sound engineer and editor of the “Muckey Lading” podcast.

“And finally I realized, yeah, I guess I can keep on exploring these characters and thinking up funny stuff for them to do and it just kept on coming. So we ended up with about six hours’ worth of stuff — so three full-length plays essentially.”

Mr. Leister said he’s having a blast recording the podcast and is glad that he and Mr. Polo were able to help Ms. Polo follow through on it.

“We knew she had the idea from the beginning and the basis , according to her, was watching Mike and I as the DJs in a couple of the ‘Tuna’ shows,” he said.

The Kent County Theatre Guild has staged some shows in the “Greater Tuna” series in which the two have appeared as multiple characters, including the town’s radio team of Arliss and Thurston.

“She just liked that slight kind of Southern, twangy thing we had going on and our timing together. Mike and I have worked together for 33 years on various shows. We can finish each other’s sentences sometimes. So she liked the timing and the chemistry,” Mr. Leister said.

“And she still liked the idea of using Delaware because, my God, we’re a funny little state. But it’s sort of like those guys in ‘Tuna’ except Harmon’s a little dumber and Virgil’s a little wiser.”

Like many of the actors in the project, Mr. Leister loves the idea of recording the podcast where he doesn’t have to memorize lines or worry about where to go on the stage.

“You’re still acting except instead of on a stage, you’re in front of a microphone. You still put the hand motions and stuff into it. I think if you’re just sitting there reading, the audience will know it,” he said.

“But the beauty of this is if you flub a line, with Mike editing, you don’t have to go back to the beginning. If the beginning is good, he’ll edit it. And the outtakes we have are hysterical.”

Another feature of each episode is the music by local singer/songwriter Jim Rezac.

He provides the theme to “Muckey Landing” and adds some musical words of wisdom in between scenes.

“Using Jim was Mike’s suggestion. I had never heard him perform live before. Mike said ‘I think that Jim Rezac would be a real good fit.’ We set up a meeting about 15 months ago at The Grey Fox (in Dover) to see if he would be interested,” Ms. Polo said.

“And he was very enthused about it. After the episodes were recorded, he took notes and sent us one possible theme and then sent us another one that we flipped over. It was so perfect. He’s been a wonderful partner and we’re thrilled to be working with him and know him.”

Each podcast, which contains some adult content, is a little more than half an hour once Mr. Polo adds the sound effects. Two full episodes have released, plus a coronavirus-related public service announcement came out Thursday, and there are plenty of more shows on the horizon. The problem now is when those shows will be recorded and released.

Like mostly everything else in the world, the production of future episodes, which take place in the Polos’ house in Dover, have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Some of our actors are over 70 years old and they don’t have computers who can do it remotely. So we do have to wait things out a bit, which is a shame. We don’t want to lose our momentum,” Ms. Polo said.

In the last month, she said they have been happy with the amount of downloads they have been getting. They’ve also been amazed by where they are coming from.

“We had a couple from England kind of right off the bat. But that’s not that surprising because two of our cast members are English. So I imagine it was probably friends or family members or something like that. We’ve also gotten downloads from Finland, Canada and Argentina. We had a couple from Russia but I’m not sure I trust those,” Ms. Polo joked.

“It’s really kind of encouraging because people are sticking with it. It’s not like they download it and don’t listen to it.”

And if you’re curious as to where in the state Ms. Polo pictures Muckey Landing, well that’s easy.

“It’s between Dover and Milford but out more toward the coast — kind of in the Little Creek area,” she said.

And as the downloads increase and more people hear about the goings-on in Muckey Landing, the hope is that more people will discover Delaware, both the real and fictional parts.

“We’re hoping to put our little state on the map,” Mr. Leister said.