Behind the Bastards is an American comedy/historic podcast hosted by Robert Evans, a former war journalist and writer for Cracked (Not to be confused with the (now-deceased) producer of Rosemary's Baby and The Godfather).
In each episode, Evans, joined by a guest, narrates the backstory, rise to power, quirks and legacies of one of history's biggest bastards: Men and women who, it can usually be said, left the world worse off than they found it. The guest will occasionally add their own tidbits of knowledge, but mostly adds comedy bits from their (usually horrified) reactions to what the bastard of the week managed to get away with, or by cracking jokes with Evans in the hope of keeping things light.
Alongside the well-known historical facts, Evans will often dive into the less-known and too-insane-to-be-made-up personal details of the bastards, such as Saddam Hussein's attempts at writing romance novels or how an optometrist became the dictator of modern-day Syria. Evans' producer Sophie will, on occasion, cut in to drag the subjects back on track whenever digressions get too meandering.
Episodes are usually released weekly, with longer episodes split into two-parters released a day apart. See also Evans' other work It Could Happen Here, and 2020: Worst Year Ever, a political podcast made by Evans in collaboration with Cody Johnston and Katy Stoll from Some More News.
This show provides examples of:
- Adolf Hitlarious: Naturally, Adolf Hitler is the subject of more than one episode, and each of those episodes of highlighting his more pathetic or ridiculous qualities such as how he was sincerely convinced a fraudster YA author was the world's greatest military genius or how he mapped out an elaborate, melodramatic murder-suicide fantasy after being "spurned" by a childhood crush he literally never even talked to.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "We cover monsters like Adolf Hitler... Saddam Hussein... Eric Prince... Wil Wheaton..."
- Asbestos-Free Cereal: Robert likes to lead into ads by damning the incoming products and services with extremely faint praise like "will make your babies live longer than Hyland's all-natural baby-killing pills."
- Bad "Bad Acting": Evans will usually use this whenever he tries to underline the 'positive aspects' of whatever horribleness the bastard of the week has just committed.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: Since Robert doesn't actually have any knowledge or say over what particular ads play during the ad break, and sometimes the iHeartRadio network puts in ads from very questionable corporations (including Koch Industries, despite the podcast having done an entire two-part episode on Charles Koch), he has taken to mocking the oncoming ads by pivoting to ads at extremely inopportune moments, damning them with faint praise like "have probably not been complicit in genocide," or just assuming they'll be for arsenic-laced, homeopathic dick pills.
- The Caligula: An unsurprising subject of the show. Special mention goes to Saparmurat Niyazov, aka "Turkmenbashi"note , the former dictator of Turkmenistan, who went as far as 'renaming ketchup' for one of the less insane parts of his cultural policies.
- Capitalism Is Bad: The episode on The British East India Company leans fairly heavily into this trope, as does a number of other episodes featuring other less-than-squeaky-clean captains of industry. Evans is openly left-wing and can often be as critical of liberal capitalism as he can be of fascist or communist dictatorships.
- Christmas Episode: Once a year around Christmas, Robert will highlight the life of "Non-Bastard" who he views as a genuine hero, such as Raoul Wallenberg.
- Cult: Cult leaders provide a good chunk of the currently represented bastards.
- Church of Happyology: L. Ron Hubbard, in particular, has had a whopping five total episodes dedicated to his life, scams, and the founding of the Church of Scientology.
- Dead Baby Comedy: The bread and butter of this series, sometimes even with literal dead babies!
- Deadpan Snarker: Sophie, who can usually be heard delivering snarky one-liners from across the room in an attempt to drag Robert back on the subject or informing him they will cut to commercial soon.
- Do Wrong, Right: The fact that the likes of Koch Industries and Raytheon are included in the show's automated ad rotation doesn't seem to outrage Robert as much as baffle him: as he points out, who on Earth would want to want to do business with oil or defense companies based on podcast ads?
- Drugs Are Good: Robert is a big fan of what he calls "honest poison"—aka recreational drugs whose sellers don't pretend aren't bad for your health.
- Evil Colonialist: Another frequent target, especially Sir Henry Morton Stanley who helped Leopold II establish the Congo Free State.
- Evil Is Petty: Many of Evans' digressions of personal lives often highlight how much history's bastards aren't larger-than-life villains, but often horribly petty and flawed people given way too much power by luck or systemic fiat.
- Functional Addict: Robert frequently jokes about his copious drug use, though how much of this is comedic hyperbole is up for debate.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Episodes are typically titled in the format of "[Bastard's name]: the [noun] who [action that makes them a bastard]." This isn't an ironclad rule, however, as titles like "Jacob Wohl is Still the Dumbest Person In Politics" or "Hitler's Sex Life: The Whole Sad Story."
- It's Personal: As a war journalist covering extremism, Evans sometimes ends up covering bastards who have made his job necessary.
- Robert claims that of all the bastards he discussed, Paul Manafort is the one he personally hates the most due to Robert having personally covered the Ukranian Civil War which Manafort helped extend and saw the resulting horrors first hand. In a later episode covering Manafort's business partner Roger Stone, while Robert admits Stone did far more damage to America and the world than Manafort, he still hates the latter far more.
- Evans covered the warzones in north-eastern Syria during the Syrian Civil War and made several stories from the Rojava Autonomous Region. As a result, his coverage of Bashar Al-Assad's (and the US's later) treatment of the Kurds tend go into this trope by his own admission.
- The Bjorn Lomborg episode also counts since Robert spends a substantial portion of it relating how his conservative upbringing coupled with Lomborg's brand of climate denial had caused him to also embrace climate denial in his youth.
- Karma Houdini: Incredibly and unfortunately common. The bastards of the week will frequently have either lived a long life without facing consequences for their crimes, or will have yet to have faced real consequences at the time the episode airs.
- The Klan: Gets their own episode, focusing on both the First and Second Klans.
- Knife Nut: Evans collects knives and frequently brings them into the studio, as many guests' comments can attest to. A particular recurring 'guest' is the "recording machete", which is often given a place of honor (and often features on the show's twitter).
- Les Collaborateurs: There is a very good chance that any given bastard covered, even will have, at some point, supported and/or actively collaborated with the Nazis or equally heinous regime.
- Mad Libs Catchphrase: "What's [verb]ing, my [related noun]s!". Usually using extremely outlandish and/or unnerving verbs who are only tangentially related.
- Mad Scientist: The podcast has featured several Real Life examples. Subverted in that the most egregious examples, like Trofim Lysenko, killed the most people because they'd been put in high government positions by even bigger bastards, where they would use their theories to affect government policy that indirectly killed a lot of peoplenote .
- Not Quite the Right Thing:
- During the "Non-Nazi Bastards who helped Hitler Rise to Power" Robert and his co-host of the week, Naomi, are at a loss of how to land when discussing an incident in which a woman prevented the suicide of her husband's friend, Adolf Hitler, eventually deciding that, sometimes, history doesn't provide a lesson—it just sucks.
- "The Bastard who Invented Homeopathy" comes off partially as this. Robert notes that, while homeopathy is essentially placebo therapy and ends up making people not seek out actual medicine for life-threatening conditions, at the time of its invention it was still less deadly than most actual medicine at the time.
- Offing the Offspring: Regaled in the appropriately titled episode "Gary Young: The Fake Doctor Who Drowned His Own Baby."
- Private Military Contractors: Eric Prince, founder of the infamous Blackwater unit, got his own episode, and King Leopold is noted to have used mercenaries for many of his greatest abuses of the Congo Free State.
- Refuge in Audacity: Robert often jokes about plans to start his own grifts and cults even more outlandish than the ones he covers, at one point stating he dreams of starting his own drug-addled orgy cult and recreating the ATF's Waco, Texas screwup—except he wants to provoke the FDA instead. He also has an odd respect for L. Ron Hubbard he doesn't share with most of the other bastards covered simply because Hubbard's bastardry was so damn ambitious and out there. (The time he attempted to summon the antichrist at a sex mansion in California with real-life Mad Scientist Jack Parsons is glossed over as an aside because there's just too much ground to cover already.)
- Realpolitik: A distressing number of bastards (especially state leaders) were often allowed to stay in positions of power thanks to this trope, with political (and economical) concerns making greater powers stand in and support and/or condone their bastardry.
- Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: Another frequent target. Evans has followed real-life right-wing extremism for much of his journalistic career (as can be seen in his other works) and has devoted several episodes to the subject, especially on their influences on the U.S. Border Patrol.
- Running Gag:
- The aforementioned Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking gag of frequently listing Wil Wheaton amongst history's greatest bastards (an appellation he has, as of yet, failed to earn in Real Life). It was eventually dropped after the first dozen or so episodes.
- Evans throwing objects (most commonly bagels or Pringles) around the room in response to particularly frustrating aspects of the bastard of the week.
- Evans is absolutely incapable of pronouncing British town names properly, even after well over a dozen episodes of various British bastards, and has lampshaded this tendency by refusing to find out how.
- Evans intentionally cuts to commercial just as he's revealed a particularly horrific act by the week's bastard, usually by explaining that the products and services that support this week's episode do NOT cause said horrific act. The ensuing Mood Whiplash is then followed by an Incoming Ham about PRODUUUCTS!
- Snake Oil Salesman: The show does not look fondly on medical scammers and they are frequently featured as bastards of the week.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Unsurprisingly, members and enablers of Nazi Germany frequently feature as bastards of the week.
- Unpleasant Parent Reveal: The "All Fertility Doctors are Bastards" episode involves a lot of this, as the entire episode is devoted to fertility doctors who used their own sperm to impregnate patients leading to numerous children unaware of their true parentage.