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Podcast / Behind the Bastards

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There's a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating.

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: People 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, his novel After the Revolution and Worst Year Ever, a political podcast made by Evans in collaboration with Cody Johnston and Katy Stoll from Some More News.

You know what won't ruin your life? The following tropes and services:

  • Academy of Evil: "The Deadliest School in History" details the bloody legacy of the School of the Americas, where the US State Department trained foreign military officers to suppress indigenous and left-wing movements in their countries and instilled American values and a love of American luxury goods in their students, who would return to their home countries, frequently climb the ranks, and stage military coups. At least eleven of its graduates became dictators of Latin American countries and School of the Americas graduates also installed Augusto Pinochet (who unlike most or all of his co-conspirators wasn't actually a School of the Americas graduate), plunged Guatemala into 36 years of civil war, and killed and tortured hundreds of thousands throughout Latin America in the name of enriching themselves.
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  • Acceptable Ethnic Targets: Italians, who Robert claims he can mock due to his Italian descent.
  • Admiring the Abomination: A downplayed example. Despite considering L. Ron Hubbard a monster, Evans admits upfront to being impressed by how good he was at being a con man, how far he managed to take his grift, and the sheer audacity of some of his weirder and more outragous projects.
  • 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 that Karl May, 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.
  • All-Natural Snake Oil: Useless and often dangerous fake medicines are commonly discussed. Examples include homeopathy, fake cancer cures that just burn your flesh off, cure-alls like "Miracle Mineral Supplement" (which is bleach), and nonsense surgeries like medically implanting goat reproductive organs.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: In the second Reinhard Heydrich episode, Evans mentions that some listeners wrote in to say they were shocked to find out that the knife missile mentioned in his Running Gag about Raytheon is an actual thing. Specifically, it's the R9X kinetic anti-personnel guided missile.
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
    • Robert generally refrains from attempting to diagnose his subjects' mental states, but he still occasionally notes that something must be going on in certain subjects with particularly irrational beliefs or habits.
    • Alfred Krupp, the subject of "The Man Who Invented The Military-Industrial Complex," believed his own exhaled breath was poisonous to himself. He suffered extreme insomnia, believed that the scent of horse dung improved his creativity (to the extent of building his own home with ducts to waft the scent from the stables to his rooms). He seems to have suffered from some form of dementia at the end of his life
  • Ambition Is Evil: Many of the bastards are driven by a desire to be rich, powerful, and/or famous. Perhaps in the most extreme case, Reinhard Heydrich, the chief architect of the Holocaust and the brains behind the death camp system, is described as being driven more than anything by his desire for status.
  • Animal Assassin: Synanon was ultimately brought down because they came up with the harebrained scheme of trying to assassinate an Intrepid Reporter by sticking a rattlesnake in the latter's mailbox. Robert and Paul F. Tompkins are left in utter hysterics at the sheer ridiculousness of this.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • "We cover monsters like Adolf Hitler... Saddam Hussein... Eric Prince... Wil Wheaton..."
    • The official description does this as well:
      Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater's insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.
  • 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."
  • As You Know: While going over the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Robert can't help but laugh at the fact that every use of the word "goyim" is accompanied with "(non-Jews)", as if a supposed world controlling Jewish cabal would not only have to remind each other what such a common term means but do so repeatedly.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: During the second Amway episode Evans spends about a minute gushing over the name of a senator/Amway distributor: Dick Chrysler. He then jokes about his (fake) Democratic rival: Cock Ford. And his (real) successor in the Senate is Debbie Stabenow (pronounced stab-now).
    • He has a similar reaction to a Texas Judge named William Wayne Justice.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Many of the bastards examined tend to be people claiming to be medical doctors, despite having only rudimentary medicial training at best, and none actual training whatsoever at worst. One of the shinning examples is John Ronald Brown, one of the few bastards who actually managed to get a legitimate medical degree in plastic surgery (if only by barely passing his exams after failing multiple times) and came to "specialize" in gender reassignment surgery. Despite having actual credentials and some fundamentally good ideas on a conceptual level about how to perform gender reassignment surgery, Evans describe how both laymen and medical professionals were horrified by Brown's practices, noting that despite his lofty ideas he had only very little in the way of technical surgery skills, which often meant his operations turned into downright Meatgrinder Surgery, with horrible physical consequences to follow for many of the trans women he operated on. This was only exacerbated by the fact that Brown, as a person was often slovenly and absent-minded and showed a downright compulsion to completely eschew any ideas of hygienic standards and operating in a sterile environment, meaning he operated his patients pretty much everywhere but in a operating theater, including on the desk of his office, kitchen tabletops, and hotel rooms, earning him the nicknames of "Tabletop Brown" and "Butcher Brown". But the facts that Brown also were willing to perform his operations fairly cheaply and without asking many, if any questions, nor required any reference from a mental health professional (back in the day, the gatekeeping around gender confirmation surgery was even more onerous than it is today, and that's saying something), unfortunately also meant that he was the go-to guy for many desperate trans people.
  • 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.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: In light of the increased scrutiny of police in the US in 2020, Evans released a six-part series about the history of American police. It isn't a pretty picture.
    • Robert is also an outspoken left-leaning anarchist, and discussion of cops on the show is usually cast in a negative light.
  • Bait-and-Switch: About halfway through "Part One: The Worst Birth Control Device Ever Invented", Evans reveals that the episode (and by extension, part two) is not actually about the Dalkon Shield, a horrifyingly dangerous IUD that caused countless serious infections and internal injuries, but rather that the suffering caused by the Dalkon Shield was just a lead-in to and one small part of the history of the real topic: eugenics and population control (the connection being that the Dalkon Shield was distributed abroad by population control organizations long after it had stopped being sold in the United States and was sold in bulk to these organizations unsterilized).
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: As Roger Stone once said, "[Roy Cohn's] absolute goal was to die completely broke and owing millions to the I.R.S. He succeeded in that." Of course, Cohn died of AIDS at age 59, disbarred, powerless, with most of his assets seized and completely alone, which were definitely not the circumstances Cohn had in mind.
  • Be Yourself: Played for Laughs in the episode "The Bastard who Executed the Top Nazis". When challenged on what seem to be the most common thread between history's bastards, Evans eventually says that it's probably that they all seemed to have boundless confidence in their own abilities and an inability to self-reflect or see their own flaws. He then suggested that if there is An Aesop in all this it's that you shouldn't always aim to be yourself, because you just might be a bastard without thinking about it.
  • Bigger Than Jesus: In the episodes on the Moonies, cult founder Sun Myung Moon is noted to have despite being nominally Christian, claimed to be more important than Jesus Himself and that he was sent to correct Jesus's mistakes/failures and assume divinely-ordained rule over the whole world. Additionally, he would claim his newspaper, the Washington Times, to be more important than the Bible and that his newspaper's circulation was a matter of pressing global theological importance.
  • 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.
  • Blade Enthusiast: Evans is very fond of knives and machetes and is implied to have a rather sizeable collection of them. The show has its own "Recording Machete" that he would bring into the recording studio, and live shows would end on Evans challenging the guest to a round of machete bagel tennis. Guest Billy Wayne Davis once brought a machete offering to Evans which he had apparently bought anonymously on Craigslist and actually received during an anonymous hand-off in an empty parking lot, which Evans joked was the best way to buy blades of all kinds.
  • Boarding School of Horrors:
    • The episode named "The School That Raped Everybody" is dedicated to the Odenwald School, which in 2010 was revealed to have had a long history of sexual abuse of its students reaching as far back as the 1920s.
    • "Canada's Darkest Secret: Residential Schools" goes into the schooling system purposefully designed to destroy First Nations language, culture and traditions under the auspices of "assimilation" into federal Canada, which also perpetrated untold abuse and pain onto Native children through a deliberate lack of oversight and general apathy/antipathy for their suffering.
    • "How The Catholic Church Murdered Ireland's Babies" partially covered child-care facilities run by the Irish Catholic Church for orphans or children of unwed mothers, as well as facilities for pregnant or "soiled" teens.
    • The two-part episode "Elan School: The Worst 'Troubled Teen' Facility" covered the Élan School, which shut down in 2011 following well over a decade of allegations from former students chipping away at its legitimacy. Even though Evans admitted that the damages caused by Élan is a drop in the bucket compared to the Residential Schools, the cult-like atmosphere, the numerous vague and contradictory rules, and emotionally and physically abusive systems of punishment used to keep its victims in line (as opposed to the "mere" neglect and dehumanization used by the Residential Schools) made it a special kind of messed-up. Guest Miles Gray concludes to his mounting horror that the place was basically run like a combination of Fight Club and Thunderdome for children.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Evans discusses this in regards to Roy Cohn, one of the main architects of the Lavender Scare of the 1950s, which saw what was basically officially sanctioned harassment and persecution of homosexuals and anyone even remotely suspected of being homosexual working for the US government. Cohn headed this policy/witch-hunt, despite he himself being a gay man working for the government (Cohn would publicly deny being gay his entire life, but his sexuality was effectively an Open Secret). Evans explains that Cohn, referring to his own comments on the subject, had convinced himself through Insane Troll Logic that homosexuals were all essentially powerless and could only be victimized, and since Cohn was essentially a rich and powerful bully he therefore reasoned that he could not possibly be homosexual himself. It all finally caught up with Cohn once he contracted AIDS in the 1980s and his repeated attempts at explaining his obviously detonating health away as liver cancer were treated as the Blatant Lies they were; Cohn quickly fell victim to the very same right-wing stigma against homosexuality that he had done so much to promote, and was in short order abandoned by all his powerful allies, including his apprentice, Donald Trump, and was left effectively powerless, alone, and financially broke in his final days.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In "The Astrologer Who Managed the Reagan Presidency", Evans says that after the shock of something like the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, "People would turn to something comforting. Either drugs, or god, or drugs made out of god after that kind of shock. Nancy turned to astrology."
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Robert does not portray himself as a particularly functional human being, making frequent allusions to extensive drug use and thrill-seeking misadventures. That said, the guy is relentless in meeting his release schedule, preparing episodes in advance to cover a trip to report on Rojava and never missing a week while ceaselessly reporting on the civil unrest in Portland, Oregon that continued through 2020. In one case, a Proud Boy broke his hand at a protest and Robert still showed up, letting his friend Garrison write and host the episode because Robert was too spaced out on painkillers to write a script.
  • 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 leftist and can often be as critical of liberal capitalism as he can be of fascist or communist dictatorships.
  • Censored for Comedy: Evans doesn't tend to censor himself at all, so the rare occasions when bleeps are used are usually of this variety, such as insinuating that a nameless sponsor does some horrible deed.
  • Chekhov's Gag: In the War of The Eggs episode, after noting that The Dollop had covered the same topic, thinks out loud that he needs to get them for a four part Henry Kissinger episode. Two and a half years later, The Dollop guys were the guests on a six part Kissinger episode.
  • 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.
  • Church of Happyology: L. Ron Hubbard has had a whopping six total episodes dedicated to his life, scams, and the founding of the Church of Scientology.
  • Cloudcuckoo Landers Minder: Sophie often comes off as this by either interrupting Robert when he's about to say something that could land them in legal trouble or reminding him it's time for an ad break.
    Robert: Sophie won't let me Hubbard.note 
    Sophie: Nope.
  • The Coup:
    • Several of the bastards became dictator of a country by staging a coup, or at least attempted to do so, including Qaddafi, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo against his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema (both bastards in their own right) and several mercenaries against both (all failed and also bastards), and several School of the Americas graduates.
    • The episode on James Dobson and Focus on the Family is hosted by Evans's friend Garrison Davis, while Evans acts as the guest in what is jokingly described as a coup and throughout the episode, Evans acts as The Starscream, openly talking about how he's plotting to counter-coup the podcast.
    • In the wake of the January 6th insurrection in Washington, D.C., Evans had Prop back on the podcast to record "Behind the Insurrection", a miniseries of Behind the Bastards that covered the various fascist coups that happened in Europe leading up to WWII.
  • Cult: Cult leaders provide a good chunk of the currently represented bastards. Among the cult leaders featured are Keith Raniere of NXIVM, L. Ron Hubbard, R. Kelly, spirit healer John of God, and Paul Schäfer.
  • Cute Kitten: Robert will occasionally mention the antics of his cats, which he has named Saddam Hussein and Saddam Hussein's Best Friend (the latter is a girl).
  • Dare to Be Badass: The invocation of this trope is common in episodes covering the 19th century scramble for Africa up into World War I. The disconnect between the reality of the defense of British holdings—native armies being mowed down by machine guns—and how propaganda reported these battles—the overwhelming power and masculinity of the British soldier fighting in bayonet charges—was discussed in detail in the episode about Hiram Maxim. Specifically, how the romanticism of industrial battlefield slaughter fed directly into the horrors of the first World War.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Invoked and combined with Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated by Gabriele D'Annunzio: After one of his early works got published, Gabriele sent out an anonymous letter to a poetry magazine lamenting that Gabriele had died after falling off a horse. Gabriele's fame skyrockets and he later "sets the record straight" claiming that someone must have confused him with someone else.
  • 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.
  • Department of Child Disservices: "The Woman Who Invented Adoption (By Stealing Thousands of Babies)" details the actions of Georgia Tann, who de-stigmatized adoption by way of appealing to wealthy people by putting photos of photogenic children front and center and claiming that children under a certain age were blank slates rather than likely genetically inferior as the then-popular eugenics-based view saw them. She acquired these children by stealing them from poor families and single mothers, either by using her connections to acquire court orders forcibly separating the children from their parents or by tricking the parents into signing papers signing away their parental rights, often only taking the youngest (and most marketable) children unless a client had specifically requested an older child or teenager. Poor conditions in her facilities also led to the deaths of at least 500 children as they were often denied medical care so as to not eat into her exorbitant adoption fees. Her actions also resulted in it being the norm for single mothers to put their children up for adoption for decades after her own child trafficking empire collapsed with her death in 1950.
  • Destination Defenestration: During the Carlos the Jackal episode an incident from his youth where he threw a naked girl out his window into a pile of snow to evade the vice squad is discussed. The girl was unhurt but hurled verbal abuse at him. This was after the same vice squad found a naked girl hiding in his cupboard.
  • Dirty Communists: While not as talked about compared to Those Wacky Nazis (and their similar kin), there have been a number of episodes dedicated to communist bastards, most notably episodes on aspects of Joseph Stalin, North Korea's Kim dynasty, Trofim Lysenko, and to an extent King Norodom Sihanouknote .
  • Distracted by the Sexy: During the episode on Spanish fascism in the "Behind the Insurrections" sub-series, Robert shares a photo of the Spanish Legion with guest Propaganda and producer Sophie, the latter of whom derails the episode for several minutes over how hot the Legion and their tight pants and low-cut shirts that show off their pecs are.
  • 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?
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The ultimate fate of John C. Woods, the bastard who hanged the Nazi top command. Rather than falling prey to the Nazis he claimed were stalking him, or even accidentally hanging himself, he died from electrocution while trying to change a fuse in a flooded room.
  • 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.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The first episode on the RSS and BJP had Evans come in in post to point out that his intro that week (a Coronavirus joke about CPAC, written before anyone had died of COVID-19 in the US and the ensuing full lockdown) wasn't very funny any more, and he's adding a new one in post. He then tells a pirate joke instead.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The show settled into a pretty reliable Tuesday-Thursday release schedule late in 2019, with most weeks being a two part episode on a single subject. This release schedule was reasonably common before becoming the default. As a result, a lot of early episodes that are either one-shots or released in three parts will have an unexpected cadence.
  • Escalating War: The "War of the Eggs" recounted in the episode of the same name gradually turned into this with the conflict between the company getting eggs off San Francisco and the lighthouse keepers on the island eventually turning to gun fights and naval battles using cannons.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Evans points out that despite his many crimes, Czar Nicholas II seemed to genuinely love his wife and children.
    • One major talking point on the show and other shows Evans does, is that many terrible people throughout history had very wholesome and fulfilling family lives. Evans points out how many people in WWII concentration camps, after spending the day committing horrific war crimes, would then go home and be a loving parent and spouse to their family.
  • Everyone Has Standards: During the episodes on Walter Freeman it's mentioned that even the CIA thought Freeman's lobotomy was going too far during the time when they were fully into secretly dosing people with LSD and other horrific and highly unethical experiments with MKULTRA.
    • Similarly, George Lincoln Rockwell was considered too racist for the 1960's-era FBI and Selma, Alabama's town elders (two groups not exactly known for being especially friendly to the civil rights movement).
    • Evans guest starred on Hood Politics when discussing the George Floyd murder, and pointed out that even President Trump, who famously is a pro-police hardliner, thought that Derek Chauvin and the other officers at the scene went too far.
    • Joshua "Null" Moon of Kiwi Farms holds some extremely racist and antisemitic beliefs, yet thought the sustained online harassment of Chris-Chan had gone way too far.
  • 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.
  • Executive Meddling: Invoked and Played for Laughs in "How Nestle Starved a Bunch of Babies". Robert asks Sophie what the legal definition of "incitement" is (obviously building up to saying something humorously violent) and she has a "No. Just... No" Reaction and shuts him down.
    Robert: Anyway, Sophie says I'm not allowed to say anything inciting anymore, so we're just gonna end the episode.
    Sophie: Yaaaay!
  • Far East Asian Terrorists: The JRA were one of the main subjects of the episode "The Golden Age of Terrorism".
  • False Reassurance: Played for Black Comedy in "The Bleach Church is Spreading". Robert and his guest Billy Wayne Davis note that yes, drinking enough bleach will mean you don't have to worry about getting sick, in the same way being hit by an H-bomb will.
  • Flat "What": Robert's reaction is a flat "what the fuck" when guest host Christopher Wong says that Wikileaks revealed that one reason New Zealand sent troops to Iraq was to protect a lucrative contract a company called Fonterra had supplying dairy to the UN. So in other words they went to war over milk.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop is portrayed this way in the second part of the episode on the Reagan Administration's handling of the AIDS crisis. Though a staunchly pro-life Evangelical Christian, Koop became the champion of (predominantly LGBTQ) AIDS patients out of an obligation as both a doctor and a Christian to heal the sick and save lives, regardless of his feelings on their personal lives.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: In the episode on coup attempts in Equatorial Guinea, the country's first president, Francisco Macías Nguema, was a dangerous and paranoid madman who established a Cult of Personality, terrorized his country, ruined the local economy, and killed thousands for eleven years — both directly through state-sactioned violence against perceived political enemies and indirectly through starvation. His rule was eventually ended when he attempted to purge his nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo from the government, but failed and prompted a coup that placed Obiang in charge of the country. Obiang swiftly prove to also be a dangerous dictator who established a cult of personality and kept right on ruling the country with much the same iron fist as his uncle.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Discussed in the Liberian Civil War episodes, with Joshua Milton Blahyi, aka "General Butt Naked", who true to his Nom de Guerre fought in the nude during the war.
    Shereen: [He is] naked and not shot by bullets. It feeds the legend.
    Robert: Exactly. And it's worth noting, in fighting — like what is happening in Liberia — fighting naked, does not expose you to much more danger than fighting with clothing on. This is before people outside of very advanced militaries have ready access to quality body armor. It does just not exist for most people in this fighting. And a t-shirt offers no more protection from a bullet than being naked.
    Shereen: That's fair, yeah.
    Robert: And in fact, there have been forces who have fought naked earlier in history, and one of things that was noted is: when they get stabbed or shot, they were less likely to die, cause they're not having a filthy matted fur or something pushed into a open wound, which causes infection. And there is also not a lot of access to great medical care. So, it sounds wacky and crazy, but it is not as irrational as it may seem.
    Shereen: It has its weird benefits.
    Robert: And also: seeing a naked dude charging you is terrifying.
  • Functional Addict: Robert frequently jokes about his copious drug use, though how much of this is comedic hyperbole is up for debate.
    • He has admitted that one episode that one episode was done while he was high on acid, but refuses to say which one.
  • The Fundamentalist: A couple of topics are centered on such people, such as "Jerry Falwell: Founder of the Religious Right", "The Cult Behind Josh Duggar" and "The Moonies Are So Much Worse Than You Could Possibly Imagine".
  • Gag Penis: The episode on Zhang Zongchang is entitled "The Well Hung Warlord Who Tried to Conquer China" and over the course of the episode, Christopher Wong (acting as guest host) and Robert Evans discuss the warlord's numerous nicknames, which include "Old Eighty-Six" and "The General with three long legs", the former being a reference to the alleged length of Zhang's penis in stacked Mexican Silver Pesosnote  and the latter being rather self-explanatory.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Several times throughout "Part One: The Worst Birth Control Device Ever Invented", Evans and guest Samantha McVay comment that something they said or that a document they're reading said would make a good name for a metal or punk band, such as "vaginal death crab", "fallopian depth charge" or "bacterial expressway".
    • The episode on the coup of Equatorial Guinea had "Mutual Genocide", which was also floated as a cool name for a band.
  • Guest Host: Occasionally, someone else will host the podcast, though in a twist on the trope, Evans is generally still present when there's a guest host and instead acts as the episode's "guest"
    • Garrison Davis is the most common guest host when Evans is ill, injured, traveling, or otherwise indisposed and covers similar topics to Robert, such as Focus on the Family and the Third Wave.
    • Christopher Wong occasionally acts as guest host to shine a spotlight on East Asian bastards like Zhang Zongchang, Nobusuke Kishi, or Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church (aka Moonies).
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Invoked. In "The Bleach Church is Spreading", Robert notes that he once found Genesis II Church appalling but somewhat amusing, as it was incredibly small—but the COVID-19 pandemic, and a perceived endorsement of the church's bleach cure by Trump note , made it too influential, and therefore dangerous, to be funny anymore.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: "The Birth of the Manosphere" episodes are all about the Manosphere, an online subculture defined by virulent misogyny.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": In the Zhang Zongchang episode, guest-host Christopher Wong mentions a "seamen's strike". Wong, clearly foreseeing what is about to happen, makes an attempt to defuse the situation by instantly moving on and continue his narration as straight-faced as possible, but still has to pause when Evans simply cannot help himself and starts snickering at the word choice.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: "How The Rich Ate Christianity" is about how capitalists, wealthy people, and businessmen co-opted Christianity to justify their greed.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Robert makes repeated jokes about a certain meal kit delivery company having a private island just for child hunting.
  • 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."
  • Intoxication Ensues: In the crossover Halloween episode with It Could Happen Here, "That Time the CIA dosed a French Town" the effects on the population of Pont-Saint-Esprit after allegedly being secretly given LSD is described in detail, including a bunch of ducks standing up on their legs like penguins and walking in a line.
  • In Vino Veritas: The Josef Stalin two-parter episode discusses how the infamous Soviet dictator became a firm believer in this trope during his older days, and as a result forced the subordinate heads of the Soviet government to come to for a dinner party with him almost every day, where imbibing ludicrous amounts of alcohol and participating in constant drinking games were basically mandatory, as Stalin was convinced that if anyone was plotting against him, they would blabber about it while they were dead drunk (Stalin himself meanwhile drank his spirits thinned with water, because of a doctor's suggestion). Said subordinates were acutely aware that these dinner parties had a really terrible effect on their health, not just because of the sheer quantity of alcohol they consumed at them, but also because of the frequency with which they had to do it, but were also afraid about what the highly paranoid Stalin might do to them if they ever declined his invitations, and as such they felt that refusing, no matter how politely, was simply not an option. Evans remarks that he considers it somewhat of a miracle that despite the numerous cases of Alcohol-Induced Idiocy Stalin's parties caused, that there is no immediate evidence that any of them were major diplomatic or political incidents or direct losses of life amongst the members of Soviet government.
  • 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 Ukrainian 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.
    • On a more comedic note, Robert considers Dudley Allen Sargent to have been the worst bastard discussed on the show due to being considered the creator of Physical Education.
    • While Robert's main hatred for Mark Zuckerberg stems from the fact that Facebook is probably the world's biggest contributor to radicalization and disinformation and Zuckerberg knowingly blocks any attempts to stop it, he has a more personal beef with him due to Facebook's incorrect metrics causing the pivot to video trend that led to Robert and all his friends being fired from Cracked.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • invoked Discussed. Evans points out that the during first part of the Elon Musk episodes Musk can be seen as this, since he was an abuse victim by his father and classmates, and was often bullied by being different and awkward as a young child. Evans himself was a target of bullies in his younger years for similar reasons as Musk was, making the former sympathetic to the latter's plight.
    • The episodes going over Chris-Chan, while pointing out that she holds despicable beliefs as well as doing some deplorable actions, is overwhelmingly sympathetic to her. Chris-Chan was a target of bullying as a child as well as constant and horrific online abuse as an adult.
  • 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.
  • Karmic Death: During "Part Two: The Young, Evil God of Death: Reinhard Heydrich", Robert describes the demise of Holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich at the hands of Czechoslovak partisans — an agonizing week-long death of sepsis from wounds caused by a grenade after Heydrich attempted to stand his ground and gun down the partisans in an attempt to show himself as a "hero" rather than simply drive away after their guns jammed. Robert, Sophie, and guest Matt Lieb all agree Heydrich got exactly what he deserved and that it was fitting that his own ambition drove him into that death, just as that ambition had led him to orchestrate the deaths of millions of others. Additionally, Robert contrasts it with the relatively swift deaths given to so many other top Nazis, including Hitler who privately mocked Heydrich for dying a stupid and senseless death before going on to blow his own brains out to avoid capture by the Red Army.
  • Kicked Upstairs: In "Harlon Carter: The Man Who Militarized the Cops and NRA", Harlon is mentioned to have been "promoted" to head of the NRA's new lobbying branch, the ILA, but given no budget. The hope is that he would have to spend all of his time fundraising and would be siloed off from the old guard of the NRA. However, Harlon is able to instead gain even more influence with the help of one of the first computerized mailing lists and further spread his white supremacist agenda.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Discussed in "A Terrible Story About the Internet", which looks at the decades-long harassment of Sonichu creator Christine Weston Chandler and how this community of trolls harassing her gave rise to a lot of modern online harassment culture. One thing that's noted repeatedly is that the fact that Christine herself is not a very pleasant person and holds many unpleasant views that helped the trolls harassing her justify their own actions, even though they were clearly themselves being incredibly cruel jerkasses to an autistic person who had never learned to deal with such situations in a healthy way purely because they found her reactions funny.
  • Kid Sidekick: Garrison Davis has been jokingly considered as Robert's ward and is frequently used as a fill-in host.
  • The Klan: Gets their own episode, focusing on both the First and Second Klans. The Second Klan, and specifically their close relationship with police departments, is also the subject of the third episode of the six-part series on the history of American policing.
  • 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). Evans also occasionally touts the benefits of the joke psuedo-medical theory of "macheticine", which was concocted during the episode on homeopathy and has tenets spoofing those of homeopathy - 1.) Knife cures knife and 2.) More is morenote .
  • Laughably Evil: Some bastards like L. Ron Hubbard, Zhang Zongchang, Muammar Qaddafi, Turkmenbashi and Charles Dederich are so hilariously over-the-top that Roberts will outright laugh about their actions and be consistently excited to continue discussing and tell what absolute insanity they get up to next, while also being appropriately horrified by their atrocities.
  • 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 regimes.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Evans name drops this trope when discussing the women's protest movement during the second civil war in Liberia in the second part of the series on General Butt Naked.
  • 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 .
  • M.D. Envy: Robert theorises that some of the fake doctors that he covers aren't just in it for the grift, but that they really want to be a doctor, or at least be seen by others as a doctor without actually putting in the effort required to learn how to be an actual doctor.
  • Missing Child: The episode on Georgia Tann combines this with Black Comedy, discussing children being randomly abducted, sold, molested and accidentally killed, and their parents being unable to get them back as a result of manipulative laws.
  • 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.
    • In "The Bastard Who Invented The Lobotomy", Evans notes that Walter Freeman wasn't wrong in his hypothesis that mental illness often had a physical or chemical cause, contrary to the prevailing Freudian medical opinion of the time that mental illness was mostly or all psychological and the result of repressed memories and the like. However, where he was extremely wrong was in his belief that lobotomy was the cure for most or all mental illness, rather than a very limited use niche treatment for a very, very small segment of brain problems.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: In the Nobusuke Kishi episode, guest Christopher Wong divides Imperial Japan into three periods which he calls "Imperialism 1", "Imperialism 2: Imperialism Harder" and "Imperialism 3: Tokyo Drift". Robert immediately expresses his disappointment in Wong not calling the second phase "Imperialism 2: Electric Boogaloo".
  • Offing the Offspring: Regaled in the appropriately titled episode "Gary Young: The Fake Doctor Who Drowned His Own Baby."
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: One of Sophie's jobs is to interrupt Evans whenever he says something that might get the show in legal trouble.
  • Overused Running Gag: Discussed Trope - Robert has made multiple comments about using running gags at least two weeks past when they've gotten stale, such as Doritos or the child hunting island off the coast of Indonesia. The latter got a response from Sophie that the gag was already well past that point.
  • Pædo Hunt: Appropriately, "The Nazi Pedophile Cult Leader Who Murdered Santa" episodes focus on Paul Schäfer, who was known to have molested numerous children in his cult.
  • Ponzi: Many of the bastards covered ran Ponzi schemes or MLM schemes, including the Second Klan.
  • Precious Puppy: Sophie's dog Anderson (who despite the name is a girl) and is even featured on some of the show's merchandise.
  • Private Military Contractors: Eric Prince, founder of the infamous Blackwater unit, got his own episode and has been described as a "frequent guest bastard" for his appearances in many other bastards' stories, and King Leopold is noted to have used mercenaries for many of his greatest abuses of the Congo Free State.
  • Prophetic Name: Roberts has (jokingly) expressed a believe in "nominative determinism" or that a person's name determines who they're going to be, such as that a man named "Paige Patterson" just sounds like he couldn't possibly not become a weird religious leader.
  • 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, though it would later get its own episode.)
  • 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.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • The COVID-19 pandemic forced production of the show to move from its regular studio in Los Angeles to remote casting. Many of the running gags from the studio (such as throwing bagels and the poison room) fell by the wayside as a result. The shift in recording venue also led to a corresponding increase in Sophie's speaking presence on the show, as in the recording studio, she didn't usually have a microphone, while she does have one when doing remote sessions.
    • Additionally, one episode featured Robert as the guest with the show written and hosted by his friend Garrison after a Proud Boy broke Robert's hand at a protest he was reporting on, leaving him unable to type up a script.
    • Robert's time covering the events of Rojava and the extended civil unrest in Portland, Oregon led to the Behind the Police miniseries and also to the spin off shows It Could Happen Here and The Women's War.
    • Several episodes over roughly one year saw the show abandon its usual format and instead dissect Ben Shapiro's novel True Allegiance with the hosts of companion podcast Worst Year Ever. It's since been made clear that these episodes were recorded because they require almost no preparation and could be slotted into the schedule when Robert was unavailable to record.
    • The events of January 6th, 2021 prompted the Behind the Insurrections miniseries about various fascist coups, both failed and successful and what we can learn from them and how to stop future coups from succeeding.
    • In early 2021, pressing family matters cut the Behind the Insurrections miniseries an episode shorter than originally intended and prompted a temporary shift towards more book episodes and away from the standard bastard-of-the-week format, as well as occasionally left the companion current events podcast "Worst Year Ever" presented only by co-hosts Cody Johnson and Katy Stoll.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Cecil Rhodes was apparently a fan of this trope in real life, as after becoming a rich diamond magnate he attended Oxford University and would often fail to do his coursework or pay attention in class, instead loafing around campus and showing off pocket diamonds produced by his mines to his classmates. Even Robert and episode guest Prop are impressed by how seemingly little Rhodes cared about his education, since he knew that being rich and famous meant Oxford wasn't going to fail him because they wanted him amongst their alumni.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Name dropped when Evans is explaining how Walter Freeman, the inventor of the lobotomy, was actually correct about mental illness being tied to physical problems in the brain, but his treatment was completely wrong.
    • Also comes up when explaining why the Catholic Church opposed phrenology not because of any objections to the racism in it but because they believed it was the devil's work.
  • 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: Multiple. Evans tends to rotate his running gags, letting some of them expire to keep the comedy somewhat fresh and avoiding the show to become too mired in in-jokes, though some of them (like Raytheon and the terrible intros) have stuck around.
    • The aforementioned Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking gag of listing Wil Wheaton amongst history's greatest monsters (an appellation he has, as of yet, failed to earn in Real Life).
    • 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!
    • Evans giving a "Behind the Bastards Guarantee" that they've explicitly spoken to their list of sponsors to ensure none of them ever engage in [insert horrific action of the week here].
    • Evans ironically gushing about David Koresh and especially his presentation in Waco whenever given half the chance (usually followed by Sophie getting annoyed that he got brought up again).
    • Evans wanting to start his own cult and wanting to antagonize the FDA into laying siege to it.
    • Evans ironically fanboying over the Raytheon corporation and their specialty knife missiles, missiles that shoots knives guaranteed to 100% devastate all civilian wedding parties you aim it at.
    • Evans will jokingly claim that Bernie Sanders was the actual assassin of JFK and Robert Kennedy instead of Lee Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan respectively.
    • Evans trying to get Doritos to sponsor the podcast, especially during the first fifty or so episodes.
    • Evans using increasingly bizarre or non-sensical openings to episodes, including atonal yelling, shouting "HIIIITTTLEEEEEER", and blatantly misrepresenting what the podcast is about, which is more or less inevitably followed by him actually announcing the title of the podcast, that it's about the worst people in history, and that the show is never properly introduced, all in varying levels of verbosity.
    • During episodes with Katy Stoll and Cody Johnson as guests, any of the three bringing up the slogan "One Pump, One Cream" from a bottle of Nestle coffee creamer that was in the recording studio.
    • Evans tends to have running themes for episodes where recurring guests star. For example, eps featuring Billy Wayne Davis tend to be about fake doctors while ones with Sofia Alexandra tend to involve dead children.
    • In early 2022, Evans began insisting that one of the major food box sponsors owned a private island where one can hunt children for sport. The name is always bleeped out, except for one instance. Its Blue Apron.
  • Saving Christmas: Evans jokingly claimed that his Tactful Translation of "Bat'ko" as "boss" during the Christmas Special on Nestor Makhno with Jamie Loftus was done in the name of this. The truth is closer to "daddy".
    Robert: I Did What I Had to Do, to save Christmas. I understand that it's going to ruin the rest of my life.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: The show does not look fondly on medical scammers and they are frequently featured as bastards of the week.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: Cool People Who Did Cool Stuff, a podcast on the same network run by Margaret Killjoy about people and historical movements who, as the title might hint at, will never feature on Behind the Bastards. Evans was the guest on the Cool People premiere.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Robert professes in an episode that he finds Pedro Pascal quite attractive, commenting that "No one is that straight."
  • Tactful Translation: During the non-bastard episode on Nestor Makhno, Evans tells guest Jamie Loftus that "Bat'ko" translates as "boss" and then explains in an aside that it actually means "father" or "daddy" and that he told her that it meant "boss" for the purposes of the story because telling her that it meant "daddy" would have hopelessly derailed the episode. When Loftus jokingly call him out on it in a later episode, Evans replied that he was not proud of what he did, but he felt it necessary in the name of Saving Christmas.
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: Many bastards sometimes end up with Evans unironically (or at least semi-ironically) enjoying at least one facet of their life: For instance, he praised the poetry of Zhang Zongchang and his attempts to solve a drought by threatening God with a cannon if he didn't make it rain.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Unsurprisingly, members and enablers of Nazi Germany frequently feature as bastards of the week.
  • Unfortunate Names: In "The Nazi Pedophile Cult Leader Who Murdered Santa", Robert tells the story of one of the torture victims of Colonia Dignidad, left-wing militia leader...Luis Peebles. Despite the horrible things that happened to Peebles, neither Robert nor Paul F. Tompkins can avoid laughing at how silly the name is though Robert does note that the guy must have been an utter badass to somehow become a militia leader with a name like that.
    • Also brought up when discussing one of the college professors of Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, the "hilariously named" Felix Frankfurter, who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice. Guests Dan and Jordan joke that being born with this name made him become someone everyone would be afraid of.
  • Unknown Rival: How Fritz Haber's "rivalry" with Walther Nernst is described in "The Man Who Invented Chemical Warfare" since Haber took on the "nitrogen problem" mostly to spite Nernst who didn't seem to have any real opinion of him in return.
  • 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.
  • Usurping Santa: According to "The Nazi Pedophile Cult Leader Who Murdered Santa", nazi pedophile cult leader Paul Schäfer once had a member of his cult dress up as Santa so Schäfer could shoot him in front of all the children trapped in his cult. He then told the children Santa was dead and they should believe in him unconditionally instead. Episode guest Paul F. Tompkins described it as "the one to beat" when it comes to sheer bastardry, with Evans adding that even Hitler would probably consider that to be going too far.
  • What Did You Expect When You Named It ____?: Discussed when talking about Carlos the Jackal and how he attended Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow only to later be kicked out for allegedly trying to start a revolt, since said university is named after someone who did exactly that.
    • Also brought up with the sea colony Minerva, named after a ship that sunk on the reef. Guest David Bell wonders what they were expecting naming it after a previous failure.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: The episode on Gerald Bull ends this way, with Bull being shot in the back of the head three times by an unknown assailant (the briefcase full of money Bull had on him was conspicuously not stolen). Since he would design artillery for the highest bidder, with his current patron being none other than Saddam Hussein, just about every major power had a motive, even if they'd previously worked with him.
  • Who Shot JFK?: A Running Gag on the show (and other podcasts Evans is involved in) is that Bernie Sanders was the true assassin of JFK, and that he somehow had Lee Harvey Oswald framed for the crime. This culminated in a Worst Year Ever episode titled The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by the Coward Bernie Sanders.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Quite a number of episodes deal with children getting abused or even killed, most notably "The School that Raped Everybody", "Canada's Darkest Secret: Residential Schools", "How The Catholic Church Murdered Ireland's Babies", "Elan School: The Worst 'Troubled Teen' Facility", "The Nazi Pedophile Cult Leader who Murdered Santa", and "The Child Prisons of Texas".
  • Yakuza: The Yakuza play a major role in the episode on Nobusuke Kishi, who worked closely with them in his time working for the Imperial Japanese government, as economic minister for Manchukuo, and continuing their partnership into his time as founder of the Liberal Democratic Party and as prime minister of Japan. Among other things, it's mentioned that Manchukuo had relatively few of Imperial Japan's infamous army-run sex-slave brothels... because the Yakuza had already set them up there years prior.
  • Younger Than They Look: During the Joe Pyne episode, guest Tom Reimann is utterly stunned when Robert reveals Pyne died at the age of 45 since Pyne looked like this when he was alive. As Robert points out, Pyne was both a WWII veteran and a chain-smoker (even while he was on air), which might have aged him prematurely.