H. G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins) uses his time machine to take illustrious deceased authors to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater for interviews. Hours of longform improv ensue with such performers as Kristen Schaal, Andy Daly, and John Hodgman. For four years it ran to promote 826LA, a nonprofit organization devoted to teaching writing skills to students age 6-18. Tompkins ended it on August 18, 2015 for reasons of time and money.
- Chapter 1: "Emily Dickinson" (Guest: Andy Richter)
- Chapter 3: "Dorothy Parker" (Guest: Jen Kirkman)
- Chapter 4: "Benjamin Franklin" (Guest: Scott Aukerman)
- Appendix A: "Charles Dickens and O. Henry" (Guests: Hal Lublin as Dickens; Marc Evan Jackson as William S. Porter)
- Chapter 5: "Carl Sagan" (Guest: Matt Gourley)
- Chapter 6: "Gertrude Stein" (Guest: John Ross Bowie)
- Chapter 7: "P. G. Wodehouse" (Guest: Brian Stack)
- Appendix B: "Friedrich Nietzsche and H. P. Lovecraft" (Guests: James Adomian as Nietzsche; Paul Scheer as Lovecraft)
- Chapter 8: "Aesop" (Guest: Mark McConville)
- Chapter 9: "Jorge Luis Borges (Guest: Nick Kroll)
- Chapter 10: "Arthur Conan Doyle" (Guest: Chris Tallman)
- Chapter 11: "J. R. R. Tolkien" (Guest: Matt Walsh)
- Chapter 12: "Mary Shelley" (Guest: Laraine Newman)
- Chapter 19: "The Authors of The Gospels" (Guests: Craig Cackowski as Matthew; Mark Gagliardi as Mark; Hal Lublin as Luke; Matt Gourley as John)
- Chapter 13: "The Brothers Grimm" (Guests: Jeremy Carter as Wilhelm; Matt Gourley as Jacob)
- Chapter 14: "Abbie Hoffman" (Guest: Jen Kirkman)
- Chapter 15: "The Marquis de Sade" (Guest: Andy Daly)
- Chapter 16: "Gore Vidal" (Guest: Marc Evan Jackson)
- Chapter 17: "Agatha Christie" (Guest: Jessica Chaffin)
- Chapter 18: "Brendan Behan" (Guest: Brian Stack)
- Chapter 2: "Robert Louis Stevenson" (Guest: Andy Daly)
- Chapter 20: "Ayn Rand" (Guest: John Hodgman)
- Chapter 21: "Joseph Campbell" (Guest: Jeremy Carter)
- Chapter 22: "Edgar Rice Burroughs" (Guest: Chris Tallman)
- Chapter 23: "Charlotte Brontë" (Guest: Jessica St. Clair)
- Chapter 24: "Plato" (Guest: Jason Mantzoukas)
- Chapter 25: "Shel Silverstein" (Guest: Mark McConville)
- Chapter 26: "William S. Burroughs" (Guest: Kurt Braunohler)
- Chapter 27: "Tennessee Williams" (Guest: Kristen Schaal)
- Chapter 28: "Walt Whitman" (Guest: James Adomian)
- Chapter 29: "Clement Clarke Moore and Irving Berlin" (Guests: Scott Aukerman as Moore; Neil Campbell as Berlin)
- Chapter 31: "Anne Frank" (Guest: Jamie Denbo)
- Chapter 32: "E. Gary Gygax" (Guest: Chris Tallman)
- Chapter 33: "Rod Serling" (Guest: John Ross Bowie)
- Chapter 30: "William Faulkner" (Guest: Thomas Lennon)
- Chapter 34: "Roald Dahl" (Guest: Ben Schwartz)
- Chapter 35: "Oscar Wilde" (Guest: Jon Daly)
- Chapter 36: "Ralph Ellison" (Guest: DeMorge Brown)
- Appendix C: "Edgar Allan Poe and J. D. Salinger" (Guests: Craig Cackowski as Poe; Marc Evan Jackson as Salinger)
- Chapter 37: "Truman Capote" (Guest: Jessica Chaffin)
- Appendix D: "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Erma Bombeck" (Guests: Seth Morris as Vonnegut; Brian Huskey as Bombeck)
- Appendix E: "Lord Byron and Norman Mailer" (Guests: Dana Gould as Byron; Frank Conniff as Mailer)
- Chapter 38: "Ian Fleming" (Guest: Matt Gourley)
- Chapter 39: "Flannery OConnor" (Guest: Lennon Parham)
- Appendix F: "Ernest Hemingway and Sun Tzu" (Guests: Josh Fadem as Hemingway; Fred Armisen as Changqing)
- Chapter 40: "Virginia Woolf" (Guest: Mary Holland)
- Appendix G: "F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce" (Guests: Andy Daly as Fitzgerald; Sean Conroy as Joyce)
- Chapter 41: "Dr. Seuss" (Guest: Hal Lublin)
- Appendix H: "Hunter S. Thompson and Philip K. Dick" (Guests: James Adomian as Thompson; Matt Besser as Dick)
- Chapter 42: "Miguel de Cervantes" (Guest: Horatio Sanz)
- Chapter 43: "Iceberg Slim" (Guest: Ron Funches)
- Chapter 44: "Confucius" (Guest: Eugene Cordero)
- Chapter 45 [Part 1]: "L. Ron Hubbard" (Guest: Andy Daly)
- Chapter 46: "Hans Christian Andersen" (Guest: Joe Wengert)
- Chapter 47: "Mark Twain" (Guest: Paul F. Tompkins as Twain; Host: Matt Gourley as Carl Sagan)
- Chapter 45 [Part 2]: "L. Ron Hubbard" (Guest: Andy Daly)
- Addendum i: "Lewis Carroll" (Guest: Rory Scovel)
- Chapter 48: "Maya Angelou" (Guest: Tymberlee Hill)
- Addendum ii: "Christopher Marlowe" (Guest: Matt Gourley)
- Addendum iii: "Aleister Crowley" (Guest: Matt Gourley)
- Addendum iv: "Lucy Maud Montgomery" (Guest: Ryan Beil)
- Addendum v: "William Butler Yeats" (Guest: David Rees)
- Addendum vi: "Beatrix Potter" (Guest: Lauren Lapkus)
- Chapter 49: "Albert Camus" (Guest: Steve Agee)
- Preface: "Henry Miller and Sylvia Plath" (Guests: Eddie Pepitone as Miller; Jen Kirkman as Plath)
- Chapter 50: "L. Frank Baum" (Guest: Chris Tallman)
Not to be confused with Death of the Author.
The episodes contain examples of:
- Actor Allusion: Invoked slyly by Paul. As Iceberg Slim is describing his foray into pimping as a means of coping with a bad breakup:H.G. Wells: Did you, at the time, feel that you had become... undateable?
(Ron breaks character and begins giggling in delight)
H.G.: Do you know who I think might do a cracking job? There's this fellow out of The Big Bang Theory-
- Can be seen again in the Rod Serling episode, when the two begin discussing the ideal choice to play Mr. Serling in a big-screen biopic:
Serling: Blank. Don't know what you're talking about.
H.G.: Well, he's good at playing weirdos, and I wonder if we could get him to smoke, if he might do a half-decent job.
Serling: Guy with a recurring on a show is gonna headline a feature? Do you even know how show business works?
- Bad Liar: L. Ron Hubbard cheerfully whipsaws between honesty, denial, and outright nonsense at every opportunity, stating his philosophy is that "the truth" is whatever you happen to think it is at the moment (or whatever he tells you). Most of Part 1 is just him listing his many bizarre, contradictory accomplishments.Wells: You reportedly said to this science-fiction convention, "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be to start his own religion." [...] You did say it?
Hubbard: Oh, I said stuff like that a buncha times, yeah!
Wells: But you've also denied saying things like that, certainly...
Hubbard: I never said that! I never said that, why would I say it?! I did say it. (Beat) I NEVER said that.
- Brown Note: "Excalibur", by L.Ron Hubbard, would have driven anyone who read it insane... if he had remembered to write it.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance / Fair for Its Day: In-universe. Though Wells' guests are, by and large, an educated and talented (or at least prolific) group, they still fall victim to the biases and hang-ups of their eras, and the show doesn't shy away from it. Taken Up to Eleven with H.P. Lovecraft, a paranoid, neurotic, fervently racist man whose white-supremacist views were wildly offensive even by the standards of 1920's science fiction.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Ayn Rand does not care about the plight of Native Americans, preaches a callous philosophy and is a homophobe. She's still opposed to laws which deny homosexuals the right to marry.
- Lampshade Hanging: Often for Rule of Funny purposes, authors will know about things that they reasonably shouldn't such as pop culture from after they died and or the time machine happens to have something they need to have seen or read for a joke. Attention will be called to it.Ayn Rand: I read a book on modern architecture you had in the time machine.H.G. Wells: There's a bit of luck.
- Old Shame: Invoked; to show them as Warts and All, any author's crimes or prejudices will come up and usually be discussed at length. Subverted often, since pretty much only Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl are actually ashamed of these things (or in Dahl's case, performer Ben Schwartz is ashamed to have been a fan when he learns of the author's anti-semitism).
- Only Sane Man: H. G. Wells is almost always the straight man as the other performers play their author as a Cloud Cuckoolander.
- Pandering to the Base: In-universe, Anne Frank is reluctant to read the famous "people are basically good at heart" passage of her diary, claiming she only wrote it because she knew it was something her audience would want to read. Considering her living conditions and attitude towards some of the people she lived with, it's possible and understandable she did not sincerely feel like writing that. It's also asserted in the interview that Frank supposedly started writing the diary because she'd heard there would likely be interest in these sorts of memoirs after the war, so the whole diary was probably Money, Dear Boy.
- Psychopathic Manchild: L. Ron Hubbard talks with a boyish enthusiasm and a lot of charisma about all the dishonest and downright evil things he did.(With a wide, beaming smile) "If y' don't [download the episode], I'll lock ya in a basement and take your children away!"
- Scary Black Man: Parodied. Iceberg Slim, just like his counterpart, is a violent pimp who brutalizes everyone in his employ, but still has the sweet, friendly nature and optimism of Ron Funches; as a result, he brings up "the ins-and-outs of beating women" with the same warmth as discussing making puppets in solitary confinement or following dogs on Instagram.
- Sex Bot: During bad times, Iceberg Slim tried to get johns to pay to have sex with a computer after he put a skirt on it.
- Shown Their Work: Andy Daly knows A LOT about L. Ron Hubbard. Thomas Lennon also had studied William Faulkner at college.
- Shrinking Violet: Parodied with Emily Dickinson; despite being a lovely, polite woman, years of shyness, isolation and drudgery have driven her slightly mad, to where she's begun poisoning her sister over a non-existent "rivalry" she believes they've always had.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Jules Verne is deeply, passionately hated by H. G. Wells and it comes up often. It's just because Verne is also credited with pioneering modern science fiction and doesn't write the sorts of stories Wells thinks of as science fiction. Ayn Rand uses the info to needle him, Rod Serling indulges him.
- Take That!: Pervasive, particularly at L. Ron Hubbard, Ian Fleming, and Ayn Rand. Done for comic effect against Jules Verne.
- Win Back the Crowd: In-universe, Dr. Seuss is called on his racist statements about Japanese-Americans. He takes his beloved book How The Grinch Stole Christmas, applies the moral to his own case, and gets applause. Wells is amused / annoyed by how that gets a bigger reaction from the crowd than condemning Nazis.