There is no one on campus more recognizable than him. He is an icon, a living legend that elicits murmured whispers and awed stares wherever he travels. He seems larger than life — someone who belongs more in books than at the helm of Yale — our president, Peter Salovey.
The new tongue-in-cheek podcast “SaloveyQuest” takes this perception to its most logical — and comedic — extreme. Created by a group of Yale undergraduates headed by Micah Osler ’18, “SaloveyQuest” follows the adventures of Salovey and his young ward/personal assistant Emma Winworth (Lina Kapp ’20) as they travel through space and time with the aid of a time travel machine. The first episode, released this Monday, is available on the “SaloveyQuest” Facebook page and on various app stores.
The podcast opens up with “Rhapsody in Blue” and the booming 1950s voice of narrator Rod Chromeworth (Noah Strausser ’19). It’s first year move-in day, but Salovey has to contend with a whale of a problem — literally. A 60-foot-long dead sperm whale has entrenched itself on old campus, Fortunately, Salovey is able to use his psychological prowess to determine the cause of death and decides to travel with Emma back in time to fix the source of this whale’s malady.
Salovey, played magnificently by Carlos Guanche ’20, is the crux of the story — he takes up more than half the dialogue, speaking in a tone and style reminiscent of Doc from “Back to the Future.” Salovey is crafted to be as arrogant, bombastic and pompous as possible — the manifestation of ego in the flesh. Emma, a generic student with no real distinguishing traits, acts as the straight woman to Salovey’s eccentricity. Guanche’s lines sound like an SAT vocabulary essay at times, ranging from “tomfoolery” to “virile masculinity” to “veritably.” While this purposeful obfuscation of simple phrases can become grating — especially since Salovey talks so much — the lines ultimately help to formulate what is, in essence, a trenchant critique of Yale’s president.
Despite its lightness and humor, “SaloveyQuest” wryly levels criticism at its erstwhile protagonist. Salovey is portrayed as terribly out-of-touch, at one point exclaiming, “I’m a man of the people! Just last evening, to stave my monstrous appetite, I ate a lukewarm chili dog I found on the New Haven Green.” This faux populism, while funny, has its basis in questions surrounding Salovey’s commitment to the student body at Yale. Protests in 2016 centered around the name of Calhoun College often focused on Salovey’s inaction. He was critiqued as pandering to the donor base and characterized as a patrician bureaucrat.
“SaloveyQuest,” however, takes its satire well beyond just the title character, poking fun at various administrators, alumni and institutions at Yale. Steven A. “Stevesy” Schwarzman (Zachary Rosen ’20), is brought in for a phone call with Salovey. Schwarzman, rasping in a goblin-like voice, speaks of evil plans and secret plots, asking at one point how to acquire “a few pounds of human skin.” The voice is hard to understand at times, and the whole act falls pretty flat. With all the controversy surrounding Schwarzman, “SaloveyQuest” had a prime opportunity to go for some pointed commentary but ended up creating a generic, bland villain seen a thousand times prior. Hopefully in future episodes Osler will continue to develop Schwarzman beyond a caricature.
“SaloveyQuest” parodies former Dean Susan Cahan to a much more humorous effect. Cahan, who oversaw the arts while working at Yale, is drunk and at the end of her rope after going to too many art exhibits and performances. “I don’t want to see your black and white photography installation,” she rants. “You people won’t let me sleep!” Cahan is played by Esther Ritchin ’20, who imbues a wild sense of mania in her short cameo, is superbly cast in the role.
The podcast also features a surprise appearance by Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, played by Clara Olshansky ’18.
The script is well written, if forced at times. A number of subtle digs at various Yale institutions crop up during the podcast — Yale security the finest among them. It is consistently funny throughout its 24 minutes.
Ultimately, there isn’t much of a larger message to “SaloveyQuest,” but there doesn’t need to be. This comedic podcast does a great job of keeping listeners entertained and laughing, and I, for one, am excited to see where it goes in subsequent episodes. “SaloveyQuest” shows great promise, but, as Rod Chromeworth concluded, “only time will tell.”
Contact Conor Johnson at email@example.com .