Picture a British sitcom in the vein of Fawlty Towers, but centered around rival funeral directors instead of eccentric hotel owners, and you have a basic idea of what to expect in David K. Barnes’ Wooden Overcoats.
Rudyard Funn is about as clueless as it gets when it comes to people. And running funerals. And pretty much everything, really. But he does get the body in the coffin in the ground on time.
Antigone Funn is passionate about embalming the deceased and avoiding scary things like sunlight and other humans. She also enjoys the occasional piece of erotic French film.
Together, Rudyard and Antigone run the only funeral home on the island of Piffling. That is, until the annoyingly perfect Eric Chapman decides to open up another funeral home right across the street. Wooden Overcoats follows the increasingly drastic measures the Funns take to stay in business.
Of course, all of this is narrated by Madeleine, the Funns’ pet mouse, who hopes to sell her writing for a major book deal. And I couldn’t be happier about that bit of delightful absurdism, because it means I get to review Wooden Overcoats for the Inn! Book-writing mice count as speculative fiction, and you’ll never convince me otherwise.
Wooden Overcoats is an absolutely brilliant work of audio comedy. Other than the sharp writing, vivid dialogue, and genuinely laugh-out-loud humor, what really makes it shine is the characters.
The entire town of Piffling Vale is full of colorful characters. The clueless mayor, the agnostic priest, the over-zealous baker/detective, and the ridiculously overworked doctor are all both outlandishly absurd and remarkably human. Each begins their respective character arcs as a bit over-the-top but quickly wins over your heart.
There aren’t any real antagonists, though the new funeral director Eric Chapman provokes the Funns into quite a few, shall we say, entertaining business decisions. Chapman is arguably the only sane person on the island of Piffling, with a mysterious past that’s never quite explained.
If there’s anything critical I can say about the show, it’s that it isn’t fast-paced or particularly plot driven. And that’s more a matter of taste than anything else.
I’m not sure if Wooden Overcoats is complete or not, though there are currently three seasons, and the finale of the third season is absolutely beautiful. If you’re a fan of comedy (and especially British humor), I suspect you’ll adore this show.
Wooden Overcoats is a free British comedy audio drama available through iTunes or wherever you find podcasts. Check out its website for more information or listen to the first episode now: