SWAMPSCOTT — For Swampscott resident David Townsend, it started off as sharing bedtime stories with his daughter. Now, it’s a podcast series.
When Townsend’s daughter Alexandra was 7 years old, he said they started off with the book series “The Boxcar Children.” Then, they read through the “Nancy Drew” series. The Townsends enjoyed the books, he said, but they quickly realized the plots and character storylines were silly and basic.
“I would be reading the story to her, but I would start making fun of it, while reading,” he said. “I’d start making up dialogue that wasn’t really there and she liked it. Then we began looking forward to it every night, finding the dumbest stories and poking fun at them with our own versions of the story. We laughed so hard every single night.”
Then, Townsend said, the bedtime stories became readings of romance comics from the 1950s that he picked up at local comic book stores. Their love for poking fun at stories grew even more with the vintage comics’ melodramatic plots and soap-opera like characters, he said.
The father-daughter duo recently launched a once-a-month podcast, titled “My Comical Romance,” that does just that. They dig into the romance comics and make fun as they do a dramatic reading, said Townsend, a long-time telecommunications consultant. They also lightheartedly address important topics, like the sexist nature the storylines are filled with.
“By 50’s standards, it was very sexist because it’s always the girl falling for the guy and he’s the one who makes the decision of ‘are we going to be in a relationship or not?’ and she just sort of follows him around with a sick-puppy kind of attitude,” he said. “They treat falling in love as a disease or catching some virus. It’s like one day you meet somebody and instantly you’re in love and there’s nobody else in the world.”
Townsend, 60, said the podcast is the best way to keep a close relationship with his daughter, given she lives in Vermont. Whenever the duo meets up, they record an episode together. With two already released on streaming services, they are slowly building up an archive, he said.
“My dad was the one who really pushed for it,” said Alexandra Townsend, now 30. “He wanted a project we could do together and comics seemed the natural choice. The goal is just to have fun with it, but spending time with my dad and analyzing something I’m interested in, while making a lot of jokes, is a good time overall.”
Alexandra Townsend introduced her father to podcasts. The one that was the inspiration for their podcast series was called “Titan Up The Defense,” which addresses superhero comics “Teen Titans” and “The Defenders” in a joking way, David Townsend said.
“They were doing exactly what we ended up doing,” he said. “It’s odd when you think about it, because comic books are visual and podcasts are purely audio. You have to be able to describe what’s happening while giving that visual element to listeners without just reading it aloud.”
Alexandra Townsend said she enjoys analyzing the romance comics because she finds them fascinating from a sociological perspective. The writers were a bunch of middle-aged white guys deciding what young women wanted in romance, she said.
The father-daughter duo eased right into recording for an audience because they had so many years of practice amongst themselves, David Townsend said. Right now they release an episode once a month, but once they nail down how to record long-distance, she in Vermont and he in Swampscott, that is likely to change.
“My dad and I have always been really close,” said Alexandra Townsend. “He raised me after my parents got divorced. He kinda raised me into his sense of humor, so it really means a lot to me I am able to do this project with him.”