Everything is Alive

Louis is a can of generic cola. He’s been on the shelf a long while, so he’s had some time to think. Go2 is a store brand. “People call it a knockoff,” says Louis. “I’ve been called the best of the worst. Bottom-shelf. We can describe it as bottom-shelf. I’m at peace with that.”

Everything is Alive is an unscripted interview show with host Ian Chillag in which all the subjects are inanimate objects. In each episode, a different thing tells us its life story — and everything it says is true.

It’s an existential exploration of the non-human condition, peppered with history, humor and esoterica. In the show’s debut episode, the host interviews an unassuming beverage. Together, the object and interviewer take side trips, too, discussing the nature of existence, but also looking into other drinks, like Radithor.

Radithor at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History by Sam LaRussa (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A vintage “power drink” of sorts, Radithor was a cocktail of radioactive quackery made from triple-distilled water and radium isotopes. Manufactured between 1918 to 1929 by a Harvard dropout, it was advertised as “A Cure for the Living Dead” and “Perpetual Sunshine.” One victim of Radithor poisoning was buried in a lead-lined coffin. Exhumed decades later, his remains were still highly radioactive.

Spirit Houses with multiple offerings at a road curve in Chaweng Noi Viewpoint, Koh Samui, Thailand. Many of the offerings are Red Fanta. Image by Per Meistrup (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Later, on a trek to Thailand, listeners learn about how locals leave out strawberry Fanta for ghosts, a modern-day replacement for ancient blood offerings. So while ostensibly hearing about the life of a single cola can, expect to dive deep into the history of sodas but also related subjects, ranging from funny to deeply philosophical.

The show is produced by Jennifer Mills and Ian Chillag. Music credit for this episode: “Sheets Two,” by Mountains, off the album “Choral.” Ian Chillag is a producer and writer living in Brooklyn. He’s produced NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and he co-created and hosted the NPR podcast How To Do Everything. He’s also worked on videos for The New York Times, contributed regularly to the literary magazine A Public Space, and has recorded four episodes of a podcast about a post-apocalyptic public radio pledge drive besieged by pestilence and death that he can’t quite figure out what to do with.

  1. acorben

    Super meta: Interview a copy of “Skinny Legs and All”, by Tom Robbins, in which a number of inanimate objects are awakened by a sexual act performed in their vicinity, and so embark on a journey to Jerusalem.

  2. Jon

    I absolutely loved this. When Roman Mars introduced it on the latest 99pi, at first I was confused and more than a little skeptical, but was soon gleefully chuckling right alongside him. The acting, deadpan voicework, and the tone struck (a mixture of absurd humor and earnest exploration of the psyche) were all spot on for me. I’ve always enjoyed radio dramas like the The Truth, and Secrets, Crimes and Audiotape, and this seems to combine that with something akin to Maron, which somehow works in a delightfully weird way. Hope it has longevity.

  3. Zoe

    I’ll make sure to let all my vore friends know they’re in for a treat at the end of this episode.

  4. Samuel lai

    This really took a very interesting turn i really like this if you ask me personally i havent heard anything like this having to know about japan with fanta or thailand with strawberry and blood or even to imagine having a conversation with another soup or even learn anything around the world i must really say thank you for making my day love to listen more of this hopefully there be more media attention for this kind of art best wishes on this new podcast series and hope to learn more too goodluck

  5. Casey Monahan

    Outstanding. He should get H. Jon Benjamin on the program to reprise his can of vegetables role from Wet Hot American Summer

  6. Beth

    I thought this was delightful…. I might listen to a few more and see if I want to subscribe.

  7. Nathan

    Just now listen this episode. I feel kinda of awkwardly interesting idea. Anyways its cool.

  8. Oscar

    This was without a doubt the BEST new podcast I’ve listen to in years! I can’t wait for more episodes.

  9. Repalereti

    I’m really sorry to say that it left me cringing the entire time. Good luck with the new show though, there will be an audience for it, just not sure if the audience of 99PI is that same one.

  10. Sanjay

    I will now be saving a frosty mug for my poor soda. It’s a silly show, but it’s like a child’s imagination at an age when that’s hard to recapture.
    Also, objects do not become radioactive. The glass bottles should be safe as long as all traces of the radium have been removed. People are radioactive after an incident because they get some of the radioactive particles into their lungs, stomach, or on their clothes, skin, and hair.

  11. Peg Farrell

    I really loved this: the concept, the deadpan delivery, the goofy humor, etc, etc. I have to admit, though, that the idea of things having a name and personality is not new to me. Some years back I had a car that ‘told’ me in no uncertain terms that she was Zelda; never had that happen before or since. Looking forward to the rest of the issues. [Note to Ian: you need to have a comment section on the show’s website.]

  12. Lucie

    I loved this! At I certain point, it became truly poignant as it dealt with the universal experience of questioning death, the afterlife, and existence itself. Parts were hilarious!

  13. Eric

    What a bizarre concept. Made for an interesting listen but definitely not what I expect from a 99pi episode. Glad that Roman continues to work with artists to push the boundaries of what a podcast can be, even if every one isn’t necessarily for me :)

    I must say that the actor that played the cola was pretty impressive.

  14. Kebabsoup

    Haha I liked very much the perspective offered by this podcast, I can’t wait for an episode about toilet paper!

  15. Guru

    I am a dildo, I live in a drawer under old musty clothes that rarely used. I enjoy my life most when I am used which occurs only a few times each month. I feel at home inside of the tight, cavernous, and wet innards of my female owner. I hope to someday be used in a group setting so that I can experience what the rest of the world might have in store for me.

  16. I really enjoyed that.

    Like the Godley and Creme song
    I pity inanimate objects

    I pity inanimate objects
    Because they cannot move
    From specks of dust to paperweights
    Or a pound note sealed in resin
    Plastic Santas in perpetual underwater snowstorms
    Sculptures that appear to be moving but aren’t
    I feel sorry for them all

    What are they thinking when they arrive at a place?
    Do they sigh with disappointment?
    And when they leave, do they have regrets?
    Is a sofa as happy in one corner as it is in another?
    And how does the room feel about it?

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