Break A Wish: Maddox Campbell is the next best thing to an actual real life genie

Today I’m with Maddox Campbell and we’re at Fran’s Restaurant! Tell me about your podcast, Break A Wish.
Sure! On Break A Wish, we take a magic wish that someone would want granted and then we try to come up with a balanced, ironic cost for it. The idea is that, even knowing the cost, you still might want to take that wish. So, it’s kind of a variation on the “Would You Rather…” formula. We try to explore the wish from all angles. And we explore how people react to magic and what they’re willing to give up for their wishes.

Break A Wish Podcast Logo, Toronto

Are you a genie?
I am not personally a genie. I wish I could grant some of the wishes. But, I just play the thought experiment. Originally, I was going to host the podcast as a deal demon. Like, a demon that was granting wishes for people for a cost. But, eventually I realised it was just too complicated to explain.

You wanted to do a character?
I was going to host it in character, yeah. But, it became too much work. I decided to streamline it down to just discussing the wishes.

That would’ve been great, but definitely tougher. How did you come up with the idea for the show?
I just really love playing out thought experiments and finding out what people think. I feel like you find out more about people when you put them in extreme scenarios. People act more like themselves when the situation is extreme. So, I like to play out that scenario by having people get what they wish for but see what they’re willing to pay for it.

Yeah, people really shine when they’re faced with crazy circumstances.
They shine or they do the exact opposite. You just get to see the real person more. What their priorities are. Or what they actually care about. In extreme scenarios, you really get at people’s unique morals and values.

Do you have a wish?
I try not to put my own wishes in because I want to break down other people’s wishes. I also never want the guest talking with me on the podcast to be the person who submitted the wish. Because I want to try to keep it general. So, I don’t use my own wishes for the show. But, if I had to make a wish… I kind of want to be, like, a cyborg. I like robots. I don’t want to give up being a person entirely, but I’d like to be a cyborg.

Well, you did an episode about having a mech. That’s pretty close.
Yeah, and that one ended up being partially about cyborgs because the cost was that you end up having a computer inside your head. And I was okay with that. I don’t mind sharing my brain with an AI. I think it would be good company.

Let’s talk a bit about the format of the show. Listeners submit wishes to you on Twitter. In each episode, you and your guests will come up with different costs for that week’s chosen wish. And at the end of the episode you’ll choose one of the costs as the final one.
Yes. The last thing we do in every episode is ask all the guests and myself whether we’d take the wish with that cost or not. And this is sort of our last check to make sure it’s at least sort of balanced. If all of us say we’d take the wish, then we haven’t balanced it with the cost. Sometimes we’ve had that trouble where none of the costs we came up with during the episode were strong enough to balance it out, so we’ve had to come up with a new cost last minute. Or make the cost a little worse or a little better.

And then you post a poll on social media to find out if people would take the wish with that cost or not.
Yes, we post a poll on Twitter and also on our Facebook discussion group. It’s a fun place to go deeper with the wishes.

Do you find that the responses are generally 50/50?
They’re usually around 40/60. There have been two notable exceptions that went all one way. One was the “I Wish Terrible Things Upon My Ex” episode. I was happy to see that everyone decided to reject that wish, so I think we’re all just good people. And the other was “I Wish I Had a Stable Career as a Writer”. Everyone decided to take that wish. I think a lot of my fans are comedians and aspiring writers, so everyone was willing to pay the cost for that one.

That’s so funny. It’s like a fun social experiment to see how people are answering for each wish.
What’s your favourite episode that you’ve done so far?
I think I actually like the mech episode the best. I liked the implications of such a big, unlikely thing. The cost didn’t seem to value how dangerous it would be for someone to have that futuristic, animé-esque technology out in the real world. Also, that episode ended with me possibly taking over Canada, which, you know, is a nice dream.

So that’s your real wish! To take over Canada!
Yeah, if I could just be in charge of everything, that would be great. I’d be very benevolent, though!

Tell me about Caverns & Comedians.
Caverns & Comedians was a real-play Dungeons & Dragons podcast with Toronto improv comedians. We tried to make ourselves stand out by editing out all the D&D from the D&D podcast. So, when you listen to it, it’s just like a radio play. That meant it was a lot of work. So much work. It was, honestly, too much work for a podcast.

Caverns and Comedians Podcast Logo, Toronto

Is Break A Wish less work?
I really designed this podcast to be less stressful. I normally record three different wishes with each guest. So, I end up having a big backlog and I can just pick which episode I want to release every week. I don’t record every week. That’s a scheduling stress I decided I didn’t need any more after Caverns. And the editing takes so much less time, because it’s just tuning up little things as opposed to ripping out half of it and adding in sound effects.

Which podcasts do you like to listen to?
Oh, a lot. I listen to a lot of information ones—so, 99% Invisible, Radiolab, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. I listen to some by my friends—like, Fairy Tales for Unwanted Children by Scott Thrower. I’ve gotten into a bunch of different comedy ones. The Adventure Zone is really good. Mission to Zyxx. And, my newest interest is Behind the Bastards.

I don’t know that one. What’s it about?
It’s by a former Cracked writer. He does a deep dive into a terrible person from history and he has a guest comedian with him who doesn’t know anything about that person. So, they digest how terrible that person is and go through their whole story. You learn a lot about history by looking at the worst people in it.

Why did you decide to do a podcast as opposed to a stage show?
I’ve been listening to podcasts for a long time, so I was really familiar with them as a listener. I think I started doing them because they’re something you can do without asking anyone’s permission, but you can also reach anyone in the world. With live shows, you can do it without anyone’s permission, but you can only reach who you can get out on that one night, that one time, who lives near enough to travel. And if you want to do a TV show or a web series, you need to get a whole bunch of people involved and get someone to give you money and permission. You get a little bit of both with podcasts. You don’t have to ask permission and you still get that wide audience.

Let’s talk about your live show. You do an improv show at The Social Capital called Perfect Match.
Yes, it’s a live improv show that I do at SoCap every month. I’ve been doing it for 3 and a half years now. The idea is that the players come with a pre-existing character (from TV, movies, video games, wherever). They do a short monologue to make sure you know who the character is. And then the audience gets to pick which characters they’d like to see meet for improv scenes. So, it ends up being very different characters getting into unusual scenarios.

Maddox Campbell's Perfect Match Improv Comedy Show, The Social Capital Theatre, Toronto

That’s a really fun idea.
Yeah, there are a lot of videos online, too. So you can see a lot of past shows. One of my favourites is Rocky Balboa and Frazzle the Muppet. It’s two really strong improvisers, Matt McCready and Kris Bowman. Matt probably did the best initiation I’ve seen in an improv scene for such an absurd scenario (Rocky meeting a Muppet). Rocky started off with something like “Hey, nice to see you, Frazzle. It’s been a while.” And then Frazzle responded with “Yeah, since you fucked me.” [Laughing] And now we have this scenario of Rocky Balboa having a sexual relationship with a Muppet.

Oh, wow. Well, on that note, let’s move on!
So, you famously hate cats.
Yes. It is a noted thing.

I sent in a wish which was “I wish my cats could talk” and you did an episode on it, which was awesome. You spent a lot of that episode talking about how much you hate cats.
[Laughs]. I mean, I made sure to get guests who loved cats so the episode itself was balanced. It was not a diatribe against cats.

I enjoyed it!
Do you have any pets?
I don’t have any pets. I’ve looked after dogs and I’ve had friends who have dogs so I’ve had friendships with dogs. I just don’t like the idea of having something in my house that is going to lick everything. I guess if I had a pet I would have to assume that everything in my house had been licked.

Well, there are pets who don’t lick things. If you could have one kind of pet, what would it be?
Or rather if I had to have a pet… I’d probably get something that can stay in a contained area, like a fish or a gerbil or something. Something you can put in its cage and it’s fine and I don’t worry about it.

Got it.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I guess – probably a cyborg.

Which parts of you would be human and which parts would be robot?
I’d definitely get robot eyes because then I wouldn’t have to wear glasses. And robot ears so I could tune out stuff I don’t want to hear. I’d probably keep my human hands so I could, like, feel stuff. But, I’d have robot legs so I could jump super high and land. I want to be able to jump off a building and just do a cool landing and be fine.

If you had an evil twin and I had to kill one of you, how would I know which one to kill?
My evil twin would probably be my opposite in many ways. So, they’d probably have a pet cat. Probably perched on their shoulder—like a cat-parrot hybrid. So you’d have to be careful, because you don’t want to shoot the cat while shooting Evil Maddox.

If you could compete on a reality TV show, which one would you choose?
One time I saw a reality TV show—and I only saw it one time while I was at a cabin, so I don’t know if it was actually real or if I hallucinated it. But, it was called Murder in Small Town X. It was a show where the contestants were playing murder investigators and there was a whole town of actors playing the suspects. And, I don’t want to compete on the show. I want to be one of the actors playing a suspect in a town full of actors, playing the world’s biggest murder mystery.

That sounds so insane. I have to look that up.
Again, it might be a fever dream that didn’t actually exist, but I’m pretty sure I saw it on TV at least once. This was back when reality TV shows were new. It was probably way too expensive. The neat thing was the way they voted people off; at the end of the show, they’d pick two people to go to two locations. One would find an important clue for next week and the other would be “killed” by the murderer.

I need to watch this.
If you could wade through a pool of something that isn’t water, what would you pick?
I’m a pretty big fan of Coca-Cola. That would be really bubbly. Can I wade through it doing a handstand so I can also drink some as I go?

There are no rules against you drinking it. You could just wade through on your feet and dip down to drink it. You don’t need to be fully submerged.
Yeah, that would be a nice bubbly massage that’s also tasty.

Wouldn’t that be pretty bad for you—all that sugar?
I think the amount I consume now is already bad for me, but I’m about to become a cyborg, so I’ll have an insulin pump as one of my cyborg things.

Oh, oops—I kept this question on my list by accident from my last interview with the Books are Boring guys. I guess I have to ask it!
Do you have anything to apologise for?
I mean, probably. But, I probably repressed it. I don’t like to think that I did bad things. But, I’ll just say—yes. I’m sorry for whatever I did.

Good idea. Me too. I’m sorry for everything.
Last question! If you could ask me one question, what would it be?
The question that fits my show—what do you wish for?

I wish that I could eat anything I want and as much as I want and have no health repercussions.
I would really want that too.

What would be the cost?
Well, I’d have to discuss it with two guests for 30 to 40 minutes, but… Off the top of my head—the cost would be that you’d have to spend a lot of money on food, since you’re hungry all the time. You’d never stop eating. You’d run out of food, then you’d run out of money.

Oh, that’s not a sustainable lifestyle. Shit.
Well, we’ve reached the end! Anything you’d like to plug?
I host a pub trivia night called Quizdamonium. It’s pretty fun. I would say it’s the most fun trivia night in the town.

The town of Toronto.
In the whole town of Toronto! That’s the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 8pm at The Social Capital!
Also, Perfect Match is on the 3rd Thursday of every month at the Social Capital.
And if you want to listen to Caverns & Comedians, it’s still online. There are no new episodes but it’s still available!

Find out more about Break A Wish and all of Maddox’s projects in all of these fun places:
Break A Wish – Episode List
Twitter: @BreakAWishPod
Facebook: Break A Wish Podcast
Break A Wish – Facebook Discussion Group

Kicks & Giggles Entertainment
Perfect Match

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