One of the best basketball players of all time, Kobe Bryant is setting out to make a name for himself in show business—and succeeding, having already won an Academy Award, for his short film Dear Basketball. His latest entertainment venture, a podcast called The Punies, made a stop for a live broadcast at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) on Monday.
Young patients, wheeling IV carts and clothed in soft hospital gowns, crowded into Seacrest Studios, an in-house multimedia broadcast center, for a chance to meet the NBA superstar and listen to a brand-new Punies episode. In the podcast, a cast of six portray the “Good Ol’ Gang," a diverse group of friends drawn together by their love of sports and days of adventure.
With distinct voices created by seasoned actors, the episode entitled “Trust Your Crew” told a colorful story of Puny Pete (played by Ry Chase) facing his fears while entering a Soap Box Derby race with a car built by his friend Lilly (Rebecca Galarza), who forgets to install the brake.
Racing toward a cliff without a way to stop, Gordon (Andy Cameron) brilliantly halts the speeding race car with a bungee cord. In the end, Puny Pete is ready to race again because he trusts his friends and teammates. Joined by Kimberly (Suzie McGrath) and BB (Diamond White), the entire cast points out The Punies is all about “teamwork and supporting each other.”
"Puny, the main character, is dealing with a lot of things this first season: the fear of fitting in and the fear of sports in general," Bryant said. "And you see his teammates trying to support him in various ways."
A former CHOC patient, 17-year-old Sydney Sigafus, landed a guest spot on this particular episode. Sigafus, who once was a nine-month resident at CHOC, joined the cast after just a weekend with the script. “I played basketbal, and meeting Kobe, who is a major legend for my generation, was crazy,” Sigafus said. “I really like The Punies message that through teamwork you can get the job done faster and create great friendships.”
Bryant, who helps write and direct the podcast, draws a lot of his material from his own family and inside jokes. “We’re trying to speak to children,” said Bryant, “but we’re trying to create entertainment that families can enjoy together.”
Counting on parent-to-parent word of mouth to grow the audience, Bryan also let slip that The Punies is going to be an animated series in the near future.
“For younger kids, The Punies is just fun,” Bryant said. “As they get older, we hope they’ll start to understand the meanings and messages, and the show will teach them things like perseverance, commitment, hard work, compassion, and empathy. Those are things that sports naturally teach.”
Airing every Saturday morning for an initial 10-week run, find The Punies Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify and iHeart Radio.
Photo credit: Courtesy of CHOC Children’s (Lead Image), Courtesy of Carlo Vellandi (Carlo and Kobe)