It came from the internet: Rob Norman on his new podcast about the horrors of human connectivity

You may know Rob Norman as the co-creator of Personal Best, CBC Podcasts’ acclaimed comedy self-improvement show, which aimed to help everyday people achieve small goals. TIME called Personal Best “easily one of the funniest podcasts on air.” 

But with his new series, Limited Capacity, Rob Norman isn’t trying to make you laugh – he’s trying to freak you out.

Following Jordan Peele’s Oscar win for Get Out, the comedy-to-horror leap has become more common. Still, it’s uncommon enough that Norman’s choice of follow-up project may come as a surprise. That isn’t to say Limited Capacity isn’t funny sometimes; tonally, it’s similar to Black Mirror, mining dark humour from its unsettling scenarios. 

Limited Capacity is about the strange and twisted ways people use technology. The series blurs the line between thriller and mockumentary, with each of the six short stories in the collection taking twists and turns. The cast of Limited Capacity includes Eric Peterson (Corner Gas), Rahkee Morzaria (Run The Burbs), Cal Dodd (X-Men: The Animated Series) and many more. The performers were sometimes as surprised by where the story ended up as the listener will be; the storytelling combines scripted pieces with improvised elements.

Listen to the trailer:

Limited Capacity1:07Introducing: Limited Capacity

Coming November 18. Limited Capacity is a collection of six unsettling short stories about the way our lives are warped through imperfect technologies. Punctuated with dark humour and surprising twists, each episode blurs the lines between horror, thriller, mockumentary and satire. It’s like Black Mirror for your ears. From Rob Norman, co-creator of the hit podcast Personal Best. 1:07

Norman spoke with CBC Podcasts about the unusual production process of Limited Capacity and why he wanted to make something so different from his last project. Here is part of that conversation.

How would you describe Limited Capacity to someone about to experience it for the first time?

It’s a psychological horror about people who spend too much time on the internet. Each episode is a different story with different characters. Some episodes are scary. Others are sad, or funny. It’s Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone but for your ears.

Your other podcast, Personal Best, is an unscripted comedy podcast. What made you want to switch up genres for Limited Capacity?

I absolutely loved making Personal Best and would be happy to make another 100 episodes of that show. But Andrew [Norton, my co-host] and I were very aware of what stories that we should tell and what stories we shouldn’t tell. Also, when you’re telling someone else’s story that’s a massive responsibility: to tell their story faithfully and to make our guests look good.

Limited Capacity really allowed me to push characters and stories into directions we never explored before. It’s also the first show that I’ve produced on my own. So each of these stories feels very personal to me.

The production process for this podcast involved mixing scripted pieces and improv from the cast. How did the cast help to shape the stories in Limited Capacity?

Each episode was fully scripted but the actors never received those scripts. Instead their characters were taken through the story scene-by-scene. Directing episodes at times felt more like guiding someone through a haunted house than making a podcast. I think that made these stories feel more “lived in” because you aren’t listening to someone reading off a script; each episode is someone’s actual experience of an event.

In Limited Capacity, people use technology in some pretty harmful ways. Would you say that you’re generally more pessimistic or optimistic about how technology will affect society in the future?

I don’t feel strongly one way or another. Technology fixes some problems, and creates new problems. But human beings largely stay the same. And that’s what this show is about. Being on the internet doesn’t change the human condition; it just changes how those behaviours are expressed.

What’s your personal technology vice: something you know you should give up or use less frequently but can’t seem to stop?

If I had stronger willpower I would stop using social media altogether. It’s not good for me. But I’m part of this Facebook group for tea drinkers where folks talk about steep times and best filters. They are very kind to each other. So I can’t leave Mark Zuckerberg’s little puzzle box just yet…


Q&A edited for length and clarity. Written and produced by SK Robert. 

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