Like radio, but awesome.
That’s the whole idea behind TALKHOLE, Canada’s Comedy Podcast Network.
I see podcasting as the new Wild West in radio. A vast, unconquered wilderness of limitless sound. Unmolested by federal regulators and overpriced/underwhelming ad agency shithawks. A form of radio as pure as the driven snow!
Terrestrial radio still has it’s rare golden moments of mania, don’t get me wrong. But in my near decade of skin in this cold and brutal game, I’ve also seen the power shift and the priorities skew to the point of ¨broadcasting by boardroom¨. I wanted to land somewhere in the sweet spot between Alex P. Keaton and Abbie Hoffman on that one. Just the right mix of Patchouli and Drakkar Noir… 80s Paul Simon, just the right palatable flavor to please both sides
Podcasting is the future of radio in some sense, and yes it’s on the internets, an endless expanse of space and freedom where we can travel freely with no check points, no tariffs paid. And no corporate shills steering the way! But really, who gives a shit about ¨The Man¨. Think about the freedom to experiment, to hold an audience captive with nothing more than the strength of a voice and the written word.
The importance I see in podcasting is that it’s essentially a throwback to the Golden Age of radio, the art & form of this simple medium is where so much is possible.
I fell in love with radio long ago. When I slander the business or gripe on the ignorance of the powers that be, I say it with love.
I came to radio accidentally, falling down the rabbit hole as I stumbled my entry level way into the Canadian film & television business. Radio was where I cut my comedy teeth, long before my life in standup. I took paid writing gigs, drumming up ad copy and marketing promos, and honing out station imaging for mid market stations across Ontario. I’d make friendly with the local Rock Jocks, and write segments and sketches for mornings shows, mid-days and drive. The flavor would always change, depending on where I was and who I was writing for – but the rite of passage was always the same. If it passed the hosts’ laugh test, it made the air.
Jocks started bringing me on the air. Usually in character. I’d show up on a show as a character of my own, or maybe drop a prank call on a pizza place or a law firm in Atlanta, or roll a fake commercial. I’d read Tweets aloud as Gilbert Gottfried. I’d show up on the air as comics, actors, musicians – and newsmakers who made the news for all the wrong reasons. When Brett Michaels had an aneurysm, I appeared on a Hamilton rock station as Donald Trump, plugging the aneurysm as the ¨classiest, biggest, most bad-ass rock ‘n roll brain clot that Hollywood has every seen¨
I’ve had some colorful moments on the air. Explaining the Aristocrats joke to Meatloaf, accidentally interrupting a live Taylor Swift interview (back when she was still crying on her guitar). I once lost my Blackberry (I know) at a bar in my hometown, and went on the local rock station to ask the entire city if they found it (and if anyone wanted to get a drink with me while I was in town)
I got off the plane last summer in Iceland, having just landed for the 2014 Iceland Comedy Festival, and whipped straight over to Reykjavik to plug it on national radio. Suddenly, I was getting paid in Kroners to do Reykjavik radio. I was live on the air in the land of Bjork, knocking out my mild jetlag with viking amounts of Icelandic black coffee
When I first got into standup, I began looking for ways to bring these two worlds together: Comedy vs. Radio. Radio vs. Comedy. I wanted to blur the dividing line, and still struggle with that every working day.
It’s always cathartic now, returning to a radio station I left as a staff writer, and walking into the studio as a guest. Plugging a show or a film or a TV show or a comedy festival. Or, guest hosting for a day. I’m on the air more now as a comic than I was as a writer in the radio business. Sirius XM, CBC, Proud FM, Rock stations here in Toronto and across Ontario. And every time I leave thinking, ¨I should be doing this. Everyone else thinks I should be doing this. When’s the radio business going to snatch me up before I’m gone?¨
I always look at friends of mine, jocks who I once wrote for and now come by to do their shows, and I wonder why I’m not doing that too. I often tell people that it always feels like I’m the one kid at a pool party with a cast on my arm. I watch all of my friends, diving in and splashing around, and I could do it too. But something was holding me back. And at a certain point, my frustration peaked.
I began hosting my own weekly inside-comedy show Forever Young with Dean Young & Friends on the now-defunct Pod Almighty Network. In that, I found the place where the dots really connected for me. We did that for about a year and a half. Saturdays in the studio became my one big happy, my own private Valhalla. It felt like we were creating something big, and we were living like all of those radio legends who took a microphone way back when, and colored outside of every single line. Censors be dammed! Border blasters and impresarios who used a simple signal as a weapon, a frequency as a ‘FUCK YOU!’ and a transporter of strange & unimaginable ideas that took the listener by storm. I was the dick jokes Orson Welles! We were the young new Mercury Theater of the Internet, and every day we were figuring out what the Hell podcasting was, and just how much we could do with it if we tried. We were just getting started. And when the network fell, my plans to take over and make it my passion project were on hold. Just for a moment…
And so, TALKHOLE was born. With a collective of Pod Almighty alums (editors, producers, hosts) and friends whose shows I was a regular guest, who could benefit from a new home. And, new shows starting from scratch with comics who believe in the cause – and just want to have some fun. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but radio was meant to be fun.
I’ve come to know that here in Canada you have to make your own opportunities. Canadian radio and comedy are a small community, with a lot of raw talent duking it out for the same set of golden gigs. So when you feel the need to cut a new path for yourself, the real estate is there – and the word of mouth from friends on the scene goes a long way.
TALKHOLE is simply my fork in the road for radio & comedy. And a way to bring together a collective of podcasters under one roof. One home studio. One banner we can build on and grow. Live shows, a TALKHOLE podcast festival, sponsors (of the non-intrusive kind) the whole shebang.
It goes back to the whole ¨America has one, so why can’t we?¨
Comedy Network kicked off back in 1997 because we. as a comedy country, demanded our own answer to Uncle Sam’s Comedy Central (where the similarities lie beyond that is a whole other topic entirely)
And with so many comics & podcasters exploring this new and weird ‘do-it-yourself’ brand of broadcasting, right here on the Toronto comedy beat – it just made simple sense that we should have our own answer to U.S counterparts like Feral, Earwolf, Nerdist. More modest and Canadian, of course.
Granted, we’re as grassroots as it gets. We’re sowing our collective oats and scraping along on financial fumes.
But money is The Man’s thing, and who gives a shit about the man! We’re lashing together this beautiful abomination part by part, stitch by stitch – show by show. And with each new violent volt of electricity it twitches to life, and takes on more and more of a personality all its own.
I’ll still be up to all of my usual tricks – on stage, on the air, writing for radio hosts by day. Plugging away in this fine rag and many more local publications. But where I’ll be most at home is in the studio every weekend, playing with my TALKHOLE.
Check out our website.