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A Chat with Cole Stratton of “Pop My Culture”

Pop My Culture may cover ephemeral subject matter, but this “weekly-ish” podcast, hosted by comedians Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland, manages to simultaneously nail funny and topical every time I listen.

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Recently, one of the hosts, Cole Stratton (also co-founder of SF Sketchfest), answered a few questions for me about his show and why he does what he does.

How’d you and Vanessa meet?

Vanessa and I met doing improv at the Westside Comedy Theater (then the Westside Eclectic) in Santa Monica — we were on a house improv team called “Ladies and Gentlemen” which later became “Bruce.” We still improvise together there in a monthly show I run called “Pretty, Pretty Pony” where we do an armando with a special guest celebrity monologist. Always love getting on stage with her!

How has your sketch background served you on the show?

I think both our sketch and improv backgrounds come into play a lot — the show is super conversational and tangental, and we’ll often riff on an idea that comes up randomly, assuming characters and fleshing out a premise on the spot. Our pop culture topics are really just jumping off points to go on silly asides. We try to balance that along with good anecdotal career stories from our guests, so you get some inside info as well as just some funny games and goofy talk.

How’d you wind up on the Nerdist channel?

I’ve know Chris Hardwick for a long time — I’m one of the three founders of SF Sketchfest, the San Francisco Comedy Festival, which Chris has done many times. He was also engaged to my sketchfest co-founder (and often comedy and writing partner) Janet Varney for like seven years. Once Nerdist was putting together a network of shows, I simply asked Chris if he’d be interested in adding us to the roster, and he immediately accepted. We were already fairly established at that point, having done 63 episodes (our first episode with them was #64 with Ethan Suplee), and having been picked by Rolling Stone a year or so earlier as the #2 Best Comedy Podcast of the Moment. Joining Nerdist really did a ton for us — our numbers tripled and it felt great to be part of a family of shows.

What ’80s movie can you deliberate on most effectively?

I can talk 80s movies til the cows come home. It’s hard to just pick one — there’s a few that I’ve seen a billion times and can quote pretty much all the way through. Midnight Madness is one that comes to mind — it’s about an all-nighter scavenger hunt in LA with college teams and features David Naughton, Stephen Furst and Michael J. Fox in his first role. And Paul Reubens as a daft employee at a video arcade. I also have unabashed love for Cloak and Dagger, The Last Starfighter, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, The Last Unicorn, The Pirate Movie and all those great John Hughes movies of the decade.

When was the last time you talked to someone about global warming? Tort reform?

I never talk about those things. I fill my life with trivial water cooler stuff. I just see so many people get bent out of shape about politics, the environment, religion, etc. What do they say — ignorance is bliss? It’s not that I don’t have opinions about those things, it’s just that I refuse to let them put any stress into my life.

What episode generated the biggest reaction?

Hard to say — we did just release our 150th episode with Patton Oswalt, which got a good amount of attention as well as an iTunes feature and had us charting as high as #7 on the iTunes comedy charts. There’s certain guests that have definitely gotten the lions share of downloads — Felicia Day, Weird Al, Paul F. Tompkins and our year end multi-guest episodes spring to mind. Oh, and our live big panel shows — like the Legends of Voice Acting with Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Tara Strong and Cree Summer, and our TGIF panel with Reginald VelJohnson, Jodi Sweetin, Stuart Pankin and Bryce Beckham. We’re always looking to find fun angles for guest groupings, as well as guests that don’t do the podcast circuit — I’m pretty sure we’re the only ones who have had Eddie Deezen and William Zabka on!

Carmody Central Podcast – Interview with Jenn Carmody

The Carmody Central Podcast is a lifestyle podcast covering all things culture. There’s sex, comedy, even existential dialogue. Host, Jennifer Carmody brings in a guest, like comedian Colin Quinn, and they schmooze and kvetch for an hour. But it was her show with comedian Jim Norton (as Chip Chipperson) that really put her on the map.

Carmody can be as aimless as it is insightful, but this self-described “talker” embraces her show’s twists and turns, and somehow gets you where you need to go.  She calls it “eavesdropping on your hot neighbor’s psychotic conversations.” She was kind enough to have a conversation with me earlier this week about the show, internet trolls, and her process as a podcaster.

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Why podcasting?

To be honest, it just happened. I’m a TALKER, and I had a lot of people encouraging me to do something with my big mouth. I am a writer, and I work in film production, but I wanted to do something more genuine. I was spending months working on projects that in the end had no part of me left in them. So I stopped being worried about sounding stupid or people thinking I’m a bitch and said screw it, and just put myself out there uncut.

How’d you land Colin Quinn?

Colin is an amazing man, and I’m so grateful that he was willing to be a guest on my podcast. Some people know this, but my ex-boyfriend is a comedian and through tagging along with him everywhere for 3 years, I was able to make some really cool acquaintances. And luckily those people liked me enough to say yes to being a guest on my podcast.

I took a peak at your iTunes reviews, and it looks like small, angry person decided to drop all of his/her own disappointment in his/her own life on you. What’s your take on comment troll culture and how has impacted your online life?

(Laughs) That review is intense, the guy who wrote it deserves a hug. One, cause clearly he needs a damn hug… and second because he really took the time to listen to every episode, he should be thanked for that. Most people that dislike something just move on, he’s dedicated, he stuck with it… you gotta respect that. He even regularly checks my reviews to “thumbs down” the good reviews and keep his on top. Translation: He’s my Biggest Fan… in the review he talks about reading my blog, checking my modeling portfolio. Damn- I wish the people that loved me cared that much. I have friends that were even guests on the show who haven’t listened yet. I should hire that man to be my personal assistant and motivator once the show gets bigger. I like his attention to detail.

That said, my comments on trolling… I feel bad for people that direct their attention toward negativity, what a waste of time. However, as someone who is putting content out on the internet… all dirty trolls are the prime free advertising. They will share your page, tweet their friends about you, and spread the word of how awful you are… it comes with the territory, and I love their obsessive hits on my site, thank you.

I don’t take it personally, I can relate. When I feel unreasonably angry because “someone sucks so bad.” I know the real reason is because they are doing something that I want to be doing, and they are doing it with better results than me. Sometimes I read magazine articles and I get angry how bad the advice is… but, actually I’m angry because I felt that I could write it better and I’m pissed at myself because I didn’t take the initiative to write that article.

Not only did someone else do what I want to do, it’s also working well for them. It all comes back to yourself, and it’s your choice how you use that feeling. Does it motivate you to share it on your Facebook wall and shit talk it with your friends? Or does it motivate you to try and prove that you can do it better than they did?

That poor bastard who wrote my podcast a bad review is most likely just jealous I got to sit around and chat with all his favorite comedians… and he thinks he can do it better than me. And maybe he can… too bad he is wasting his time writing reviews and keeping tabs on other people’s success, not taking the time to make his own podcast.

This whole answer is SURPRISINGLY still shorter than his iTunes review. He’s thorough, man; it’s a shame that people waste their energy in the wrong places. Hopefully more people in the world will learn how to direct their attention towards the things they enjoy and less towards downloading things online that make them upset. They’re only perpetuating and advertising the things they are bitching about.

How do you prepare for a show?

I wish I had a good answer for this. Usually in some panic, I write down a bunch of ideas related to the topic, pace around my apartment and then just go with it. I enjoy getting “off-topic;” I think the best ideas come of it. And it’s kind of the point of the show, to not be so interview-y. I like to keep the conversations natural, and it won’t be if you think about it too much before.

But I’m still learning all of this, and I’m not an actor or comedian so more preparation will definitely work to my advantage as I’m getting new guests. I’ve already been a speechless ass a couple times on my own show, but oh well, I’m not Johnny Carson; this isn’t the Tonight Show. I’m Jenn Carmody; this is my show, so people can take it or leave it.

Where do you see Carmody Central Podcast in two years?

That’s a great question. My mind is actually blocked from seeing that far in advance; it’s literally black. But, in the near future, I will definitely be adding video episodes and making the show longer if the demand is there. When I’m more established and not at a full-time day job, then I’d like to extend the show, eventually do some events. Much further into the future, I want to be ranking in iTunes.

I have hit Top 6 in the Comedy Section of iTunes, and #24 of the Top Charts on all of iTunes. Now I’m off the list, but that week run proved to me I can get Carmody Central Podcast there again and keep it up there. It’s going to be a lot of work, and I have a lot of different projects that I’m working on. Like I said, I am a writer and filmmaker, so I plan to use the podcast to open other doors, and those other endeavors could mean new guests to the podcast.

What episode are you most proud of?

I’m just really proud of everything so far, but I definitely have to say my most proud moment was the Chip Chipperson Exclusive Interview, which is shocking to say, because Chip is definitely a low point for mostly everyone else’s life that he comes into contact with.

But Chip is one of my closest friends, and you can only tell someone to shut up so many times before you just love them. So not only was that the most fun to record, it was featured on Opie and Anthony, which helped the podcast rank so high in iTunes, and the episode itself was in the Top 100 Episodes for a couple days. To date the show has received 70 thousand downloads; it was a very proud moment. It shows me I can eventually get all my episodes to that level with work.

Sometimes I forget to enjoy the process of getting there, I just want them all to be Top 100, but it’s a journey; and I’m lucky that I have a podcast and listeners that can experience it with me.

GoodStuff.fm’s Chris Enns

chris ennsChris Enns hosts multiple podcasts, so many in fact he had to start his own network: Goodstuff was launched by Enns, Adam Clark, and Tim Smith in early 2014. The programing comfortably inhabits the sweet spot between technology and culture without alienating non-techs or indoor kids — to borrow a term. Enns put the mic away for a few minutes last week to talk to me about himself and his role in the “podcast boom.”

Tell me a little about yourself, career, hobbies, origins, etc.

I’m a guy who has loved technology in various forms for most of my life – from begging my dad to buy a computer to play King’s Quest, building my own PC to play Castle Wolfenstein, running digital hockey drafts with whoever I could beg to join me to recording music, podcasts and video production – I’ve loved being involved in and using technology to be creative.

In a more practical sense, I’m a husband to my beautiful wife for 15 years in 2014 and father to three kids. They are the reason I’m trying to build a business and lifestyle that allows me to see them off to school, help out at home and in general be around as much as possible.

As a web devel­oper, you’ve said you love helping get technology out of the way of people accomplishing things. How does podcasting play into that ethos?

That’s one of the great problems facing podcasting in 2014 (and beyond): how to get normal, everyday folks into podcasting without the difficultly. It’s something we’re thinking about constantly at Goodstuff. But in the meantime, having interesting discussions about technology in a way that’s interesting to people and helps them disseminate what’s worth looking into or worth skipping, whether it’s a new Apple product or a movie that’s just came out, is all part of that ethos.

Exactly how many podcasts are you currently producing and would you mind breaking them down for me?

http://goodstuff.fm/dailyishDaily(ish) is my personal podcast that I do. 10 minutes or less. More of a podcast playground for me to mess around with formats and ideas.

http://goodstuff.fm/smymShow Me Your Mic is a podcast where I interview other podcasters. It started as a way to geek out about gear, but it’s turned into more of a discussion about the why’s behind podcast.

http://goodstuff.fm/tirpThe Intellectual Radio Program is a fun discussion show I do with Adam Clark and Tim Smith, my co-founders of Goodstuff. We talk about some of the usual geeky stuff (Apple, tech, etc.) but also push ourselves into other areas such as work/life balance, future planning, money, and rants about life.

http://goodstuff.fm/nbspThe Non-Breaking Space show is a podcast that my primary role has been of intro-voice-guy and editor. It talks to the best and brightest folks on the web about how and why they do what they do with a focus on web developers, designers, content strategists and other folks involved in creating the sites we all use.

http://www.ssktn.com/category/lal/Lost & Lemon is a fun show I do with my brother-in-law where we talk about our respective businesses that we’re building as well as family life, creative life and surfing life (him, not me).

I think that’s it? I feel like I’m forgetting something but that’s a lot of stuff.

New media is probably one of the most ephemeral disciplines people have ever claimed expertise in; What do you see your core capabilities as and how do you apply them to what you do every day?

Yeah it’s tough to figure out what to call yourself these days when everything changes so quickly. I don’t know if “new media” is a good term or not for what we do. I really enjoy dabbling in audio and video and so working on the web is a natural canvas for those disciplines these days. The instant feedback (or lack thereof) is almost an addictive drug for the creative side of my brain.

Where do see podcast in general in two years?

I see it shrinking and growing as most things do – similar to the way blogging has. There will be the core group of people who continue to podcast (or whatever it becomes called) no matter what – but I see a large number of shows disappearing in a year or two simply because people will run out of things to say or people to interview. We’re in the middle of a bit of a boom right now where everybody and their dog seems to have a podcast which is great for the industry. It helps us all figure out what’s working, what’s not and what we need to change in order to grow. Growing not necessarily in number but in quality and listenership.

Sponsorship of podcasts is another whole beast. As the quality of shows increases, and hopefully the listenership follows then you’d think the sponsorship dollars should flow as well. But imagine if Squarespace decides to stop sponsoring podcasts? There’s certainly other companies that would take its place in some form, but the sheer number of podcasts Squarespace supports right now is mind boggling. I really like what Lex Friedman and the folks at The Midroll (http://www.themidroll.com) are doing.

What shows are you listening to these days?

The Talk Show, Accidental Tech Podcast, Mac Power Users, Back to Work, CMD+Space, The Incomparable, The Fizzle Show, Shawn Today, Shop Talk, DLC with Jeff Canata, Hired – and of course everything on Goodstuff.fm.

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Follow Chris on Twitter @iChris