Tag Archives: comedian

How to Podcast

So, CB Wilkins and I have been podcasting for a few years with What’s a Podcast.  Occasionally, after listening to it, other folks ask me how precisely one produces a podcast.  When CB and I decided to try to podcast, we had a certain idea but we didn’t know what a podcast should be.  So, we titled it What’s a Podcast and decided to move on.  That being said, I’ve learned a lot.

Step 1.  Decide What Your Show Should Be

Decide what you want your podcast to be about and what to call it.  If you have thousands of dollars to support yourself already and have the time and brains to do fantastic journalism, you can create a podcast like Serial, This American Life or Radiolab.  Marc Maron has mastered the art of  interview.  There’s countless roundtable discussion podcasts.  What should yours be?  Do you want to just discuss current events?  Should your podcast have a local focus?  Perhaps you just want to present audio of your local event like we are able to do with Tell Me More.

You need to figure out a specific sort of content.  Bear in mind, if you decide to do a podcast about the adventures of antique glass bottle collecting, you might have a very narrow audience.  At the same time, if you just djscuss current events, there’s a ton of people who already do similar podcasts, how will yours stand out?

What’s a Podcast, in my mind, is part Opie and Anthony and part WTF Podcast with Marc Maron.  We do interview but also break each other’s balls.  To our detriment, we came up with what is probably the least Google-friendly podcast title possible.  The only worse titles for our podcast would have been Bing, Webcrawler or Lycos.

Step 2.  Purchase Equipment

This can be as costly or cheap as you want, but you ARE going to have to drop a certain amount of coin to get it done.  As technology progresses, people are in a position to produce audio with incredibly high production values for increasingly lower prices.  What’s a Podcast uses the Alesis MultiMix 4 USB, a four-channel desktop mixer with a USB digital audio interface built in.  I lucked out and found it in a pawn shop for about 39 dollars.

Into this mixer we use cheap mics that run around 20 dollars apiece from guitar center.  I believe the brand is Digital Reference.  They have enough low-end to give our voices a pleasant tone with enough mid-end to keep our voices clear and not muddy.  The mixer only accepts two inputs via xlr, thus if a third or fourth mic are necessary we use a splitter to add more mics to each channel.

Additionally we use mic stands (holding a mic produces a lot of noise  you wouldn’t think gets picked up but does) and I use a spit screen because I have a tendency to speak very loudly and thus the power of the air from my P’s an B’s (plosive sounds) cause spikes in the audio that are very hard to listen to and edit out.

This is not the only way to do it.  Many podcasters instead use portable audio recorders.  Zoom has produced a very compact and efficient unit called the H4 that allows its owner to have 2 compact microphones that allow for stereo recording and the addition of up to two other microphones via xlr input.  The quality is high, the space small, and file size is limited to the size of your SD cards.

One podcaster I know uses a barebones setup of a single usb mic.

Additionally you could buy 6 top quality condenser mics in your acoustically perfect studio into an 8 channel USB mixer with phantom power for every channel, run each mic through a compressor, run it on a mac with Pro Tools installed and use an H4 as a back up just in case your computer crashes… but then again you’re reading the beginner’s guide… you’re probably not going to do that.

Step 3.  Record

What’s a Podcast uses Audacity, but again it is not the only way. When recording, introduce yourself, introduce the show.  Produce your content.  Really, do what works.  But really, big things here:

1.  No dead air unless it’s for dramatic effect like Radiolab does.  That’s why it’s good to have two people on.

2.  Don’t talk over each other all the time.  Admittedly harder to do on a solo podcast.

3.  Have a plan.  Stick with it, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it so you can see where conversation wanders.  You can always fix it in post.

4.  Know when to end it.

Step 4.  Editing

Again, our podcast is edited in Audacity Depending on your desired production value, you may want to play lead in music or an introduction or something like a radio show would call a sweeper.  Or you may not.  You may want to cut out bits of audio that your guest wouldn’t want heard in a public forum such as a podcast.  A lot of that is personal choice. In the beginning of our podcast, we would record for 2 hours and cut it down to one.

For me, I like to play a pre-recorded introduction and then get right to it.  Beyond that, I do practice a few tricks to get my podcast sounding slightly better.

1.  Normalization.  This takes away your peaks without distorting the sound quality too much.

2.  Compression.  This makes some of the quieter sounds easier to hear and reduces the harshness of some of the louder sounds.  Hard to get a feel for.  If you do it wrong, any loud noise crashes to silence afterward and then fades back in or you get a loud background hum between a lull in conversation, but when you do it right, it makes the conversation seem to be at a steady constant volume.

3.  Leveling.  This is like compression but makes sure what should be quiet is quiet and what should be audible is.

4.  Equalization.  We usually drop a little tiny bit of the mid level tone and increase the bass so that the voices have a more pleasant richness.

5.  Normalize it again.  You did a lot of weird  stuff, this kind of helps makes sure it’s all balanced.

This takes a lot of practice to get where you’re comfortable with it, my process might not work for you or be necessary.

Step 5.  Posting it

You’ve created an awesome podcast!  You edited it for 3 hours and waited 30 minutes for a file to render… now what?  You might be thinking “well, Brendan, I get it on iTunes and then I’m famous!  To get your podcast to iTunes (which you will want to do.  iTunes allows users to subscribe to your podcast… it’s downloaded every single time automatically by your listeners as soon as you post it) you have to submit them an RSS feed.

If you’re really good with computers you can upload your podcast to your own hosting site, upload a few files, write the RSS coding and then submit that to iTunes.

But again, you’re reading this article, so you’re probably not.  Sites like Libsyn.com and Podbean take the work out of all this for you.  You simply upload your content to their site through their pre-made back end, submit your RSS feed link to iTunes and then you’re good to go.

 

Now share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, at YOUR comedy shows, and hope to God someone listens.

Again, check out What’s a Podcast (@WhatsAPodcast on Twitter) at http://www.whatisapodcast.libsyn.com to see more of how we try to do what we do.

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What’s a Podcast: Episode 10: Travis Jones

This week, me and CB had CB’s long-time collaborator in indie films, writer, actor and storyteller, Travis Jones on the show. Not only did we talk about everything, like we do every week, but Travis told some amazing stories about his life, including failed romances that while humiliating are all too familiar and relatable.  Even more exciting is the fact that this is our TENTH podcast, meaning that if two assholes sit down and b.s. with each other long enough, someone WILL listen.

Click here to listen.

Also, in the future we hope to have some really exciting guys on the podcast.  including James Paulk, Chris Dembitz and the great, recently roasted Dan Ellison, the educated redneck (his term, not mine).

Lastly, there’s a Twitter account for the Podcast now @whatsapodcast, so that if you have any ideas you want talked about or general criticism to give me and CB, there’s an easily focused target for your outrage.  Or if you want to show some love, it’s a good place to do so as well.

See ya soon!

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Comedy Factory at Tiki

The comedy factory, a show of changing locations and players run by my good friend Tim Loulies was at Tiki Island Bar in Virginia Beach last night. I was asked to feature there, as I’d done a couple of times before. The headliner that night was Adam Dodd. The audience, comprised mostly of Northern Virginia tourists, was fantastic, and Mr. Dodd was even better. Typically, when I find out a comedian is a guitar act, there’s usually an instant decrescendo in my enthusiasm for what I’m about to see. When Mr. Dodd got on stage though, I was seriously surprised at how funny Adam was. Yes, there was some song parodies based on popular songs, but there were far more funny originals and things done as a guitar act I’d not seen before. If you have a chance to catch him, do so.

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Employment

To help pay my bills between shows, I do have a day job.  It sucks, as every time someone wants to act as though they are making a dig at your talents, they merely shout “don’t quit your day job.”  One cannot simply stare back at the person judging them and  shout “I see what you’re getting at, but you see, until one has developed a certain network of booked comedy gigs, figured out an efficient way to travel the large distances between venues, and generally survive on a payment system that’s not effectively changed since the 80’s,  it’s kind of hard to support one’s self off of comedy alone.”

No.  This typically doesn’t work on stage.  Instead, one must usually rely on stand-bys like something penis-related, or, if the venue allows for it, the comedy club stand-by of years past, present and future:  “fuck you.”  Having not worked in a grocery store before though, it’s all very new to me.

First of all, you never have an opportunity to get bored. As soon as you clock in, your day’s tasks have been delineated for you. Work old frozen foods, work the freshly delivered frozen foods, stock the produce, corral the shopping carts, lunch break, steal the women, rape the horses, etc. This is great, because, one of my favorite things about the restaurant business is that if you’re working hard enough, time flies. I remember once working at Macado’s (an extremely popular family dining/sandwich shop/bar chain) in Blacksburg on a game day, clocking in at 9, and clocking out at 4:30, and having no idea where all the time went, as I just stood in the same spot the whole time.

Second, it’s a lot more physical labor than I thought it would be. It’s apparently so much that in the last year or so, 8 or 9 people quit after their first day because it was too much. To me, it’s just enough to be a little sore and tired at the end of the day. But yea, you’re lifting stuff of varying weight all day long, which I love, as if I work good and hard all day, by the end of the day, I’m just tired and happy from the little bit of endorphins. If I am not active enough during the day, I end up all fidgety by 8:30, and I’ve noticed that any day I work, I fall asleep very well that night.

Third, the shoppers. It’s really funny the wide range of folk that come into the stores and how much of an adjustment it is from my Portsmouth folks.  The store is in Virginia Beach’s nicer northern end, and as such there’s a lot of people with very high-end attitudes.  I was training on the register one day and this older gentleman had an interesting looking tie on… it looked like an impressionist painting.  I asked him about it, he told me it was his payday tie. I asked why, he said it was because when he wore it, he always had “Monet.”  I laughed, and correctly guessed that the painting the tie’d been made from, and told him about actually being able to see the painting live and up close at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Then he slapped me in the face and told me to take his bags out to his car.  Okay, the last part didn’t really happen, but it almost feels like it could, as there is always an understood dynamic of subservience and inferiority between those with a name tag and those without.

Another subset of rich people are the health-nuts, which I really don’t mind, as it is not visually unpleasant seeing a woman who has tried really hard to keep her body in shape wearing spandex and a sports bra while she buys her groceries. Though, there is a funny side effect of this.  Pretty women are so used to men hitting on them that, for some, any conversation seems like a sexual advance.

For example, if I see a woman of above average desirability staring at the same few spots in the freezer, looking confused. So I walk up, and ask “you finding everything okay?” She, being apparently such a beautiful woman, hears something else, perhaps grunts and clapping,  and looks at me like I’ve just delivered the worst pickup line in my life.  But seriously.  It’s part of why they pay me to be friendly and offer assistance.

To this woman, I’d like to say this:  I’m sure when you sit down to pee and take off your panties it has to be hard quieting down the angelic choir-like tone and blindingly radiant light your lady parts emit, and I’m sure you’ve accidentally inspired Trojan wars and/or circle jerks through the simple act of picking up your dry cleaning, but you know what? I’m just doing my job. I am just trying to meet the obligations inherent to my paycheck, not bed you.

If I do, I know what I’d have to do first.  Quit my day job.

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Filed under Beer, Comedy, Food, Rants, Stories, Wine and Spirits

Video Blog 6/12/11

Here’s my second attempt at a video blog. I didn’t have a lot of sleep, so it’s awkward. Tried to fix that in post, but we’ll see…

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Improv: Freeze Tag!

This is pretty much my favorite local show, and this is a really fun improv game.  When the performers are having fun, the audience enjoys it too, and something magical happens.

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