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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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On Improv

Improv is one of those things like I imagine having a friend with benefits is like.  When it’s good… it’s amazing.  When it’s bad, you just hate every second of it and wish there were better relationships established early on.

Since beginning to perform in 2005, stand-up has been my main focus.  It’s like conducting a symphony.  You write out your notes and ideas and then perform it with all the emotion and intensity you can.  Crescendos, speeding up and slowing down of tempo, all carefully rehearsed until the moment of performance when muscle memory has been established and all of one’s focus simply falls to perfecting the subtleties of the ideas you were trying to communicate.

Improv is more like jazz.  To be sure, I am not an expert on improv comedy.  Local acts such as Plan B and The Pushers have a much better grasp on improv.  However, through my experience, here is what I’ve found.  Instead of having a progression of ideas upon which you extrapolate common themes and make up punchlines for, improv is all about forming a new reality based on a couple of suggestions.

In short form improv, there is a very clear cut game… either a restriction of speech (new choice, accents, speaking in alphabetical order), or a specific scene the audience has already determined.  In long form improv, the game is harder to find, but can produce a more amazing scene if the players have established a good feel of each other’s strengths.

The biggest rules for improv I’ve found so far:

1)  Listen.

My earlier reference to improv being more like jazz is especially true here.  Jazz is made up on the spot, but each player is hunting for their spot in the groove and trying to put down notes that fit in well with what the other players are doing.  So with improv.  If you have a plan for your scene and refuse to deviate from it one bit, your scene will fail.  Which leads us to the next point.

2)  Yes And.

If you are doing an improv scene and a player establishes a fact about your scene, be it something about a relationship or a situation, it should be taken as fact and rolled along with.  Occasionally it can be fun to negate your partner’s suggestion, but improv is all about listening.  If you destroy the ideas your partner(s) have, you’re not going to get anything done and you will not have laughs.  And you will be sad.

3)  Establish a relationship.

This is so simple but people mess it up all the time.  For a scene to work, two people have to have something to talk about.  Who has more of a common conversation?  Two brothers or two guys who don’t know each other but bump into each other while waiting in line for something?

4)  Resist the punchline

As a stand-up comedian, the constant urge is to establish a premise, set up a joke and then kill with a punchline.  The problem is, 9 times out of 10, people don’t have a conversation this way.  So when one person breaks character and looks at the audience and delivers a punchline, it steals all the momentum from the scene.  Are you going to end up saying a sentence that is absolutely hilarious?  Hopefully.  The idea is you don’t want to stray so far from your established premise that it kills the scene.  However, if one makes conscious effort to have fun with the scene and make their fellow players look funnier on stage, EVERYONE looks better.

Like I said, I’m not the best improviser ever.  I do have a blast doing it once a week at Cinema Cafe Pembroke’s once a week Improv Show (Wednesday nights at 9).  When people do the above four things, we have a great show.  The more we stray from these, the worse it is.

 

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Home Maintenance Sucks

Long time since the last post.  I’ve been busy.  My fiancée and I got engaged (hence the second word of this sentence).  Before that we got a house.  At the time we had the typical dreams of home ownership.  No matter how old you are when you buy a house, there is a common sense of teenage independence.  “Finally!  We can play our music as loud as we want!  We can paint the walls and not worry about paying a security deposit!”  And there is a part of you that wonders about it being an investment that you can eventually collect a slight profit on.

Home ownership is not just punk rock turned up to 11 and rainbows.  Nature is trying to destroy your house every single second of every single day in ways you cannot imagine.

Carpenter Bees

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This is a carpenter bee.  Now, you know usual bees.  Black and yellow, make honey, they love eating Cheerios.  Enter carpenter bees.  These are bees that can still sting you, but they don’t make honey, they don’t give a fuck about eating cereal, and oh yea… THEY BURROW HOLES INTO ANY EXPOSED WOOD YOU HAVE ON YOUR HOUSE.

Now these sons of bitches annoying.  Most bees are polite.  They make their honey and mind their business.  No.  Carpenter bees say “Fuck you.”  And you say “Agree to disagree.”  And then carpenter bees say “Fuck your house, bitch!”  And then they burrow holes into your shit.  It’s not as though these guys go to Lowes and borrow a drill and carefully place holes in your deck or fence.  No, these little manic fucks hover up to some wood and then just hover and SHAKE THEIR ENTIRE BODIES AROUND, TWERKING LIKE A METHAMPHETAMINE FUELED MOLLY CYRUS WHILE THEIR JAWS GRIND THE WOOD AWAY.  And they don’t work alone.  For every one of these insane bastards  there’s a guard.  The guards don’t sting.  They just float in the air.  Creeping you out.
Crabgrass

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Crabgrass is one of those organisms that mankind once had a use for and then got bored with.  It’s like a government project that went wrong.  I imagine a lab where crabgrass was genetically engineered and some general being disgusted and saying “the funding’s run out.  Kill it.”  Someone hits it with a flame thrower and then buries the lab under fifty feet of earth.  The next day, crabgrass is outside of the general’s home at 1am.  The next morning the general is dead.  And now crabgrass has gone rogue.

Okay, so it doesn’t kill anyone, but what happens is this.  One day you see crabgrass in your lawn.  The next day there’s a little more.  Then one day in June your entire lawn is covered in the stuff and you don’t know what happened.  Crabgrass produces 150,000 seeds per plant, so if it gets established… you’re fucked.

Ants

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

These 6 legged fucks.  Carpenter bees work in pairs.  Ants work in thousands.  You see one ant?  That means there’s 8 million more.  If you’re in the south, it doesn’t matter what you do.  Boric acid works.  But every spring, they’re in your house looking for something sweet.  Well, that’s if you’re lucky.  Like bees, some of these motherfuckers come in a carpenter variety and THEY DESTROY YOUR FUCKING HOUSE.

Cockroaches

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

You’re thinking “no, Brendan, I don’t know anything about that.  I’m a clean person, you’re nasty bla bla fucking bla.”  If you’re in the south, you have dealt with cockroaches of some sort.  You might say “no, we don’t have cockroaches!  We have had water bugs though.”

 

This is a water bug:

Photo: Wikipedia

This is not:

Here in the south, we have warmth and humidity.  You know what cockroaches love?  WARMTH AND HUMIDITY.  Whenever spring comes back, flowers come in to bloom, it’s time to mow your yard again AND COCKROACHES ARE ALIVE AGAIN.

So yea.  There’s termites too.  Rain will get in your house and warp wood.  Nature hates you and wants to make your house a disgusting filthy place.  You will have to build fences, mow grass, kill bugs, kill bugs, power wash.  You will go to Lowes and Home Depot and just fork portions of your paycheck that will have you needing money several paychecks into your future.  And that’s if you’re LUCKY.  There is plumbing, Chinese drywall, and her getting bored.  Now because DDT is illegal, BED BUGS ARE A THING AGAIN.

And you have to deal with this all by yourself.  There’s no maintenance you can call.  Mom and dad don’t care.  It’s all for you to take care of.  You literally have nightmares about yellow nutsedge.

And you wake up and you spend more money on your god damn house.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

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Brendan Kennedy is headlining Cinema Cafe’s Comedy at the Cafe, 9/27 at 9pm

Press Release:

Friday, September 27th, at 9pm, Hampton Roads comic Brendan Kennedy is headlining his own show, “Love is Not The Answer,” at Cinema Cafe’s Independence boulevard location for one night only. The show ties together jokes and storytelling in a unique and hilarious way at one of Hampton Roads’ best comedy venues.

Brendan Kennedy began performing stand-up comedy in 2005. He has performed in colleges and comedy clubs all over the East Coast. In this time, he has developed a stage presence and style that incorporates both simple funny ideas and hilarious experiences from his own life. “Love is Not The Answer” incorporates these skills to paint a picture of Brendan’s life, discussing his triumphs and shortcomings, and the personal connections he’s developed over time. His material is easy to relate to but takes an unexpected refreshing point of view and makes comparisons one might not expect.

Laura Watkins, writer for HamptonRoads.com and AltDaily.com, describes Brendan as having “…a knack for finding that sweet spot between the totally relatable and the utterly absurd. He’s one of the few young comedians who puts his whole presence into his set—armed with a delivery that is energetic, charming and deceptively effortless, Brendan is the kind of comedian who makes it look easy.”

Cinema Cafe, in recent years, thanks to its workshop night and huge local following, has become an integral part of Hampton Roads’ local stand-up comedy scene. What began as one show on Thursday nights with more comics than audience members has transformed into a show that attracts a “standing-room only” crowd and has spawned an additional night of improv comedy on Wednesday nights.

‘Brendan’s show, “Love is Not The Answer” is one night only, at 9pm, September 27th. Tickets are $5.

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What’s a Podcast: Episode 9

This time we had Jim Seward on.  Jim Seward is a member of Plan B Improv, a Stand-up Comedian, Actor and 20 year veteran of the Air Force.  It was a great podcast, we talked about Iraq, AK-47s, and stand-up comedy.  And we all say mean things about each other.

Check it out!

Just click here!

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Girls who place all of their self worth and value in personal appearance bother me

I’m not saying I like a girl who doesn’t care about how she looks. No sir, as a matter of fact, I’m quite happy silently mentally nitpicking various aspects of a woman’s appearance and deciding which aspects I do and do not care for. Ladies, if you see me eyeing you, half is thinking, yea, I’d hit that, but the other half is thinking something like “put on a bit too much make up today did we? What are we trying to hide?”

I like a girl who takes pride in how she looks. It’s a sign that she respects herself. What bothers me is women who put TOO MUCH stake in how they feel they are perceived visually. What I’ve noticed the most is, for better or worse, it seems like a girl who has at one time not been happy with their weight and not received attention from men that other women do. A lot of the times, when women lose weight, the desire to get guys’ attention metastasizes into something more toxic and sad that just scares guys like me off.

Example, I went out with my brother one night. As the drinks START flowing, this girl starts getting louder. A few more drinks, she starts getting flirty, talking a lot about herself, her talents at work, about penises and how they look huge in her hands since she has tiny hands. We walk to another bar, she whispers to me “I used to weigh 215 lbs” (she’s like 5’3). A few more drinks and she’s REALLY flirty. A few more and she’s pulling her shirt down and exposing cleavage, reaching for people’s crotches. A few more and now this bitch is crying. 10 minutes later, this chick is a train wreck, crying, yelling at the guy behind the counter who sells pizza like “how DARE YOU?!?!?! HOW F-ING DARE YOU!?!?!!” What the hell could a pizza guy do? Hell the worst thing he could say is something pizza related.

Another chick I know. She looks okay. A lil overweight. If she concentrated on eating right (a well-balanced diet lower in processed foods), getting 8 hours of sleep, and a long term plan of lifting weights and doing cardio, she’d be happy as hell in a year or so. Now, bear in mind, she’s not hideous, not a complete brown bagger. And she has good facial features. But the thing is, if you were to look at this girl’s Facebook, it’s like this:

“What’s wrong with guys?”
“I just wish guys around her liked me.”
“God, I’m horny, I wish there were more guys around here with a job, a house and a comfy bed” (meanwhile this girl’s still living at home).

You just wish you could tell these girls like “hey, you have a great rack, something going for you that most people don’t. But really deep down… personality wise… you have bad breath.”

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Video Blog 7/4/11

Sorry it’s taken me so long to put up another video blog… day job and all.

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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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Racism is Stupid

Made by my very good friends at Plan B Improv. I love these guys.

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Storytelling Night

This is a project that I run in Norfolk.  It all started one day when I was listening to my local NPR station, WHRV, and they played some samples from the Moth Radio Hour.  I was spellbound.  I’d heard of the moth being mentioned a few times on PRI’s This American Life, but I’d never heard the hour long radio show. People told stories, and that was it. And it was incredible. Some stories were hilarious, the kind of thing I’d have heard the grown-ups belly laughing to after a few beers at one of my parent’s parties. Then, some of them were touching in ways I would never have imagined could be touching.

There were times when I had definitive driveway moments, completely unable to cut the engine to my car, worried that I would miss part of the story.  And then I realized, they had set up shows like this all over the place.  People coming together and telling stories of their own.  Being a stand-up comedian, and one to spin a yarn occasionally, I wanted to see what was like it in my area of Hampton Roads.

There was nothing.

The first time I tried to do it, I tried it at a martini lounge in Chesapeake.  It didn’t go well.  I tried it in Norfolk at a bar that had earned a good following, thanks to the management of Bradford Davis, a guy who likes to make good things happen.  The one show we did was awesome, but the new management was impossible to work with.  Seriously, they wouldn’t answer the phone.

So we followed Bradford to a place called Hooligans.  Bradford had converted the top floor of Jack Quinns on Granby Street in Norfolk to an awesome bar that had much less of a bar that was begging people to come in, and more of a bizarre punk-rock speak-easy that you were lucky to be a part of.

Here, Storytelling Night was a once a week affair, and it developed a healthy following.  Unfortunately, due to a change in management, Hooligans as we know it ceased to exist.  Luckily, it’s now at the Belmont House of Smoke, located right smack in the heart of Ghent (maybe not geographically, but emotionally), at  the intersection of 21st street and Colonial.

So far, this night is getting stronger with age.  The people who have tried telling stories in the past have gotten better at it, yet the microphone is always open to anyone who wishes to try it for the first time.  We did it last Sunday, May 22nd, and it was amazing.  Talks are with management to schedule the next one, but stay tuned.

Also, for more easy updates to the information about storytelling night, check out the Facebook page, and become its friend: Storytelling Night at Belmont.

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