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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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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 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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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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Stand-Up Comedy Night at Margarita Grill

When you think of stand-up comedy, a few archetypical images come to mind.  A spotlight highlighting the comic from the audience (years ago, literally a light created from heating up lime, hence a lime-light), a microphone and a sea of darkness that makes up the cavernous groupthink that is the audience.  Its perfection is the comedy club.  Locally, this can be seen at either Cozzy’s Comedy Club, or The Virginia Beach Funny Bone. The comedy club is the comedy equivalent of a lab setting.  Literally all distractions are minimized.  All focus is centered toward the stage.  All a comedian need do is not mess up the jokes he’s crafted.  Because chances are, if you’re on stage at a major room like the Funny Bone or Cozzy’s, you’ve put a huge amount of work into finding out which of your silly thoughts will make an audience erupt with laughter and which ones will just make people uncomfortable.

All of this work takes place at open mics/workshop nights.  These are shows that, the crowd is not  going to be exactly the same as an “A-room” crowd.  The audience usually doesn’t pay, very often the venue isn’t necessarily a business that has comedy other nights of the week.  If a comedy club is the perfect laboratory of comedy, workshop nights are the field study.  The result is that the comics work even harder.  While a comic can pick through his quiver of arrows to draw from when he’s doing a showcase show, he must experiment at an open mic.  They must engage the crowd even more.  The fruits of this labor are much like the work of Babe Ruth… you might have a lot of strike-outs.  But in the end this is how you become a home-run king… of comedy.

The root of all comedy is creating tension and relieving it.  Why did the chicken cross the road… (you’re dying to know)… to get to the other side (relief!).  At an open mic there is an omnipresent subconscious tension, so when a joke is funny (which really is more often than not), you will never laugh as hard in your life.  Additionally, when a joke works, there is nothing like the first time it’s ever told.  If you have ever enjoyed comedy, this is a sneak peak into the creative process that you might not have ever known about.  Louis CK, probably the best comic working right now, begins every one hour special he records with a few open mic appearances.  From there these jokes develop into theatre shows, and later into one new hour of material.  In short, if a comic ever wants to make anything of him or her self, they need the perfection that only workshop nights can create.

With that in mind, I’d like to invite everyone to come out to the workshop night at Margarita Grill this Wednesday Night.  Margarita Grill is located at the intersection of Virginia Beach Boulevard and Great Neck Road, just around the corner from Pollard’s Chicken.  For the GPS-ers and GoogleMaps people, it’s located at 2340 Virginia Beach blvd.

The show starts at 9pm, runs Wednesdays and is absolutely free.  I’ll be hosting.  See you then!

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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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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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“New Choice”

Basically, every time you say something, the MC has the power to shout “New Choice” and you have to make up something new off the top of your head to replace what you just said. The language can get to be a bit much at times, but… you’ll see how much fun it is.

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