SCTV Documentary Coming Soon

If I had time, I could write a post about how it is that Canadian comedy has been leading the comic parade since the 1980s. Until then, here’s a video of one of my favorite sketches by SCTV, when he played Babe Ruth. Candy plays the skit in a Yankees uniform, visiting the hospital room of a supposedly mortally ill kid. Babe’s been told he’s supposed to try to make the kid feel better, even if only for an hour. So he promises the kid he’ll hit a home run for him. But the kid, played by a good kid actor, acts all entitled and selfish—”Gee, Babe will you hit two home runs for me?” Gee, Babe will you dance around on one foot with your hand on your cap and singing a song for me, Babe?” It’s a subversive little playlet.

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NXNE Day I: Marc Maron’s Rousing and Funny Keynote

Great kickoff for NXNE on Day 1, with such highlights as a keynote by comedian and podcaster extraordinare Marc Maron, and a party for musicians and press last night at the Edward Day Gallery.

At Maron’s talk I unexpectedly found myself seated on a couch between Christopher Roberts, director of NXNE, and Michael Hollet, who founded the festival twenty years ago. Maron, passing by the couch, jibed it must be the couch of royalty. I demurred, replying it was actually a sign of democracy, since I had just walked in and sat down at the spot. Maron, with a reputation aas an intense guy, paced the front of the low stage, waiting to get started.

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I first heard Maron’s voice when he was a radio host on Air America in the early 2000s, so even before his podcasting began, I knew him to be an edgy, self-deprecating commentator, which seemed to afford him the right to deprecate others. Stepping on to the stage yesterday, he began by sharing a video of what he called a really embarrassing moment, one he couldn’t watch again, though he asked everyone in the room to do so. In the early days of the Internet during in standup routine he unabashedly derided the new technology, comparing it to CB radios in profane and broad-brush words. Wincing as the video ended, he addressed the several hundred people in the hotel conference room: “I couldn’t have been more wrong about the future. . . .I know nothing, and had no fucking idea how to use my computer. But podcasting has changed my life. . . . I’ve been a comic 25 years. I was depressed. seeking the spiritual reprieve of the faithless. I didn’t really fit in anywhere.” Perching on the edge of his stool, he explained that when Air America collapsed in the mid-2000s, he caught on with another lefty media start-up, but they ran low on funds and let him go pretty quickly. His personal difficulties only grew when he and his wife split up. Though fired from the job, he was told he could continue using his office and the studio for a while. It was during this period that he created the first 12 podcasts of what has since become known as WTF. They were so under the radar in his former employer’s building they had to ask guests to take the freight elevator, lest his former bosses discover what they were doing. “We had no idea what we were doing, and had no expectations,” Maron admitted. He said they’ve now done more than 500 podcasts of WTF.

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After the inevitable exit from the more professional studio, they moved the operation to the cluttered gararage of his two-bedroom house in Los Angeles. He said, after working several years in political commentary, he no longer wanted to work in punditry, as he’d realized his interests and priorities were more existenital. There was pick-up on the early podcasts, with 1200-1500 downloads of each epsiode. He offered simple technical advice for anyone taking up podcasting: “Get good mics.” He said the first 100 interviews were mostly him asking famous people to help him out. They had no business model in place, and no way to monetize what they were doing. But he took refuge in consistency—they put out two episodes per week, releasing them each Monday and Thursday. Robin Williams came on for a very candid conversation, in what became one of their first big deal episodes, producing a breakthrough for WTF.

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He later did a two-part interview with Louis C.K. Then, the manager of the comedian known as Gallagher called and said the comic wanted to come on the show. Maron pressed Gallagher about racist and homophobic bits in his comedy. Gallagher, who’s been known to smash a watermelon with a hammer while on stage, walked out with the mics still on, shouting “That’s not a hammer, that’s a cross.” Maron confessed, “I did sandbag him a bit. He’s an asshole.” In an interview with Carlos Mencia, the guest, often known as a pathological joke thief, saw a chance to reinvent himself. At first, Maron let him get away with it, but then thought better of it, and called him on his prolific thievery. Fireworks ensued.

Maron said, The medium grew with me. I hope I’m giving you the details you want. . . . The podcast saved my life. . . . My partner keeps the numbers: 120 million downloads overall, 3.4 million per month, 20 episodes have more than 300,000 downloads. . . . I lucked out w/this medium, I Just wanted to keep busy. It’s not an empire, it’s a garage. Keep it as intimate as the medium allows, no cameras, no video. Most people listen with headphones, gives me a direct line to their brains. You want to be relevant, not just get a laugh. On making money, he said, I don’t want to gamble, just hold on to what I’ve got.

They now use an app and iTunes to monetize the podcast. The most recent 50 episodes are always free, then the 51st and so on are available via a fee for one-time purchases or via a full subscription. About making money, he said, I don’t want to gamble, I just want to hold on to what I’ve got. He didn’t give any figures, but by his own measure, he seems to be succeeding. They also have ads in the podcast, through an ad network called MidRoll.

During the Q&A I asked Maron about one of my favorites among his podcasts, his conversation with John Fogerty. He said it was challenging because of a bad contract the musician signed when Creedence Clearwater Revival was just starting out back in the ’60s, leaving him without copyright him unable of his own songs for decades. Knowing it could cast a shadow on the conversation if he asked about it, Maron declined to bring it up directly. Finally, Fogerty brought it up near the end, creating a memorably poignant moment in the podcast.

Maron’s closing line was among his very best expressions: “I don’t have a demographic, I have a disposition.” After robust applause, Maron stuck around and shook hands with everyone who wanted to say hello. The fellow ahead of me in line, a comedy booker from a club in London, Ontario asked me to take a picture of him with Maron, which I did, and then the booker did the same for me with my digital camera, which I’ll download and share later.

 

 

 

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Matt Mays Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Robertson Davies Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods The Great Gray Bridge. TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse Undercover Books upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI