If You Only Knew

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Do you know what it’s like to fail?  When you are left with nothing, or when the very thing you held dear suddenly disappears, having to start over again?  Or maybe there is a task you have undertaken, or maybe it’s been placed in your lap and it seems too big for you.  How, or where do you start when you are starting with a clean slate?

Luckily for most of you, I’ve failed more than all of you put together, and I continue to fail at an unprecedented rate for someone my age.  I consider myself to be the expert, which, believe me when I tell you that I’m not proud of it but, it is what it is.

Don’t get me wrong, starting with a blank page, a clean slate, if you will is certainly empowering because at the beginning your mind should know no boundaries to what you can accomplish.  When some people think about putting together a solid five minutes, I always write a half hours worth of material, then pick out what I need for five minutes.  Or you write a bit that you believe in, but don’t put it on stage, and you read it day after day and keep editing it, changing it until it becomes what you want (I’ve done that for a long time due to my comedy training).

When comics become successful it’s hard to believe them when they talk about their tales of struggle for many years, because we see the finished product when they first become known.  We often think there’s no way they could have been as bad as me, and still make it?

The point that’s worth making here is in the beginning, when the idea is first birthed that’s when it seems like work the most.  It’s when the most planning goes into it, because you see what it could become.  The radio show begins next month.  But with most things I do, it all began with a thought.

In 1994 I walked away from radio and didn’t think I would ever get back into it.  I was fine with that decision.  But then I started listening to the community radio station in Saskatoon, and it sounded cool.  I thought it would be neat to volunteer one day but didn’t see how, or when I would get my foot in the door, let alone even having the desire to do it.

About a year ago I sent an e-mail pitching the idea of a show focusing on the local comedy scene.  I didn’t get a reply.  No harm, no foul.  Then I tried again in November.  This time I received a reply and e-mails started to go back and forth.  There was a meeting, and more e-mails.  The idea was different and one that filled a niche market that was underserved by the local media.  I pitched the show as a win-win for the listeners and the comedy community.  After Christmas it sounded like the show might go ahead.  I wasn’t prepared for that.  Now, the real work began.

I had to build a show.  I had an idea already of what it would be like but it was short on specifics.  Then more e-mails back and forth, along with consultation from the local comedy community.  Then more e-mails between the station and myself in setting the show up.  Then on-air training, then more additional specialty training, which is still ongoing as we speak.  In other words, the whole process is cumbersome.  It is fun to do and I thrive on having the sole responsibility to make this fly, but at the same time the process is starting to get tiring.  It would be great to have somebody else close to me that was helping me with this, but at the same time I almost know it has to be my project from start to finish.  This isn’t as simple as getting approved for a radio show and starting it the next week.  Far from it.  I don’t know if most will appreciate, let alone care about all the time, effort and hours I have spent putting this together.  So, I will let you in on the process.

First of all, let me state that this is the only time I can really talk about the show on this blog, or anywhere that isn’t a social media page related directly to the show.  The one concern they had was me using a show about the local comedy scene to promote my own stuff, as the host.  That is a huge no-no.  I was fine with that, as I would rather focus on the comedians instead of myself.  I mean, if people want to know more about me as the host, they’ll find my other pages on social media.  But I can’t go actively promoting myself and use the show as my own promotional platform.  Besides that, the show can’t be all about the blog and vice versa.  The blog has to be about me.  It’s been like that since its inception and I must keep it that way.  You would expect nothing less.

Anytime the show’s website is mentioned, I will always direct the audience towards the stations website only for them to access the website link.  That’s the fair way of doing it, to promote the station.  Once people find the link from the program schedule, it gives them a chance to look at the other programs that the station has, and maybe find one to listen to.  Now, I know I said the show can’t be used as my own soapbox, but it was agreed that I could do an entire show about myself and talk about my story, so the audience can become more familiar with me.  Actually, it’s more like the station left that decision in my hands on if and when to do it, but said I could do it once and that’s it.  Then from that point forward, the only promoting of my stuff allowed on-air would be the social media accounts and website that are directly related to the show.

Then, it’s the fact that you are doing a show on community radio as a volunteer.  Doing a show as a volunteer is kind of like having a driver’s license, it’s a privilege, not a right.  Going in with that attitude means you don’t act like an ass, you have fun with it but treat the airwaves with the same respect as you would if you were a paid employee of the station.

Then there is the CRTC guidelines you have to be aware of.  What can you say, what can’t you say, and what would contravene the terms of their broadcast license?  These things the average person doesn’t take into account from the outside looking in, but nonetheless made me very appreciative of the process.

At first I wanted a local comic to be a permanent co-host.  But, once again, I stood up for a local comic, went to bat for him, and got burned yet again.  I learned my lesson.  Never again.  Then I thought about having local comics co-host each week on a rotating basis.  Then I learned the show would be on a trial basis at first.  I then made the decision to be the host and have no co-hosts.  If I have somebody else hosting with me, then I have to worry about what I’m going to say and what the co-host will say, and if they would offend the guest.  If the show lives or dies, it has to fall completely on me.  If the show does well, the guests can take the credit.  If the show isn’t good, then I will take the fall.  That’s the way any leader worth his or her salt operates.  You give others the credit but take all the blame.

Then there is the process of finding guests.  With my connections in Los Angeles and through a couple of other channels in the USA, I have received confirmations from guests (both local and out of province) that cover the first 2.5 months.  That’s right.  I have the first ten shows already allocated, it’s just a matter of putting people into the proper show dates.  Once I got a guest confirmed, I immediately opened up a new document and started writing questions for that guest.  One guest I have is up to 12 pages of questions.  Might I make it a two-part show?  Then I have to go through all the questions and group them together so the interview has a flow, in order to make for a good story.  That means research, reading books, watching online videos or checking out their website.

The local guests will be live in-studio, if possible.  After the interview we will have a live video from the shows Instagram account that will be recorded.  The guest will be asked how they liked the show, what they think of the studio, and maybe answer a question or two that somebody submits, if there are any.  The show first and foremost is to help highlight and promote the local comedy scene.  We will also have a video of their entire set from The Comedy Lab posted to the Instagram page as well.  I understand that some local acts may not be able to stay up til 12:30 a.m. on a Thursday night to be on the show, but, sometimes comedy is about sacrifice.  If you want the exposure, it’s probably a good idea to meet me halfway and do your part.  Then it’s easier for me to promote a local act if they are live in studio.  Plus, live radio is way more engaging and fun as opposed to a pre-recorded show where I just push a button and wait for the show to be over.

Now is the most challenging part and the one that has kept the show from starting sooner.  I want to spread out the local comics to appear once every six months or so, if possible.  That means I need to fill the other shows with comics that aren’t from Saskatoon.  That means time zones come into play.  That also means that we cannot do live interviews with off site guests (I use the term off site referring to a comic that isn’t from the city).  Well, we probably could, but it involves too many variables that might prevent it from working properly.

So, how about a pre-recorded interview?  Sure!  That works better because it can be done during the day at a more convenient time for the guest, right?  Well, not exactly.  You see, the station usually does music shows, spoken word programming or if they interview somebody, it’s pre-recorded in studio or done live. (of course, leave it to me to attempt something they have never done before)  They haven’t done a pre-recorded interview before with a guest that isn’t in the studio.  Now, we have to collaborate and figure out how to accomplish this within their equipment.  There are a few options available, it’s just a matter of testing them and seeing what will work best.  Then you have to keep the sound quality in mind.  If it’s pre-recorded will it sound like it when it’s played on-air?  Or will the listener not be able to tell the difference?

I just want this all figured out so I can start the show.  The process is beginning to wear on me a little bit.  That first show, the fear, the anxiety, I need it out of the way so I can move forward.  People at the station are looking forward to the show and excited to have some new blood infused into its programming lineup.  Some comics are looking forward to it, as are a few people I know.  The show already has the attention of some of the local media who are now following it on social media.  I just wish the show started already because I don’t really have anything else to look forward to at the moment.  I’ll have a birthday on Saturday that nobody will want to celebrate, no cards or cake again, no relationship, no prospects for a date or full-time employment, and staying in a place with a friends mother with 90% of my stuff crammed into my van in garbage bags.  Though it does beat sleeping on the floor of my old place with no bed for ten days, or in the backseat of the van in a WalMart parking lot, but you get my point.

It’s the only thing right now that’s given my life a lift, given me something to look forward to that I know is coming.  With trying to find full-time employment and a place to live, putting the show on top of that is starting to get tiring.  I have enjoyed the process and am glad it’s going forward but I am so ready for it to get underway, then maybe, just maybe, the rest of my life will begin to follow suit.


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