For years since the family moved to Los Angeles, I'd visit the Kevin & Bean Morning Show on the World Famous KROQ to plug stuff or simply sit in for an hour. The highlight for me was always the Showbiz Beat -- a beat "walked" (on the airwaves) by comedian Ralph Garman. Ralph not only loved geek news, he could also do amazing impressions of folks like TV Batman Adam West -- which would then really bring the geek news to life. Showbiz Beat is a 5 minute piece, but whenever I was in studio with Ralph, Showbiz Beat would go ten minutes or more -- because as much as we love showbiz, we love to make fun of it and deconstruct it as well. Forget what you've heard about baseball -- making fun of your betters is the real American pastime.
After years of sitting in on Showbiz Beats, Ralph suggested we hit up KROQ about doing a Saturday show of sorts, that'd be like an hour of entertainment news. We recorded a pilot, presented it, and were told no. Apparently, nobody wants to hear people talk on the radio anymore -- which was cool by me, as I was talking up a storm on the Internet.
The Internet was where lots of folks thought talk radio, spoken comedy, and non-political chit-chat went to die; in reality, it's where they went to live. Podcasting gave on-air talkers one more platform. And unlike radio, users could choose what they wanted to listen to at any given moment. And the Internet got very portable over the last ten years -- meaning you could carry around thousands of hours of podcasting from SModcast.com in your back pocket and listen whenever you've got time or the notion: while driving, while working, while cleaning the house, while at the gym.
Like your parents, a podcast doesn't have to be looked at to be listened to; unlike your parents, a podcast won't give you shit for it, or any of that "LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU," guff either. Since it's loads of chatter, it's what they call "white noise" in the background of your day. It's like listening to music but usually much funnier. And the fact that it's an audio experience? That means you don't have to look at it while it's going on -- which means we live well in your car and on your travels. Imagine getting all that mind-blowing free aural: those thick, hot loads of words splashed across your ears, chest and neck... all while accomplishing something else? Something more important? You feel like you're getting shit achieved when you can kill two birds with one stone -- so listening to podcasts actually makes you feel like you're busy somehow.
Ralph was feeling it as well. He'd never podcasted before, but when I'd opened up our SModcastle Podcast Theatre in Los Angeles back in July, Ralph emailed me and asked "Wanna do that movie biz show as a podcast instead, recorded live in front of folks at the SModcastle?" I instantly said yes and suggested we call it Hollywood Babble-On.
Like I mentioned: Ralph's on the radio in L.A. daily. This means he has an audience -- and boy, did that audience turn out for our shows. For the first ten weeks or more, the Garmy (Ralph Garman's Little Monsters, as it were) showed up and sold out every Babble-On. Ralph and I workshopped the show live in front of folks every week, honing and sharpening our timing without realizing it.
SModcastle seats only 50 people, but with Ralph hyping the show on KROQ to his daily audience every week, our Friday night Babble-On show would sell out fast. As the theater owner, that was heaven. But as half of Babble-On, all I could think was "We need more space..." It felt weird holding us to 50 audience members only, when clearly, more people wanted in on the Babble. So I suggested Ralph find the show another home -- one that could service the larger crowds for our antics.
Ralph came back to me with a suggestion a few days later: the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club up at Universal CityWalk. It seemed worth a shot, so we gave Babble a test-run on the Lovitz stage.
We were instantly home. The show had always been fun for us and the audience, but it got tons more fun the moment the audience could drink booze and watch the show. You know how funny you have to be with a drunken audience? Marginally. And that suits an un-funny man like myself just fine, as it means the crowd walks (or rather, stumbles and weaves) away, believing they had a great time.
We're closing SModcastle this month, after one year of operations... because now I'm in business with the folks at The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club! SModcastle moved in, taking over the entire top floor. Whereas SModcastle seated only 50 people, The Lovitz (as we call it) can hold way more. And it was Ralph and Babble-On that put us up there, in the big leagues, getting our turn at bat. That's the power of a podcast: it can make you a nightclub owner in Hollywood.
The power of the podcast has also inspired Lovitz himself to change the name of the club to The Jon Lovitz Podcast Theatre. Even Lovitz is getting into the act: we kicked off a new podcast with him called The ABC's of SNL -- a backstage look at his formative years on the TV institution, as described by a one-time inmate.
All of this stems from simply enjoying those few minutes with Ralph Garman whenever I was in the KROQ studio. Ralph went from business acquaintance to podcast-partner and friend -- and that friendship has enriched both of our lives. Sure: it doesn't hurt that I was a huge Adam West Batman fan as a kid, and Ralph does a 100% pure West impression that makes me feel like I'm six again. Plenty of people in life will tell you some things can't be done but only very rarely will you ever meet the folks who dream like you. It doesn't matter how old you are when you meet people like that: make sure you get to know them. The dreamers will take years off your life in a good way.
Hollywood Babble-On, featuring Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith, runs every Saturday night at 10pm, only at The Jon Lovitz Podcast Theatre - at Universal CityWalk, in Hollywood, California. Come see us, click here for more information.