Podcasting with Vulnerability

podcastcry I was listening to podcasts at work, as I am wont to do. One of them was a Carrie Fisher tribute from the Anomaly Podcast, hosted by my friends and the former home of my dearly departed podcast, Anomaly Supplemental. They established at the very beginning that they had to take the time to process the passing of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds as they both grew up with them, and they didn't want to cry on the podcast. And while I respect the need to be articulate and stoic, or at least not on the verge of crying, I have to admit that I felt most connected to the episode when they were on the verge of tears.

Many people underestimate the power of being vulnerable on a public platform. It feels more comfortable to have the shield of entertainment and fluff because it protects our gooey centers. I should know. I'm not only an artist, I'm a comedian. But the best performers, visual artists, writers, musicians, and so on have to access their emotions and personal views. Of course, these things are extremely precious to us. So when we share them, we are either going to inspire or invite criticism.

One of my favorite podcasts right now is Matt and Doree's Eggcellent Adventure. The premise of this show is that spouses Matt Mira (The Nerdist, co-host) and Doree Shafrir (BuzzFeed, executive editor) share their experiences of trying to have a child via IVF. It's a personal and funny account inside the process of getting pregnant with the assistance of medical science. What I love about them is that they are honest about how rigorous IVF treatments are and the planning that is involved, as well as the interpersonal relationships with doctors and nurses and anyone else poking around poor Doree's uterus.

I love that Matt and Doree are both willing to be so open about it. Not everyone is willing to do that. I'm not even sure some people are capable of that. I think it's primarily because of fear of negative feedback and trolling. Now, Matt and Doree get nice feedback in their mailbox about how their listeners share similar experiences, curiously ask them why IVF instead of adoption, etc. It's a wonderful, interactive community they are building. And then Matt gets Twitter comments that straight up say, "You know there's this thing called adoption." Luckily Matt is a comedian and is used to this kind of thing happening. But that's kind of snarky, right? I cringe when I read things like that because people are being willfully ignorant. (Because everyone thinks they're a comedian. I'll be writing another blog on this next week. Stay tuned.)

Having a podcast that chronicles a personal journey or has at least one episode where the host or hosts are honest does not come without risk of snark, but it also has the beautiful advantage of allowing listeners to connect with them. I may not be anywhere near having a child right now, but I relate to Matt and Doree's infertility issues. I relate to that loss felt by my friends for Carrie Fisher. I want to relate. I wish podcasters were more willing to do that as their other entertainment and artistic counterparts do. Look, I’m not Brene Brown, but I do think that vulnerability has a place not only in our paintings and movies but also in our podcast feeds.

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.

contest4improv4humans Pep Talk, or The Improv Podcast, Part II

contest4improv4humansI talk about podcasting a lot. It’s kind of what I do. In fact, it’s what I’ve been doing on this blog for about a year now. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that comedian and podcaster Matt Besser of improv4humans has announced "contest4improv4humans," in which a team of three-to-four people will perform a20-minutee improv set based on a suggestion from the audience and then discuss it. Basically the format for improv4humans.

I hope no one told Matt Besser about how I think improv podcasts are the hardest to do because it’s such a visual medium! HAHAHAHAHA! So funny! I wasn’t being honest at all! Especially as I represent the Dallas Comedy House! (KC, why can’t you predict the future? And why are you talking to yourself? In written format? On a very public blog? Stop that, people might notice…)

Look, I am willing to help anybody who is willing to work in a podcast format. So after reading the rules and regulations of the podcast, I think I can provide some tips to get on the team for "contest4improv4humans," or that deep-down dream of having an improv podcast.

  1. Think of performing at a table like you would a Bat show or performing in the dark. You have to set up the scene with the who, what, and where and still be able to paint a picture for the audience. Actually, this may be more effective advice for some of you: Imagine you’re making a cartoon. We are trained as improvisers to use the stage and to be physical, but there are plenty of improv comedians who have done voice work for cartoons and have gone off-script while still in character. Go to YouTube and look up videos of Robin Williams performing as the Genie in the booth.
  2. Admittedly, this is a superficial microphone tip, which you may or may not be using for the contest. So if you’re starting a podcast, whether or not you are on the team for contest4humans, this is for you. Be aware of how close you are to the microphone and how loud you are. I am a naturally loud person, which means I have to be a certain distance from the mic. If you are a quiet person, you may want to be closer to the mic. A general rule of thumb is making the “hang 10” sign and that is the approximate distance that should be between you and your mic. Also, in terms of diction, beware of popping your “p’s,” especially if you don’t have a pop filter. It’s not fun to hear. This is why the Pop-Pop guy from Community shouldn’t have a podcast.
  3. Most important: Just because you’re sitting at a table in front of a microphone doesn’t mean you need to limit who you are as a performer. In fact, I’ve found that I’m more free in my characters behind a microphone because speaking in silly voices and bad accents is something I’m more comfortable doing with a microphone than doing live. Go big! Be brave!

Really, in the end, it’s all about having fun. If you’re going for the "contest4improv4humans," you go do it! If you just want to get a microphone and play some improv games with your friends, you can do that too. I still stand by the opinion that improv is one of the hardest formats to translate into audio. However, if you’re dedicated to improv, then I’m telling you now to get out there and prove me wrong. Get it, girl!

contest4improv4humans at the Dallas Comedy House

The Dallas Comedy House (DCH) is a participating theatre for the contest, and here's what you need to know to enter (thank you, Maggie, for the info!).

Here's how it works:

  • We can accept a max of six teams
  • Teams must have three-to-four members. There can be no overlap in members (you can only participate on ONE team)
  • Each set will be taped on February 12 at DCH
  • Our three DCH judges determine a winner and post the video for improv4humans to watch. Their panel of judges determines three “finalists” from the nation, who will record an hour-long show at DCH (fingers crossed). From those three finalists, Matt Besser determines the winner

All teams must follow this format:

  • Teams will take a suggestion, discuss it, and then perform a scene (repeat three times).
  • Groups must be seated at a table the whole time
  • Show should be 15-to-20 minutes

For additional details, email david@dallascomedhouse.com. To submit for consideration, click

To submit for consideration, click here.

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.

The Improv Podcast

barnyard Hey, guys. How are you doing after your post-Thanksgiving shenanigans? Good? Good.

This is another one of those confession posts again. Sorry to stir up controversy so soon after Uncle Jim Bob let loose at the dining room table. However, this is just one of those things that we have to talk about.

I think that improv podcasts are difficult to pull off. I'm sorry! I know tons of you love improv4humans and Improv Nerd, but I just can't do it! I tried, I know I'm broken, leave me alone, but keep reading because I'm going to get you back.

Now, it's one thing if you're Paul F. Tompkins or Matt Besser, who have years of stand-up comedy, improvisation, and performance under their belts. Their shows, Spontaneanation and improv4humans, respectively, are doing very well for themselves. A large portion of this success is because they know what their point of view is and they have an audience already. But for those of us who have less than 20 years in the business? It's going to be tough to attract that crowd of listeners you need to subscribe and rate your show on iTunes. I mean, not all of us can get a panel spot on @midnight despite how hard we try. I don't try very hard because 1) it films in California, where I don't live, and 2) with my luck, I'd be up against Ron Funches and Emo Philips.

The audio format also requires a lot of imagination. One would think that this would be perfect for improv because it is a form of performance that requires players and audiences to fill in the blanks. However, improv benefits most from being live in front of a crowd and they are seeing something that will never happen again. Emphasis on the word seeing. If you put a show format that requires quite a bit of blank-filling in a medium that also requires a lot of blank-filling, you're going to have a lot of blank spaces and you might be asking your audience to do most of the work. This is why outlines and scripted material usually work best for the audio narrative.

That being said, I do think that there is a way to make them work. Hello from the Magic Tavern is a good example of this. It is a weekly show that uses improv in a consistent fictional world with characters that you hear every week in addition to some new ones. That focus and consistency have me coming back to the show rather than losing interest. Does this mean you also need to create a fictional magical land with a Badger king and a Wizard as a co-host? No. However, I think what helps many podcasts is recognizing a niche or an interest that you love and then turning that into a concept that will bring focus to your show.

The beauty of improv is that it is a ball of chaos that is performed live on stage and the audience goes along with the ride. In podcasting, it might not work in its natural form. But we have the technology. We can make it better, stronger, more... wait, am I quoting something? You know what, I'm going to go take a nap, it's been a long Thanksgiving. You kids go have fun coming up with conceptual improv podcasts.

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.

Podcasting with a Day Job

secretariesI'm not going to lie, my day job makes podcasting very difficult. It's your typical Monday-through-Friday, 40-hours-per-week, weekends-free job. And I don’t know about you, but I have an early bedtime as well as scheduled classes on certain days. You want to know what I want to do after I get off of work for the night or for the weekend? Nothing. I want to do nothing. I want to get in my pajamas and watch episodes of House Hunters until I fall asleep in a pile of laundry I still haven't folded since last week. It is not productive at all, but it is absolutely heavenly.

If you want to be a podcaster, you have to make time for podcasting. So how can you find time to make the things you want to make when your day job takes up working and commute hours? I have three suggestions:

1) Take your work to work.

I had just uploaded the MP3 to our feed on Monday morning, but I forgot to save it as a draft or hit the “publish” button. Therefore, the window closed and I could not release it from work. Learn from my mistakes. I recommend using cloud storage or flash drives to take your work with you. Or you can take your personal laptop to work with you so that you can edit audio and write show notes on your breaks. I mean, it would be easier to leave it at home. I don't think my boss will understand why I downloaded Audacity to my desktop.

2) Ask for help and delegate tasks.

I’m still working on this “letting go of my pride” thing, but sometimes I just need help because work is devouring too much of my time. This may involve rescheduling a recording, or it could mean sheepishly asking your co-host to help out with show notes, especially if my weakest point of show notes is logging timestamps and she is a pro. Again, I’m very bad at this - I’m a stubborn lady who wants to do all the things. But I’m also very lucky to have people who are willing to walk the dog while I try to bend Libsyn to my will.

3) Don’t do work at home.

This was a major lesson for me in the last few months as I’ve been applying it to my writing habits and plan to do this with podcasting from now on. My home is a safe haven for relaxation and snuggling with my dog in unfolded laundry. If your behavior in your home is to do nothing, then put on your nicest clothes and go to a library or your favorite coffee shop. With the exception of the girls at the next table talking loudly about Sherry’s new douche boyfriend, I find that I can get a lot of work done outside of my home. And if that locale is losing its appeal for the day, go somewhere else. Then you can go home and nap the minute you’ve met your goals!

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.

(Image: Genevieve Naylor/Corbis)

Saying "Goodbye" to One Podcast, and "Hello" to a New One

moving on If you've been reading the last few podcasting posts I've written, you'll notice that it seemed to be leading to something. Well, it is. This past Sunday, my co-host and I announced that it was time to end our podcast.

"So why encourage us to make podcasts when you're currently ending one?" you're not asking, but you’re totally thinking. I know it! Don’t deny it, Stan!

Let me be clear: We're still going to make podcasts and produce content. In fact, one of the reasons Sue and I decided to end our current project after five years was to start something new that would be more in line with what we enjoy and utilizing our particular skills. This is going to take some time in terms of planning and organization--not to mention the holiday hullabaloo--and we'll most likely be releasing that new podcast in the spring. It's a very exciting time!

That being said, this is pretty sad for any podcaster. Especially when it’s your first podcast, which this was for me! Our show started in 2011 as a supplemental show on a bigger show’s network for a very long time. We worked hard on it, creating show notes and editing audio files down from 1.5 hours to just about 45 to 50 minutes. We had so much fun during the process. (Except that one time when Call Recorder didn’t record our one hour of conversation. That was something traumatic and I will never forget it.)

At the same time, we were finding our voices along the way. I started interjecting more comedy and allowing more swear words into recordings, and my co-host introduced discussions based on art and social issues. It was around this time that I thought, "Wow, we're pretty good at this. We can probably do our own thing one day."

In September, I saw a space that wasn’t being filled and I realized I wanted to make the effort to fill it. I realized that it was going to take work and time, and I couldn’t do that in addition to real-life necessities and goals. Something had to give, and it made sense to replace one podcast with another. We had reached a good place to stop. I mean, we were complaining about Steven Moffat’s writing on Doctor Who before it was cool to do so--when a trendy idea becomes popular, go start a new one.

Here's the thing: It's always sad to leave an old podcast behind. In fact, the fear that no one is listening or you don't know your style is one of the many reasons that people quit before they even start. However, the act of making something, podcast or not, is how you develop that voice and make it stronger. You may stick with the first podcast you started, you may let it go to start a new one. If or when something ends doesn't matter as long as you start it.

I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on developing a new podcast with you guys.

In the meantime, do the thing!

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.

Seasonal Podcasting vs. Consistent Podcasting

seasonsThere's a trend I'm starting to see in the podcasting world that is familiar to many of you. The "seasonal" podcast.

No, not like podcasts inspired by the seasons, although I'm sure those exist somewhere. "In this episode of the Autumnal Equinox Podcast, we're going to discuss pumpkins!" My apologies to the actual Autumnal Equinox Podcast, if you exist.

Nowadays, podcasts are being split into seasons as one would TV. So season one happens, then a break, followed by season two, and then another break. And just like TV, seasons will be filled with 13 to 22 episodes.

I am not opposed to this idea. I think it's incredibly smart to allow podcasters a tiny break from constant recording and new material. It prevents burnout, and there are times when life gets too crazy to sit down and record. For me, it's the winter holidays. Apparently recording a podcast while everyone is eating Thanksgiving dinner is "rude" and no one likes that my “editing equipment” is in my “mother-in-law's chair."

The issue with podcast seasons is that while it allows a break for the podcasters, that means it forces a break on the listeners. And there's a chance that they may unsubscribe from your podcast because they don't know when you'll be back. No joke, I did that with Serial. I thought it was a one-off. It was only through the news that I found out the show was returning for a second season.

Herein lies the second issue: Just like TV series, podcasts that choose to have seasons may experience a lot of hype and then they have to live up to it. If you recall Serial, the first half of the second season was... disappointing, to say the least. The momentum you gain from consistency is stalled and the interest you had is dimmed upon your return. And the hype of your listeners? Well, I think we all know the dangers of hype. If you're releasing on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you'll be forgiven for a bad episode or two. However, if you had all this time to prep new content in addition to your break, and your episodes don't quite live up to your previous material? Listeners are going to be confused and maybe even upset.

The third issue with this is that seasons are often done by professionals who are sponsored and make a bit of money by podcasting. This is tough if you are just starting out, do this as a hobby, or you are weary for some reason. Your season finale could very well be your series finale. But rather than a set of network execs making that choice, it was you. That's a shame, isn't it?

There's no easy answer for this conundrum, especially since everybody works in a different way. The best answer I have--because I've done it before--is that you record as much content ahead of time as you can and schedule your releases. My co-host will also record panels that she is on during Dragon*Con (with permission, of course), and she's often on enough to take care of a few weeks. Or, most importantly, you ask someone to fill in while you're off taking a break. There's nothing wrong with asking for help with your podcast. Burnout happens, and in order to create good content, you need that break.

So consider how to make the most of consistency before you take the seasonal podcast route. I'd make another Autumnal Equinox Podcast joke, but I really think they're upset. If they ban me from their Twitter account, I won't be able to see their posts about various fall-inspired cardigans... and I think we can all agree that would be a travesty.

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.