years of on-and-off radio play and a television series in the middle,
one show recently took a turn to the podcast, and got fantastic
The Geek Show Podcast has been running since spring of this year, taking the best of the radio and television versions of the show, and formatting it into a panel discussion between some of the geekiest our state has to offer. And with impressive numbers that stretch across the US and beyond, it doesn't look like they'll be stopping anytime soon. I got a chance to chat with creators Kerry Jackson and Jeff Vice, as well as the show's producer Zack Shutt about the history of the show, how it moved to podcasting, its current state and a few other questions that came to mind.
The Geek Show Podcast (L-R: Marcus, Clark, Jeff, Kerry, Zack, Derek, Scott, Leigh & Shannon)
Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us who you are and a little bit about yourselves.
Kerry: My name is Kerry Jackson, I am the Host of The Geek Show Podcast. My real job is Host of Radio From Hell, mornings M-F on X96.
Jeff: Jeff Vice, movie critic/writer for the Deseret News. Full-time movie critic for 10 years I believe.
Zack: I’m Zack and I produce the show. I also talk about MegaMan frequently because... Well, I’m obsessed.
Gavin: For those who are unaware, what is The Geek Show Podcast?
Kerry: Its really just a bunch of guys sitting around in my basement talking about stuff we think is cool. Sci-Fi movies, TV, Comic books, games, action figures. Everybody does it, we just record it.
Zack: An hour of nothing but hilarious antics and geeky topics like movies, comics, and really... Anything else. We also have a skilled impressionist on the panel, Shannon — his impressions are always dead on.
Gavin: How did the idea first come about to start the original versions on RFH?
Kerry: I think it was because when Gina or Bill are off for a day, I unintentionally would steer the conversation into Geek. So I decided, when they have days off I would just call in a ‘panel of fellow geeks’ and do it for real. It started almost 10 years ago.
Jeff: I believe it came about when I first started doing my reviews for X-96. Kerry and I started geeking out about something, either Bill or Gina said we should have our own show to talk about it, and that got the ball rolling. Though it may have been in Kerry's mind before then.
Gavin: How did Jeff Vice get involved with the show?
Jeff: Through my friendship with Kerry, and our mutual love of geek culture. And through my connections to X96.
Kerry: Jeff came on board when Sean Means left to have a baby. Luckily Jeff is a childhood friend and Geekis Extremis. Total expert in film and comic books.
Gavin: What led to the decision to do Sci-Fi Sunday on Z24?
Jeff: It was an off-shoot of talking about doing the Geek Show (then the Geek Chat) in a different form. I'm not sure if Kerry contacted them first or vice-versa. We had some meetings with the Z-24 higher-ups, brainstormed and that was what we came up with. At first it was going to be a lot more like "Mystery Science Theater 3000" but it mutated drastically.
Kerry: Z24 called me and wanted to know if I would do ‘host segments’ around their Trek re-runs on Sunday nite. I called them back a day later and told them My and Jeff’s idea. The segments would reference the episodes that nite, and poke a little fun. Some inside Trek jokes and such, plus give news on upcoming film, TV and toy projects. Action Figure Theatre, which was us holding Star Wars toys up to the camera and, faking their voices and making them do horrible things. Lando meets the Invisible Woman…that kind of thing.
Gavin: What was your reaction to having the show, as well as that set built for it?
Kerry: I thought it was a great idea, so I was happy someone said ‘do it how you want’. That’s what surprised me, we had creative control. That doesn’t happen in corporate media. That set was amazing! A pretty damn close re-creation of the classic Enterprise bridge. We named our ship the USS Degenerate. Lotsa hatemail from hardcore Trek fans for that, which to this day I cant understand. One of our many goals with Geekshow, and by extension the TV show, was always to try to get Hardcore Fans to lighten up. I can laugh at Luke Skywalker and secretly want to be him at the same time.
Jeff: It was fun... especially once we got Shannon involved. But it was a lot of work. Especially for a non-paying gig. One of our best days came when we finally got to see the set. And got to "play" on it.
Gavin: A lot of people don't know that you guys weren't getting paid to do it, even though the show was getting good ratings. What was the deal behind that?
Jeff: Z24 basically screwed us. They made promises they had no intentions of ever keeping. At least that's the way it seems now.
Kerry: The deal we were presented with was do it for a while for free, if we see an increase in the ratings we’ll pay you. Jeff and I did close to a years worth. Writing, Producing, practically directing.
Gavin: What was the final straw that eventually took the show off the air?
Kerry: One of the Sales guys at Z24 showed us the ratings. They had risen slowly but surely. After almost a year we met with Management. They said “We love it, the ratings are up, we want you guys to keep doing it. But we can't pay you now. Maybe in 6 months”. These guys thought that we would just dummy up and keep doing it because we were having so much fun. In that very meeting we said that we would not continue unless some sort of compensation was given. That was that. We walked.
Jeff: The continuing time and monetary commitment, plus various frustrations with some of the production staff. It just became too much stress for too little reward, sadly.
Gavin: Was there any attempt made to go back on at another station, or were you pretty much done with TV at that point?
Kerry: We didn’t make any attempt to do it again. Still have kind of a bad taste in my mouth for small time thinkers. I would love to work with someone to do this kind of thing again, but the product must be paid for.
Jeff: We were done at that point. At least I was.
Gavin: You took the show back on radio from 9-10, what was the audience reaction to having it back?
Kerry: Geek Show was on the radio at the same time SciFi Sunday was in production. The radio edition has been on, at least 5 times a year for the past 8 or 9 years.
Gavin: The show was off-and-on for a few years, was it based of scheduling and guests, or more when you felt like doing it?
Kerry: When we had guests, or Bill was out of town, we have a Geek Show radio edition.
Gavin: What eventually led to the idea of doing a podcast? Also, what did it take to get everything set up equipment wise, and how did you find Zack Shutt to produce it?
Jeff: Kerry had been shopping it as a weekly AM show, a monthly FM show, a cable-radio show, whatever. But this was the first time it really clicked and became a reality.
Kerry: I could see that the fans would listen to it on a regular basis if they could, but there was no way I was going to drive non geeks away from X96 on a regular basis. I knew a podcast was the answer, and tried to get it started 3 years ago. But, I ran into the small think corporate mentality again. Plus, I couldn’t find a computer guy savvy enough to pull it off. Then the radio station hired Zack Shutt, and I knew it had to happen now, so I rushed into production. I explained the concept and asked Zack if he wanted in, and boom! I ran out and bought all the gear and we recorded our first podcast episode a month later. The vision was, a bunch of guys sitting in the basement talking about Geeky stuff and recording it. Drinking, laughing, making fun and loving a good fight scene.
Zack: Back when I was an intern at X96 I set up the Radio From Hell podcast. That was what led management at X96 to hiring me full time. I’ve listened to the Geek Show on the air since before I was able to drive a car, and when I found out that Kerry was interested in setting it up as a podcast... How could I resist?
Gavin: Aside from Jeff, how did the others get involved and eventually become a part of the panel?
Kerry: The panelists are actually all very old friends of mine. Shannon I have known since he was in high school. He would runaway for days and sleep on my couch. One of the funniest men I know. Jeff grew up in Payson, right next door to me. He grew up to be a film critic so even better. Derek I met many years ago and we just hit it off. Derek is the author/artist for Pirate Club comics, soon to be in your TV lookie box. Scott Pierce, I met through Jeff, TV critic and Buffy lover. Finally, Leigh George Kade is an old friend that ObiWan’d me through some bad times. He is an amazing artist and sculptor and is quite insane. Each one is a friend AND brings an area of Geek expertise to the table.
Gavin: What was it like recording the first episode, and how was the public reaction to it?
Zack: Actually the first episode didn’t even go up. Due to technical difficulties with a bad mixer, the first show was never heard by anyone! But the first show we actually COMPLETED and released probably wasn’t the best produced. With as many panelists as we have I feel like the roadie of a 7-person ska band trying to make everyone sound good, but lately I think the shows have been sounding great. I’m working on having the ability for listeners to call-in which will be new and exciting.
Kerry: The first episode is lost. Technical problems ate it. It was our first try so, I’m glad we had a ‘dress rehearsal’ so to speak. The first episode that worked was downloaded around 8000 times over a three day period. I was told that was good for a first time. Now we average 18,000 and episode and the number is growing every week.
Jeff: It was a lot like recording the radio version, only more drunken. And I guess you'd have to ask the public. My mind is still blown by the 10,000-plus weekly downloads!
Gavin: The show has made quite an impression on the podcast community. What do you think of podcasting today as a medium?
Kerry: It’s a great medium. In the radio business everything is so automated and syndicated anymore that the ‘new up and coming talent’ are nowhere to be found. Great job security for people like me. But with podcasts, you can really exercise your creativity and not have a corporate overlord telling you that what you are doing is wrong.
Jeff: It's the "reality-TV" of radio? I dunno, it's got its good and bad aspects. There are a lot of like-minded podcasts. Hopefully everyone will continue to listen to ours.
Zack: I think of podcasting as an exciting new form of media. I would liken it to when the first video signals traveled across the air and there wasn’t a concrete broadcasting method at that time, the content was harsh. However, it was established and only a matter of time until it was perfected.
Gavin: Who are some of your favorite podcasts you listen to?
Kerry: The Geek Show panel love the Mediocre Show. I like Kevin Smith’s.
Jeff: Mediocre Show and the various ones Kevin Smith is connected to.
Zack: The Michael Castner Show, You Suck At Web Design, and of course the always awesome Mediocre Show (those guys are hilarious).
Gavin: You've also got a good forum community going. Is it strange to see fan participation over the show, or do you enjoy the idea of connecting to all those listeners?
Jeff: Not really strange at all. And I love being in touch with the fans. It's an obvious reason why I'm such a regular presence on the forums.
Zack: I enjoy being able to connect with listeners, and have listeners connect with each other. I think forums and podcasts go hand in hand.
Kerry: I think its great for geeks to connect with like minded people. Lets face it, our hobby is not as socially accepted as…sports for example. You wear a San Francisco football t-shirt out and more than likely you’ll be greeted with a warm hearted “Niners!” shout by the bartender. Wear a “StarFleet Acadamy” shirt to the same bar? Good luck getting a refill on your Romulan Ale.
Gavin: A little entertainment-wise, what are you thoughts on comics today both good and bad, and is there anything you think could be done to make them bigger or better?
Kerry: Comics, I think, are at their biggest and best right now. Excellent writing, the art is suitable for framing. I see the price rising soon, and that’s going to hurt the industry, but more so the local comic shops.
Jeff: They're too expensive, and too corporate-driven. I still love comics, but they may be irreparably damaged as a concept. Like newspapers (sigh!), they may only survive in web form.
Gavin: Same questions, only this time on the film industry.
Kerry: Jeff would have a more expert opinion on this, but to me it’s a great time to be a geek.
Jeff: They're also too expensive, and too corporate-driven. Though comic book-driven projects have definitely taken a big leap forward. Wish I could say the same about horror, which has been one of my favorite genres for a long time.
Gavin: Are you aiming to make merchandise anytime soon, or is that a task that’s a long time away?
Zack: We are planning on making merchandise before the end of this year — that’s the plan at least.
Kerry: The obligatory t-shirt is on the way, but were open to anything. Leigh has threatened to make HeroClix of the panel members so we can invade your role playing games. Mine would obviously have the power of cynicism.
Gavin: You're up to 20 episodes as of this interview. What would you say is the ultimate goal of the show?
Kerry: I believe that there are more casual geeks out there than the hardcores that give us all a bad name. I want them. If you cant laugh at your favorite movie or whatever and still love it to death... go find a show that caters to you. I think its called humorlessfanboywhotakesthingswaytoseriouslyandwillalwaysbealonepodcast.com. The Empire Strikes Back is lauded as Thee Best Star Wars movie, and that’s true. The panel loves it like it our child. But if you cant see the unintentional humor that jumps out at you with bad dialogue and sexual innuendo then I feel sorry for you. And if you get mad at people who bring that stuff up, this podcast is NOT for you. You’ll be one of those delusional parent who think their kid is the best looking/smartest/most talented. Annoying.
Zack: It’s really new and exciting with podcasting as a growing medium, our goals change all the time. We have several things in the works right now that—if worked out—could deliver the show to a bunch of new geeks.
Jeff: To live long and prosper. And to keep building an audience. And to have fun.
Gavin: What can we expect from the show the rest of the year and going into next?
Kerry: Were looking into TV, actually. We have been approached by folks who want to televise it. Bad idea, I think. I mean, it is just a bunch of guys sitting in a basement! But hey, if they got money, we’ll see. We’ll just keep having a good time. I’d love for the download numbers to double before the end of the year. I think this thing belongs on satellite radio. Corporate radio would find a way to ruin it.
Jeff: Less heavy-breathing from me? Seriously, more geekery. We kind of go with the flow, and the show is continuing to evolve and progress. We're still learning not to talk over each other, for example. Maybe we'll become "professionals".
Zack: From a technical standpoint, I want to allow for more interaction from listeners on the show itself. Among other things that are in the works.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you’d like to plug or promote?
Kerry: I’m so gay for Weezer right now, its sickening. Just lock me in the basement with Lego Batman and a bottle of whiskey and I’ll be fine.
Jeff: The Deseret News Web site, especially the "Movies" section, which has the most extensive listings on the web, as well as links to my reviews. And the Black Cat Comics Forums, which I help "administer". It's a great store that deserves support, as does Dr. Volts in Holladay.
Zack: A couple of years ago myself and Todd C. Noker (Todd Nuke‘Em from X96) wrote a novel titled Blogs Of Wrath. We’ve released it for free online at www.blogsofwrath.com, and I’d invite anyone who’s interested to download it.