Last night, Jake Fogelnest hosted his podcast, The Fogelnest Files, live for Sketchfest with guest Chris Gethard and they talked, as possibly only they can, about Manhattan Public Access Cable Shows. And it might go down as the best night of my Sketchfest. The Fogelnest Files is a podcast where they play some YouTube videos and discuss them. It might not sound like something really special, or even the best idea for a podcast, but it was a real honor to have two such passionate people talk sincerely about a bizarre art form that they so dearly love. It’s not often enough that I get to see that level of enthusiasm with that much clarity to the way it was presented. Of course, it was also a weirdly nostalgic evening for me, and left me with the strange longing and excitement of a teenager. But I’m going to save that personal stuff for the end and just start off by attempting to explain what a wonderful show this was.
Sometimes watching podcasts live can feel a little weird and distant, not as personal as the experience you get pumping the words straight through your headphones into your brain, but this one felt just as personal, if not more. Maybe it was the small theater where I was literally three feet away and almost on eye level with Jake Fogelnest and Chris Gethard. But I think it had more to do with the obvious friendship and candid-ness the two had with each other. It felt quite welcoming.
The topic for the evening, as previously mentioned, was public access shows of which, if you don’t already know, Jake Fogelnest had in the mid 90’s and Chris Gethard is doing now. Fogelnest’s show Squirt TV was picked up by MTV, for not nearly long enough in 1996, and Gethard’s show, The Chris Gethard Show, is just now (possibly?) getting picked up by Comedy Central. It’s a unique situation to have two people experiencing essentially the same thing, but almost two decades apart be able to discuss it. To facilitate the discussion Jake Fogelnest showed clips from his old show and from Chris’ current show, and a lot of other random public access shows in between. It is a much more interesting genre of tv than I ever thought about, from which a surprising community of people seem to emerge full of in-fighting and support for each other.
My favorite clip shown was from someone in Fogelnest’s day named CF who had a show called the Weather Show which was essentially an abstract art piece. It was hilarious and beautiful and made me briefly wish I lived in New York so I could be flipping channels at 2 am and see something so wonderful. It was also nice to watch the clips of The Chris Gethard show, especially the one where Fogelnest schooled the callers on how they could make their calls better and more interesting for the viewing audience.
Really though the evening was about inspiration and passion and how you shouldn’t be afraid to try and just make something. How if you have something to say there is a medium for you to do so. And, depending on your message and medium, maybe only two people will hear it. Or maybe hundreds or thousands will. It’s not about worrying about that part. It’s about being brave and putting that part of you out on the line and seeing what you get back.
And now, the promised personal stuff:
Jake Fogelnest and Squirt TV was a big influence on my taste in pop-culture and humor and it’s been my pleasure to follow him over the years, through twitter, or podcasting, or whatever random media I find him on. This probably made a big difference in how it felt to have the man himself showing you the clips from then and let you in a little on how it felt at the time. I was at the show with my friend with whom I would watch videotapes of Squirt TV over and over and over until we had them memorized. We even called in once, for which we wanted to apologize in person, but were too shy to do last night. I mean, would he remember a phone call in 1996 where two girls giggle-screamed “you clap like a flaming moron!” into the phone when what they really wanted to say is “We love you and thanks for making us laugh”? And in your mid-thirties is that really something you can say to someone? That you still feel guilty because after you made that call he never clapped the same way? Could that really have been our fault?
So Jake Fogelnest, thanks for the show last night. It was really wonderful. And sorry Cynthia and I told you that you clap like a flaming moron. To this day I clap the way you used to in celebration of how your show inspired me, and how after tonight you continue to.