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Merlin Mann, The Bros. Chaps & Jeff Olsen of on Online Branding: The Sound of Young America

Homestar Runner

An unusual Sound of Young America podcast: I talk with writer Merlin Mann,
Homestar Runners creators Mike and Matt Chapman (aka The Bros. Chaps), and Jeff Olsen, creative director of, at the Integrated Media Association conference in Atlanta. The (somewhat cheesy) title of the session was "Blow Up Your Brand." We chatted about how to do something on the internet that people will actually give a hoot about.

If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Merlin Mann
Ze Frank
Tony Millionaire

This American Life Live

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Our pals at This American Life (like how I pretended they're our pals? And how I used the plural to describe me, and I guess Brian the Intern?) are doing their second live-to-movie-theaters show in April.

It will feature some really, really awesome performers, like our pal (actually a pal) Mike Birbiglia, a crazy-awesome teamup "investigation" with David Rakoff and Dave Hill, the always delightful Mr. Dan Savage, radio super-producer Starlee Kine and for teh nerdz, Joss Whedon.

Last year, we hosted a meetup for the event here in LA, but this year Jordan and I will be in the Pacific Northwest with the Monsters of Podcasting, so that doesn't look like it'll happen. But if you live anywhere other than Seattle (hint, hint), I urge you to buy tickets to this really cool event.

Jordan Morris on Jonathan Goldstein's Wiretap

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Hear Jordan on Wiretap

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Our own Jordan Morris guested on Jonathan Goldstein's wonderful CBC/PRI radio program Wiretap this week. You can hear him giving JG some tips on how to "comedy up" his downer of a show starting around 15 or 20 minutes in.

If you're not already on board the Wiretap bandwagon, now's a great time to get on board. The CBC doesn't offer an official podcast of the show, but I bet you could find one if you looked.

Podcast: TSOYA Classic: The Best Show

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We continue our journey into The Sound of Young America's vast audio archive with this program from The Sound of Young America Clasics.

In this episode Tom Scharpling, star of The Best Show on WFMU, takes over! Also included are two tracks from Tom's new cd "Scharpling and Wurster.".

Please share your thoughts on the show in the comments section!

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The Best Show Gems - Tom Scharpling's New Podcast


Long-time Sound of Young America followers are probably already familiar with Tom Scharpling's The Best Show on WFMU. It's a call-in talkshow on the nation's premier free-form radio station, which Scharpling calls "three hours of mirth, music and mayhem."

Calling it a call-in talk show, though, undersells it dramatically. On the show, Tom and his partner in crime Jon Wurster have created an entire fictional universe, with recurring characters, feuds, drama... like Arrested Development on the radio. Wurster calls in in-character regularly, and part of the fun of the show revolves around the line between truth and fiction. Even when regular folks call in (and it's mostly regular folks), half the time Tom pulls them in one direction or the other, leaving us to wonder what he really thinks. It's half talkshow, half deconstruction of the talkshow -- both celebrating and making a mockery of talkshow convention.

Comedy stars like Paul F. Tompkins and Patton Oswalt and rock & rollers like Ted Leo are fans and supporters of the show, and for good reason -- it really is something special. I'm a fan myself (in case you can't tell) and Tom & Jon have been guests on The Sound. I once dedicated an entire Sound of Young America to highlighting material from The Best Show.

The show has been available by podcast for sometime, but the whole three-hours-a-week thing can be tough for a new listener. To help ease people into the world of The Best Show, Tom's created a new podcast, called Best Show Gems. It's a sort of greatest-hits compilation, every other week. Easy to digest and follow, easy to laugh at, tons of fun.

You can check out Best Show Gems online here. This is the iTunes link. This is the podcast feed. As the proud winner of a Best Show Award (Worst Caller, 2007), I urge you to take a listen.

I'm going to Atlanta.


I'll be attending the Integrated Media Association conference. This is an event where all the people in public radio and television who don't have any decision-making power get together to talk about what they would do to prepare for the new media future if they did have decision making power. And then get drunk.

If you're a public media type, I will be on Andy Carvin's session, which is called something like Social Media: What Worked in 2008 (my answer: Craxworth. Also, King Greebo.) I'll also be leading a session on online branding with Merlin Mann, one of the Bros. Chaps and Jeff Olsen from My last conference session leading experience was disastrous bordering on catastrophic, so all we can do is hope for better this time.

Also of note: while in Atlanta, I will be continuously fighting the urge to yell, "WHO ELSE WANNA FUCK WITH HOLLYWOOD COLE?"

Click & Clack Host "A Thousand Clowns"

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Regular readers probably already know that my favorite movie which does not feature a Great Adventure is 1965's "A Thousand Clowns." It's the heartbreaking and hilarious story of Murray Burns, as played brilliantly by the great Jason Robards. Murray's an unemployed comedy writer, struggling to come to terms with his responsibilities as an adult, not least of which is the nephew his sister abandoned in his apartment as a baby, and child services' imminent repossession of said nephew. Anyone who's ever wondered how to hold onto wonder and irreverence without letting go of adulthood will be profoundly moved by the film.

Unfortunately, it's never been released on DVD, and has been out of print on VHS for many years. For a while, it was available for streaming on Netflix, but it looks like it isn't anymore. I'm told it pops up regularly on the classic movie channels, so if you've got a Tivo, tell it to watch out.

If you live somewhere near Brookline, Mass, though, you've got a special chance to see it Monday night as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Coolidge Corner Theater. Even better is that the screening will be hosted by two men almost as charming and irreverent as Murray himself -- Tom & Ray Magliozzi, aka Click & Clack the Tappet brothers, the host of NPR's Car Talk. Apparently it's their favorite movie too. You can find more information here.

The Legend of Master Legend


MaxFunPal Josh Bearman wrote an amazing feature in a recent Rolling Stone about Real Life Superheroes -- guys who dress up in outfits and fight crime. And sometimes get arrested, because most stuff superheroes do is illegal. And sometimes get evicted from their hideouts, because nothing that superheroes do pays. It focuses on one guy, Master Legend. Master Legend has a super-weapon, called The Master Blaster, which is a cannon powered by spray-on deoderant.

While you are spending time with Josh's remarkable nose for great stories, don't miss his piece on last week's This American Life, which concerns a profound and violent rift in an organization called The Amalgamated Order of Real-Beard Santas.

Another one bites the dust...


Our friend John Moe, host of American Public Media's "Weekend America," just twittered that the show will be leaving the air as of January 31st. This comes on the heels of NPR's cancellation of News & Notes and Day to Day. Lots of MaxFunsters are still smarting from the cancellation of The Bryant Park Project and Fair Game earlier this year. PRI's The Takeaway is still standing, but that's cold comfort, especially with that show having found limited traction on stations.

What did those shows have in common? For one thing, they were all targeted in part at people who weren't listening to public radio, yet. Public radio has saturated one corner of the market -- older, college-educated white people who want serious news. These shows tried (and try) to broaden that out a bit... to folks who are a bit younger, to folks who might want a bit more levity or a more conversational tone, to highly-educated people of color who are underserved by the Morning Editions of the world.

They also had another thing in common: they were expensive.

One of the reasons many of the staple programs of public radio -- This American Life, All Things Considered, Marketplace -- are so good is that they spend a lot of money to get that way. Producers (often independent producers) work a week or two on pieces that use 4 or 6 minutes of a two or three hour daily show. No one is paid a lot of money, but the work is labor-intensive and thus expensive, even when the wages are low.

That's a system that works for those shows because 200 stations (or more specifically, the listener-members of 200 stations) are sharing the production costs. When 200 stations carry your show, it's also much easier to get sponsors -- would Volkswagen have paid millions to underwrite This American Life if it was only on in Chicago? Certainly not.

So when the sponsorship revenue dries up (the official reasoning for NPR's recent cancellations) and the station carriage isn't there, the shows go kaput.

Of course, that leaves me thinking about the implications for The Sound of Young America. I have to edit some podcasts right now, but I'll be back later to expand this post.

On the Hour: Now on CD and MP3

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I've gushed in the past about Chris Morris, the brilliant British satirist whose series "The Day Today" and "Brass Eye" are two of the funniest television shows of the past twenty years. They're news parodies -- a bit like the Daily Show, only even funnier. As in many of the best Daily Show bits, the target is the media, not current events. The team behind the shows devolves jargon into nonsense, sports into mental retardation and drama into absurdity. The result is absolutely amazing.

The Day Today and Brass Eye were preceded by a no-less-brilliant radio program, called On the Hour. It's probably the funniest audio comedy I've ever heard, and now it's available on CD and MP3 for the first time, more than 15 years after it first aired.

You can buy each season of the show in a 4-CD box set from the label re-releasing them, Warp Records. Both On the Hour, Vol. 1 and Volume 2 are available on Amazon for $29 each, as well. The real deal, though, is in iTunes, where you can get each series for $11.99:
On the Hour Vol. 1 (iTunes)
On the Hour Vol. 2 (iTunes)

If you don't believe me, there's also a podcast of (very) short clips from the show, which will run for the duration of this month. Here's an iTunes link, and here's the feed.

Below: Prince Edward's Head, a quick commercial from the show.


And Alan Partridge on Badminton:

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