Wow, I can NOT believe my last blog was forever ago...
What a jerk!!
Ok, so, a few things have happened since then. First, let's get the Money Drop update out of the way. The show was officially canceled by Fox in June. Yeah. Stinks. Important experience for me, all around, though. It was awfully fun to do, and so few things in my professional life have challenged me as this gig did, believe it or not. Also, the majority of the people who saw it, loved it. For me, those are the factors that make for a positive job experience. It's the journey, people, and that part of this trip was wonderfully enjoyable for me. Fortunately, I refused to ever attach real expectations to the job, in terms of how long it would last, so its otherwise abrupt ending sucked, but wasn't a shock by any stretch. We did ok. Not bad, not great. Just ok, and that's never enough in the tv world. Never matters to "them" that the people who watched it loved it and thought we did a terrific job. For them, not enough watched and thems the breaks, so it goes. Lastly, for those of you who openly wondered why I did the show, it wasn't just the sweet mulah, I assure you. It was a challenge to improvise on broadcast network television and do something I had never done, and that is as rare as it gets in my trade. Two of my all-time heroes, Groucho Marx and Johnny Carson, both hosted game shows, and now I see why. It was more than an unusual challenge, it was damn fun. Thanks to Jeff Aploff for thinking I could do it, and to the entire crew for making it so damn easy and fun.
On the acting front, I've got two movies coming out in the fall and I'll be acting in two more this summer. "The Big Year" with Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Diane Wiest, Joel McHale and Rashida Jones (yeah, they couldn't get anyone), and directed by David Frankel ("Devil Wears Prada) comes out in October, and Kevin Smith's "Red State" hits theaters the same month. Pretty psyched about both of these babies and should be doing a bit of press to support them, so look out for that.
More on the two films I'm gonna be shooting this summer as I start work on them. Most likely, come to think of it, you'll be reading about my experiences on them after I finish the work. I'm actually rewriting this entry while flying to New York to work on one of them, "Summer at Dog Dave's" with Morgan Freeman and directed by Rob Reiner. I start the other one, "Chez Upshaw," next week. In the meantime, you can read this announcement from Variety, if you'd like...
Speaking of Steve Martin (yes, I was a few paragraphs back...), thanks to him and his ol' pal James Taylor, I got to perform on the hollowed hard wood of Carnegie Hall. It was a gala to celebrate Carnegie Hall's 120th anniversary. I got an amusing heads up email from Steve letting me know that he had suggested me to James Taylor as someone who could possibly do a Lenny Bruce tribute, which James was asking about. "There's nothing for you to do now, though, except wait for him to email you and worry..." was how Steve left it.
James eventually called and asked me if I could do it. Like the actor who, when asked by the director, "It's a western that I'm interested in you for, but can you ride horseback?" to which the virgin horseback riding actor said, without pause, "I've got a saddle in my car," I said to James Taylor (who's voice on my phone caused me to dance around the room like a 5 year old on Christmas morn) of course I can, sure.
The struggle would be to find the right Lenny routine to recreate. The parameters I was given were that it must be no longer than 4 or 5 minutes, and as Steve suggested, it should be a funny one. Thanks, Steve. He wasn't joking or trying to be a jerk (been there, I suppose), but explained that in the early days of Lenny career, before the naughty parts and, ya know, paving the road of unlawful censorship for every comedian after him, Lenny did characters and acted out sketches. "Maybe I shouldn't do 'How to entertain your colored friends at parties'?" I asked Steve, quoting one of Lenny's routines. Lastly, I suggested, that I should find a bit of Lenny's that ends on a laugh, seeing how I'll be performing on stage at Carnegie Hall for the first time and thought it might be nice to finish well...
The hardest part was finding helpful footage of Lenny doing any routine. There's plenty of recorded albums to be had, and I listened to as much as I could get my ears on, but there's remarkably little video of him performing as a young man, which is the era of interest for my tribute performance. So, I got the vocal rythym down easily enough, but how to master his gestures and body language. After all, this was a extremely gifted performer we're dealing with here... He wasn't just standing at a mic and spewing bits... Panic was coming and going, as the days went by. It was still a couple months away, so I did the only thing a right-minded professional would do, I put it off til about 2 weeks before the show.
I finally found what I was looking for in one solitary performance on the Steve Allen show. There are two available, but only one offered all the nuances of his gate, his head bobbing, his.......moves. The man had moves. Truth is, he couldn't stand still. A part of him was definitely moving at all times, but this became increasingly predictable, and therefore doable.
The show went incredibly well, even though for the first time in my life, I was nervous. I know, it sounds impossible, but I've never been nervous before a performance. Ever. Excited, yes. Excited as HELL, even, but not a single symptom of nerves, such as shaking or naceous or heart pounding in my throat (which is what happened minutes before I walked out on to the stage at Carnegie Hall), had ever happened to me before this night of nights.
To read more of this story, which includes spritzing with Steve Martin in order to co-write his introduction of me for the show, which turned into a glorious Hope and Crosby act, as well as, oh, not much..., just having former President Clinton, moments after his address on stage and flanked by Secret Service, be-line to me to say he was a fan and loved that I brought Lenny alive for the night, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for my first book, "How I Slept to the Middle" - "Stories & Secrets from Stage, Screen and the Interwebs". Said tomb has just been greenlit by the fine publishers at Lyons! My delivery date is March of '12 with a worldwide release in time for Christmas of '12.
More on that on as it developes, I swear!
The Chat Show continues to thrive, thankfully. In fact, better than ever. It's amazing how much of a fourth phase of my career this little show-that-could is turning out to be. The satisfaction I'm getting from watching this show that I created from thin air, and then launched using only Twitter reach millions of people is one of the ongoing TRUE joys of my life. One of my more enjoyable aspects now of the show is that my better half, Jaime Fox, is now being recognized from the show. She's SO not interested in that sort of thing, and that's part of the reason I love it so much. It's a sweet torture kind of thing that perhaps only people in relationships can appreciate. She's really come to enjoy working on the show, which took a while I think, and is a tremendous bonus, as she contributes a great deal and I love having her there. One of my heroes, Christopher Guest, recently mentioned how enjoyed her ont he show with "She doesn't let you get away with anything, does she?"
The Chat Show has started to reach the all important "critical mass." I'm pretty damn excited to announce that actual deals are being hammered out as I type this to bring the Chat Show to both hulu.com and the Sirius radio network. This is SO huge in terms of us reaching a considerably larger audience. Both entities are interested in licensing the entire library, as well all new shows. By far the BEST part is that the content of each show that was streamed live at http://www.KevinPollaksChatShow.com originally is exactly what will play on both networks, as they have each asked for unedited or uncensured episodes in their original length. I never thought an unedited (sometimes 2 and a half hours in length) version of the show would ever be allowed on other platforms. Great news, indeed! Both also want to have us up and running during the summer, so this is all happening very fast, unlike most of show business, or my ability to write new blogs!!
Also, I announced a while ago during one of the episodes a very BIG change in the public's access to the library of the show. Because of these deals with hulu.com and Sirius, I have reversed my decision to charge the public for the podcast library, and so once again every episode of both video and audio that we've ever done (now up to 119 interviews and counting) is free.
So, why was I charging to begin with? I've never discussed this here, so here goes... I was attempting to change the way podcasts are viewed in the big picture: If people are willing to pay for music, books, apps, television shows and movies on iTunes, why do ALL podcasts have no value, which is what it feels like when we work as hard on ours, only to have the show cost money each week, instead of earning something, anything, for my crew, at the very least. This seemed terribly unfair to me after doing the show live almost every Sunday for over a 2 years. We were never able to build a continuing relationship with a sponsor, which was my original idea as a way of paying our overhead and my crew a salary. Then, I realized that in my experience as a stand-up comedian, if you could earn an audience then you could earn a living. The "draw" has been a factor in EVERY aspect of showbiz since day one for artists, so why were those of us who actually work every week putting together a podcast, and then doing it live, not allowed share in this tried and true rule of showbiz law. Earn an audience, earn a living. iTunes has never allowed anyone to charge for a podcast. Sure an episode here and there, but not for an entire library, or as a weekly function of a podcast. I changed that. I sat down with the heads of the podcast division of iTunes and explained the tried and true showbiz tradition of "earn an audience, earn a living," and the eventual allowed it. At first, they insisted that we find sponsors, then when I explained further, they simply said that there was literally no code written to allow a charging system to be implemented. It took almost 6 months to get one up and running. During this time, we had reached one million, two hundred and sixty-five thousand downloads in the month of December alone, of 2010. I announced the switch on my chat show in mid-February and we waited to see the results...
I explained my reasons for charging, simillarly as I have above, on the chat show to the audience and asked their support. Would our loyal audience support us...?
In my mnid, I was ready to loose 75% if we had to and then rebuild them once they came to understand that the business of podcasting needed to change, in fairness to the artists. Again, if you pay for music, tv, films, books and apps on iTunes, why not podcasts...?
Within a couple weeks we had our answer from our fans and their resounding reply was...
Go fuck yourself!
We dropped WAY more than 75%. In fact, other than a few hundred truly loyal fans who tweeted and emailed that they were more than happy to support us by buying episodes, the resounding reply from our audience was "HOW DARE YOU?!!!!"
Granted, since iTunes did not have the code written to charge for an single podcast, they had suggested that while they were going to need 6 months to write said code that we use the indie music producing route to sell our wares. Unfortunately for our fans, and us, the lowest price was $1.99 for our individual episodes and that was just WAY too much for anyone to pay.
After reading all the feedback, I announced on the chat show that I had heard everyone and we were making huge changes based solely on their input. After much tech struggle and reconfiguring we were able to load up 25 episodes into a "season," or "album," and charge offer 4 of these seasons, totally 100 episodes, at $4.99 a season, or 20 CENTS per 2 hour podcast. My thought at this point was, who could blame us for charging such a low price as that? Other podcasters had set up similar pay-as-you-go seasons on their own sites, and we would be the first to do so right on our artist page of iTunes. For the first time ever, the all-important clickable link would appear on our podcast page, which would then take you to our artist page where if you had an iTunes account, you could make said 20 CENTS per pocast purchase by buying one of the seasons at $4.99 for 25 shows.
The numbers picked up, but the response from our audience was pretty much the same: How dare you charge for a podcast. Far be it for me to suggest our work have ANY value...
I was so bummed out that I wasn't sure what the hell to do about charging an unhappy and quickly diminishing fanbase...
Then an email came in from an old admirer at hulu.com. The man incharge of all acquisitions for the network. He had expressed interest a year earlier, but for whatever reason, talks stalled between him and my agent. Well, this time around, his interest was stronger and seemingly urgent to make a deal to bring the library to hulu. I was thrilled, to say the least. Especially given my recent confusion and frustration regarding our fans unhappiness and unwillingness to embrace even 20¢ per 90 minute-to-2 hour episode. As fate would have it, around this same time, I was in New York giging, which brought me to Sirius radio for press and promotion. While there, I was approached by another admirer from the past. A year, or so, before he too had inquired about licensing the chat show's library and all new shows. He offered to air the show, but confessed the network couldn't afford to pay anything. Now, he insisted/explained over lunch, the network was doing considerably better and he wanted to make a deal.
It all seemed too perfect. My audience wanted free podcast, and two juggernauts were offering money for the library, thereby subsidizing our production costs, at very least, and hopefully putting a few ducets in my crew's pockets. As I wrote above, said two deals are still being hammered out.
Updates: In the case of hulu.com, all pertinent deal points have now been agreed to and docs will be ready for my signature next, so I was told yesterday, literally. I'm also told that hulu plans to showcase the show and cross promote the hell out of it on their network, and, most importantly, they want to do so immediately. Fingers still crossed. If showbiz has taught me anything, it's that one should NEVER count on an offer becoming a reality until the public at large gets to finally view said project.
More to come as it developes.
So, there you have it. A new blog, and it only took me forever and a day to make said offering. Until next time, here's hoping all your offers ultimately receive an audience. One that is better for the experience, btw.