Evan Voices

SoundCloud Voices is a weekly Community feature focusing on new spoken word creators found on SoundCloud. It might be a podcast, radio show, audio book, interview, audio messages, a poem, anything! Keep an eye out every Thursday for a new post.

This week we’re handing over the blogging keys to our friend John Moe, the host and head writer of American Public Media’s new radio show: Wits.

The show, as described by its creators, is “a live public radio show that brings world-class comedians, actors and musicians to the stage”. It’s funny, entertaining, and somehow mixes old school radio-show sensibilities into a thoroughly fresh sounding show. They just released their third podcast which you can listen to here. We asked John to give us some insight into the show’s recipe for success.

 

A NOTE ABOUT HOW WE BOOK GUESTS FOR WITS

So we do this show called Wits at the Fitzgerald Theater in St Paul, Minnesota. It’s a variety show, pretty much. I grew up watching stuff like Sonny & Cher and Donny & Marie. I always wanted to host a show like that. Since those shows are rarely given to young children, I had to wait until well into adulthood. And now hooray! I’m old enough. Wits takes that idea of a comedy and music program, the idea I never let go of, and infuses it with a contemporary sensibility and some of the most interesting guests around.

A whole lot of work goes into it, lots of people are involved, but at the heart of it is a pretty simple notion: let’s get some really funny, smart, pleasant people together and we’ll hang out with them, tell jokes, have chats, and sing songs. Because that sounds like a really enjoyable way to spend one’s time.

Now, the whole idea of only booking people who are funny AND smart AND pleasant does make for some extra work for us. To be sure, there are plenty of talented people out there who are smart but not funny, or they’re funny and smart but are difficult to be around. Hitting the trifecta for every single show narrows the field considerably.

But beyond making the production of the show a smoother operation and giving us a chance to make friends (and we love making friends), those three qualities are crucial given what we make our guests do. Our comedy guests get drafted into doing the occasional musical bits and our musical guests find themselves acting in comedy sketches.

 And both guests participate in our Wits Game Show segment where musical and comedic improv skills are summoned to make theme songs for made-up movies or commercial pitches for non-existent products like Diet Socks.

Some highlights from past shows:

Over on the studio version of Wits, presented in some of our Wits podcasts, the guests aren’t required to perform quite the same degree of high wire act although we hold fast to our standard of guests who are funny, smart, and pleasant. Dull dummy jerks need not apply. With all due respect to the contemporary media landscape, dull dummy jerks get plenty of opportunities to display themselves on any number of other outlets. Maybe we’re kind of a refuge from that.

John Moe, the host of Wits, has a long and varied career in public radio as well as comedy. Moe served as host of Marketplace Tech Report and Weekend America, both national programs heard on public radio stations. John has been a lead singer in rock bands, a writer of video games, an editor at Amazon.com, and he once got fired for washing dishes the wrong way. You can follow John on twitter @JohnMoe, and Wits as well @wits.