Stuff We Like: An Interview with comedian Ken Reid of the TV Guidance Counselor Podcast
Nostalgia, hilarity, and a little bit of OCD. When mashed together what you get is a masterpiece, and that masterpiece is Ken Reid’s TV Guidance Counselor Podcast. Reid, a prominent Boston standup comic, started the podcast just a few months ago, and already the show as acclaimed critical success, has had a bevy of famous (and ex famous) guests, and has had write ups in publications like USA Today.
Recently, I got a chance to do his podcast myself with my lovely and talented man-friend, Ted. When he’s not doing the podcast on the road, Ken invites his guests into his home, which can best be describe as a fun house of nostalgia and place I would probably live if I had unlimited access to flea markets and vintage furniture. We choose a TV Guide (ours was from 1997 with a photo of Xena on the cover), combed through a weeks worth of prime time TV with SAT-like precision and sat down with Ken to go through our answers. It was a great way to remember where you were at the time, which for me was being extremely awkward and convincing myself I was in love with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. What I’m saying is we all make mistakes.
After a delightfully embarrassing (delighfulbarassing?) trip down memory lane and the realization that I haven’t really grown up at all, I decided to ask Ken a few questions to find out just what makes the TV Guidance Counselor podcast so unique.
Why did you start collecting all those TVs guides? How many do you actually have?
Ever since I could remember, I read TV Guide. Every week. My parents’ friends would call us when I was 2-3 years old and ask them to ask me what was on. I hung on to a lot of issues from when I was a kid, but the bulk of the current collection comes from two libraries, one in Maine and one in Nebraska. In the late 90s they were dumping all their physical periodicals, so I gave them a home.
I’ve never actually counted how many TV Guides I have. The thing about TV Guide is that there’s a lot of regional variation. So I may have multiple copies of some issues, but from different regions of the US. If I had to guess though, I’d say roughly, I have around 1,500 issues of TV Guide and about 1,400 emotional issues.
What gave you the idea to use the TV Guides in conjunction with a podcast?
Sean Sullivan. People for years had been telling me I should do a podcast, but I never had a good idea for one. Weirdly, I don’t address pop culture stuff on stage very often, even though it occupies a lot of my brain. I actually would just flip through old TV guides for my own amusement or sometimes if a friend came over we’d basically do what the podcast is, but a little more informally. Sean just said to me out of the blue one day that I should do a podcast where someone picks what they would watch from a week of TV from one of my TV Guides and I thought it was a great idea and so I ran with it.
You’ve had some amazing comedians and some fantastic TV stars from days past on your show. Who was your favorite guest and why?
I really love the JoAnn Willette episode. Her story going from Maine to Hollywood was fascinating, and as a fellow New Englander that stuff amazes me. Plus, obviously I’m the self declared world’s biggest Just the Ten of Us fan, and on top of that she’s incredibly funny and fascinating.
But there are so many of my guests I could say that about, Melanie Chartoff, Larraine Newman, Danny Tamberelli, I could go on and on. I’m just constantly amazed I get to speak with these people.
I actually also just like some of the episodes with my friends. People’s stories fascinate me and when you strip back everyone’s life experience, if you go back far enough, we all watched TV as kids.
Are you surprised with how quickly the podcast took off? Has the media attention changed the way you approach the podcast?
Yes, more than anyone. People really respond to the format. I’m honestly just doing it for me. I like doing it and I like listening to what people have to say. The fact that anyone at all listens is amazing. I get a lot of emails and tweets and downloads from all over the world.
I don’t really change anything due to media attention. I do try and address people’s requests or complaints and try to mix the show up to keep it interesting. So I’ll alternate format breaking episodes with strict format episodes, 80s focuses episodes with 90s focused episodes, etc.
You’re a well known pop culture junkie, what fuels your love of pop culture nostalgia?
It was my escape as a kid. It’s just as important to me as family is to most people. It gave me something to look forward to and discover. It gave me experiences I never would have been able to experience first hand. I’m also fascinated by looking back at popular culture and seeing how it was effected by, and how it effected, the world and time in which it was created.
What’s your favorite “A very special episode of _____” ?
That’s a tough one. Because you can enjoy them on two levels. There are some truly moving, respectful, well done, very special episodes, like the AIDS episode of Designing Women. Then there are the ones which are shockingly hilarious for how amazingly off base, creepy and misguided they are like the AIDS episode of Mr. Belvidere.
It’s especially interesting to see how different episodes confront the same issue. Say “All in the Family” dealing with rape vs. Monroe’s rape at the hands of female impersonators, played for laughs, on “Too Close for Comfort”.
The one that is burned into my brain is an episode from season 4 of Growing Pains called “Second Chance” where Carol’s Boyfriend Sandy (played by Mathew Perry) dies due to injuries sustained while he was drunk driving. There’s an amusing melodrama to it for sure, to the point where I can recite Carol’s monologue word for word, but it’s a pretty shocking and well done episode. It pulls the rug out from under you.
Carol is visiting him in the hospital, he’s banged up, but alive. They discuss how it was wrong to drunk drive, and you think that’s it. By the time she gets home from the hospital Sandy’s has died from internal bleeding. The shock of that, and the grey area of a main character being in the wrong was interesting to me as a kid.
You’ve mentioned that your podcast has been much more fulfilling than your stand-up career. Why is that?
Some of it might just be that I’m 10+ years in, and most of my peers have quit, or moved, but part of it is that Boston is in a real lull creatively. There just aren’t a lot of shows that set me on fire or get my creative juices flowing. I get bored of my material. I’d much rather have actual conversations with people than have one sided conversations with audiences. I like the interaction, I like the chess game, I like interviewing people.
Aside from that I find it really satisfying to have an actual product. It’s not just said and in the ether, it exists. It’s almost a tangible thing. It’s a (semi) permanent record. I also really enjoy the scope of it. I get listeners in Europe, Japan, South America, Australia and all over the US. I don’t get that kind of reach with my stand up.
Also nobody is listening to the podcast by mistake. They all purposely found it and listened and came back again the next week. With stand up, although some people may be there to see me specifically, they are mostly just there to see “comedy” so even when I win them over, it’s not the same kind of connection.
Who would win in a fight….?
The brain slugs from Night of the Creeps vs Freddy Kruger?
Apples and oranges, Freddy exists on a metaphysical plane. For the brain slugs to have fought him it would have have to have been PRE Death Freddy, when he was just a child molester with finger knives. So the win goes to the brain slugs.
Vincent Price vs Rod Serling?
Vincent Price, he was bigger physically, and could cook.
Little Pete vs Clarissa?
Clarissa, because she has the advantage of being a girl up against a hormonal tween and could use her feminine wilds.
The Dad’s from My Two Dads (Paul Reiser & Greg Evigan) vs. The Strangers in Perfect Strangers (Bronson Pincho & Mark Linn-Baker)?
Two Dads, they just make a more well rounded gay couple.
Catch the TV Guidance Counselor Podcast here: http://tvguidancecounselor.tumblr.com/
In NYC? Ken will be doing an awesome LIVE podcast as part of New York Super Week with the incomparable Amy Sedaris! Sunday October 5th at 7pm at the Brooklyn Brewery. Get your tix here: http://www.showclix.com/event/3854106
In Boston? Catch Ken at his show the Secret Menu at the Comedy Studio the first Thursday of every month. 8pm. Get tix here: http://www.eventbrite.com/o/the-comedy-studio