Tag Archives: podcast

‘Just Answer the Question’ – a Thinking Podcast with Alice Dreger

I’ve been working on a project since the beginning of the year and it’s finally ready to see the light of day, so I’d like to share a bit about it should you be interested. It’s different from the usual ground I’ve covered here and elsewhere over the years.

Just Answer the Question is a thinking podcast created and hosted by Alice Dreger, the esteemed writer, historian, and speaker. (She also happens to be a friend, former neighbor, and now colleague.) I’m the producer*, and I also provide original music for the show. For a little more background on how this came to be, see Alice’s newsletter on the topic.

Just Answer the Question logo

Yes, I know, seemingly everyone has a podcast these days. (Oddly enough, my previous post was about my guesting on another show.) There’s a lot of content out there, maybe even too much, and we hope to create a thoughtful space separate from the news cycle and whatever the controversy du jour may be. From the show’s website:

For each episode of Just Answer the Question, we take one question and use it like a corkscrew to open a bottle of intellectual wine that we then share with three helpers. Some podcasts call their visitors “guests,” but we consider ours “helpers,” because they help us think through our questions by sharing their experiences, research, and insights.

After we’ve recorded conversations with our episode-specific helpers, our creator Alice Dreger and producer Mike Teager then use the recordings as primary sources to compose episodes that take you through a guided tour of the exploration of our central question. Alice contributes short essays and narrative glue, while Mike contributes original musical framing. Our goal is to give you somewhere around an hour of time to think, feel, remember, laugh, listen, and examine the threads that weave through our lives. Our hope is that we help you enjoy this big collaboration as much as we do.

JATQ website

You can also watch our promo video on our website and Twitter.

The podcast is free and the first three episodes are available now on all main directories with more in the pipeline. New episodes should appear about every ~3 weeks.

We’ve recorded conversations with many compelling, thoughtful folks already—some you may have heard of and others who may be new to you. But regardless of name recognition, the discussions have been consistently rich and engaging.

We also offer additional content via a paid subscription. This is known as the Tangent Tier. For $5 per month, you can access the long-form interviews from which we pull excerpts for the main (free) podcast episodes. We may ultimately only use ~15 minutes or so of a given interview for an episode, but we often talk with our helpers for ~40-60 minutes each, and much is left on the cutting-room floor. For those interested in more of the “two people talking” format, this is that (compared to the more produced format of Just Answer the Question).

If you’re interested in the Tangent Tier, more info is here and you can subscribe here. And since the first three main episodes are now available, the accompanying Tangent Tier installments are too. (Nine of them, to be exact: three for each episode.)

The first three episodes are as follows:
“What’s have I done?” — An examination of how we take stock of our lives: as a continuous narrative or as a series of episodes. Featuring discussions with bioethicist Dr. Tod Chambers and psychologists Dr. Dan McAdams and Dr. Jonathan Adler.
“What’s it like to play me?” — A look at role-playing, including as oneself in different contexts. Featuring discussions with radio personality and playwright Peter Sagal, actress Jennifer Riker, and narrator and audio artist Tavia Gilbert.
“Can a father be a mother?” — Reflections on being a primary caregiver. Featuring discussions with journalist and The Company of Dads founder Paul Sullivan, psychologist Dr. Jonathan Adler, and yours truly.

Do give a listen to the podcast if it sounds like something you’d like to explore.

Relevant links:
Just Answer the Question website
Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, Google Podcasts, and more…
Subscribe to the Tangent Tier here

*As for my being the producer, I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, Get Shorty, delivered by a confident Chili Palmer: “I don’t think the producer has to know much.”

In all seriousness, when Alice first asked me about collaborating on this, I was (and am) beyond flattered, and I admitted that I knew very little (i.e., nothing) about producing generally and podcast production specifically. That said, in addition to being friends, we knew that we liked working together when I used to report for East Lansing Info. So we used that and our shared penchant for organization as a starting point, and here we are. The learning curve has been and remains steep but rewarding.

Talking Parenting on ‘The Company of Dads’ Podcast

A bit of a different post here. In addition to the wide net of artistic-related concerns this (neglected) blog is concerned with, I have occasionally delved into personal matters such as priorities, family, and work. However, considering there are ~250 posts on this site, “personal” writing is in the extreme minority.

In October of 2021, my good friend Alice Dreger virtually introduced me to the then-outgoing New York Times columnist Paul Sullivan. He had just published his final “Wealth Matters” column, one that outed his other job: that of being the primary caregiver to his three daughters. Or, as he calls it, being a Lead Dad. He announced that he was leaving the NYT to focus on building a community of other Lead Dads in order to both raise awareness of and normalize the role. His column deeply resonated with me, and Paul and I lightly kept in touch as I followed his launching The Company of Dads.

(I should note that Alice, in addition to being my friend and former neighbor, was also the primary caregiver to her son, a role that we’ve continually bonded over through the years, which is why she thought to introduce me to Paul.)

In February he asked to interview me for his podcast, and we got along swimmingly. The episode (#11) is out today. I was very surprised to be asked, considering the guests he’s already featured, but I’m happy to discuss my parenting experience, especially with those in a similar role. We continue to stay in touch, and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to connect.

I don’t know how much of our original talk will be included—we spoke for a while and covered a lot of ground. There’s was a little music talk, but the focus was really on the role of primary parent and Lead Dad*. We discussed parenting and how that’s juggled with family generally, work, music, volunteering, and more. And, I don’t know if this made the cut, but we did touch on our shared childhood love of professional wrestling as well as my renewed interest in it over the last couple years. (Speaking of which, the 30th anniversary of my first live event was just a couple weeks ago, and I’m going to my first live event in decades next week.)

If you’re at all interested in the discussion or the topic generally, give it a listen. I really value what Paul is doing with the Company of Dads, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

The episode is available via Apple Podcasts, YouTube (where you can sneak my River of Fundament poster in the mirror, and you can also see me hunched over because of awkward mic and camera positioning), and wherever else you may get your podcasts.

I’ve been repping the Company of Dads both from my home office as well as at gigs:

Working on a forthcoming project, with a hint of Redoubt poster in the background.
Staying hydrated in a pit.

*Admittedly, I do have a little hesitancy around the term because I’ve always just seen myself as “the parent” instead of “the dad,” likely because I was raised by a single mom who essentially fulfilled both roles. But that’s just me and my own experience, and it’s another tale for another time..

Paying for what you like

“I pay for the things I like.” – Jen Kirkman

The above quote comes from comedian Jen Kirkman‘s appearance on the most recent episode of The Long Shot Podcast.  She said this while the regular panel of comedians were discussing their podcast’s nascent donation-based monetization model.

As discussed in prior posts, I’m a big fan of stand-up comedy.  (It’s my other art/performance/entertainment interest aside from music – there are many parallels between a music and stand-up.)  As a result I listen to a LOT of comedy podcasts.  I suppose one could say I’m a somewhat early adopter – I’ve been listening to podcasts steadily/daily for almost two years.  I mention this because (comedy) podcasting has really exploded the last few months, and as a result different comedians/shows have pursued different monetization avenues: subscription (Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, Never Not Funny with Jimmy Pardo), donation (Marc Maron’s WTF), commercial (all ACE Broadcasting series’), premium content (WTF), live shows (The Adam Carolla Show, WTFNerdist), etc.  It’s very interesting seeing the varying successes of each.

Why this is so compelling to me is that comedy podcasts are largely free, done so intentionally to attract a large audience.  However podcasting ain’t free.  Not only does the comedian him/herself take the time to produce/record/edit the material, but, depending on the scale of the operation (and it varies WIDELY – compare The Adam Carolla Show with Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast), there is likely a staff assisting in the process.  Then there is the bandwidth used to distribute each episode, one of the costliest elements.  (For instance, in the first months of Adam Carolla’s podcast he paid it out of his own pocket, upwards of ~$15,000/month!)  This is all done so that the listener may be entertained a couple hours each week or day FOR FREE!!!

At every turn towards monetization there have been vocal detractors for pretty much all series’.  This is what I’ve found fascinating: so many hundreds of thousands of people listening to this FREE content regularly, then complaining when asked to pitch in what often amounts to only a few dollars each month.  (Not too different from the generic starving children in Africa.)  I actually do donate to such things; just as I do to NPR (something else most skimp out on).  Then I remember that I’ve seen this all before, only in reverse:

The music industry.

As everyone knows, the music industry has all but imploded over the last 15 years or so.  Now we have what’s euphemistically called “the economy of the free.”  What that translates to me as is: “Why the hell should I pay to be entertained/moved?”  Which, for me, goes back to what Jen Kirkman so eloquently said: “I pay for the things I like.”

Those who know me personally know me to be a loud, staunch advocate of paying for music.  (And, as described in my New Listen series, I like to pay for physical copies – CDs – whenever possible.)  Yes, Lars Ulrich & Co. can be annoying when yelling about Napster from their mansions and jacuzzis.  But what about those of us trying to “make it” (whatever that really means)?  Should musicians not be compensated for their art?  It was made with time and physical/mental labor, afforded often by years of study/practice, and then made available for public consumption.  Sure, it can’t be physically felt, but, assuming it’s effective, is it not felt emotionally/intellectually/viscerally?  (Sorry Google, I know you want everything to be free so you can keep making money on ads.  Not gonna happen.  Hopefully…)  Keep in mind I’m not here necessarily defending Kanye West’s bank account – ick! – but rather those of the smaller, more independent acts.

We’re all familiar with the torrent sites, P2P sharing, etc.  Another common practice, oddly enough by music majors (who theoretically will seek careers making money via music), is to excessively “borrow” music from music libraries, stuffing their hard drives to the gills.  (Yes, I’ve researched music from university collections many times, but if I end up finding I like something enough for personal enjoyment, I’ll then buy it.)  Again, I just don’t understand the theft element.  I would think that of all people, musicians would largely set the example that paying for music is respectable.  I’m happy to report I’ve bought, or received as gifts, all ~1000 albums (and growing!) in my collection.

(Granted, I often unintentionally take this to extremes.  I generally don’t even listen to copies of CDs people randomly make for me.  If I put it in and like it, I’ll go ahead and buy it.  If not, I’ll discard it and not use it again.  Sometimes I don’t even listen to it because I don’t have the time and have no opinion to lead me to purchase it.)

Now what do these two topics – comedy podcasts and the music industry – have in common, other than the obvious?  For podcasting, this young and evolving medium has yet to really find solid financial ground, but the wheels are in motion for it to establish its legitimacy (in the eyes/ears of the listeners).  (One major example is the recent rumor that Apple was in talks to have Howard Stern move his market-moving show from satellite radio to podcasting for a $600 million contract.  However he later announced he’ll continue on Sirius for another 5 years.)  Then on the other hand there’s the music industry, a once commercially-dominant industry that has completely unraveled, now struggling to make a profit.  (Again, I’m concerned about the musician, not necessarily the corporation.)  At the heart of both “industries” is the consumer’s ill-informed belief that they deserve everything for free.

So the next time you decide to “rip” something off the internet (or library), please remember Mrs. Kirkman’s simple words of wisdom: “I pay for the things I like.”

And you should too.