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Our sponsor: Project Breakout


If you've been listening to JJGo and TSOYA lately, you've heard announcements about our new sponsor, Project Breakout.

Here's the deal:

They're a new company, and their idea is to be like American Idol crossed with YouTube. They're doing online video talent contests in a variety of fields, like dancing and film-making. The contests have both voting and judges, and culminate with the winner receiving a prize that furthers their career.

Their trial run is a comedy contest. The prize is a trip to New York City to participate in Sketchfest NYC (of which TSOYA is a sponsor), as well as a three-day intensive mentorship with the great folks behind Sketchfest NYC. The goal is to get you in front of industry, and teach you how to capitalize on your opportunities -- how to make packets, how to put on shows, etc etc etc.

I'm one of the judges for the competition, and I'd love to see really great stuff. I know a lot of talented folks listen to TSOYA and read this blog -- in fact, that's one of the reasons that the Project Breakout folks chose this show to sponsor.

So if you have video, visit their site and enter it in the competition. You don't lose your rights to it or anything, it's equivalent to uploading it to YouTube or something. Nothing is too good or too bad for the process -- the whole idea is to cast a wide net and filter out some stuff that deserves more exposure.

Upload here:

(And hey, if you're interested in underwriting on the radio show or podcast, or advertising on the website, let's talk about it. Email me.)

Total Annihilation in the SF Chronicle!



'Kids Rock'

Grown-ups are in the band, too, but they're punks, so cut 'em some slack

Thursday, March 15, 2007

While the idea of holding a punk rock concert by and for little kids may seem like a stretch, 11-year-old Brendan Thorn, a.k.a. Eddy Demon, doesn't think so. The lead singer and guitarist of Total Annihilation and his band mates intend to "annihilate everyone" with their music as they play a "Kids Rock" gig this weekend that features bands with kids and adults in their lineups.

Look for Eddy and crew to wail through tunes such as "Rock and Roll on a Friday," a song about a guy who prays every Thursday night that the sun won't come up in the morning. "I wake up and I hit my head," Eddy sings when the protagonist awakes to yet another Friday.

Although Eddy says he likes Fridays now, cut him some slack. "I was 9 when I wrote that," he says.

Eddy came up with another one, "The Devil's After Me and I Don't Know Why," when he was ill and having a little trouble breathing and was thinking about relatives who has passed on and how he had to say goodbye to them. The songs appear on Total Annihilation's self-produced CD "Noggin," a reference to "really good eggnog."

Homeschooled since he walked away from kindergarten at 5, Eddy listened to Muddy Waters and jazz in his car seat, then graduated to the sounds of Jack Black's tongue-in-cheek rock band Tenacious D. He compares his singing style to that of the group Half Japanese, whose lead singer is "very squeaky. It's like a high voice, but it's not yelling. I don't have a strong enough voice to yell anyway," says Eddy.

His group includes drummer Pete "Pietro" D'Amato, 14, and two adults, James "Camo Spice" Comte on backup guitar and Damon "Dorkmeister Harmoniak" Squire on bass. Both are 36.

Total Annihilation grew out of an appearance by Eddy and Pietro at a talent show at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in San Francisco a year ago. In the audience that night was Comte, a veteran of the early '90s rock 'n' roll wars as a member of the San Diego group Swivel Neck.

Seeing the kids put their heart into their music inspired Comte and he asked if he could join the fledgling group. "Eddy was like, 'Wow, it would be really cool,' " Comte says. Since then Comte has become something of a mentor to Eddy and Pietro.

"A lot of times children hear the message that nobody ever makes it in a band," says Comte, who has a 4-year-old daughter. "That can be discouraging. But how does one become successful at music? Usually they start at a young age. It provides the opportunity for children to see someone pursuing their dreams and developing their talents."

As for punk rock's negative associations, Comte stresses that the kids aren't emulating Sid Vicious. "It's all positive. It's not a seedy bar scene. They haven't been exposed to drugs and alcohol. It's sort of healthy YMCA experience. We play way more notes than punk rock. We're sometimes soft and sometimes loud. We're not like we can turn our amps up loud and kill you."

Still, Eddy may have a surprise or two come showtime. "We're planning on lighting a smoke bomb. If it's legal. Hmmm. Let me think about that."

F-ocracy and Hellakraptor also play. 3-6 p.m. Sat. $7-$15 sliding scale. The Lab, 2948 16th St., San Francisco. (415) 864-8855.

Paul Kilduff,

Paul F. Tompkins hits Comedy Central Friday!


One of the funniest men on the planet, Paul F. Tompkins has a brand new Comedy Central Presents special, which premiers Friday night at 10PM (9 Central). Above, he discusses new dads. Also above, he is dressed like the Jack Nicholson joker.

Previously on TSOYA:
Goofaround Gang with Paul F. Tompkins, Tim & Eric and Will Franken

Dan Savage v. Garrison Keillor


It's a battle royale!


Previously on TSOYA:
Dan Savage
Garrison Keillor

Podcast: The College Years: The Audio Experience 2/28/02


The College Years is a look deep into the vaults of The Sound of Young America. Take a journey with us every week as we post a new program or two from our salad days.

This week, Jordan, Gene and Jesse have a CD full of sounds, which they use to great comic effect. They then speak with listener Jesse, who wants to ask out former guest and radio DJ Kelly out on a date.

Subscribe in iTunes

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Download This Week's Show

Public Radio Talent Quest: Let's Try Some Shit.


The Public Radio Talent Quest

A friend recently made a comment to me that I thought exposed one of the biggest problems in public media. We were talking about TSOYA's run on WNYC, and he said, "What I don't understand is why, when they're building new programming, public radio never, ever starts with talent."

He's exactly correct, of course.

Start with talent, and you get The Daily Show. Start with a "target audience," and you get The 1/2 Hour News Hour. Start with talent, and you get Saturday Night Live. Start with a "target audience," and you get Mad TV.

New programming in public media is largely driven by pre-existing funding, which turns the development process backwards. Instead of having a great idea, or a great host, or a great producer and feeding it resources, we find a need or niche we decide to fill, then look for money, then actually build the creative elements. It's anti-entrepreneurial and rewards sameness

The best case scenario in this kind of system is to develop a show like Day to Day or Weekend America. Day to Day is basically the same as All Things Considered and Morning Edition. The tone is about 10% different, but it was created because we knew there was money for a show that was like ATC and ME that ran mid-day. Weekend America is like Weekend All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, with a tone that's maybe 15% different and a bit more focus on "fly-over states."

Television is the same, but given the enormous cost of television production, the problem is much worse. The best shows on public TV (Nova, Sesame Street, The Newshour) were created twenty and thirty years ago. So were public TV's big stars -- like Bob Vila, Jim Lehrer, Big Bird, Bill Moyers. I mean Ken Burns seems recent, and when was The Civil War? 1990?

I blogged last month about why "This American Life" is going to be on Showtime and not PBS. In Ira Glass' words, "Public television is terrible." He points out that if he'd wanted to bring the show to PBS, he'd have had to spend two or three years raising money before they'd even consider airing it. This with one of public media's biggest hits.

And I won't let public radio off the hook, either. The barrier of entry in public radio is exceptionally low -- I mean, I produce a weekly show with one person and a monthly budget of about $300. But consider again the case of TAL -- they went to NPR after Glass had worked there for twenty years, the show had been on for a year, was fully funded, and had won a PEABODY AWARD. Because it was different, NPR demurred. Today, This American Life is the biggest hit on public radio in the past fifteen years, and it weren't for Public Radio International, it wouldn't even be national.

So, what to do?

How about this for a prescription: try some shit.

This is what every other succesful media organization does.

Television networks air dozens of new shows every season, and only keep a few. The whole internet is a boiling vat of talent and ideas, where great things bubble up every day. With digital technology, it's very easy to produce video or audio at quality levels that are acceptable to at the least internet audiences. I'd say public TV stations could teach a group of 10 people how to produce video 52 weekends a year. Put some stuff up on the internet. See what works. Reach out to people who are already doing interesting stuff. Network. Join the conversation.

The upshot:

Much to their credit, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced a big grant last year to help find new talent for public radio. Again to their credit, they did it in a surprisingly entrepreneurial way -- a contest. They asked any group to outline their plan for finding talent, and offered a big check to the groups with the best plans. Recently, the winners were announced.

One of the two winners was PRX, aka The Public Radio Exchange. It's basically a website for distributing public radio content. Amazingly, before they launched, there was no mechanism for this. Now, any station can buy in to their system and get programming from independent producers and other stations around the country which has been peer reviewed and formatted for their automated systems.

PRX's plan for finding talent is, well, another contest. American Idol-style. On the internet.

It's called The Public Radio Talent Quest, and it's open to anyone. They're asking people to submit short tapes of ANYTHING they would want to hear on public radio. A few elimination rounds later, and they'll have given away $70K.

Will it work? Fuck if I know. But at least they're DOING SOMETHING. Seventy thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it's really only one person's salary. Why not give it a shot?

So, Sound of Young America listeners, I say ENTER! And here is my promise: for each round ANY TSOYA listener advances, I will add FIVE DOLLARS to the prize. And that's five dollars AMERICAN.

Do this thing!

The Public Radio Talent Quest

This American Life Contest!


Showtime was nice enough to give us a big beautiful poster for their new television version of This American Life.... and as if that wasn't enough, it's autographed by the Ira Glass.

So: we're giving it away.

Here's the contest: call our listener hotline at 206-984-4FUN and tell us a story. Like This Life, we have a theme: debuts. Keep it pithy and punchy, if you please. Interpret the theme broadly. Leave your name and phone number.

The TV TAL debuts on Showtime March 22nd, and our contest ends at the end of the month.

This American Life Contest!


Showtime was nice enough to give us a big beautiful poster for their new television version of This American Life.... and as if that wasn't enough, it's autographed by the Ira Glass.

So: we're giving it away.

Here's the contest: call our listener hotline at 206-984-4FUN and tell us a story. Like This Life, we have a theme: debuts. Keep it pithy and punchy, if you please. Interpret the theme broadly. Leave your name and phone number.

The TV TAL debuts on Showtime March 22nd, and our contest ends at the end of the month.

I Ran Iran


Loyal readers may recall my pal Tyler, who won TV's The Amazing Race last year. He's in Iran, now, working on a project called I Ran Iran, basically running the length of Iran to foster fellowship between the people of that country and the US of A.

Now, I think this is a little ridiculous, but on the other hand, if I were going to send one emissary from the United States pretty much anywhere, it would be Tyler. He might be a little embarassing, but lord knows he's pretty much the most generous spirited and fun loving guy on earth.

His friend Bobak is running with him, and you can find a blog of the run here. Tyler tells me that the Iranian government, bent on making them poster children for nuclear power in Iran, gave him a shirt that reads, "Naclear enerjy is ou obvious racht."

Two years ago, he walked the length of Japan, in an attempt to both impress his (Japanese) girlfriend and find the birthplace of his father, whose parents were missionaries traveling the country in the middle of the 20th century.

You can watch the whole film for free here. I really loved it.

Oh, and despite his silly outfits and pleasant demeanor, he's not a hippie.

Here's the official site of the film.

Here's a more recent post on the topic.

Tyler Macniven's "I Ran Iran"


My pal Tyler MacNiven has done some really great stuff since we graduated from school. I've regularly plugged his first feature-length documentary, Kintaro Walks Japan, on this blog. His dad and I even talked with him on his way across that country. It's Tyler that Julie Snyder brought up (to my surprise) in our discussion of This American Life story ideas.

A year or two ago, Tyler and his friend BJ won "The Amazing Race," and with it, a million dollars. Tyler's used his part of the money to finance his interest in film-making, creating a new film called "I Ran Iran."

Tyler and his friend Bobak went to Iran to run its length. They figured that their apolitical trip might foster better relations between the two countries, especially since Bobak's family is Persian.

What they didn't expect was what really happened: a political and beaurocratic nightmare that began with the pair being celebrated as Iranian national heroes, and ended with them being expelled from the country.

Our friend Hadley Robinson put together a nice piece on the film for the excellent Gelf Magazine. Expect the finished version in June... in the meantime, click here to watch Kintaro for free.

(Note to Amazing Race fans: Tyler is not a hippie, but he is completely, almost alarmingly genuine.)

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