Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trentonian TV and El Latino TV en Vivo!

Dr. Tamiko Smith (left) became the first tier 3 community engagement host

TRENTON -- 87.

That's the number of productions we've done on Trentonian TV and El Latino TV en Vivo! -- my little Internet TV stations that could. Eight talk shows (69 episodes) and 18 single episodes comprise those 87 productions, which have been a range of serious discussion and debate to the silliness of picking the Greatest Bar in Greater Trenton to a Pickleback Party to a smoke-filled interview inside NJWeedman's Weedmobile to a prosecutor's live press conferences to announce the capture of 4 killers.

Trentonian columunist L.A. Parker leads the pack with 15 episodes of the "L.A. Parker Show" although El Latino TV en Vivo! Carlos Avila has hosted 15 episodes of "En Contacto Con la Comunidad". Awesome. But Executive Producer Joey Kulkin (that's me) said Trentonian TV truly took flight when he got members of the community to host issue-driven talk shows. Before we continue, "executive director" at Trentonian TV or El Latino TV en Vivo is tantamount to the guy in the circus with a shovel who follows elephants and scoops up their shit. In the grand scheme of things here at Trentonian TV and El Latino TV en Vivo! I'm a nobody except the guy who makes sure the shows run on time, hits a few buttons and takes pictures of women's shoes and their earrings and necklaces; one day soon I'm going to have a contest where you decide which woman wore the sexiest pair of shoes on either Trentonian TV or El Latino TV en Vivo! Or, the best shoes from Trentonian TV vs. the best shoes from El Latino TV en Vivo!. Anyway, back to the point where one might think I take the role of executive producer seriously. Trust me, I don't. I'm a schmuck of the highest order, a real putz, some might say a douchebag. I really am. I've lost my patience some days, while on other days I've farked up shows so badly that the live broadcast didn't record; or, if it did record, I screwed up or deleted the show during post-production. Two of L.A.'s shows -- maybe even 3 -- broadcast live but there is no proof of their existence because of my incompetence. I've bumbled, fumbled, stumbled through other shows, too, which don't appear in the replay loop; and when that happens I lose my lust for life. The last thing I ever want to do is ruin someone else's production. That all said, I've learned a few things by failing often, and I'd say Trentonian TV and El Latino TV en Vivo! are on a terrific little roll these days because I have put lessons into motion. You can count our successes on an abacus. Abacus? Sorry, I saw that word in my Twitter stream the other night. Don't know who tweeted it, but it's a funny word. It's one of those words we're not supposed to use anymore, I think. Abacus. But I digress. Actually, I think I need an abacus to count all of the talk show episodes: L.A. (15), Freedom (13), Tyrone (9), Words2Action (6), The Weekend Dish with Hilary Morris and Kirsten Yard (6 or 7, maybe 8), Makin' Moves with Phil Jackson (3) and All That Good Stuff (2). Also, it should be noted, community partnering took place when Trenton's Exit 7A Productions produced 4 of L.A.'s shows. Meanwhile, Trentonian TV Producer Joe D'Aquila ran the dials beautifully when I was on vacation. I've learned a ton of Livestream/Procaster stuff from D'Aquila.

So anyway, getting back on point here ... Trentonian TV has become one of The Trentonian's great community engagement stories. Darren Freedom Green was a guest on L.A.'s show, and I loved how he stood his ground against L.A.'s stringent line of questioning, so I asked Freedom to host his own show -- and he's 13 episodes into "Freedom". That's the first tier of community engagement. The second tier took place when Freedom began inviting movers and shakers in Trenton, showing he understood the importance of what constitutes quality conversation, not cockamamie look-at-me! blowhards. His guest list has featured Cameron Hunt, Toby Sanders, Tracey Syphax, Bruce Boyd, Fareed Stokes, Alysia Welch-Chester, Jim Golden, Nancy Dent, Bill McLaughlin, Baye Kemit, Roland Pott, Ernie Doggett, Earl Sanders, Corey Thomas, Rachel Barlow, Duncan Harrison, Red Locs, Nichole Townes, and oh, by the way, 6 of the 7 Trenton City Council members: Phyllis Holly-Ward, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Marge Caldwell-Wilson, George Muschal, Alex Bethea, Zach Chester. The only one who continues to run away from his requests is President Kathy McBride. You're the second black woman ever to hold the Trenton City Council president's gavel, and you won't come to talk about the city's most pressing issues and how you have handled them? Pathetic. But oh, when you send 50 girls to an WNBA game in Newark, you use a third party to backchannel your requests to us because you want some coverage in the print edition. But I digress. Freedom has grown so much in his role as talk show host. He still has miles to go, and he knows some of the things that bother me in terms of the way he delivers questions and looks at his guests with a hook-eye, other times with a scowling eye as if he wants to skin whomever is speaking then throw them in a pot and cook them. Other times Freedom repeats the same thing about "making Trenton better, not bitter" and "the reason we're here is to educate" and yadda yadda. Yeah, we know that, buddy. Write down a few new lines. After 13 excellent episodes, it's time to up your game. Show us that you can learn a little something from our post-production meetings.

There have been at least 7 shows with 2 episodes each. Some of the shows have gone on hiatus. I put them on hiatus. "Makin' Moves with Phil Jackson" recorded 3 episodes at the Trentonian TV studio, but I took a break from Phil for a few weeks. Only this week did he email to say he'd record an episode and send me the final product to put into the Trentonian TV replay loop. And that's the way it's going to start being around here. I can produce several shows a week, but I doubt I can take on new shows. If you have an idea for Trentonian TV, hey, by all means, make the show, upload it to YouTube, get me the embed code, and I'll slide it into the rotation. See, that's the whole other aspect of community engagement -- we'll open our doors, let you use our equipment, and all you have to do is hit the start button, do your thing and hit the stop button. We'll post-produce it and run it on Trentonian TV. It's that easy. The reason I am staying with the L.A. Parker Show and Freedom and the Tyrone Miller Show and Words2Action and En Contacto Con la Comunidad is because those are my babies. I've invested a ton of time in them.

Speaking of Tyrone Miller ... his show is my favorite. I know I shouldn't have a favorite, like parents shouldn't have a favorite child. But I do. That's not a knock on L.A. or Freedom or Carlos or the Dish girls or Phil Jackson or Dr. Ken Gordon. But the Tyrone Miller Show shines for two reasons: 1) it's another example of community engagement. Tyrone is just a random dude from the community. But he shows initiative. He's hungry. He's an entertainer. So one day he called to ask if he could do a show, then he set up a meeting, then we talked, and I got a good vibe. Sure, it helped that he appeared on TV shows and comedy stages and helped write songs with Sugar Ray. Tyrone understands the camera, and the camera loves Tyrone's energy. Indeed, "his energy" is the other reason I love producing the Tyrone Miller Show. The guy is funny, quirky, funny and quirky, a great combination. He puts his arm around a guest's shoulders and makes him or her feel relaxed, secure, at home, like a friend from around the way. He makes his guests feel loved. On top of which, Tyrone has learned that the show isn't just ME-ME-ME! And his reactions to the little things are priceless, like when he hears the terms "neophyte" or "water bath" ... those reactions are right in my wheelhouse of comedy, and it's why I enjoy his brand of Trentonian TV. His first two episodes began with motivational monologues that I liked. Oh, the messages were as old as Abraham's farts, but there's something about the way Tyrone inflects his voice that pushes his points across. A co-worker didn't like those monologues quite as much. At some point Tyrone began to understand that the monologue was out place, so he ditched it, I think after the episode from inside Thomasena's Takeout. I believe the last 4 or 5 episodes have been about the guests, the whole guests and nothing but the guests.

Speaking of Dr. Ken Gordon, he is another example of Tier 2 community engagement. He appeared on L.A.'s show, and it took about 5 seconds for me to realize I wanted the president of the Southern Burlington County NAACP to host a show. Gordon shocked the shit out of me the day he showed up six weeks later for Episode 1 on April 15 -- or Jackie Robinson Day. And yes, he planned it that way. But what shocked the shit out of me was the production team he had assembled for his show. No messing around. See, Gordon is a mover and shaker. He has won every election he has run in, and you can bet your tookis he'll run for mayor, then governor, then President of the United States. Let's just hope he doesn't kill me first. Two of the first 4 episodes of "Words2Action" did not record, and Ken and I were on the precipice of parting ways. He's a perfectionist, and he plans each show with great diligence, great vision, so I understood why he was pissed off -- even though he said he was unhappy. Pissed off ... unhappy ... somewhere betwixt ... we were having production problems. The first screw-up wasn't my fault. We shot on location from Willingboro the day the city renamed a street after Dr. Martin Luther King. It rained cats and porcupines, and way down there in the country the Internet connection sucked. And that sucked because the first guest that day was Carl Lewis. Carl. Effing. Lewis. And we have barely any recorded material to show for it. Oh, we have about 7 minutes worth of stuff, but there's no way I'm running that in the replay loop. It was far too important of a conversation to have bits and pieces stitched togehter. Gordon said he'd reschedule Carl. Also on that episode was Jesse Epps, who was in MLK's Memphis motel room minutes before the reverend was shot dead on the balcony. But nothing recorded as the rain continued to pour. Episode 4 did not record either even thought it the live broadcast took place in the conference room at Trentonian TV. That's when Gordon sent an email full of emotions. I sent an email back. He returned volley. As did I. It really felt like we were about to break up. But we hashed through a few things, found common ground, agreed that I would produce the show in my comfort zone, and because of that the last 2 episodes have been awesome, including Episode 6 -- which became the latest success story at Trentonian TV because it turned into Tier 3 of Trentonian TV. L.A. Parker interviewed Dr. Gordon, who then got his own show, and because he had to go out of town last Sunday, Gordon tabbed Dr. Tamiko Smith to fill in. Dr. Tamiko Smith was the first guest on Episode 1 of Words2Action, so now we have a Trentonian TV guest who became a host who then got one of his guests to be a host. That's some Inception-like shit right there. Or something. Bottom line is this: Trentonian TV and Dr. Tamiko Smith are in talks to develop her own show. And you know damn well I'm going to push for one of her guests to get a show, which would be tier 4 of community engagement.

And that's the point of Trentonian TV: become teammates with the community.

Damn, I've rambled for far too long. But I do have a reason. I'm wasting time till 2 o'clock, when a former Mercer County Gentleman shows up so I can tape a 3-minute segment for tomorrow morning's live broadcast of Trentonian TV Presents: A Gentleman Interviews Gentlemen. OK, maybe I need a better title than that. Whatever. But it's going to be great, another Trentonian TV Special. Others have included interviews with Trenton rapper Big Ooh and Trenton High grad and author Will Foskey and American Ninja Warrior Chris Wilczewski and former Major Leaguer Billy Ripken and Trenton High senior Raamiah Bethea, who became Trenton High's first New Jersey wrestling champion, and Trenton entrepreneur Tracy Syphax and the Ewing High boys basketball team hours before the Devils won the state title and paralyzed Hamiltonian Jessica Rogers days after a crushing defeat ... and Trentonian TV was right there, live, when the final pizza emerged from the oven at DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies in Chambersburg. Tears and laughter and mozzarella-driven memories flowed inside that joint. To be honest, it's my favorite single-episode moment and probably will be for a while -- though I expect emotions when class of '84 Gentleman Jun King Walker interviews some of Mercer County's finest Gentlemen.

Between Trentonian TV and El Latino TV en Vivo! the 100th production will take place soon. Don't know how we'll celebrate. Got ideas? Email jkulkin@trentonian. It's simple to watch Trentonian TV. Just go to Trentonian.com and look for this graphic on the right side: