I Want to Be a Talk Show Host When I Grow Up

Actually, fun fact is that even before I went to work at the local newspaper when I was 17 years old, I was given a radio talk show in the summer of 1993 at the Bates College radio station, WRBC. I ended up getting my job at the newspaper after it ran a story about my radio show being a hit with the kids in my high school. The station manager wanted WRBC to run year-round, so in the summer months when only about 15% of students were on campus taking classes, they opened it up to the public and I seized the opportunity. They allowed me to continue through the school year.

Instead of being a talk show host, I went down the road of the written word, which has done well by me. With the exception of a few months here or there, I’ve consistently made my living as a writer or editor since I took a job in the sports department of the local newspaper about six months after the radio show started.

Fast-forward 25 years. One of the very first interview shows I went on as a guest after my initial book came out was The Virtual Couch with Tony Overbay. I found it in a list of mental health podcasts and wrote to Tony seeing if he wanted a guest to talk about pornography addiction. I was scared to death to talk about my story, but knew I’d have to be vulnerable to promote my book. I was still feeling my way through my new world and was still processing what had happened to me over the last several years.

Tony could not have been more non-judgmental, welcoming and ultimately made me feel like mine was an important story to tell. Not every podcast has been like that, and if I had found one of the more confrontational hosts, or one of the hosts who doesn’t care what I’m talking about, I’m not sure that I would still be doing this. I need encouragement in the early stages of a project, and then can deal with later slings and arrows. Start with negativity and I bail out quickly.

When the brainstorm hit me to write a second book with a therapist, I had a short list of about four I wanted to approach, all who had interviewed me. Tony was the top of that list and while he understandably hedged a bit, calculating the time commitment it would take, he welcomed the opportunity and our professional relationship changed, but we also began building a personal one.

I think one of the things that works with our relationship is that we defer to each other’s strengths, which is why our book has been well-received. I’m not a therapist and he’s not a recovering addict and we don’t try to play each other’s parts. Conversely, I don’t live on the west coast, am married to my high school sweetheart, have four kids, am very spiritual, understand anything about computers or enjoy running. Tony isn’t an east coaster with two decades of professional writing experience, an ex-convict or former politician. However, we’ve both operated businesses we lost passion for, made poor decisions for security-blanket purposes, and like to have our hand in many projects at one time. We have similar personalities with very different life experience and it compliments each other.

We also are immersed in the world of podcasts in very different ways. Tony has been hosting the Virtual Couch for nearly three years and until today, published 199 episodes, almost all interviewing people in various aspects of mental health. He constantly has to produce different and interesting ideas. I don’t know how he manages the consistent quality output, but he deserves the tens of thousands of hits he’s getting. I, on the other hand, have been on around 150 podcasts since I first visited Tony on Episode 27, and it’s rare when I get a question that I haven’t answered before. Instead of telling the same growing audience different things, like Tony does, I’m telling different audiences the same thing most of the time and never know if 20 or 20,000 will get the message.

For his 200th episode, I pitched the idea of him being a guest on his own show and letting me interview him. We spend 20 minutes talking about the evolution of his podcast, the next 25 minutes talking about his personal journey in life and the last 15 minutes is reserved for the rapid-fire question round. I had a great time playing a different role and it’s made me think that at some point, I may enjoy having a podcast and it doesn’t have to be about pornography addiction. And as a guest, Tony was terrific, holding nothing back. If you have some time, check this out:

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