By Laura Latzko, March 2016 Issue.
It’s just a regular Tuesday night. You have plans to get together with your regular friends to drink regular drinks and talk about regular things.
That’s all the inspiration one Valley resident needed to launch something remarkable.
After participating as a guest on “Joe and Babe,” one of QTalk America’s previous shows that was co-hosted by local podcaster Joe Dugandzic (who started the network in 2010) and community leader and former radio personality Babe Caylor, Clayton McKee was inspired to start a show of his own.
“The spark came to me,” McKee said. “I [thought] it would be fun to do a show, but it would be my rules, my way.”
And just like that, “The Show with Clayton McKee” was born. Four years later, as “The Show” approaches its 250th episode, its cast of four reaches a global audience each week.
While the number of people who tune into the weekly three-hour show varies from month to month, McKee estimates that around 2,000 people – ranging in age from millennials to seniors – download and listen to the show in a 90-day time frame.
Meet The Cast
Despite the fact that it’s called “The Show with Clayton McKee,” QTalk America’s sole show is made up of a cast of four distinct voices: McKee, Kat Carlson, Al Perkins and Marnie Reiher.
“The irony of the show is it’s my show in name, and I have absolutely no control over it,” MeKee said. “I describe the show as [us] at brunch hanging around a table talking.”
McKee has worked as a radio and club DJ as well as a master of ceremonies at various of community events, including the Phoenix Pride parade. Currently, he can be found behind the turntables on Wednesday nights at Charlie’s and, by day, he works in sales at a restaurant and bar point-of-sales system company.
Al Perkins, who works as a nurse, serves as the show’s movie buff and handles the entertainment aspects of the show.
Marnie Reiher, a social worker who specializes in helping people with developmental disabilities, can be counted on to bring up quirky, and often racy, topics. Reiher recalls being reluctant to talk on the air in the beginning, but said she’s become more comfortable over time.
“I used to be quiet, but I’ve changed my ways,” Reiher said, adding that she and Perkins have been part of the show since the beginning.
Kat Carlson, who works as a bartender at Kobalt and for a book fair company, said she listened to the show regularly before joining the cast. Originally scheduled as a fill-in back in September 2014, Carlson said she loved being a part of the cast so much that she just stayed on.
“I wouldn’t leave. I just kept showing up,” the newest member of the cast said. “That’s how I make friends with people. I just keep showing up.” Together, these four regular folks share their views on political, social, pop culture and regular topics that they find relevant, interesting or downright strange.
“The Show,” which is all volunteer based, has featured several other regular cast members throughout the years, including Echo’s 2015 Leader of the Year Katy June and Echo’s former managing editor Buddy Early.
Every time a new member joins the cast, McKee said the dynamic on “The Show” changes in some way.
“It has been interesting to see how everybody plays differently with the new person in the sandbox,” McKee said.
Give ‘Em Something To Talk About
To prepare for the podcast, the cast gathers stories and researches talking points for the week, but generally there isn’t an overall theme.
“We are kind of a morning show at night,” McKee said. “The topics of the day drive the show … We just talk about things that other people are talking about … There’s a gay spin to it, yes, but there doesn’t always have to be.”
Over the years, the cast has covered a wide range of topics. And, while McKee aims to keep the shows light-hearted, he said cast members bring up more serious matters from time to time.
“It all happens naturally,” Carlson said. “There’s no rehearsals. There’s minimal production meetings.”
According to Perkins, the show’s format hasn’t changed all that much since its inception.
“One of the things we said from the beginning,” Perkins said, “[was] that it had to be unscripted, that it had to be organic.”
Although the show is LGBTQ themed, Carlson said it doesn’t have a central message or focus like many other gay podcasts.
“I’ve listened to other gay podcasts and with a lot of them you can feel them stretching to make that ‘gay point,’ but we don’t have to,” Carlson said. “I think that’s a testament to our lives and personalities.”
It’s the cast members’ real-life scenarios, their larger-than-life personalities and un-edited commentary that makes the show stand out.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of podcasts where they swear like we do. It’s gets a little explicit at times with personal stories,” Perkins said. “We sometimes forget we have on microphones and headphones, because it is like four friends sitting around having drinks, laughing and talking … It’s been really rewarding too.”
The Show Heard ‘Round The World
Interactions with listeners – especially via chat rooms – have become an important part of “The Show,” which draws listeners from all over the world, including Croatia, India, Japan, Russia, Finland, New Zealand, Australia and Kenya.
“It’s a nice release for them because some of them are in countries where [they] are oppressed – not just politically, but for being gay,” McKee said. “In some of these oppressed countries they have to listen on headphones because they aren’t permitted … to watch or listen to us.”
According to McKee, many listeners have expressed how “The Show” has made them laugh during dark times in their lives or shown them there are other individuals out there who are very much like them.
“For some people who listen to us, it sounds like those three hours to them are golden,” he said. “They really want that escape from whatever oppression they are living under.”
For Reiher, conversations with longtime listeners, especially those from other countries, have been very informative.
“We are learning so much about things going on in India and Africa,” she said. “Every Tuesday, we get to have that insight from people from other places … They are kind of sitting at our table. When they are not in the chat room, it feels like something is missing.”
Regardless of geographic location or sexual orientation, there’s one universal sentiment the diverse array of listeners continue to reiterate to the cast.
“One of the things people say in emails [is] ‘you are just regular people, you are like us,’” he said. “We didn’t initially know what we were doing or how it was going to go, and over time, everybody found their niche, and it all just works.”
“The Show with Clayton McKee” airs live every Tuesday from 7 to 10 p.m. at qtalkamerica.com. Additionally, past episodes are also available on the QTalk America YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/qtalkamerica.