Some of the biggest geeks in Philadelphia are south of South Street and recording their geek speak for mass-consumption quite successfully. The 2014 Philadelphia Podcast Festival just wrapped Sunday night after a successful long weekend at Tattooed Mom, 530 South St. But the podcasts keep broadcasting and the podcasters, many with big followers, are setting up studios and connecting with other like-minded conversationalists throughout South Philly.
To be clear, the premise of a podcast is pretty simple. iPods are almost 15 years old now. And with them began the era of constantly listening or reading or tapping on a device, and podcasters capitalized on this by recording and serially issuing digestable and often themed conversations that curious minds could subscribe to. Every single interest anyone could have has a mindful podcaster ready to provide an outlet.
Timaree Schmit, an East Passyunk professor/sex educator/fitness instructor/podcaster and resident of the 1800 block of South Camac Street, doesn’t see herself as her podcast’s subject. “Sex with Timaree” was born in about 2011 and, after 175 episodes, has stream statistics upwards of 10,000. But she knows it’s not about her.
“I don’t really talk about myself on the show at all. I don’t want it to be about me,” Schmit, an instructor at the Community College of Philadelphia (where she teaches an Introduction to Sexuality course in the Psychology department) and Widener University (where she completed a doctorate in Human Sexuality), said. “What I’m bringing is that I want to ask the questions that I think the listeners would ask if they had the opportunity,” like “if you had a pornstar in front of you.”
Her podcast was featured at the Festival, as was Teagan Keating’s “Action Phase,” a show about public health. The Festival-recorded “Action Phase” featured WHYY’s Maiken Scott, their Behavioral Health reporter. The connection between Schmit and Keating? Nathan Kuruna, Schmit’s producer, Keating’s fiancée and the festival’s director. The strength of the first two fests has also pushed Kuruna to found the Philadelphia Podcast Society.
“It was bigger and better this year than it was last year. Tattooed Mom was a great venue and they’ve expressed interest in having us back next year. We just keep learning about more and more folks that are doing this,” Kuruna, who uses an in-home studio at his 1100 block of Latona Street residence to record, edit and transmit, said.
They had 12 casters last year and 19 this year.
“We’re hoping it’ll be a little bigger and better every time. We had some good stuff happen for us in terms of publicity, like the Black Tribbles and Jason [Richardson] winning,” the Passyunk Square resident said.
The wins Kuruna’s referring to are from the Philadelphia Geek Awards, which are handed out annually, this August at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel. The almighty Geek of the Year award went to Richardson, a resident of the 600 block of South Sixth Street. He is one-fifth of The Black Tribbles, which won for Streaming Media Project of the Year.
The Tribbles are an African American quintet who love geek culture, and their name comes from a Star Trek episode (if you know the one, you might be a geek, too). Richardson runs his very lively J1 Studios out of his home and met at Chapterhouse Café & Gallery, 620 S. Ninth St. to chat geeks, podcasts and Spiderman.
“Since the age of three I’ve loved Spiderman,” Richardson reports. “He’s the only one that actually has to work. He’s the only superhero who has to hold down a job, and I respect him for it. Batman’s rich. Superman has a fortress. Everyone else either lives in space or they’re also millionaires who live in a mansion.
“I really liked the fact that even as a young man, he was highly intelligent, he was an engineer, he made his own web shooters – not everybody can sit down and create the fluid that makes webs or the machines to shoot webbing out of,” he added, showing off his comics knowledge.
He’s drawn and reviewed them, too, and his J1 Studio, which has grown from a staff of one (Geek of the Year) to 20, is as diverse as ever.
“We make video game remix music, we make multiple comics, we have novels, fan fiction, user reviews. We cover just about everything in geek culture,” the Bella Vistan explained.
His and his Tribble-mates Podcast Fest moment closed out the weekend on a weirdly fun and twisted note. The Tribbles challenged a fan to a Star Trek trivia contest (they won) and then Richardson took over.
“I did a segment where I asked not only the cast and hosts but the fans and people there, if they were to have a superpower what would it be and why?” he said. “Things got really weird. Everyone wanted to come up with the coolest and craziest power, so it was a game of one-upmanship, but a festive game.”
His interest in anime goes deep and it’s manifested in J1-Con, an anime convention, Richardson’s pride and joy, that’ll take place on Sept. 14 in University City.
Darnelle Radford, a native of the 2100 block of Latona Street, also participated in the Podcast Fest as a voracious local theater podcaster. His journey started in ’04 when he founded his own Represented Theatre Company. Rep Radio came years later when he decided he wanted to help his fellow theater companies get the word out about their work. “An inside look at the plays and players,” as Radford put it.
“I wanted to create a vehicle that was designed to help smaller companies that didn’t have those marketing dollars. I’ve been inspired by so many creative artists – I wanted to find a way to promote new work. That’s where Represented came from,” he said.
They send out an average of 70-75 podcasts a year and time the release so that, when updates happen overnight on Monday morning, you’ve got a new podcast waiting for you, and the hope is that it sends you to box offices.
His time as an Apple employee in Ardmore showed him that smart phones are great tools to get one’s podcasts heard.
“At Apple, I see people who can’t keep their eyes off their gadget. By lunchtime they could buy tickets and by the time they get off of work they could be planning their evening, which is partly why we release our episodes on Mondays at 6 a.m. Their devices do their updates, and they get a new Rep Radio when they open it up.”
Contact Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
Photos by Nathan Kuruna and Bill Chenevert