This is the second episode in the VIRAL series of Smartest Person in the Room.
My conversation is with actor and producer Shane Nickerson, who knows more than a little something about VIRAL content, as he’s spent years creating it through tv shows for MTV, CMT, and Nickelodeon.
Shane is co-president of the production company Super Jacket with Rob Dyrdek, and together they're responsible for shows like Rob & Big, Fantasy Factory, The Dude Perfect Show, Jagger Eaton's Mega Life, and Crashletes.
Today we delve into the show Shane helped create with Rob Dyrdek: Ridiculousness, which features remarkable short clips culled from the vast sea of the internet. Ridiculousness is so popular that it was responsible for roughly 23% of MTV’s total programming last year.
Shane has some really thoughtful insights about internet culture and viral content, but he tells a story at the end of this episode I didn't see coming. He shares a personal story of something going terribly viral in his own life, something that had the potential to wreck his marriage and his career. He fought back against this viral thing and WON. My mouth was hanging open as we recorded.
Complete show notes here.
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This is the VIRAL series, and we’re looking closely at something that permeates most of our internet culture: viral content. Videos, memes, tweets, graphics, these can take over our online experience and change our minds, culture, elections, or just make us collectively laugh. Things that go viral on the internet can have real power.
Growing up in around the entertainment industry in Southern California and attending NYU Film School still didn't prepare Morgan Shanahan for the success she would find as a content creator. She wrote screenplays and commercials for years before turning to a more personal outlet. Her blog The 818 was a vulnerable look at marriage, motherhood, and mental health and drew her a large following.
Morgan's platform and talent opened an opportunity at the media behemoth Buzzfeed, where she's been the parenting editor and now parenting video producer for several years. The creative content she's making at Buzzfeed get tens of millions of views.
In our conversation around the topic of VIRAL, Morgan and I discuss what it takes for something to get shared over and over, the types of content that work best, and what it means for the creator and for society.
Whether you're totally internet savvy or completely non-techy, this episode will be more relevant to your life than you may think.
Read the full show notes here.
A sneak-peek of Series 3 of Smartest Person in the Room!
We're closing out the religion series by talking about LOSING your faith.
This is the 5th episode in the RELIGION series.
So far in the RELIGION series we've heard from people from 4 different faiths. Today's episode is a bit of a departure, as we're instead talking to someone who writes nationally about religion as their job.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a religion reporter for the Washington Post. She’s the former online editor for Christianity Today Magazine and former national correspondent for Religion News Service.
In our conversation, we talk about what goes into religion reporting - both the in-depth coverage and the click-bait stories - and how Sarah's own faith affects how she covers religion for the Washington Post.
Sarah shares her opinion on the biggest religion stories happening in America right now, as well as what national religion coverage is getting right (and wrong).
Thanks for listening!
Welcome to the first episode in the RELIGION series of Smartest Person in the Room. For the next few weeks we’ll be hearing stories about people living within their religion, defined here as a “cultural system of behaviors and practices, often (but not always) in relation to something deemed sacred."
This episode is about the divide between modern day American Evangelical Christianity and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as LDS or Mormons. For purposes of clarity, in this conversation I refer to my guest Nish Weiseth as a “mainstream” Christian and to guest Emily Belle Freeman as a Mormon. Both living in Utah, Nish and Emily have partnered together to bridge the gaping divide between these two faiths that both follow Jesus.
With their combined influence in both the Evangelical and Latter-day Saint traditions, Emily & Nish have decided to take on the difficult task of getting Mormons and Christians to listen to one another and learn from each other. They work as a pair, speaking to both Mormon and Christian congregations, but they also spend a lot of time in their own camps, trying to dismantle some of the misinformation and stereotypes that each side has of the other. Their hope is that Mormons and Christians will eventually be able to put aside their differences in order to impact the world for good, together. Their online hub is called Multiply Goodness, which includes a blog, resources and more, on how people can start doing this inter-faith work in their own communities.
In this episode we talk about:
A sneak-peek of Series 2 of Smartest Person in the Room!
The Hollywood series has concluded and host Laura Tremaine and producer/editor Megan Tietz decided to sit down to discuss the best and worst parts of making the first series of Smartest Person in the Room.
Laura and Megan talk about the most downloaded episode of the series and their personal favorites. They give a behind-the-scenes look at what was special and what was challenging about making the podcast.
They also address rumors and questions about the "lost" episode of the Hollywood series: Ep. #7, the interview with the high-powered talent agent that had to be removed 3 days after it debuted.
This is a fun discussion for those who have already listened to most of the Hollywood series and want to hear more about the guests and the creative decisions behind the show. There's also a few hints about the next series topic, which will be hitting your earbuds soon.
Jeff Tremaine is a producer and director best known for co-creating the cultural phenomenon Jackass, an MTV television show that was born out of a skateboarding magazine and went on to four #1 box office movie hits.
Jeff's raw and self-taught style is also behind numerous other tv shows, documentaries, and national commercials. His influence and humor permeates through several decades of American youth.
Jeff is also host Laura's husband, which makes for a more casual and even more candid interview than any other in Smartest Person in the Room's Hollywood series.
In this interview, Jeff talks about:
You can read the full show notes here.
Julie Hébert is an award-winning playwright and a television writer, director, and producer. She began her career in the San Francisco theater world, and her plays have been produced across the country and won many honors, including two PEN awards for drama.
But for the last two decades, Julie has worked as a writer, director, and producer on some of televisions most popular and influential shows: ER, The West Wing, Third Watch, Nashville, The Good Wife, and many others. She is currently the executive producer and a writer/director on ABC's award-winning show American Crime.
In this episode, Julie and I cover a lot of ground, including what it's like to be a woman director in an industry still so male-driven. She shares one of her tricks for bringing instant authority to her role, and her opinion on whether this disparity is getting better.
Julie patiently answers all of my questions about how a writer's room works on these large sweeping dramas, and how the cast and crew reacts to having a different director for each episode.
She shares set stories from her days on The West Wing and ER, as well as the responsibility of making a show like American Crime.
This is a GREAT discussion, informative and inspiring.
Two books that made an impact on Katie:
Wayne Newton has been a bodyguard for the most high profile of celebrities, protecting Mariah Carey, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, and many more. In 25 years of private security, he has never once spoken publicly about this job.
What he says in this interview will make you rethink any assumptions you have about who is REALLY the smartest person in the room.
Shanna Zablow is an executive producer and general manager for the Gorilla Flicks Productions whose producing credits include MTV’s Rob and Big, Ridiculousness, and Nitro Circus as well as feature length films such as Bad Grandpa, Being Evel, and the Jackass franchise.
This interview was personal for me as I am the one who hired Shanna for her first job in production many years ago, and she has been an irreplaceable part of my husband Jeff’s team ever since. The productions Shanna has worked on for more than a decade are all shows by boys and for boys, and in this episode, she explains how this dynamic has created both difficult challenges as well as a deeply rewarding career as a producer.
Production designer Ethan Tobman is one of the most sought after artists in Hollywood. He designed the complicated and innovative set for the 2015 Oscar-winning film Room, and is the creative force behind the sets for popular music videos like Ok Go's The Writing's on the Wall and Beyonce's award-winning video of the year: Formation.
Tobman has collaborated with Hollywood's most talented and influential directors, actors, and musical superstars. In this episode, he explains the logistics of a production designer's job while weaving in his own tales of working with celebrity and genius.
Phil Johnston is a Disney screenwriter, producer, and director best known for his work on Zootopia, Wreck-It Ralph, and the upcoming Wreck-It Ralph 2.
In this episode, I talk to Phil about the years before he worked on such animated hits and he explains the process of starting with one character and ending up with a feature film. He also tells us how it feels to have worked on a project that made over ONE BILLION dollars, as well as how he compartmentalizes having a children's movie and an R-rated comedy release in the same month.