Niigaan and the Lone Ranger podcast rides for first time
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First off, if you don’t like the name of the podcast, it’s Niigaan’s fault.
True story: it was award-winning columnist and noted academic Niigaan Sinclair who first suggested we do a podcast called “Niigaan and the Lone Ranger.” Many months after that idea popped up in his high-functioning brain, I’m proud to say, as of Wednesday, a project bearing that name is now live on most major podcast streaming sites.
Proud, yes. But also a little worried.
When we started this project, it was quite clear the world did not need more podcasts. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many creative people — musicians, filmmakers, actors, writers — into self-imposed prisons. The alternative was a podcast.
You can see the appeal. They had the time, a podcast is pretty low-overhead (all you need is a high-speed internet connection and a slightly upgraded microphone) and voila — you’ve got yourself some “content.”
Those assumptions led to a proliferation of podcasts of epic proportions.
If you aggregate the results from all of the broadcast industry watchers, you get about 700,000 podcasts in 2019, going up to about 850,000 in 2021. Currently, more than 1.2 million have an audience estimated at about 400 million.
Who wouldn’t want to join that party? Still, if we were going to do this, we had to do it right. Off to the Spotify machine to listen to as many different podcasts as I could.
Like a lot of people, I started with some of the most subscribed podcasts. For example, I did sample a couple of episodes of the “Joe Rogan Experience,” just to see what the fuss was about. I’m still looking for a reason for all the fuss.
Rogan’s “experience” starts with what sounds like a candid recording of a bunch of dudes sitting around in a locker room talking about their famous friends (first names only to confuse the audience) and cracking off-colour jokes. Then, on to an interview with someone packing viable shock value.
I sampled many in what I will call the Hollywood genre: shows hosted by famous actors, musicians and comedians. Some are very good, like “Smartless”, a side project featuring Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Canada’s own Will Arnett.
Although the boys occasionally spend too much time cracking wise instead of listening to their truly A-list guests, and Bateman’s interviewing style reminds me of a blind dog looking for a porkchop in a snowstorm (meandering) it is really entertaining stuff.
I love Bill Maher’s no-holds-barred approach to comedy but his podcast “Club Random” feels less like a good conversation between two famous people, and more like a drunken rant an uncle or grandfather launches into after a holiday meal. There were episodes where he spends so much time ranting, you forget who the guest was.
Committed to podcast excellence, but not having as much celebrity status to play off of, Niigaan and I decided to go for our shock value with the name.
I’m also huge fan of the Guardian’s “Football Weekly,” a podcast focused on all things related to the beautiful game. It’s the exact right mix of subject matter expertise and humour.
Committed to podcast excellence, but not having as much celebrity status to play off of, Niigaan and I decided to go for our shock value with the name. I won’t go into the full origin story and research that went into ensuring we weren’t going to get cancelled, largely because the first episode gives you the whole backstory.
Having said that, I will share when we focus-grouped the name with friends and family, the reactions were varied.
Niigaan’s friends and family thought it was hilarious.
Mine immediately thought of the 2013 film featuring Armie Hammer as the mysterious former Texas Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto, his Indigenous brother in arms.
If the name of our podcast does summon the image of Depp in brown-face doing a truly offensive, if not vague, Indigenous accent, I completely understand how that might trigger your gag reflex. If it helps, Niigaan and I will not wear makeup of any kind during the tapings.
What we do have (I hope) is some clever and witty conversation and feature interviews with bona fide newsmakers. Episode 1, streaming now, features an extensive chat with former premier and former Canadian ambassador to the United States Gary Doer on the upcoming U.S. mid-term elections.
We also have a segment called the Storytellers, where famous and not famous people tell their favorite stories. I can promise you some laughs, a few groans and a few tears.
Now, one of the assumptions about podcasts is they are simple to make. Not true. They are quite complex to do properly.
Thankfully, all technical issues are handled by our partners on this project: CJNU Nostalgia Radio, a courageous non-profit station broadcasting from the concourse below Portage and Main, and station director Adam Glynn.
So, while there are a lot of other podcasts to listen to, at least try us on for size. If you like it, tell your friends. If you don’t like it, please keep it to yourself.
Hi-yo, podcast! Away!
Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.