Podcasts are in tune with the democratized spirit of Internet media; anyone with a microphone and a computer can offer listeners unlimited hours of recordings, usually for free. Limited only by their imaginations, podcasters have a freedom of expression unrestricted by commerce, censorship or geography. Many great podcasts have blossomed in Denver's flourishing arts community; here to celebrate them is Podcast Profiles, a series documenting the efforts of local podcasters and spotlighting the peculiar personalities behind them.
Podcasters can develop oddly intimate relationships with their listeners, but it doesn't get much more intimate than 80 Minutes of Gay Yelling. A wide-ranging discussion, bitch session and ongoing chronicle of boisterous friendship, 80 Minutes of Gay Yelling is a labor of love for co-hosts Owen Niland and James Sueling. The format varies from episode to episode, but listeners can count on delightfully booze-soaked discussions on a wide variety of topics with their guests, typically friends from the local theater, arts and music communities. Though its only been recording since June, the industrious duo has been prolific in its output, even releasing daily episodes during the "12 Gays of Christmas." Westword caught up with Niland and Sueling to discuss their favorite episodes, hear the 80MOGY origin story, and try to find out what the hell poppers are.
Westword: So how did you settle on an eighty-minute running time for each episode? Do you think ninety minutes would be too much gay yelling?
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Niland: We don’t think there is any specific amount of time required for gay yelling. However much time it takes you to get it out, that is the amount of time the gay yelling needs to take.
Sueling: I am a firm believer in a six-hour run time, but unfortunately, neither of us can drink for that long and remain coherent. Ultimately, it’s about bare stamina, so we keep it brief.
Niland: Honestly, eighty minutes is pegged for the joke: Why would anyone say there is eighty minutes of anything? It’s an arbitrary amount time. It could be an hour, it could be a half an hour. At the end of the day, it’s James and I complaining for a certain amount of time until we complain to the point of exhaustion.
How come the first episode isn't available? You alluded to poor audio, but is there any other reason you took it down?
Sueling: Absolutely not. We were fully formed professionals doing things professionally from the get-go. But we didn’t know we were supposed to talk into the microphones, and if you can’t hear my punchlines, why are any of us here!?!
Niland: Basically, it’s a lot of heavy breathing from me. I’d eaten a lot of ham that day; I was retaining all the water and couldn’t catch my breath.
Sueling: The truth is that we just didn’t know you had to be right on top of a microphone for people to be able to hear you. But content-wise, we were very happy with where we started. It was right after Pride, and we had lots to say. The bummer is, you can’t really understand what we said.
On the topic of audio, what sort of equipment do you use, and what role does your producer play in the recording process?
Niland: There are microphones and things with knobs and buttons I don’t really understand — and am pretty afraid of, to be quite honest. The role that producer Max plays is primarily to come over and drink my alcohol and sit there watching baseball games on his iPhone while we record.
Sueling: Owen doesn’t know the first thing about technology or how our voices got inside the Internet; he thinks some kind of witch has kidnapped them…
Niland: I believe that it’s some sort of Ursula the Sea Witch-style black magic that sucks out my voice and puts it on to everyone’s iPhone.
Sueling: Essentially Owen thinks we’re being “Little Mermaid-ed” real hard. But we use standard omnidirectional mics, a mixing board, a laptop, which Max the producer provides. Max is always helpful in letting us know when we’ve hit a good riff, with his laughter and encouragement.
Which episodes would you recommend for new listeners who are just getting into the podcast?
Sueling: I really love episode 15, “Getting Tipsy In Tangent City,” when Owen and I discuss drinking, while drunk, then very drunkenly encourage people to go find a twelve-step program. I also love the Quick Bitch from that week called “Shelly Duvall’s Clitoral Root,” where Owen and I discuss the entire cast of Popeye: The Movie and wonder why Shelly Duvall doesn’t get any work anymore.
Niland: I think my favorite is episode 6, “Just Listen,” because that really proves that we can fight, and how those fights make us better friends at the end of the day. It was the first episode we posted that really scared me to put out to the public, but it’s the one that we still get the most feedback from.
What's the origin story of 80 Minutes of Gay Yelling? How did you two originally meet, and what compelled you to start recording your conversations for posterity?
Niland: Because we’re devastatingly funny and we have a desperate need for attention.
Sueling: Owen and I have been friends for several years, and I’ve always been a fan of podcasts, since I was in my teens; it wasn’t long after we met that we thought we should be doing something like this. But it took a few years for us to get up the nerve to do it until we were on vacation last spring in Vegas and, while floating in a pool made up a mental vision board and said it was going to happen. It was a *very* white-lady moment. The original title of the show would’ve required us to use an asterisk in the name, so we decided to just open each show with the original name “First of All, Bitch…”
Niland: He came into my home and wouldn’t leave until we recorded something. ... Honestly, James turned me on to a few podcasts, and we were struck by how our voices could add something to that overcrowded environment, so we started discussing what our podcast would sound like. Somehow, #80MOGY came from that ill-considered discussion.
Who came up with the idea to do the quick-bitch mini-sodes?
Sueling: Our egos! Seriously, we love the structure of the full episodes, but it didn’t give us enough room to talk to each other the way best friends do — about their week, and the gossip they have to get off their chest.
Niland: More content is always better for a new podcast, and since we always chatted more after the main episode, we decided to leave the mics recording to see what happens. Some of our best stuff comes out of those free-for-all moments when we’re not on topic or working with a guest.
The episode released in honor of Word AIDS Day is unexpectedly funny for such a deadly serious topic. Has humor been a valuable coping mechanism in your experience?
Niland: Humor is my only coping mechanism other than alcohol and drug abuse. That being said, I think that tackling serious issues like that with humor is what we’re here for. We’re not a podcast where you’re gonna get a serious sober discussion of the facts, but you are going to hear something about our experience, our take on a serious subject, and maybe a joke or two, and maybe that will help someone be less afraid of the very scary world that we live in.
Sueling: I second the liquor and humor as your only real coping mechanisms! For me, when we do episodes like “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make LemonAIDS," “Just Listen" or “ALT-Go-Fuck-Yourself,” it really is us being honest with each other in a way that resonates, because people appreciate that. People want to hear someone say something IS scary and figure out how to fight the monster off even a little bit.
Okay, what the hell are poppers? I've heard of them, but I'm still not really sure how they work and why they're appealing.
Niland: Poppers are little bottles of inhalants — like a solvent — which you can use to get a rush. Back in the ’80s and ’90s it was video-head cleaner; now they’re specially formulated, sometimes called leather cleaner. Some gay men use them in sex because the rush can aid in bottoming, or so I’ve heard…
Sueling: Come over anytime you’d like, Byron, and I will show you how to use them. Just please, no Breath of Life. Though I’ve also heard they can leave you blinded.
Niland: It’s not just an urban legend. I can’t believe my sainted mother may read this.
Sueling: Really, we’re just hoping RUSH brand poppers hears our podcast and sponsors us.
You're not afraid to wade into some controversial topics. Has there been much backlash from listeners?
Niland: To my knowledge, we’ve only had one Facebook review that was negative, and after James and I read her for filth, it was deleted. Honestly, we’re not everyone’s cup of tea. We’re crass, profane, scatological, pathological, unabashedly gay, mutually narcissistic, codependent and profoundly offensive. For these reasons, we should never be listened to by anyone without a solid sense of humor and of the absurd.
Sueling: Owen and I didn’t achieve this professional level of sarcasm by worrying about perception. We think of topics that we can gay yell about and offer our perspective of polite homosexual alcoholism to the conversation. Feedback from listeners is always positive and specific. We have listeners who send us photos of their dogs, tell us what’s happening in their lives, and, most recently, had a nineteen-year-old email us to say that we’ve helped his coming-out journey immensely.
Niland: I’m pretty sure that last one is catfishing us! At the end of the day, I want something that gives our listeners insight into who we are, gives them an honest and fresh take on what’s on our minds, and have them feel like they’re part of our group when we chat. James is my closest friend, and it makes me happy to share our rapport with the world.
Do you have plans to adapt the show for a live setting? Do you have any particular venues in mind?
Niland: For my birthday in October, James decided to roast me live in public at our favorite bar, Gladys the Nosy Neighbor. We had some of our favorite people on the dais: our dear friend (and noted local man-whore) Schmendrich (a pseudonym), Ilsa Fauv, one of our favorite drag queens, and, via telephone, my sister Susan. It was humiliating in the extreme for those that came for me, and our finest hour of comedy. Unfortunately, it was a nine-minute show. Seriously, though, we want to do more live shows. They’re exciting and an excellent opportunity to meet with our audience.
Have you done much networking with other local podcasters? Do you have any favorite local producers?
Sueling: We hate everyone and everything, so, no. Kidding. There are tons of local pods we admire, and as our show continues evolving, I’m sure that we’ll find really interesting collaborations for crossovers. I’d really love to do something with Denver Orbit about historic local LGBT figures.
Niland: “Historic local LGBT figures?” So you want to do a podcast about me?
Do you have any non-podcast-related projects coming up that you'd like to plug before we wrap up the interview?
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Sueling: I’d like to plug my dating life. I’m single, I’m moderately attractive, and I drink gin like it’s my job; if the date goes horribly, it gives us at least seven minutes of content for the podcast.
Niland: God knows James has to rely on his moderate attractiveness, }cuz personality-wise, it’s not great. ... I’m currently directing a play for Firehouse Theater Company, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, by Moises Kaufman. We open on February 17, in the John Hand Theater at the Lowry campus of Colorado Free University.
Sueling: Thank you for talking to us about our absolute trainwreck of a podcast.
Niland: And, as always: Take care, brush your hair!