Would you like to hear two whip-smart and foul-mouthed vegans talk about whatever the hell they feel like? Well then, you should be listening to my pals Erika and Jordan. I had the pleasure of spending some time with the two ladies during my short six month stint living in the city by the Bay, and it is my honour to write about their podcast, The Cosmopolitan Hour. Because who says you can’t get shit done even after one or ten beers while hanging out with your BFF?!
Inspired by Naked Vaygun, a short-lived podcast hosted by vegan superstars Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Josh Hooten, Erika and Jordan decided to launch their own sassy vegan podcast. Erika says “TCH started as my feeble attempt to fill the shoes they left empty far too soon! As for what motivated us to finally get it off the ground, I’m the type of person who gets really excited by new projects and as long as I can keep the momentum riding on that excitement, I can actually make stuff happen! But often I don’t. This time I was successful, and I roped Jordan into cussing on a podcast track with me.”
Jordan agrees with her lovable Bay Area cohort. “We originally planned to record our first episode way back in 2008 when Erika came up to visit me in Edmonton. It wasn’t until a few months after I’d moved to the Bay Area that we actually got it together and started recording and putting things up.”
Why does the vegan community need a pair of booze-lovin’ feminists going off on the latest in the vegan community and beyond? “I often feel like the podcast is basically just us getting tipsy while bitching about things that annoy or delight us, and I’m baffled that anyone wants to listen to that in the first place, but apparently they do,” says Erika. “Seriously, though, I think we do bring levity to the vegan community. Vegans get a bad rap as very ‘serious’, humourless people. That and/or they’re laughingstocks. I think we try to balance serious, articulate musings with snarky potty humor. Hopefully we succeed.”
Jordan agrees. ”I think we provide a vegan-friendly podcast that isn’t so “serious.” There are some amazing vegan podcasts out there, but it seems like a lot of them aren’t things that I personally would listen to that often, since they’re kind of reiterations of things I often get from other sources (e.g. talking about news stories that I’ve already read about, or are kind of too “heavy” for listening to while i wash the dishes or whatever). I definitely think those are valuable and awesome, but personally, podcasts aren’t my preferred medium for that kind of information.”
Jordan and Erika have both been pleased with the response to their show. “When we started, we assumed it would basically be an audience of our friends and our online vegan pals at the Post Punk Kitchen forums,” Erika says. “But we’ve been contacted by vegans and aspiring vegans we don’t even know, and it’s all been very positive. Some of our listeners disagree with us on points, or offer clarifications and alternate views, but they are always constructive, and create a level of dialogue that I’m really proud of. Our listeners are awesome.”
“Though we do tend to keep things light, Erika and I are opinionated ladies, and sometimes we go off on rants,” says Jordan. When it comes to making vegans out of the listeners, Jordan says, “I don’t know if we’ve had many full-on conversions as a result of the podcast, but our point of view and our format appears to appeal to non-vegans as well as vegans, which is great, because that at least exposes non-vegans to a vegan viewpoint.”
The Cosmopolitan Hour has hosted vegan (and non- or ex-vegan) elite guests such as Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Vegansaurus-founder Laura Beck, ex-vegan and author of the Let Them Eat Meat blog Rhys Southan, and the questionably famous celebrity filmmakers of The Room, Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau. Of the latter, Erika says, “they were so incredibly gracious, and did not one, but two takes of an intro to our show, at Tommy’s insistence.”
I had gleaned from a post on the Cosmopolitan Hour’s Facebook page that they had come upon a woman trying to raise a particularly large sum of money, on Kickstarter, to start her own podcast. Since I knew Jordan and Erika had started and have maintained their venture out of their own pockets, I was curious to hear their take on the matter. [sidenote: star tuned to Vegans on the Move for an upcoming editorial on both the positive and less-positve sides of Kickstarter].
“I don’t want to come across as rude or combative to the new vegan podcaster on the block—I’m stoked that there are more of us,” says Erika. “I’m just honestly and truly baffled at the $2500 price tag affixed to it. Part of what was (and still is) so appealing about a podcast to me is that it’s DIY media, it’s like making a zine that people can put in their ears, and it’s way easier to distribute than a zine. I spent about $30 on a USB mic and we were in business. After two years we splurged on a $50 MP3 recorder. I edit the podcast with free software, upload it with free software, and the complete files are hosted on Archive.org and distributed for free through iTunes. It takes a little bit of learning, research, and hard work, but so will anything that’s worth it.”
“I’m sure the new podcaster is awesome,” says Jordan, “but it sounds like 1) she wants to do something that is already being done (essentially copying Our Hen House‘s format [ed: do check out Our Hen House!]), and 2) she needs a large sum of money, and she doesn’t even mention on her kickstarter page what she needs it for! I guess my advice is if you feel like the only way to start a podcast is to amass/spend thousands of dollars, you probably shouldn’t start a podcast. Erika takes care of most of the technical side of things, but I gather that it’s not very difficult or expensive to make a decent-sounding podcast these days. All told, we’ve spent under $300 (probably well under $300) on the podcast, and much of that is on optional stuff (like our portable recorder), not essentials. If you want to start a podcast, all you really need is a computer, an internet connection, and a desire to do it. It’s definitely possible to spend significantly more setting up a fancy studio and all that, but it’s not necessary. You don’t need to put the cart before the horse, so to speak.”
Jordan and Erika don’t slouch in other areas of the vegan community. Erika is the creative force/organizer behind Soyfucker, a comic zine authored and drawn by vegans. Jordan is planning to join this year’s Ride to the Light 3 Sanctuary Century bike tour, with all proceeds benefitting the sanctuaries. Both ladies will also be attending Vida Vegan Con, where they will no doubt have heaps of information for the novice podcaster.
Erika is honoured to be speaking to the podcast-curious. “Honestly I could probably stand to learn more than I can teach! It’s a huge honor and frankly I expect them to confess it was a mistake at any minute. I suppose my hope for the Conference is to solidify our own compassion and courage as vegans so that we may make the greatest difference possible once we are in the greater community at large.”
Jordan is equally humble. “The other podcasters at VVC are all people who have a bigger presence than Erika and I in the vegan community, which is a bit intimidating, but I hope that we will be able to show people that podcasting is something anyone can do and do well…or at least entertainingly! I think Erika and my biggest strength is that we don’t really give a flying fuck what people think of us, which allows us to do things like be critical or question things/people without worrying about PR or anything like that. We have the freedom not to be Yes Men. I hope that our presence at VVC (both with Erika and I in the podcasting workshops, and with me in the Opinionated Bloggers forum) helps to show people that criticism and dissent are good for the community, and that we need people who feel free to speak their minds, even if their opinions may not be popular.”