The PRB Variety Hour Interview

I daydreamed about having a TV talk show in my basement, but I couldn’t escape the obvious creep factor in trying to lure guests to my basement for a “TV show.” Also, I could never get organized enough to make it happen. I have been able to experience hosting an in-home talk show vicariously through Jeff Dodge. He cobbled together his cameras, a rudimentary switcher and broadcast his own show live on his birthday. He’s been airing the show once a month since.

Jeff is a man of many talents. He is a sound engineer, musician, movie director, video producer and now TV talk show host. Although he has yet to break out the solid move of playing the piano while interviewing a guest, pioneered by original Tonight Show host Steve Allen, the thing to know is he could. Jeff combines show host duties with those of band leader (double scale anyone?) for house band, The Peasant Revolution Band. Dodge plays guitar with them for a few numbers each show.

Push button directing!

Push button directing!

As someone who helps produce the show and directs the live broadcast, I get a front row seat to the action. My involvement with the show might explain how I got access to Jeff for an interview.

The Peasant Revolution Band perform on Septeber's grunge themed show.

The Peasant Revolution Band perform on September’s grunge themed show.

The Portland Orbit: My first question which is, I’m just asking, what is the PRB variety hour?

Jeff Dodge: The Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour is…well first off it was a concept mostly because we were looking around for venues to get a regular gig booked at, after twenty, twenty-five years of being in this town and off and on playing music and finding that it’s still kind of the same old thing, what have you done for me lately, I decided why don’t we do a TV show as a regular gig. That’s one way to have it. We’ll just throw it in my office and shoot it and go live once a month and so far it’s been working great. A once a month gig, it’s the only time I’ve really had that on a consistent basis and it’s actually a lot more work than I was thinking it was. So I’m kind of glad we don’t have any other shows. (Laughs)

The Portland Orbit: What are some of your inspirations for the show?

Jeff Dodge: It’s shaped by a lot of what Zach Galafancous “Between Two Ferns” does. Recent inspiration has been Eric Andre. Our friend Jason Lamb turned me on to the Eric Andre Show, and I think he’s doing some amazing stuff. I think another part of the concept was kind of like the Sonny and Cher Variety Hour I got kind of more turned on to and Steve Allen. I sent a clip to you recently where he does this interview with Jack Kerouac where they’re kind of chatting, and (Steve Allen) is plinking along on the piano and all of a sudden (Kerouac) starts reading and they bust into this whole jazz thing. It’s just great. The band kicks in. I think Steve Allen used to do that a lot just sort of, (goes into Steve Allen impersonation) “okay, we’re having a casual conversation and okay you bore me I’m just going to start plinking along here.” You know it turns into a song. That’s a good idea that I’m trying to bring in with this show.

The Portland Orbit: Oh yeah, that’s, yeah, I mention that already, in the blog post. (Laughs) That has to happen. So that kind of feeds into my next question. It’s really like what are the inspirations that you get from past talk show hosts and other performers?

Jeff Dodge: Well, I guess I have to say one of the big breakthroughs for me—the past couple of years really, I got into the Andy Kaufman story quite a bit when I realized he was a lot bigger than what Jim Carrey portrayed him as in that movie. I really didn’t like that movie. I had a bad taste for him. I started seeing what he did and what he did on talk shows and really actually at the height of his reign had wonderful relationships with people like Mike Douglas and even Dinah Shore and of course David Letterman and him were great friends. So I think that’s a lot of inspiration that’s been coming as I watch this guy sort of peek around the edges of these establishment shows that are historic, really, and sort of see the nuances for parody. Gary Shandling was another master of the kind of parody I really enjoy.

Monitoring the program monitor.

Monitoring the program monitor.

The Portland Orbit: And what do you like about being able to produce a talk show from your house?

Jeff Dodge: It also doubles as my work office. I’m in there doing video editing and doing all sorts of things of that nature anyway. It’s kind of great that it’s in my home office. I just have to switch gears and everything is not that far away. It gets me to try to semi-clean things up once a month so that’s good and yeah, it’s a short walk to the studio. It seems a pretty central place for the band and guests to meet. It’s just enough space. It’s a little cozy. Cozier makes it, you have to have a bit more focused because of that.

In football it would be a screen play.

In football it would be a screen play.

The Portland Orbit: I think the other aspect of that question that’s missing really is what do you like about the technical aspects that allow you to broadcast from your home?

Jeff Dodge: My inspirations for this are podcasting in general like what you’ve been doing. I was seeing all sorts of things happening in this election cycle where the Internet is full of basically pirated TV stations, people just kind of breaking loose and doing their own videocast whether it’s through Facebook or YouTube and multiple generations and multiple countries and groups and yeah, it’s just wonderful. It’s like TV is getting put in the hands of the people. There’s just a huge variety of it. I think the fact that all this software is coming through these media platforms is creating a lot of opportunity that wasn’t there even a couple of years ago. So I’m taking advantage of that and then the hardware aspect of it is I’m using standard def cameras, any camera, running everything through an analog processing thing it’s not much different from what the TV stations use, it’s all 720p for them anyway even though they get all this fancy HD stuff to work with. We’re still all watching low resolution so I’m taking it all and sending in down the pipeline, doing it all on the cheap and easy. It’s free and all the software platforms are allowing for that so it’s great. It’s a wonderful time to bring those two together.

The Portland Orbit: Very good, okay, I love that. That’s a good ending there. (Laughter.)

Jeff Dodge: I could go for hours.

Jeff generally broadcasts on the last Tuesday of the month. He jokingly referred to the next show’s air date as October 32nd but he’s actually hitting the “internetwaves” on Tuesday, November 1st at 9pm PST. For more information see: http://trenchdigger.us/prb-variety-hour-show.html

P.S. Not to go unmentioned are the contributions of drummer Rich Reece and bassist Steve Cebula who make up the rhythm section of The Peasant Revolution Band. During the show they offer commentary and make quips. Reece plays more of an Ed McMahon role while Steve is more in the Tommie Newsome territory. To understand that reference you would probably need to have had parents who nodded off to the Johnny Carson show on many a night in the 70’s.

P.P.S. Right after I turned off the recorder, Jeff threw out a nod to SCTV (Second City TV) as an influence. The Canadian show starred the likes of John Candy, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin among others. It also ran fake commercials, which I didn’t remember. Here’s one I created for the Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pub-zD0hR5U

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