Podcasting Notes: Catégorie Libre

Category: Improv
Last article published: 7 June 2020
This is the 29th post under this label

Show: Improvisation Nouveau-Brunswick Présente Catégorie Libre
Premise: Interviews with New Brunswick's French-language improvisors about their careers, approaches, and the larger topics surrounding the world of improv.
Available: Improvisation NB, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Feedeburner, slideshow version on YouTube
Number of episodes to date: 45
The first was about... Bass Levesque, his career, his approach, and the basic mechanics of improv, released on September 27th, 2015.

How it all began
So I'd been doing guest spots on shows like Ryan Daly's Secret Origins and had started working with the Irredeemable Shagg on Hero Points. So naturally, I thought about how I might weaponize podcasting for the improv side of my life. If you're an English speaker/reader/listener of my content, Catégorie Libre is the show you don't know about. I don't announce it here, and you can't google-translate audio even if you were interested. But improv is a major part of my life, and my whole obsessive-compulsive "content creation" really started there. I can't be expected to just play in a league, I need to work on special events, make and distribute 'zines, create a collective card game that acts as "hockey cards" for local players, run off-season features on social media (which back then was group emails), etc. Podcasting was just another medium that could be used to feed the community.

At the same time, I was trying to convince the student radio station to move into podcasting to create supplementary and archived content (I worked for the student union, but also served on the newspaper and radio board of directors). That gave me access to a state-of-the-art radio studio for my first podcasting experience, but I would have to edit both a radio version (two 28-minute blocks) and a podcast version (unlimited, usually ranging from 75 to 120 minutes). And that partnership with the radio station had an impact on just what this show should be. Interviews are a radio genre, so it would be that, but the 2-block structure meant we'd have both a biographical section and a topic of the week, which was meant to simulate the many, many conversations about improv I've had in my life (it's a bottomless pit, folks). By having it on the radio, we were inviting the general public to get a better sense of what improv WAS, as well as treating improvisors as artists of note.

Given those goals, it meant sense to put it under the umbrella of our provincial organization of which I was president then (and am again), and to ask my general manager, who shares my core beliefs and zeal, Isabel Goguen, to be my co-host. It was always a way to ensure that there was always a female voice on the show, even if many guests were male (annoyingly, improv was very much a boy's club for the first half of its history in New Brunswick, and that would be reflected in the way we balanced eras, roles, and topics). Plus, Isabel had a background in video editing and would make YouTube edits of the shows that acted as slideshows using our cache of pictures of the guest in improv situations.

Funnily enough, fans of whatever pop culture podcasts I produce owe a lot to Catégorie Libre. To make sure I did it right, I started Lonely Hearts as a no-stakes practice run, which led to my being picked up by the Fire and Water Podcast Network, and from there, glory (cough). All the French-Canadians you hear on those shows come from the local improv scene (including Isabel who is part of oHOTmu or NOT), and many have been CatLibre guests. Many thanks as well to Shagg for his help getting the technical end up and running. Unlike the automated FW Network platform, this show still requires me to do a bit of coding to push it out to the masses.

The Process
The first two seasons aire on the radio in abbreviated form, which made for a cleaner sound and some local exposure, but I eventually parted ways with the station. It was just too much work. Most episodes had to be recorded in the summer so they could be made ready to air as a weekly or bi-weekly show (as well give us more scheduling freedom), and the dual edits weren't easy either. Once I was set up in my home to do podcasting, I could more easily just host it at home (or sometimes, on the road, to get at guests that lived out of town). Over time, the seasons have become shorter as our basin of potential guests has gotten shallower, and I've taken to doing the video edit myself. Other that that wrinkle, I'm treating it like all the others, scheduling it month to month, with the possibility of remote interviews, though we've done very few of those.

Reception
While I often got some rando telling me they listened to the show on the radio in those first two years, the population it was really meant for were never very vocal about the show. Unlike the English-language shows, comments are rare. But then, we sort of do it in reverse. About a week before someone comes on, we ask the community to throw questions at them and use them on the air. So it's participative rather than reactive. From conversations I've had, some people listen to everything, but most listen only if they know the person being interviewed. Now on its sixth season, guests calling out of blue to offer themselves up for the experience has tapered off, but when called, many are eager to participate. I'd say that's the sweet spot (where I don't tell to tell someone no).

The Future
The most frequent question we're asked is when we (Isabel and I) will be the interviewee, and since we're always talking about our experiences, either as they connect to the guest's, or as fodder in the second block's three-way discussion, we always shrug it off. However, I could see my way to undergoing the process because there are stories I've never recorded, though I've been at the center of events so long, it might have to be a mini-series. It IS about getting a record of our mostly oral history before we die or lose our memory, after all. We'll see. For now, the sixth season is pretty much booked (insiders will recognize these names: Chouine, Marc-Sam, Boum...) and episodes are coming out on a monthly basis.

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