I wasn’t sure I would make the trip to be honest. My friend Tom Woods is about to publish the 2000th (!) episode of his super popular podcast, The Tom Woods Show.
If you don’t know of Tom, he’s a legit rock star in the world of libertarian culture and politics. Which essentially means he’s got more than 3 followers, but I digress – and that’s an inside joke for people familiar with libertarian culture and politics.
I began following Tom’s show around 2013, probably around episode #40 or so. I had known of Tom for many years prior to that while I was far more immersed in libertarian culture and politics than I am now. Many people don’t know I was once employed by the John Birch Society as a field coordinator for the state of Minnesota, and I participated in a number of events and rallies supporting Ron Paul when he ran for president in 2008 and 2012.
So that might explain my values and political leanings a wee bit.
Well, Tom and his show helped me get through some dark days, particularly my last year in the military, circa 2015, while I struggled mightily with my conscience and my involvement in what I had grown to believe was a highly immoral activity. I’m referring to war in general here. I know and respect many people who are in the military and take no issue with their own personal decisions. What I’m referring to is my own beliefs and conscientious objections to the practice of war.
Anyway, I was in Vietnam living with my wife Sana earlier this year when Tom announced on his show and newsletter that he was approaching episode #2000 and was throwing a huge party in Orlando, FL to celebrate it. I immediately got a couple of free tickets, hoping against hope Sana would be with me in the U.S. to make the trip. But when I was compelled to return to the U.S. this past summer, sans Sana, I thought I might not make the trip after all.
Who wants to go to a huge party all by himself, right?
But as the date October 16th approached, I couldn’t shake the thought. Of course I want to support and congratulate the man who’s played a pivotal role in my thinking over the last decade or so, but I’ve got a child to take care of, I’ve got a business to run, etc.
Then some serendipitous circumstances occurred which convinced me I should go ahead and make the trip – and I’m really glad I did.
It was a short trip. I arrived in Orlando around 6 pm, for an event that began at 8 pm. And I was out of the hotel the following morning around 9 am. So I didn’t exactly get to see the sights of the city. I was there for one purpose and that was it.
The event itself was definitely not the typical podcast episode. For one thing it was over 4 hours long, so I wonder how long the actual podcast will be after editing. Then Tom himself said at the beginning of his speech, “Y’all aren’t going to learn a damn thing tonight!” to raucous approval from the audience.
I suppose you could call it a variety show, with a bunch of libertarians who are more libertarian than comedian putting on their comedian pants for an evening and just making the best of it. Which is to say I give them an E for effort.
Each of the segments in the show could have been about half the length and would have been equally as entertaining, but I digress.
The entertainment wasn’t the reason I or anyone else there made the trip, nor did it make up even a fraction of the real value of the event.
What made it special was we were celebrating not just an individual who has persevered and stuck it out to make it to 2000 episodes of his show, which is reason to celebrate to be sure, but the huge community of folks who listen to his show, identify with it and gather inner strength by gathering together.
That’s the secret sauce of any successful podcast: community. People ask me all the time, “How do you make money with a podcast?” My answer is always the same: “You get people to listen, then you sell stuff to ’em.”
Easier said than done.
Getting people to listen to a show in this media jungle is like getting a bunch of cats to sit down and listen to an hour-long Presbyterian sermon.
But when you focus on that one thing – community – it’s doable. Not easy, but doable.
The thing that builds community? A common interest, a problem that needs to be solved. An issue or cause that touches people in the deep recesses within their soul that can’t be soothed scrolling on a news feed or watching a ball game.
That is what I saw Saturday night in Orlando. Yeah, the entertainment was kind of lame, but that’s not why anyone was there. People were there to support a man who is the host of a huge dinner party, served 5 days per week via his podcast feed. People tune in from all over the world to be better informed on the issues of the day, from a perspective they relate to, and a source they trust.
Actually the truly entertaining moment in the show came about 15 minutes before it ended. A guy who was frustrated with the affairs of the world, and with no creative outlet with which to vent his frustrations – and who had way too much to drink – interrupted the final act of the evening. The speaker was Michael Malice and he was wearing a face mask so that he could do his ventriloquist act. Well this inebriated, pent-up ball of unrestrained anger at the world walked to the front of the stage and began yelling at Michael, “Take off your face mask! What’s wrong with you?!” He went on for a few moments like this, giving the one-fingered salute to the crowd. It was kind of crazy, and Tom and Michael were clearly caught off-guard by this unplanned interruption.
A couple of audience members pulled the guy away from the stage, managed to get him to the side, but he was still carrying on, yelling and screaming about how unjust everything is. I went up to the front to see if I could be of any help, and what I saw really touched me. In any other situation, this guy would be dragged away, probably the police would be called, he’d spend a night in jail and basically have his life ruined because of his indiscretion. Not here. The guys around him were encouraging him. “Hey, we’re all upset at what’s going on…” “Hang in there, we’re here to support you.”
It was inspiring, and after all the nonsense I’ve been going through with my son’s mother the last 3+ years with courts, lawsuits, legal action after legal action, it was a breath of fresh air to see people respond to this guy who was clearly out of line in a peaceful, non-threatening way. In fact, after the show I was in line to shake Tom’s hand (and it was a long line) and this same guy was there. He was apologetic for ruining the event. I said, “Hey, you didn’t ruin it. You made it entertaining!” Everyone around laughed, and the guy shook my hand. All was well.
The thing that stuck out to me from the event was commitment. Sure it takes commitment to publish 2000 episodes of anything, let alone topics that go against what passes for respectable opinion among of the Gatekeepers of Polite Society. But it also took commitment for everyone there to make the trip from all 50 states, and 8 foreign countries we were told. Commitment to stick to one’s guns when you believe you’re in the right but everyone around you is telling you you’re in the wrong.
It definitely motivated me to keep publishing episodes of my music-themed show, as well as get a few more projects that have been on the back-burner to the forefront and begin putting out great content. If some guy with degrees from Harvard and Columbia can turn out to be something of value in this world, I say anyone can!
Why not you? Why not me? No reason why not, unless I suppose we say otherwise.