For anyone else, it would be hoarding; for comedian Ken Reid, though, a large collection of obsolete TV Guides has helped launch a successful podcast that is now more than 250 episodes in. Each episode consists of Reid and a guest – sometimes fellow comedians, sometimes TV stars from the 70s and 80s – dissecting an issue of TV Guide, riffing about old shows and plotting their viewing schedule for the week ahead.
Reid’s guests have included Dan Savage, John Hodgman, Dana Gould, Greg Proops, Ben Schwartz, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and comedian Jen Kirkman, and in a recent episode of the podcast, Reid and comedian Joe use a 1993 issue of TV Guide from 1993 to break down Segal movies, boobies on VHS, Houdini’s mistakes, and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, among other topics
Reid has been performing stand up since 2003, and while he has been named best stand up in Boston by CBSBoston, the TV Guidance Counselor has no plans of slowing down. For more on the podcast, the magic of TV Guide, and the most underrated shows from the 60s and 70s, we spoke with Reid:
Found Remote: How did the idea for the podcast come about?
Ken Reid: I really wanted to do a podcast but didn’t have an idea that was unique enough. The world certainly didn’t need yet another podcast with comedians talking about comedy and sometimes podcasts, even good ones, would come across more like eaves dropping on people in the booth behind you at a restaurant. Good conversation, but you still feel like you are not a part of it or the experience.
I always had TV Guides in my house. I keep them in a large spinning store display rack in the corner of my living room. When people would come over and hang out they would often gravitate towards the TV Guides, flip through them and there would be a lot of chatting along the lines of “I forgot about this show!” and “I remember this”. My good friend, the very funny comedian Sean Sullivan, one day just said, make that your podcast and that was that.
FR: 250 episodes in, what has been the highlight for you so far?
Reid: That’s an incredibly difficult question. I’ve managed to get to talk to almost 300 people, some of them I worshiped growing up, some who’s work changed my life, some who are old friends, and some who are new friends. Absolutely getting to sit down and chat with The Damned was an early highlight and a turning point for the show. Getting to befriend Dana Gould after having him on was amazing to me. Meeting Cassandra Peterson, Karen Duffy, Amy Sedaris, so many great, talented, funny, amazing people who I had the pleasure of getting to sit down with and talk TV. The show is almost like my vacation slides.
I’ve also made some great connections with listeners who have turned into good friends, Some of these people have spent 10 days of their life listening to me talk nonsense. Just realizing the scope and breadth of the people who listen to the show amazes me.
FR: Who’s your dream guest and why?
Reid: There’s a few, but Bonnie Hunt and George Clooney are up there. Bonnie is someone who I don’t think gets nearly enough credit for how incredibly talented she is. She has such amazing integrity. She wrote, produced, and in most cases directed her own shows over the years and all have been absolutely great. Under the radar, sweet, funny shows. I admire her so much.
Clooney is just a charming movie star. But he also is a sort of Rosetta Stone of television in the 80s and 90s. He slogged through so many shows from the original E/R, to Facts of Life, Roseanne, Baby Talk, even if he wasn’t GEORGE CLOONEY he’d be a fascinating person to speak to just about all those experiences alone.
There are others for sure, David Lynch, John Waters, just what did THEY watch on TV growing up? What formed their world view of moving images?
I’d also love to have any of the living cast of SCTV on. That show was and is everything to me and people like Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Flaherty, just incredible talents.
FR: What was it about TV Guide that got you so excited each week?
Reid: Growing up I had an incredibly chaotic and anxious world. TV Guide was a rock. It was reliable and dependable. Not only did it give me insight into the week ahead, and I could sit down and plan my week, literally write down what I planned to watch, but it was a guide book to the future. If it said a show was going to be on Thursday night at 9pm, that show was on Thursday night at 9pm regardless of what may have happened that week.
I also got to read about shows I may not have been able to watch, and kind of get an idea of them without having access to them.
Plus, on a more nuts and bolts level, it gave me something to look forward to. Every Wednesday I knew that magazine would be in the mail box and it gave me something to get through the day at school with.
FR: What are some of the most underrated shows from the 60’s and 70’s that TV lovers should watch today?
Reid: Weirdly, this has been the easiest question to answer.
From the 60s – Car 54, Where Are You? – it was Nat Hiken’s follow up to the Phil Silvers show and it’s hilarious, smart and timeless. The winding series of misunderstandings and coincidences that snowball into the plots is a very direct, and very large, influence on Larry David’s work on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld. Very smart, very funny, fantastic ensemble casts. My first runner up would be Green Acres. A smart, weird, surreal show.
From the 70s – Barney Miller. It’s odd that I’ve picked two cop shows, but they really are my favorites. Barney Miller is a perfect writer’s show. It’s just a handful of characters, almost exclusively in one room, for 200 episodes, just talking. Very little action, a lot of paper work, and just great actors and even better writing. It never feels slow, it never gets boring. It somehow manages to also feel timeless despite the very 70s fashion and the cultural and political references (many of which are scarily still relevant).