Staker celebrates awkwardness. Photo: Ansel Hasselblad
On paper, Brian Staker isn’t exactly who you’d expect to host the usually multi-hour, sometimes drunken podcast that is The Awkward Hour. Staker holds a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing, from the University of Utah. He has also served time as a SLUG Associate Editor, is a current writer for City Weekly and hosts a weekly music feature on KRCL called Music Forecast. He is also a local musician, although he claims he is the worst performer in town. “Every once in a while someone would let me play in their bar or club and it would always end disastrously,” says Staker. It seems like he has spent his entire life preparing for The Awkward Hour.
This month Staker celebrates two years of bringing awkwardness to the world with his Awkward Hour podcast. Staker’s creative background, especially the time he spent making zines, has eased the transition from written word to podcasting and has definitely given The Awkward Hour a homegrown feeling. “My writing has influenced [The Awkward Hour] but with writing you can rewrite,” Staker says. “[Podcasting is] like [being] on a tight rope.” Last year’s Awkward Hour anniversary party was held, awkwardly enough, at Diamond Lil’s, and Staker is already planning an over-the-top party to celebrate this year.
When he started producing The Awkward Hour, Staker was working a nine-to-five job doing data entry for the US Postal Service. “I wasted away for a long time at this office job. You’re kind of brain dead and just try and do what you love,” he says. The boredom that Staker experienced at work was a key factor that led to the creation of The Awkward Hour, which usually extends over multiple hours despite the name. Over the past two years, Staker has hosted a handful of notable guests on his show: local artist John Bell, SLC rapper Poo Pee D, sound engineer Andy Patterson and local musicans Dave Styer and Rebecca Vernon, to name a few. “They are all like snowflakes, or little retarded children. They are all different and I love them in different ways,” Staker says of the many Salt Lake City scene makers that have spent time as guests on his show.
Apart from the awkwardness, one of the aspects of The Awkward Hour that sets it apart is the video stream, which Staker broadcasts live every week on ustream.tv. “It’s fun to do it live, and that’s great cause I haven’t needed beer for a while cause it’s awkward and scary being live, so beer is liquid courage: beer and energy drinks.” The podcast is also available on iTunes and mevio.com in audio form, but the video element of the podcast adds a whole new awkward angle to everything. Rapid camera movements, equipment malfunctions and shots of Staker eating, drinking beer and usually just looking at his computer somehow make the show even more entertaining. Staker also interacts with listeners/viewers during his show, talking and chatting with them, even if the rest of his audience is only getting one side of the conversation.
Although Staker’s guests are an important part of The Awkward Hour experience, the show doesn’t revolve around them by any means. There are plenty of episodes in the show’s catalogue that feature Staker rolling solo. “I have done [episodes], like four hours, with no guest, just me and a bottle of whiskey rambling,” Staker says. “By the third hour, with that laptop monitor, I would watch the first part of the show and commentate on it.” Regardless of the amount of social liquid libation, there are current subjects that even Staker doesn’t dare to touch––serial killers and child abusers sit at the top of his list. “It’s not awkward. It is this whole other fucked up realm,” Staker says, “Awkwardness tends to be benign, like Mr. Rogers.”
Even though it seems like creating a podcast like The Awkward Hour would be all fun and games, like any project it also has its frustrations. “It’s definitely a thrill and a headache,” Says Staker. “It’s fun doing it live. The only real headache comes from the technical stuff.” Even though Staker doesn’t have any concrete goals for the next year of The Awkward Hour, newcomers and current fans should expect big, awkward things including Awkward Hour-sponsored events and more great local guests. You can download The Awkward Hour via iTunes, stream the audio at theawkwardhour.mevio.com, watch bonus clips at youtube.com/getstakerized and stream new episodes every week at ustream.tv/user/stakercast.