So you’re a political correspondent on this show Redacted Tonight. Could you tell me a little bit about what the show is?
John F. O’Donnell: Sure, well it’s Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp, it’s a comedy news show. What we try to do to separate ourselves is we’ll find stories that aren’t covered for whatever reason in mainstream media so much and we’ll make comedy and satire out of that stuff. And then, if we are doing stories that are kind of like the main stories that are getting a lot of eyeballs on them, we’ll always try to look for what we call the “redacted angle” on it, meaning the side of the story or aspect of it that’s not necessarily being talked about and hopefully can give people some more context of what’s going on. We’re kind of in the same wheelhouse, the same sandbox to say like [Last Week Tonight with] John Oliver or The Daily Show or Colbert, and obviously we say that very humbly, but I think maybe where we carve out our own little niche is we’ll give more of a nod to maybe the activist community. Stuff like that.
The show is pretty new. It just started this year, correct?
Yeah, our first show aired the last Friday in May. It’s weekly now, it airs every Friday at 8 and then again at 11:30 on this cable news network called RT America, and then it’s also on YouTube immediately after 8 pm. Usually it’s generally up by 10 pm that Friday night. So basically, that’s what we’re able to gage, so we’re constantly trying to interact with people and engage with people to up our subscribership on the YouTube page. It’s also on Hulu too.
That’s great they post most of the show online considering a lot of people don’t even have cable anymore. They just use streaming stick devices or YouTube.
Yeah, what RT America is good about, they won some digital award a couple of years ago for, is their YouTube presence. They put all full length shows and clips on YouTube, and it’s organized so you can watch it. We’re the only comedy show on the network, but there’s some news commentary shows, and there’s a couple of them that are I think some of the best news commentary shows that are on TV. There’s this show called Breaking the Set with Abby Martin. Some of her critical analysis stuff, like if you watch this, if you happen to stumble upon the show, like let’s say you were flipping through cable and you came upon this show you’d be like,”What is going on– wow we’re actually getting some contextualized analysis and truth about what is going on in our country and how we’re perceived from the other perspective of people because of all of these really heinous foreign policy choices that we’ve made. This is amazing.” And this other gentleman, he’s got a show called The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann. He’s this very respected, long time journalist. He wrote the definitive book about corporate personhood and getting money out of politics and all of that stuff ten years before this 2010 Supreme court thing called Citizens United verses the FEC, which is about campaign finance reform and how the Supreme court decided that because corporations are people, corporations can donate as much money as they want to these super PAC funds, which basically a lot of people think highly undermines democracy because they can buy access with these candidates. So these are the people that I get to work with. It’s amazing and we’re these comedians that are in the mix, so it’s a cool thing.
You’ve lived in New York for a while. The channel the show is on, RT America, is based out of Washington D.C. Do you film the show out of there or from New York?
We film out of D.C. So myself and Lee and one of the other cast members, a comedian named Abby Feldman, we all moved from New York and relocated to D.C. And what’s kind of cool about that it is, it is the only kind of political comedy show that’s coming directly out of D.C. So, as Lee says when he introduces the show, “We’re in the belly of the beast.” So we do all these different segments. One of the things that myself or Abby would do, we do these MOS (man-on-the-street) pieces and a lot of times we do them right in front of the White House, which is pretty crazy and pretty fun.
Outside of the show, do you still get to so a lot of stand-up in DC? I’ve heard good things about the comedy scene there.
Yeah, the D.C. stand-up scene is a pretty rad place to be right now, especially for younger comics that are developing because there are a lot shows, a lot of quality open mics, where some of them there might be 50 regular audience members in there, which honestly, can be more well attended than some New York booked shows that are difficult to get on. So for someone who wants to have stage time in front of people consistently, this is a good place to be. And people in D.C. are generally smart people, so you’re going to have smarter audiences, so you can go where you want to go to an extent. It is really good in that way.
There is an awesome comedy festival here that I was fortunate enough to get to do this year called the Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival. So that was great. They did an amazing job with that festival and had some awesome comedians. That’s Tig [Notaro]’s festival and she booked some great people and the Brightest Young Things, which is this great culture site kind of like an organization in DC, produces that and they’re really great, they’ve been really cool to get to know. So yea, there’s enough going on, and for me it’s great because I’m so busy with the show, just working constantly, when I have time I can dip out and get on a show. And the local comics are pretty cool about getting me up and stuff like that. So I’ll still do stand-up a few times a week, so it’s really cool.
And then there’s all these cool rooms in D.C. Right outside of DC and Arlington, the Arlington Draft house is a great spot, so there’s really cool stuff. There’s this dude, his name is Sean Joyce, and he runs a D.C. comedy underground and he produces all of these different shows and he’s really helped the scene a lot by giving people access and stage time. It is a good and up-and-coming scene, it’s just amazing to me. I’ve been living in New York for the past ten years, it’s a sort of thing where it’s so nice to see these smaller tier cities have these really vibrant, rad stand-up scenes, and it’s happening all over the country. The D.C. scene now is better than it’s been, and now it feels like, “Oh wow, this is kind of maybe how Portland felt a few years ago when Bridgetown first came there, and that scene started blossoming.” So all these things are happening and it’s pretty cool.