My friend Steve Gadlin is a professional weirdo. From all appearances he's a mild-mannered, glasses-wearing, hoodie-clad father of three but his life's calling is to create and curate odd projects. He's best known for being the I Want to Draw a Cat For You guy. He's also produced, through his company Blewt!, hit shows in Chicago like Impress These Apes and Don't Spit the Water! There's also Two-Film T-Shirts and Fart.url (a sadly-defunct service that would shorten links and also provide a fart noise upon opening.) And now he's working on something new: Steve Gadlin's Starmakers, a local television talent search that's on every Wednesday at 3:30 AM with a new show launching via podcast tonight. I caught up with him to hear what's up with this new thing:
Tell me about Starmakers--when you got the idea, what inspired it, and so on.
Steve Gadlin's Star Makers has been in my head for a while. I actually almost launched it several years ago as Ernie Bernie's "Time for Talent" but then I got real busy drawing cats for people and decided to shelve it. It's heavily inspired by The Lawrence Welk Show, The Gong Show, and an old public access show from New York called Stairway to Stardom.
What about this project excites you more than the other ones you've created in the past?
In a sense, this is a boiled down version of a lot of other Blewt! projects. It's a very raw format - people come in and perform their talent for the camera. And I love the way the end product looks and feels. It's exciting to me because we really are creating found footage here - that, when viewed out of context 30 years from now, will really delight and confuse.
You have a long-standing history of loving late night TV and call-in shows. Tell us a bit about that.
I've always been a fan of fringe television. I grew up a little Jewish kid in Skokie that would always stop the dial on a Christian puppet show. I love low budget entertainment that just makes do with the resources at hand. That's the coolest stuff, the funniest stuff. I like entertainment with no pedestal of celebrity. I find it easier to relate to, and more fun to watch and create.
Web videos seem to be the future of entertainment, so why broadcast on Network TV and Public access instead of Web only?
I hope we're past the "web videos are the future of entertainment" thing. I think ENTERTAINMENT will always be the future of entertainment, and that people will follow good content wherever it goes. I think the bulk of our viewers will find us on our website, or through our podcast - but I also think it's very important for people to stumble upon this show. We're reaching a very random and wide audience by broadcasting on TV and on public access channels around the country. Accidentally seeing this stuff at 3:30am on a Wednesday is really the experience we want to create. The people who find it that way are the ones I'm most excited about reaching.
Any regrets about any of your projects to date?
Some days I regret having stood on national television and declared "I want to draw a cat for you!" But most days I don't. I suppose I regret the way I let fear control my performance life in the years before I formed Blewt! I passed on a lot of incredible opportunities as a result of crippling anxiety and self doubt. But every time I'm feeling regretful, I remind myself how amazing and fulfilling these last five years have been, and marvel at how sometimes you end up in the right place by doing all the wrong things.
What was the silliest idea you had just before Steve Gadlin's Starmakers?
I was a little serious about launching BoogerSwap.com for a while. It was going to be a site that let you swap your boogers for someone else's boogers. But then I realized there were probably laws preventing me from trafficking boogers by US mail, so I gave up on the idea. But I still own BoogerSwap.com, just in case the stars align some day.
Tell me something nice about your production partner, who helped me come up with these interview questions (except for this one.)
Mark Cuban? He's not really pulling his weight.