Yes, it’s 40 Hours
by Noah Lugeons
On our latest episode we ran a little pitch telling all our loyal listeners about the donate button over there on the right side of the page. We were about 90 seconds short on the episode and the skit we had planned was closer to 3 minutes so rather than hacking up a good bit, we decided we’d use the scheduled bit on some other show and fill the time with a quick “public service announcement” about all the wonders of giving us money.
Not something we’re planning on doing on every program, mind you, but a lot of time (and a little money) goes into making this thing so from time to time we like to remind people that they can help compensate us for our effort if they’d like.
Among the lines in my brief advert was the following:
“Your donation also provides inspiration to keep spending 40 hours a week working on this podcast even though the NBA finals and the Stanley Cup finals are going on right now.”
Well it would seem that a sympathetic listener was doubtful. And it’s not that he doubted that the NBA finals or the Stanley Cup finals were going on. Morgan sent us an email that was very complimentary, but it also included the following line:
I don’t begrudge you guys asking for money. You deserve it. But treat your audience with respect. Nobody’s going to believe that it takes 40 hours a week to make a podcast.
Well, Morgan, I appreciate your concern, but I can assure you that yes, indeed, it can very easily take 40 hours a week to make this podcast. In fact, between the effort Heath, Lucinda and I put in, it can take well over 40 hours a week.
- Everything on our show is written. There is almost no ad-lib. Occasionally Heath and I will hide good lines from one another to get an honest reaction to a joke, but almost every word that is spoken on our show is scripted beforehand. Considering how quickly I talk, that adds up to about 4,250 words a week (check the transcripts if you don’t believe me). That’s about half-pace for NaNoWriMo, and no, we don’t get it all correct on the first draft.
- We at least kind of vet all our stories. I’m not going to pretend we’re a legitimate news source, but before we comment on any news story, we make sure that both Heath and I have read at least two separate sources for the headline. This isn’t always easy when you have to dig through all the news aggregate sites that just run the same damned AP story.
- I write and perform all the music. I know that the music on our show isn’t great, but writing and recording music takes time even if it’s not good music. In addition to writing all the atheist songs we’ve done, I also write and perform all the music bumps, the theme song, and little piece of music we might need behind a particular skit. So far it works out to one original composition per 0.895 episodes.
- That editing stuff. There’s a lot more to it than you think. Or, at least, there’s a lot more to it than I thought when I started doing this thing. Sure, there’s all the cutting and splicing and I expected all that. But when it comes to adding sound effects, equalizing vocal levels, compressing, filtering, fading, cutting and then trying to get all of that into an exactly 30 minute package every week, it becomes quite a chore.
- Production meetings. These aren’t exactly chores, mind you. I sit around with a good friend and tell fart jokes and stuff. But we’ve still got to figure out what we’ll be doing for each show. Writing skits takes time, sure, but often coming up with the concepts and deciding how to execute them takes even longer.
- We actually rehearse this shit. Yes, I know, it’s not typical of a podcast, but when it comes to our skits we always rehearse. We usually do at least two takes on the headlines (and sometimes splice them altogether) and our panel discussions are never quite right on the first attempt.
- Scheduling. I’m in a constant state of setting up interviews or whoring myself out for more Farnsworth quotes. Trying to find people willing to appear on our show and then finding a time when we can make it happen can be a rough business and there’s usually at least as much time spent preparing and scheduling an interview as there is actually interviewing.
- There’s all the ancillary stuff, too. Sure, there’s the writing, recording, editing, processing and uploading, but it doesn’t end there. If you need evidence, consider the fact that you’re reading this blog. In addition to occasional content on the blog (much of it unrelated to how hard we work), we’ve also got a Twitter feed, a Facebook page and a YouTube Channel to maintain. In addition we get a pretty steady stream of emails and while we really enjoy getting them, it still takes time to read and respond to every one… and every @mention and every FB post and every YouTube comment. Oh yeah, and reading the freaking bible.
I figured it up last week (which is why I mentioned on the show). Right now I spend about 12 hours a week writing stuff for the show, about 1 to 1.5 hours a day (7 days a week) working on all the social media stuff and responding to emails, between 3 and 5 hours a week on research, about 2 hours editing, about 4 hours recording (counting set up, break down, etc.) about 1 hour a week rehearsing, at least an hour a week scheduling and following up on stuff, 3 hours a week in our production meeting, anywhere from 1 to 12 hours a week writing lyrics, writing music and recording said lyrics and music and another couple hours reading the freaking bible or, if I’m lucky, something else for an interview.
That works out to between 32 and 52 hours a week. And that doesn’t count any of the work Heath or Lucinda puts into it.
Let me be clear here: I’m happy to do it.
Obviously I’m enjoying myself or there’s no way in hell I’d volunteer an average of 40 hours a week doing it. I still wrote stuff and composed music and got on Twitter long before I started this podcast so a lot of it is stuff I’d be doing one way or the other. Even if nobody ever sent us another donation, I have to imagine I’d keep doing this podcast as long as there were still a few people listening to it.
I’m not pointing any of this out to pull at your heart strings or to impress anyone with my stamina. None of this (except occasionally the scheduling stuff) is “work” to me. I’m having a blast with it. It’s taking too much time to call it a “hobby” any more, but it’s definitely something I do because I get more out of it than I put in.
And I’m also not pointing it out to Morgan, as I could have just as easily have put this all in a response email.
The reason I’m taking the time to write a blog about it is for all the people who send me emails (or leave comments or whatever) that say:
“I really love your show. I wish it was an hour!”
Believe me; I wish it was an hour, too. But until I can free up another 25 hours a week or so, it’s gonna have to stay at it’s current 30 minute length. We would rather do 30 great minutes than 60 good ones (or, if you’re not as big a fan of the show as I am, 30 good minutes rather than 60 mediocre ones). And we’ve long ago determined that there is no way we’ll be able to devote enough time to the show to keep the quality up with a 60 minute format.
Unless, of course, those donations really start rolling in…