Ryan Dean Tucker is no stranger to the talk-show game. Besides being an avid TV fan, he put together a live show called Beat City U.S.A. a couple of years back that focused on Spokane's music, art and comedy communities.
Given that experience, it made sense that Jason Johnson, the downtown library's community engagement manager, would think of Tucker when Johnson hatched a plan for a new talk-show-style production for live audiences. The library show would focus attention on the city's creative and nonprofit communities. And if the show also drew some attention to the swank new performance space called the Community Lens that the library recently installed, all the better.
Even though Tucker stays plenty busy creatively between singing for Nat Park and the Tunnels of Love and constructing logistically near-impossible performances of things like Seinfeld episodes or an upcoming one-man version of Die Hard, Johnson's idea for what is now Lilac City Live! was instantly appealing to Tucker. He and his Beat City co-host/sidekick Sean Glasow always figured there might be a chance to do a talk show again — just not necessarily on the scale of Lilac City Live!
"Occasionally we'd talk and be like, 'Hey, it would be funny to do this sketch!'" Tucker says. "But we didn't really have a platform."
Now they do, thanks to Johnson's vision for what the downtown library can be.
"I took this job downtown about a year and a half ago," Johnson says, "and I really wanted to transform the downtown library into more of a cultural anchor and community destination. We have this giant beautiful building right downtown, and just by the nature of it, it's not going to function as a neighborhood library does. I want to have big things happen here."
Johnson's vision has already been put in play thanks to First Friday concerts at the library and a steady stream of events on the new stage since it opened Oct. 17, most prominently the World Poetry Slam. He's hoping the monthly Lilac City Live! will spur people to check out the space and envision their own organizations using it.
When he first started at his job, he was brainstorming about ways to showcase artists "and people who work for cool nonprofits, or people doing cool stuff in entrepreneurial areas." A talk show seemed like the best format for bringing all those elements together. Now that Lilac City Live! is a week away, Johnson has confidence in its success.
"It will quickly become our flagship event that happens downtown," Johnson says of the shows happening in the 340-capacity space. "It will probably bleed out into other types of events we do down here. That stage we built, that's what it's for — to showcase Spokane."
Here's what we know to expect from Lilac City Live! when it debuts on the Community Lens stage Dec. 14:
• There will be a monologue, delivered by Tucker and no doubt informed by his banter with Glasow.
• There will be guests; the first episode features author Sharma Shields, musician Marshall McLean, comedian Ryan McComb and artist Amber Hoit.
• There will be sketches, both live and filmed.
Other than that, the show will evolve through monthly performances and coordination between Johnson and the two co-hosts. Tucker and Glasow are excited at the possibilities the library allows, particularly in booking some of the community's prominent citizenry alongside some quirky characters who bring Spokane to life. Asked to consider any talk shows they might take inspiration from, the duo lists everything from traditional old-school classics like Ed Sullivan or David Letterman to more modern fare like The Chris Gethard Show.
"Depending on the age demographic I'm talking to, I'll be the Ed McMahon [The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson] or Reggie Watts [Comedy Bang! Bang!]," Glasow says.
Johnson and the hosts all believe Spokane has enough going on culturally to sustain the show well into the future. And that's exactly the plan.
"We're kind of in the mix of becoming that booming city that we've talked about becoming for like 15 years," Tucker says. ♦
Lilac City Live! with Sharma Shields, Marshall McLean, Ryan McComb and Amanda Hoit • Thu, Dec. 14 • 7 pm cash bar/8 pm show • free • all-ages • Downtown Spokane Public Library 3rd Floor • 906 W. Main • spokanelibrary.org/downtown
LIVE, ON TAPE, IT'S JARED MUNSON
From Fallon to Colbert, Kimmel to Corden, you won't find most talk-show hosts in their studio on a Friday night. But when you're in Spokane and putting together your own localized program using the Community-Minded Television studios tucked behind a gym on West Third Avenue, Friday night is prime production time.
The bright lights illuminating a spartan set are the only indication from the street that anything creative is going on. Walk inside, though, and you quickly see all the accouterments of a big-time television chat show — a house band in the corner (Weekends Only, a project of Kaylee Goins and Eli Dyer), a few cameras, a couple swiveling bar stools in lieu of the traditional host's desk, even a small studio audience.
It's early December and the inaugural filming of Hey, What's Up With Jared Munson?, the brainchild of the Spokane comedian and his on-air sidekick/lead writer Jason Komm. Munson, Inlander readers' choice as the region's Best Comedian earlier this year, sees the show as an opportunity to showcase talented people in Spokane (comedian Harry J. Riley and podcast host/photographer Nick Spanjer are guests on the first show) as well as folks doing good in the community.
"The interviews, they're a cross between daytime talk shows and nighttime shows," Munson says.
Tonight, the first-show jitters are hard to see as Munson delivers a monologue touching on Rachel Dolezal and Thanksgiving, although he and Komm do have to run a couple of times through a gag of Robert Mueller investigation jokes sung to "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Even with that hiccup, their banter is unforced, and the band chimes in creatively and with some good jokes of their own.
Hey, What's Up With Jared Munson? is a work in progress, and the comedian hopes to shop it around to local TV stations and digital outlets. The first two episodes need to be edited into shape, and he'd like to add a desk in place of his swivel chair by the time they film a digital-focused episode in early January.
"That's pretty traditional, and I'm a big fan of tradition," Munson says.
That might be true of the look and feel of the show, but the DIY creation behind the scenes is anything but.
— DAN NAILEN
Follow Jared Munson at Facebook.com/jaredmunsoncomedian for updates on when Hey, What's Up With Jared Munson? will air.