“Your kids have a better chance of…dying of a common cold than they do of ever being abducted by a stranger.” A conversation with James Renner, author and serial killer investigator.

When you live in the Serial Killer Capital of the World (unofficially) it’s easy to think your neighbor might have young girls chained up in the basement. However, according to James Renner, this is not the case even in northeast Ohio. Beginning as a journalist and then as a writer of true crime, Renner spent many years investigating the most brutal abductions and killings in the Cleveland/Akron/Canton area. Some of these cases have since exploded on to the national scene and what may have been regional news is now international. But James Renner also writes fiction–really good fiction. I read The Serial Killer’s Apprentice years ago and when I saw that The Man From Primrose Lane was available, I grabbed that too. The novel is like nothing I’ve ever read before and the shift in the story is so jarring (in a sensational way) that I can’t believe he pulled it off. The book is currently being adapted to film with actor Bradley Cooper “attached” which must be some kind of Hollywood lingo for “involved.” Renner is already revising his next novel which he claims is even weirder than The Man From Primrose Lane, and if that’s true, I cannot wait.

I sat down with James at a crowded Starbucks on a Friday morning and was immediately struck by his calm, kind demeanor. I guess I expected him to burst through the glass doors, slamming his six-shooter down on the table like John Wayne in an old western. After all, the guy investigates serial killings. But that was not the case and I found Renner to be articulate, unassuming, and really thoughtful with a twinkle of mischief in his eye. As a parent, I gathered hope from his thoughts on the rarity of abductions and killings, contrary to what the mass media might have you believe.

Before you sneak a peek into your neighbor’s basement window, listen to what an expert has to say about serial killers. You’d probably be better off investing in a can of Lysol or a bar of hand soap. Ladies and gentlemen, journalist, palindrome, writer: James Renner.


What was your childhood like?

I grew up in Franklin Mills, Ohio. We had a lot of property and there were these creepy woods behind our house. In the woods– and I’m not making this up– were burial mounds. All the kids in the neighborhood would tell spooky stories about the woods. The way the story goes, if you stood on the burial mounds for an hour, a hand would come up from the rocks and drag you into hell. [laughing] The most I ever lasted was about a minute and a half.

You never made the full hour?

No, but I saw some strange things in those woods. It was kind of a cool place to grow up. I’d ride my bike all over the country and have adventures. I was in Boy Scouts with a couple of my friends and we’d go camping out in the middle of nowhere.  When I was about twelve or thirteen I noticed this kid from Scouts was writing in a binder during one of the meetings. I walked over and asked, “What are you working on?” He said it was a book. I was like, “That’s great. I love reading and I never thought about writing myself, but that looks pretty cool. How long is it?” He said, “Oh, I’m like 300 pages into it.” He was a serious writer.

Wow. That’s a lot of writing for a pro, let alone a kid.

Yes. We started swapping stories back and forth. It was inspirational and he was a mentor. Because of him, I get to do it full time. He became one of the top people at the Federal Reserve, of all places, and I’ve been trying to convince him to get back into writing. I think he would enjoy something a little less scary than working for the Fed–like writing horror novels. [laughing]

He stopped writing as a kid?

Yes, I think he stopped. I don’t know why. We lost touch. We had a falling out when we were in high school over a girl and I hadn’t seen him in fifteen years. The next thing I knew, he was working at the Fed and not writing anymore. So, I’m trying to push him back into that.

Hanging out in the woods for hours and growing up in the country–that seems to have made a mark on you… 

Growing up in the country in Northeast Ohio is very spooky and there’s a lot of weird stories. We’d always heard about this famous case back in 1966 where a deputy sheriff from Portage County chased a UFO all the way into Pennsylvania. And there were all of the Bigfoot sightings in and around the area for about a year and it was obvious that people were seeing something in the woods. In the spring after the thaw, they found the carcass of an orangutan and realized that it had escaped from somebody’s illegal zoo and that’s what people were mistaking for Bigfoot. There are stories after stories like this. It was a weird place to grow up and these stories stuck with me and you’ll see them inserted into my writing. It definitely informs a lot of what I’m writing right now.

Are you a cynic?

Sometimes I think I’m extremely cynical, and sometimes I think I’m the world’s greatest optimist. Maybe I’m bipolar. [laughing] I wrote a lot of true crime before I started writing fiction. I worked as a journalist for The Scene and The Free Times, and at other places. I wrote about all of these unsolved murders in Ohio and people think that would make me cynical because I see the dark side of human nature and it’s easy to think that everybody’s like that. The question that everybody asks when I do these readings: “How do you sleep at night? How do you let your kids go out to play?” I’ve found the opposite is true. When you start writing about these crimes, you understand it in a purely statistical way that most people don’t see–the probability of it all. Even though we hear about these cases a lot, when you stack it up against the number of people in the world, the number of people in the United States, or here northeast Ohio, it’s still incredibly rare. The only reason we hear about it in the news is because it’s rare. It’s a unique thing. Your kids have a better chance of dying in a plane crash, or being struck by lightning, or eaten by a shark, or dying of a common cold, than they do of ever being abducted by a stranger. You shouldn’t be living in fear. If anything, it’s taught me to be less cynical and more hopeful of humanity because maybe it should be happening more. You would think that people are kind of evil. But I’ve found the opposite is true. Most people are good and they want to do good things, and these instances are very rare.

I read The Serial Killer’s Apprentice years ago and I wanted to ask you about the chapter called, “West End Girls.” If you were from outside the region, you might think that the only thing that happens here is abductions and killings, from Imperial Avenue to the Castro house on the West Side. People might ask, “What’s going on in Ohio?” How would you respond to that?

I think I’ve come up with a theory as to why it happened and I think there might be some truth in this. I think the blame rests a lot on the prosecutor’s office, specifically with our former prosecutor, Bill Mason. I think the prosecutor we have now, Tim McGinty, is doing a great job. But Mason was the prosecutor from 1999 until 2011 or 2012 and during that time, all these rape kits sat on the shelf. Nobody was testing these rape kits so we didn’t know that there were serial predators out there. We didn’t know where to look. We didn’t know how to track down the DNA. Instead, he [Mason] was very focused on prosecuting the easy wins, which for the inner city is petty crimes and small drug offenses. That got him a lot of wins but it created these communities where everybody had a criminal history for stupid stuff and it made these people fearful of cooperating or helping the police. People had suspicions about Anthony Sowell.  People had suspicions about Ariel Castro. But they were too afraid to go to the police because they were concerned that they would be arrested or they knew another person in their house that had a warrant or all these other excuses. It made these little pocket communities fearful of the police and that is the perfect stalking and killing grounds for these types of serial predators, and they’re aware of that. They know that they can get away with it. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.

Interesting.

It’s changing now because McGinty is testing these kits, going after these offenders, and he just hired a retired FBI agent a couple weeks ago to work on the unsolved murder of Amy Mihaljevic, which is one that I’ve been investigating for a long time–since I was eleven years old, actively for the last eight years.

Do you think Mihaljevic’s case will be solved?

I think the Amy case will be solved in my lifetime. I hope it is solved in the lifetime of the guy that did it. It might have to wait on technology. There are things coming out in the near future that could help solve this case. They just came up with technology in the last year that allows you to plug a DNA sequence into a computer and the computer will locate the genes responsible for facial features and facial construction. It will spit out an image of what that person probably looked like.

Wow.

It’s even better than a composite sketch. It’s an image of this person based on their DNA. Stuff like that is going to come out fairly soon. In fact, it’s already happening but more in the world of art than in law enforcement right now.

Interesting.

Pretty cool.

I wanted to ask you about your fictional stuff. Are you David Neff [from The Man from Primrose Lane] or is that a composite character?

My wife would say that David Neff is definitely me. He’s named after one of my favorite journalists in town, a guy named James Neff, who wrote the definitive book on the Sam Shepherd case which is another Bay Village murder. It’s the “write what you know” type of thing, and people would be surprised by a book that deals slightly with time travel that there is so much autobiography in there. There’s little things that people would think would be made up. For example, there’s this scene where they’re on their honeymoon– David and his wife– and they go to this piano bar and she tries to trick the piano player,tries to embarrass him by pulling out this copy of Rachmaninov’s Concerto in D and asking him to play it when he’s playing “Piano Man” by Billy Joel–and the guy did it. On our honeymoon, this guy went into Rachmaninov and it was the most beautiful performance I’ve ever heard and everybody stopped what they were doing to watch it happen. Then when he was done, he was done, and just walked away.

I remember that scene in the book and had no idea it happened to you. [laughing] I think what really fascinated me about The Man from Primrose Lane was the way I thought I was reading one book and I ended up reading something else entirely, in a really interesting and unique way.

Good!

Were the dystopian and the time travel elements part of a master plan or did that sort of evolve as you were writing the story?

It was all there. The way I figure out these stories that I write about is something that I’ve done since I was a kid. I always had trouble going to sleep. So I would tell myself these bedtime stories and they became more and more elaborate. And that’s what I do with these novels now. The Man from Primrose Lane was a story that I thought about at night over the course of two years before I even put pen to paper. I had it all constructed in my head. I knew it would happen in three major acts, I knew there would be so many chapters in each, I knew how the time would switch back and forth, so it was pretty much there. I knew that there would be this big turn at around the two-thirds mark and it happens 230 pages into the novel. Some people are taken off guard by that. Hopefully, a lot of them are taken off guard but some people just outright don’t like it. It’s rating about 80% positive. I mean that’s a solid B. I’ll take that.

Absolutely.

But the people that don’t like it, really don’t like it and it’s because you get 230 pages into it and suddenly you’re reading sci-fi. Some people that are just into mysteries and thrillers don’t like that. There are reviews that are literally like, “I got to page 230 and I threw the book across the room. I will not pick it up.” And that’s interesting, but it’s the type of book that I would like to read.
That’s what you have to write.

Yes. Sometimes I think the sideways U shape on the review averages is meaningful. It means your work is polarizing and I think that’s a good thing.

I think so, too. At least it means they’re talking about it and discussing it as opposed to saying, “Eh, it’s a book I’ll forget about next week.”

You are currently writing The Great Forgetting. Is that the sequel to The Man from Primrose Lane?

No. It’s a totally separate book. I’m waiting to hear back from the editor right now. My editor, Sarah Crichton, is reading it at the moment and, knock on wood, hopefully she likes it. It was a monster. When I first turned the manuscript in, it was 950 pages long. Over the last year, I’ve cut it down to about 600 pages. So basically I excised an entire novel out of my novel. That’s a lot. It hurt but it does make it a better book because it cuts right to the meat of it. I’m excited. It’s a weird one.

Really?

Weirder than The Man from Primrose Lane in a lot of ways.

The Man from Primrose Lane is in film production right now–is that right?

It’s in pre-production. A script has been written. I know they’re working on notes from Warner Brothers. Bradley Cooper is attached, but other than that, I don’t know much.

Will you have a lot of input on that?

I will have zero input. They keep me updated and they let me know what they’re doing. I met the screenwriter and got him really drunk at the Chateau Marmont and he told me all of his secrets and we became the best of friends…[laughter] No, at this point they’re in total control of it and I trust them, so we’ll see. The Man from Primrose Lane now has a dog as a sidekick.

What?

No, I’m joking. [laughter]

Do you have any really good dirt on Chad Zumock or Mike Polk?

Let’s see… I’m trying to think of a good one. There’s something about Zumock that still makes me laugh to this day. We all did these TV shows at Kent State. We also did the news, and they had this weather wall–you know, the blue screen, and you stand in front of it and there’s a map. Some people know the way blue screens work–anything blue becomes the map. So if you’re wearing blue, like a blue sweater, you’ll see the map and it almost looks like you’re invisible, right? One day Zumock walks into the shot and he’s standing there, and he doesn’t know anyone is watching him while we’re setting up for another shot, and Chad was wearing a blue sweater that day. I see him standing there and he looks over at the screen and sees that he can see through his shirt, and then I watch him put his hand behind his back. I think he really thought he was invisible… [laughter] Because, obviously, he doesn’t know how Chroma key works and…

So he’s looking in the monitor to see…

Yeah, like, “Am I really invisible?”

That’s a good story.

He would come out completely naked on set sometimes, just for kicks, with a hand placed over his privates. Mike Polk is a funny character but he’s very weird in real life. We were roommates for a year and he is extremely OCD. He’s one of those roommates that if you leave a dirty bowl in the sink for more than five minutes, you’ll hear about it. He would go out there and wash the dishes and then give you a dirty look as he was doing it and then he’d scrub the sink, too. The sink had to be clean, too. He’s just very particular and an odd cookie to live with. [laughing]

Any plans to go on Zumock’s new radio show?

He’s asked me to come on once or twice and I’d love to do that. Zumock’s a funny guy.

It’s a good show and it’s good for him. …I think you touched upon this a little earlier, about people that look at what you write and at what you do and think, “Oh, that’s so dark. Renner must go home every night and cry.” Where is humanity right now? You mentioned that there is some hope–so how do we offset the media blitz of the really rare and gruesome stuff versus what’s really happening?

The biggest danger to society has never been serial killers. It’s not your neighbor that’s holding some woman hostage in his basement, although that may be happening in Cleveland. I think the problem we need to face–and face soon–is all these guns that are out there and are so easy to get. There are two sides to that. The one issue is the guns and how easy it is to get them. The other side of it is mental health, and we have to start treating that better. We stopped treating mental illness as a society back in the 70s and we need to get back to that. Now that we have universal health care maybe that’s going to be easier to do. I think that I’m generally hopeful for society. I think we just hear about the few bad ones more than anything. I think most people are trying to get along, just trying to keep their heads down and do their work. People want to relax at the end of the day, raise their kids, and that’s it.

Well said, and a good place to end. Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Contact:

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“I want the audience to feel like punching me but they can’t because they’re laughing too hard.” My conversation with Chad Zumock.

Chad Zumock invited me to The Funnystop in Cuyahoga Falls to watch the show prior to our interview. Mike Polk and Chad always draw well at their old stomping ground and this night would be no different. The Funnystop is the perfect venue for live comedy even though it’s sandwiched inside a strip mall and near a strip joint. Part of the reason it’s such a fantastic place is because of Peter, the owner. Pete is of Lebanese descent and although he mangles his English with a twinkle in his eye, the twinkle in his tweets are even better. When the owner of the comedy club is tweeting this:

And this:

You know you’re in for a good time. Both Chad and Mike killed it and the laughter in the crowd was proof. Many people in Cleveland know Chad Zumock as one of the original members of The Alan Cox Show on 100.7 WMMS before he was publicly fired by Clear Channel after being charged (but acquitted) of a DUI. For the past nine months Zumock has been busy picking up the pieces and he’s coming back as strong as ever. Chad has his own podcast and has clearly moved on with his life. Zumock’s stand-up is raw, edgy, and unapologetic. Chad does not shy away from sensitive subjects, even his own. He does a bit on his mugshot (and his mother’s mugshot) that would disarm any would-be hecklers from taking advantage of his past misfortune. Zumock’s material is refined and road-tested and he has a rapport with the audience that is exceptional.

On top of a great night of laughter, I thoroughly enjoyed my talk with Chad. He is engaging and genuine. Our conversation felt more like one I’d have with old friends than one with someone I’d had just met. After stripping off his trademark sweater vest and snapping pictures with adoring fans, Chad and I sat down in the back office of The Funnystop to talk about comedy, mistakes, and even a bit of heavy metal.


You have a strong connection with the audience, and as a performer, that’s the tough part. You can have the greatest material in the world but if you don’t make that connection…

Sure. That was always tough for me, because my whole persona—what I’ve always wanted—was for my comedy to be challenging. I wanted the audience to feel like punching me but they can’t because they’re laughing too hard. That’s a fine balance.

But I’m sure that sometimes that approach doesn’t go over so well.

Yeah, like this past Wednesday I had a bad heckler. I did a dumb joke where I was like, “I’m really immature. My new thing is going to Chuck E. Cheese’s and making a reservation under the name Sandusky and asking for a table for one.” This guy was like, “Not funny. That’s not funny, dude!”

So he was riding you all night because of that?

Yeah, and I’m just like, “Whatever?”

I guess you have to get used to dealing with those types of situations.

As a young guy you spent time in L.A., right? Didn’t you begin your stand-up career there?

Yes. Mike Polk and I were college roommates and we did a public access TV show that was really popular. This is before the internet blew up. Then we moved to Cleveland and we did public access here for a while and then we did a sketch group called Last Call Cleveland. It was at the old Second City. Mike would dabble in stand-up here and there. He never really did it. I tried it once in about 2002 or 2003, and I hated it. It sucked. Then I moved to L.A. for a girl. She broke up with me two weeks after I moved there and I was so depressed. I’d go to the Melrose Improv all the time and I’d just sit in the back drinking. I saw comics like Chris Rock, Chappelle—all those guys—and I was just like, “I wanna do that!” So I went to the open mic the next day and I never stopped. I just kept going. I was all over it.

I only had seven minutes of material but I was opening for Daniel Tosh and Sarah Silverman. They gave me gigs because I was in the mix. I had a good seven minutes but after seven I stunk. I had a real weird persona back then, too, and I was afraid I was going to get exposed so I moved home to work on my stand-up.

Did you learn from those comedians in L.A.? Were you analyzing their craft and taking mental notes on their delivery, material, etc.?

Absolutely. But I quit watching comedians and now I’m starting to watch them again. Comedians are sort of like magicians—you get to know their tricks and where they’re going. And some comics just don’t impress me but there are some really funny comedians like David Attell, and Sam Tripoli is a good friend of mine. I love him. Nick Swardson is awesome. I love Nick. So I’d watch those guys and take a little from them. It’s like you’re a sponge when you’re a comic. You constantly absorb. An exercise in trial and error.

It seems like the entire entertainment industry is changing in this day and age. You have Joe Rogan with his show on SciFi and Don Jamieson is on That Metal Show. Do you need multiple creative outlets these days or can you focus just on stand-up?

I was just in Dayton with Ryan Dalton and we were talking about it. We were on The Bob and Tom Show and we were talking about how radio used to be so powerful and now it doesn’t have the impact that it used to because there’s so many ways to get your entertainment. You can get podcasts on the Internet which I love. I listen to Rogan’s podcast the Nerdist, Mark Maron’s WTF and you get all kinds of music. There are no record labels well, there are, but they’re not as powerful as they used to be. So you almost have to have something to compliment what you’re doing with stand-up. Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine have That Metal Show which is great. It’s been on like ten seasons, twelve seasons, and what keeps it on is they go out on the road and keep constantly promoting. And another group—Sullivan and guys like Steve Burns on WTBS—they’re all comics and as soon as they’re done taping, they go on the road.  It’s grass roots promoting—shaking hands, kissing babies, kissing hands, shaking babies…[laughing]

I was talking with Jamieson last time he came through town and he said the same thing. He said most of his promotion is through social media. He’s going to every city and he’s shaking people’s hands, talking to them.

Grassroots, man.

At the bar over a beer.

They’re good friends of ours. Jim’s been like my comedy dad. He’s helped me out in so many ways. His podcast is blowing up and it’s just him at the grassroots level. He’s a road warrior. The guy has been very successful with stand-up and he still goes out and he does The Funnystop here in Cuyahoga Falls. You should come out in November when Florentine comes back through town.

I will.

And he loves this club, too. He likes that Midwest audience. It’s dirty. He can do what he does. It’s honest. That’s why I like Pete [owner of The Funnystop]. He lets you be honest.

What a character. [laughing]

He’s hilarious. [see aforementioned tweets at top of post]

How would you describe the impact Kent, Ohio had on you? You grew up in the area. So what’s that about for someone who’s not in Northeast Ohio?

I grew up there and I went to college there. In high school we had a group of guys and we called ourselves the Phat Phive. We were like a sketch group and we used to do videos. We were really bad but we thought we were funnier than we were. We did an independent film called APB. It was a seventies cop film, basically a Sabotage rip-off of the Beastie Boys. We had a big premier in downtown Kent and sold out the movie theater. Chuck Klosterman was writing for the Akron-Beacon Journal and he came and reviewed it. It was before he was THE Chuck Klosterman. We had a mutual friend, Mike Polk, and I. This was about ’98 and a girl named Lindsey says, “You’ve gotta meet my friend Mike. You guys are so much alike, you guys will love each other, blah, blah, blah.” I was like, “whatever.” He came to my show and I asked him to be in my movie. He had this public access show and he asked me to be on his show and we’ve been friends ever since. So if it wasn’t for Kent, I would never have met Mike. Ryan Dalton, who’s a comedian friend of mine, we went to high school together. Our group of friends from college still hangs out. Like Mike, Dalton, our immediate crew. So Kent’s everything. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for Kent. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. If I didn’t come from Kent maybe I’d be more focused, more adjusted, and I’d be financially stable. So….

I think musicians and comics have a similar approach to their art.

What’s your band?

I’m the lead singer and guitarist for Threefold Law, a heavy original band.

Nice, dude. [making heavy metal face]

Our approach in the band is the same. You’ve gotta build those relationships from the start, create fans one person at a time. But inside the band, in the practice room, it’s all ball-bustin’. We love to take shots at each other. I’d imagine it’d be the same for a group of comedians hanging out together.

Absolutely! Mike and I have been fucking with each other the entire week. I got off stage and I went up to him and I’m like, “Good luck following that.” I’m just being a dick. Yesterday at the show, he said, “Yeah, how about a hand for Chad? Twenty minutes of that was my material.” We’re fucking with each other all the time.

Mike does a bit about dating a 21 year old girl. But guys like us—late thirties, early forties—we’re already performing for another generation coming up. How do you relate to the people that are hanging out in the bar that are 21, 22 years old?

I kind of live in Narnia, in my own world. I’m 38 but my age doesn’t represent my mind. My mind and my age are at war. I have the mind of a 12 year old. The other day I was walking and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I found, like, a thousand dollars?” And I’m looking all around for a thousand dollars that doesn’t exist. That’s how retarded I am. No offense.

None taken.

Then one day, it’s like 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday and I’m just like, “Oh, man, I want some cookie dough.” So I went to Giant Eagle and I bought some cookie dough. Like a 12 year old.

I can relate.

I’m sitting there by myself, in my studio apartment, eating cookie dough. So depressing.

Let’s talk about your podcast. What are your doing with that? What are your plans for it?

My podcast idea came from Jim Florentine. When I got fired from the radio I was devastated because not only did I get fired, I got charged with a DUI, and I lost my license.

Not convicted. Charged but acquitted. I want to make sure I make that point.

Thanks. It’s been a weird couple of months. When I got fired it didn’t help the reputation much and the media was hesitant. I was seen as really wild and crazy. There’s a bit of an exaggeration when you’re on the air. It’s a performance. You’re not lying—there’s honesty to it—but you’re performing a little bit. I guess I was the “obnoxious heel” of the show [The Alan Cox Show on 100.7 WMMS] and I guess what you put out there, people kind of assume. The media was real cautious because of that and it wasn’t real professional. Then Clear Channel forced the non-compete, so I was in a bad spot. Jim would call me every day like he was trying to save my life. He’s the nicest guy.

A comic intervention?

It really was. He said, “Chad, you need to go, get out of here.” I was like, “I can’t. I have these pending things.” He gave me a ton of writing work. I wrote for the Dee Snider roast for him. He gave me a ton of stand-up work. He was a constant. He was like, “You’ve gotta start a podcast. I’m telling you, start a podcast. That’s where everything is going.”

You’ve got the Florentine voice down, man!

“It’s terrible. What are you doing? Stop. What’s wrong with you? Start a podcast.” [Zumock doing his best Florentine impression] He said, “You gotta start that podcast. It builds your following. You’ve got a nice following from the radio. Keep it going. Keep your name out there.” And I did. And I’m glad I did because now I have close to 15,000 subscribers. After the show the other night I had a couple of guys come up to me and tell me that they listened to the podcast and that’s why they were there. I was like, “Sweet!” It was my way of connecting with the people that did like me from the show.

Do you do the podcast from your apartment or in a studio?

I’m working with a group called Frisson Media [Frissonmedia.com]. When I wanted to do the podcast I wanted to do it right. I didn’t want to do a shitty one. They’re a production company in a similar situation. They got fired from their job. We kind of gravitated to one another and we built it together. So they help me out and I’m promoting their business. It’s a good situation.

Do you have any plans for expanding to television or visual media?

There’s a video component to it.

Like an in-studio camera?

Yes. But unfortunately it’s not paying the bills right now because it is a new technology. A lot of the businesses I talk to want to meet with me. They’re all curious but they’re still stuck on radio, TV, newspaper. But Mark Maron is making a ton of money off his podcast now. Seems like the West Coast is embracing it more than the East Coast.

With an audience of 15,000, you would think somebody would jump on that.

I’ve got two sponsors. I do get some advertising revenue.

But you need to get listeners to generate ad revenue. Is it that sort of game?

Yes. I’m doing some stuff with Tweetaudio.com where there kind of pay me a little bit, enough to sustain it, keep it going, and maybe pay for the electric bill.

Anything else you’d like share with someone who might be discovering you? Any websites they should visit besides your main page?

What’s your website?

My website is jthorn.net.

Cool. They should check out that website.

Thanks, man. I appreciate that. I’m trying to promote the local talent. I think there is a lot of great stuff happening in Northeast Ohio.

That’s awesome, man. I mean there is a really good comedy scene here. You talk to out-of-town comics like Jim Florentine and they say that Cleveland has a solid scene. It’s really good. It’s starting to get a little recognition on the map and I mean these guys like Mike Polk—any headliner in the world would see that guy and say, “Why is he living in Cleveland? He’s so funny.” I think much like the music scene, it’s something that one should really embrace. Think outside the box a little bit. Go out to a show. Go see a metal band or whatever.

Do you think it’s hard to get people off the couch?

Oh, yeah.

It’s hard to compete with the handheld electronics, isn’t it?

It really is. That’s the thing in this economy—everybody’s trying to save a buck and I get it. I’m the same way. In the past month I haven’t gone anywhere just to save money. But when you do, you always have fun. You go out and have a good time. Like I’d want to see a band and I’ll say, “Ah, I don’t want to go.” Then I go and I’m glad I did.

Right on.

You’re a metal guy…we saw Queensrÿche the other night.

Yeah! Which one? The version with the original singer?

Yeah, Jeff Tate. The guy is awesome. When we were hanging with Jim I got to meet Rudy Sarzo, the bass player who was with Quiet Riot. I got to interview him for my podcast.

Ahhh! Sweet!

And he was the nicest dude ever. So cool. And I wasn’t gonna go and I did and I had the best time and became friends with Rudy. I didn’t really know who he was until that night. He was so fascinated with comedy and they put on a hell of a show. So, yeah, go out. Definitely embrace this stuff. It’s…

It’s the live element.

Exactly.

You can’t get it any other way, right?

Absolutely. We were talking about comedians the other day, and there’s this comedian named Sebastian Maniscalco. My buddy says, “I don’t like that guy,” and I said, “You gotta see him live.” When we saw him live, he got it.

That was Mitch Hedberg for me.

Mitch was the same way.

I saw him on a couple of TV specials and then I went to see him live before he died [duh] and I was like, “Wow.” It’s a whole different experience.

But then there are some comics who TV makes a lot better. And then when you see them live, you’re disappointed. I’m not gonna name names.

Maybe they have good writers.

I’ve burned enough bridges. [laughing]

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

No problem, man.

Contact:

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I’m trying out a few new tools on the blog. This week I’m using Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because talk is cheap and stealing conversation is even cheaper. Don’t be a cheap-ass.

This interview is the first of three consecutive ones I have lined up. As the holidays approach and folks get busy, I may not conduct as many so enjoy the shit out of these now.