Saturday, October 22, 2011

Confessions: The Story Behind My Web Show Thus Far

I host a webshow online called Confessions. I actually landed this web show through a sort of crazy set of circumstances. About a year and a half ago I was involved on a show with Shovio network. It was a tremendous opportunity. I got to work with Leslie Gold. As a boss she taught me a lot, especially about being a woman in broadcasting. I also got to work with Starr and Buckwild. While I never met Karith Foster and Abriola Abrams directly it was cool knowing I shared airspace with them. While I parted with my cohost, I had always wanted to host a show again.
Only a few months before I had maintained an advice column in a small rag in Key West. It was short lived because my publisher didn’t have it together. I got a lot of letters from LGBTQ people seeking advice. My reasoning was I can’t tell you what to do but I can tell you what not to do from experience. Yes I know I am a publicity seeking trainwreck but I come about it honestly.
Then I got the opportunity to do the reality show and press tour with my puppet children last fall. I remember all the fan mail I got, and a lot of it being from young people. They talked about how they admired my courage to be myself and how I wasn’t knocked down no matter what. To me that was sort of sweet because truth be told that courage took a lot of pain to discover. I also got letters from young people, especially young women, who poured their hearts out about being with men who treated them badly and either how they got out or how they felt they deserved to be punching bags. Those letters broke my heart.
To give you a background I spoke on the show about being in an abusive relationship in my early twenties and how that crushed my spirit. I don’t blame him as much as I used to. A bad relationship is a two way street and I was young, inexperienced and going through a rough patch. However I found myself educating people about this. In between that I also found myself involved in some grass roots AIDS activism and safe sex education and championing those causes, partially because my friend Roger had been positive before he passed. In addition I also found myself involved in anti-bullying campaigns.
During this time my mother and I spoke about me being A-political as long as I was going to be visible and for the most part I am non-partisan in order to appease my fans. I am pro-gay rights, pro-choice, pro-marajuana legalization and very socially liberal. However I also believe criminals have too many rights in this country and I also champion the second amendment and believe the government should not be in the people’s business. I also believe we help out too many countries and we need to stop doing that and should fix ourselves. Yes I like Ron Paul. However the more of a platform I was given the more I was speaking about things closest to my heart. While I agree with my mother, I believe I was given this visibility for a reason. And that reason is not only to share my art but to educate people about the dangers of domestic violence and abusive relationships as well as to give a voice to those who face discrimination, such as those living with HIV/AIDS as well as anti-bullying awareness.
Around May of this year I became a part of the YouNow network. I started as a part of their test broadcasts which ran a few times a week. Originally it was me and my puppets. Then I expanded not just to my puppets but to funny little costumes. As I spent more time on there I also began to sing. Sure I had been a singing telegram delivery person for x amount of years but always still felt intimidated singing in front of people. However this past year I had branched out into music with the help of my friend Marcus Yi. What I noticed on the site though was the record number of young people. Being used to the NYC comedy scene I could be a little raw sometimes. However the young folks didn’t like that. They were fans of the puppets, the costumes and the less heavy things. After one broadcast where the language was foul and the subject was too political I got the infom that perhaps tailor it to the less sophisticated and more sensitive crowd. Right away I obliged. After all, at times they could take over the site.
In August of this year YouNow became a twenty four hour deal and I was on the site night and day it seemed. Sometimes the young folks and I got along, sometimes we butted heads. What I realized when we butted heads was that I was literally looking at myself in the mirror. While sometimes it was tempting to give these youngins the smackdown I had to remember they were still kids and once upon a time I was just as bad if not worse. Now the question remained, what example did I want to be to these kiddies?
 I also had people tuning in from all over the world. After a bunch of kids from Italy thought I was swearing at them when I was freestyling, it was an all out cyber war that night it seemed. It was one of those moments where it could have been internet blood shed or it could have been peace. Something in me chose peace and that’s when I flipped the script and did some comedy and sang for them. Because of this, the war abruptly ended and I got seven new subscribers to my youtube page. I had some detractors that I won over just by being myself. Either way, I was learning some hard and fast rules that while certain customs and art forms are lost in translation there is more than one way to the center of the Tootsie Roll pop.
Of course since the site was brand new there weren’t the moderators or measures to protect broadcasters from cyberbullies. I had my share because I was different. At first they depressed me but then I remembered I had been in an abusive relationship. This wasn’t nearly as bad. These idiots weren’t even showing their faces. I was being tested all over again it seemed. After the security measures were implemented and people could be banned this all stopped.
After that we launched as part of TechCrunch Disrupt where facebook was discovered. I was asked to be a part of the launch as someone broadcasting on the talk channel. I was psyched at the prospect of being part of something so groundbreaking. The site was featured on Discovery Channel Tech Week where my buddy J.Rilla was front and center. I remember being so excited. Things were coming together beautifully. Problem was, there wasn’t much traffic to the talk channel.
I chatted with Adi Sideman, the owner of the site on strategies of getting more traffic to the talk channel. That’s when I came up with my show Confessions. I would get people to call in via webcam and talk about whatever was going on with them. My friends Brad and Octavio as well as Roger always told me I would be a good talk show host. And I had always dreamed of having my own talk show. However my time with the man from hell in my early twenties had not only killed that dream but made me shelve it. It was only when I was twenty three and had a short lived relationship with a lawyer who demanded to know more about me than, “Hi, I’m April. My ex was a loser who treated me like crap.”
While I had spoken about this dream I never had the self esteem to follow through with it. It was only after a rough 2009 did I start producing my own talk show with May when she interviewed people and had celebrity guests. But that was on youtube. This was on an actual channel. I remember getting the opportunity and thinking, “WOW!”
But the Tuesday time slot didn’t make much sense so now I am at Sunday from 8-10 pm EST. Since the move the show dominates my life force. I spend waking moments dreaming up new comedy bits to keep it light, recruiting guests to keep it interesting, and letting people know they can call in. When I broadcast I tell people ad nauseum about my program. As a bonus I have a portion of the show where I answer my advice column live on the air. This show is different than the one I had on Shovio where my co-host sought to humiliate people. I don’t do that. Rather I want a safe and welcoming environment where people can drop their shit and laugh about life whatever may be going on. I want to be a host that lets people know they can laugh and love.
The crazy thing is, since Confessions I have found myself talking more about the relationship from hell in my early twenties. Tonight I found myself speaking about that phase in my life on the music channel after singing a song for what I intended to be a publicity spot. But if it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have the self esteem and self reliance that I have now, and I didnt realize that until these young folksdoing religious music, asked me how I felt about church. While I abhor crazed Jesus freaks I do try to go each week. I don't even know how it happened but I started talking about the fact I knew there was a God because I knew there was a devil and talked about how dark that portion of my life was and how my faith saved me. For the record, I don't testify a whole lot so that was surreal. Nonetheless, it was wonderful how despite their faith these young people were balanced and gave me support and love. I also realized there was a reason I was able to get out of that dark period in my life, and how I have come such a long way. And that is why it is important I be around for people to look up to.
I love the fact I have so many young fans on that network. I love the fact they fan me and know the names of my puppets and request puppets and gags. But I also want them to quote me as saying that I was the person who told them it wasn't okay for someone to bully them whether it was a mean girl or significant other. That I was the person who gave them the confidence to be themselves and to follow their dreams whatever those dreams may be. That I was the person who gave them a safe place to talk about what was going on with them, prodded them with a gentle challenge, and still kept them laughing because as well as a puppet mother I am a den mother. In addition, I love that Adi Sideman and Robert Galinsky make it a safe environment for the young folk which helps make my mission even easier.
Tonight as I did my bizarre impromptu testimony on the talk channel I realized these trials were in my life for a reason. My abusive relationship made me strong and gave me the ability to stand up and say no to a bully, no matter who they are. The fan mail from the reality show let me know people were watching me, I was reaching them, and that I had to continue to do so.
As for the lawyer ex, things didn’t end well and my head wasn’t in such a good place. I am sorry I was a little damaged. But I wanted to thank you because you got me to talk about a dream I had shelved never believing I would possess the power to make it come true.
So now this show is my life blood and I am probably making the people who run YouNow crazy. Never said I was sane people. But as I tell my mother it’s not the end it is only the beginning. And to make my dad happy I think I will get an alien abductee. I am still trying to recruit one.
Now that you heard me pour my heart out tune into Confessions on the YouNow network’s talk channel every Sunday night 8-10 pm EST. It’s where all the cool kids are. I invite you to get your webcam and to tell your story and to take the challenge. We will be waiting for you. Xo April
PS. Check out our facebook fan page and visit us there!/pages/Confessions/127192550719508

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