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Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis // Photo: Hayley Olivenbaum

The Tommy Show 2.0: Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis Are Back in Action

DC sweethearts Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis are in their eighth year of friendship, and their infectious morning banter is bringing vibrance and fun to the city in a new way. When The Tommy Show abruptly ended last fall after seven years on air at 94.7 Fresh FM, the tech-savvy Collis and McFly created an app for hosting the show to continue spreading real fun in the District. Since late February, they’ve been broadcasting live every weekday morning at 7 a.m. from Collis’ home studio in Cathedral Heights. McFly, also a contributor at NBC4, has hosted some of DC’s most fun-filled events like DC Field Day and the White House Easter Egg Roll, where Michelle Obama asked him to be the first person in U.S. history to emcee the event. Collis has also been active around the city at buzzworthy events like Cosmo Couture at the National Cathedral. We talked with McFly and Collis about their comeback in broadcast, their individual passions, and how they’ve positively impacted the city in major ways – both on and off the mic. 

On Tap: How would you describe The Tommy Show’s brand to folks who might not know about it?
Tommy McFly: We like to think of ourselves as real fun DC. We like to be all things Washington. We broadcast around the Beltway and beyond. DC’s our home base and it will always be that way. We really like to think of ourselves as the true and authentic local voice in a city that doesn’t have a lot of fun all the time, and also has media content – especially on the audio side – that’s piped in from other cities who don’t necessarily understand our city and our region.
Kelly Collis: We also like to be part of the community – not just using the microphone, but literally [to] be part [of what’s happening]. Whether it’s [hosting] 5Ks [for charity] or working with Arlington National Cemetery during Wreaths Across America, we really like to get involved and not sit behind the microphone. 

OT: How did you cope with having your show taken off the air?
TM: Not a week goes by that we don’t see somebody in the wild who listened to us on the radio and they’re like, “Whatever happened to you?” Every day, we have this adventure of getting to tell people where we are now, where we’ve been and how they can reconnect with us. I’ve taken so many phones [and downloaded the app for people]. 


Tommy McFly

Work Must-Haves
Portable recorder
Bose headphones
Google Docs
Spotify
Advil

Can’t Live Without
Cold brew
Extra battery charger
Burt’s Bees
Chevy Chase Acura RDX
Barry’s Bootcamp


OT: How did you keep momentum going and recover with this amazing new opportunity?
TM: We really actually give a shit, to be honest. I got my start on radio in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which is a small town. You meet the people that listen, and they know you, and we did the same thing in DC. I think that’s why we were successful because in a town like Washington, people know when you’re BSing, and I hope people understood that we were not. We’re here and we take being a productive member of the community seriously.
KC: When we went off the air, we did a bunch of gatherings of gratitude all around Maryland and Virginia to reunite with our Tommy Show fam we’ve built over the years. We believed when we were on the radio that [by] being part of the community, you actually had to be active. I’m a native Washingtonian and it’s an honor to be on the radio in my hometown and reconnect with the community that I grew up in, and I really take that seriously. It’s an incredible opportunity.

OT: What are some unexpected benefits of this new format?
TM: We love just diving in when we hear a certain need. That’s what’s so great about what we now do digitally: we can activate [when] things pop up. We have our things we do year-round and every year, but when we hear about things like families in need or a cool initiative, we can jump on it and help, which is our favorite thing to do. 

OT: Are there any recurring events near and dear to The Tommy Show that you’re looking forward to continuing with?
KC: For eight years now – and we will continue it – we visit teachers all around the DC area. We partner with Georgetown Cupcake. We like to surprise the teachers and show them appreciation. We call it our Teacher Tour. Throughout the year, we’ll find teachers who tell us an awesome story or [about] something going on in their community, and it’s just an easy way to show them that we appreciate them.
TC: Best Buddies is a huge one, too. I love serving as chairman of Virginia and DC. We’ve tripled the programs in DC, and we’ve started welcoming elementary school chapters into the fold of inclusion. The Friendship Walk is coming up in October. That’s always huge. We just won an award for Best Buddies in the Beltway region for being the biggest walk [out of] all the Best Buddies around the country. We have over 3,000 people on the Mall for a day of friendship and fun. 


Kelly Collis

Work Must-Haves
QuickBooks
Coffee
iPhone
Portable microphone
Moleskine notebook filled with big ideas, random thoughts + to-do lists

Can’t Live Without
Alchimie Forever face cream
iPhone
Red wine
Netflix // Hulu // Apple TV
La Croix


OT: Tommy, tell us about your work with NBC4 and how you balance that with the show. Is there any overlap?
TM: It’s been awesome, and it’ll be three years in October. They’ve accepted me, Kelly and the show. NBC4 is our weather partner on the app, so Storm Team4 powers our weather. We have a new franchise called “The Scene” that focuses on the uplifting, fun events – in-the-know sort of stuff around the region. I get to be the lead correspondent on that. What we do with “The Scene” and The Tommy Show, it all overlaps. We try to be that bright, fun spot in the media.

OT: For being as busy as you both are, what else have you been spending time on this summer outside of work?
KC: I love going to paddleboard. I’ve been finding different places around DC, and I love to do that with my husband for exercise over the summer. And of course, Nats [games are] a big theme in our summertime routine.
TM:  I have a new puppy [and] his name is Cotoc. We lost Chip McFly in June and I think this puppy found my husband on the Internet. We adopted him in late June and he’s just a big, floppy ragdoll of love, so that’s been a lot of time spent on puppy raising.

Catch McFly and Collis broadcasting live on weekdays at 7 a.m. or listen to the show any time of day while it’s on repeat via the app. The Tommy Show app is available for download on Google Play and iTunes. Learn more at www.TommyShow.com

Marlee Milton, Kelcie Glass and Nicole Garder // Photo: Trent Johnson

GIRLAAA Collective Provides Safe Space and Creative Platform for Black Women

The subtle nuances of pronunciation never cease to amaze me. I’m sitting across from Kelcie Glass, Nicole Garder and Marlee Milton as they take turns saying the colloquialism that inspired their collective’s name. “Girlaaa” is a common greeting in the District, one generally used to express excitement. But Glass quickly points out that it can also have a “Girl, chill” vibe with just the slightest variance in tone. 

And just like its name, GIRLAAA’s ethos follows suit. While chatting with one-third of the nine-piece group’s powerhouse of talented women at Eaton Hotel’s flagship restaurant American Son, it becomes quickly apparent to me that every action the collective takes is meant to champion women of color and their accomplishments – but also challenge them by digging into substantive content and getting real. 

Over the past year, GIRLAAA has expanded from throwing women-centric parties around the city to hosting 15 killer events including three activations at the Hirshhorn, creating a biweekly podcast recorded at Eaton and coworking space 202Creates, and growing their tightknit crew to include visual artists, DJs, producers, hosts, programmers and more. Each one-hour episode of the “1-800-GIRLAAA” podcast includes interviews with local luminaries and a DJ set highlighting edgy sounds from strong women. 

Glass, a marketing and outreach guru, Garder, an ethically sourced jewelry consultant and documentary filmmaker, and Milton, a full-time musician with an artist development side hustle, walked me through what the collective means to them, why supporting the area they grew up in is critical, and why smoking a joint with Rihanna would be lit.

On Tap: What was the evolution from events to the “1-800-GIRLAAA” podcast?
Nicole Garder: Dominique [Wells] was the creator of GIRLAAA, and she reached out to women in different creative spaces to come together. We started out as a party and then from that, we saw an even bigger need to give a platform to all women in creative spaces.
Kelcie Glass: Then the podcast was born from that. We were doing GIRLAAA activations. Eaton reached out to us before we even thought about doing a podcast and said, “Hey, we want GIRLAAA to do a podcast here.” Nicole had a lot of production [and] programming experience. I do too, and I can also host. Marlee can DJ and also host really well. We record in multiple spaces now, but it was born from being asked just based on the premise of the collective.

OT: What was your original goal in hosting the parties? Who did you want to bring together?
KG: It started as having a safe space for women, and we also wanted to highlight women of color who don’t always get a platform to show their talents. The party was cool but now we can do different interviews [and] live events with the podcast, [and have] real substantive conversations. Our most recent party was on the rooftop of Eaton for Women’s History Month, and that was crazy. 

OT: What percentage of your focus now is on the podcast versus hosting events?
NG: I would say we want to focus on both, with the emphasis on the podcast and doing live events. It’s really about engaging people online but also doing that in real life. 

OT: How do you pick the music for each episode?
Marlee Milton: Really, I just go with the vibe. I know our regular sets and parties are really centered around women in music and just that strong sound – like how Insecure has those really edgy, catchy, striking songs from women – that’s something I really try to hone in on. Just a good vibe, a good time. 

OT: What’s the creative process for picking your guests?
NG: It’s really figuring out what’s happening in our local community and then branching out toward the entertainment topics [affecting] women of color. That’s our target audience. We have different segments focusing on who is really inspiring us – women in power. It’s very important to use our platform to share with other people, and that’s also how we go about finding talent to [have] those deeper conversations.
KG: We hadn’t even started yet and [journalist and former Wizards cohost] Gia Peppers was like, “Yeah, I want to come on and do it.” We had Janea West [on the show]. She has this [DC-based] web series called Grown, which is really, really great. Nicole and I just went to Essence Fest where we popped up on Lena Waithe and AlunaGeorge. We’ll go where needed, especially if we have really great content. These women are huge right now. The concept is a good enough pitch for people to really engage with us.

OT: Any guests you’re dying to have on?
NG: People with big, expansive personalities and bringing those people to our local community, which is so important for me.
KG: I would say Tracee Ellis Ross [and] NAO. Obviously, Rihanna. I just want to smoke some weed with Rihanna and talk shit.
NG: Same. [laughs]
KG: I think she’d be down with the concept, too. That would be lit.
MM: I really want to speak to a lot of the independent women in the industry and a lot of the black pop and black punk artists [who are] women. I really want to get their perspective and process and experience.

OT: What about a local guest, maybe someone under the radar?
NG: I would love to have a conversation with April George of April + VISTA. I love the texture of her voice, but also she’s really focused on the issues that are happening in the DC space in terms of supporting creatives and what that really looks like.
KG: I’m leaning a little more political. I know some young women of color who are running for local office, but also national figures who are located here. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez follows us on Instagram because she saw our installation that included pieces of her by [visual artist, illustrator, animator and GIRLAAA member] Trap Bob. I would love to sit down with her and have a conversation. Also, I would like to bring the Mayor [on for a] women-centric conversation, but also just [to ask her] about what she thinks about the culture of DC right now and its trajectory and what we can do to build legislation around maintaining it. 


GIRLAAA MUST-HAVES
Great energy
Creative women in our circle
Tenacity
Bold personalities
Dedication to feminism
Love + appreciation for the native DMV culture


OT: What about event wish lists? What’s a space you think could really be a good platform or bring in the right people to highlight your mission?
KG: A lot of the spaces that we’ve been coming into have been to bring in this energy. They realize that they are lacking or have a void in terms of black women or creatives in their spaces. We are in talks with some major theaters right now. It’d be fun to do a podcast and then a party afterwards [at 9:30 Club].
NG: In the film sphere of things, definitely a screening, having those conversations with the directors.
NG: I would also love to do a women’s conference, specifically.
KG: A conference would be great. A women-centric one would be really cool – and regularly, annually. I would also want to venture into more of the political space. We’re potentially supporting a cannabis-centric event coming up in September that is about recreational cannabis, but also the business of that and how black and brown people get into those conversations. 

OT: What goals do you have for GIRLAAA – both the podcast and the scope of events – in the next year? Do you view it as more of a creative outlet or a transition to where you want to be full-time?
KG: We definitely want to travel more and connect with people in different cities. [And] more robust programming with larger artists. I think that’s feasible, it’s just the time and energy. [If we were] full-time, we could actually do more robust things and have these big artists come and do a whole weekend of events and things like that.
MM: I definitely see us being the go-to group for bringing our perspective and audience to events and programming in general. I really want to see a GIRLAAA festival. To me, all of us have come together for this mission and it’s full-time already even though we’re juggling so many things.
NG: That’s what I love most about the collective: if one person is there, we’re all there. 

OT: How did you come up with the name? What does it mean to each of you?
KG: Girlaaa is a slang in DC. Let Marlee say it.
MM: Girlaaa. It’s like, a greeting in a way.
KG: It can be a greeting. It’s basically like, “Girl, chill,” or “Girl, yes.” Either way, it depends on the context.
NG: It’s all about the tone.
KG: It depends on the context and the tone.

OT: What context and tone do you prefer?
MM: Excited, sisterly, hyping you up…
KG: I like the more questionable one. [All laugh] The GIRLAAA collective is definitely the hype energy one.

OT: What are some of your favorite things to do in DC when you’re not working or podcasting?
MM: Dance. I love to dance [at] U Street Music Hall, Eighteenth Street Lounge, Velvet Lounge, Cloak & Dagger, Sotto – so many places.
KG: I like to go to concerts [at] 9:30, Anthem, U Hall. I love concerts and music – very music-centric.
NG: I would say definitely concerts but also being one with nature. I spend a lot of time in Georgetown, so kayaking and paddleboarding.  

Listen to the “1-800-GIRLAAA” podcast at www.mixcloud.com/GIRLAAA. Learn more about GIRLAAA at www.domo.world/girlaaa and follow the collective on Instagram @girlaaa.world.

Illustration: courtesy of "All Fantasy Everything"

Best Podcast Available All Fantasy Everything Selects DC For Live Tour

Podcasts are a dime a dozen these days. They’re easily created and just as quickly forgotten. Name a comedian, sports writer, author or filmmaker, and they’ve probably dabbled in coordinating a program discussing most anything. There’s plenty of reasons for these folks to give podcasting a shot: there’s money to be made and ears to grab, and it’s a great promotional tool for other types of programming, whether it be a standup special or an opinion column.

The brainpower behind “All Fantasy Everything” agreed with the sentiment. Founded by comedian and television writer Ian Karmel, the podcast is a show of three to four people sitting around fantasy drafting anything and everything: from Tom Hanks films to road trips.

“[Karmel] just wanted a way to interview people,” says cohost and comedian Sean Jordan. “He wanted a podcast where he could talk to his friends. He came up with the idea [and] shopped it around.Originally, people weren’t receptive. We did one together one day and it stuck.”

“All Fantasy Everything” debuted on the Internet in 2016 and is recorded weekly in Portland, Oregon with new episodes populating feeds every Friday. While episodes have featured a roulette of guests, including The Late Late Show host James Corden and NBA writer Zach Harper, the constant staples are Karmel, Jordan and standup comedian David Gborie. On July 13, locals will actually be able to sit in the same room as these folks as they live draft on Black Cat’s stage.

“It’s a very natural feel,” Jordan continues. “If you’re going to listen to people sit and talk, it has to have that real feel. We have running jokes, but I think one of the reasons it’s so good is because it sounds as if we’re just sitting in the living room watching basketball. It makes people feel at ease, as if they’re there.”

The format is predictable, which you’ll know if you’ve ever tinkered with any kind of fantasy draft. The hosts and guests each take turns picking something involving the theme, followed up by an explanation. The true magic of the show is in these unscripted moments where the listener is thrown into a full-fledged discussion either celebrating or dissecting the preceding selection. The ribbing is delightful and sincere and rarely, if ever, nasty or offensive.

“Sometimes there’s that feeling if someone is making a joke and it goes down the wrong road, it’s tricky because we’re three straight dudes,” Jordan says candidly. “We’re quick to wrangle it in. We just like to talk about how cool stuff is and how cool people are, and how often we cry.”

The transition from a studio or couch to a live crowd seems like a surreal thing for a podcast built upon the idea of shooting the shit among friends while debating which villain is more interesting or what fast-food items reign supreme among lit drive-thru menus. And while they do present differences in the flow of a normal show, the comedians aren’t afraid to ratchet it up for the crowd.

“[The live shows] are a lot trickier to rein in because the crowds are very hyped,” Jordan says. “When it’s a live show, I’m so excited and thrilled that anyone cares about anything I’m part of. I’m not sure anyone knows for certain that people will care about what they do, so when a thousand people are there to see them, you try to give them a show.”

Undoubtedly, the most intriguing aspect of the pod is the themes chosen. Jordan says they try to align it with whatever guest they’ll have, but often they opt for a general topic anyone could dive into without a huge amount of research.

“Even if you don’t know anything about it, it’s fun,” Jordan says. “Like vegetables – I hate vegetables. Sometimes, we’ll just decide randomly. It’s pretty easy. You don’t have to prep – just wing it. It’s just an excuse to sit around and bullshit, so it usually works.”

Themes for upcoming live shows – including the one in the District – have yet to be decided, but Jordan says they’ll be figured out beforehand. And though I tried to get the comedian to spill the beans on what it could be, he holds firm and doesn’t budge, only divulging the most generic of information.

“We try to keep it local but broad enough,” Jordan says. “It’s hush-hush for now.”

As of right now, there’s more than 100 episodes available to get listeners hyped for their DC show. So plug in your headphones while you prep for your own upcoming fantasy drafts, and pray we get a theme as wacky as celebrity sex tapes or stuff to do when you’re drunk.

“All Fantasy Everything” comes to Black Cat on July 13. Tickets $20. Stream the podcast at www.headgum.com/all-fantasy-everything.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com

Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Hello, Dolly!’s Analisa Leaming Provides Podcast Aimed at Motivating Artists

Broadway legend Betty Buckley is currently starring as the titular role in the national tour of Hello, Dolly!, playing at the Kennedy Center through July 7. The classic musical, with a book by Michael Stewart and songs by Jerry Herman, tells the story of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a middle-aged marriage broker in 1880s New York City, who navigates a colorful collection of characters in search of love. 

One of those characters is Irene Molloy, played by Analisa Leaming, whose Broadway resume includes stints in School of Rock, The King and I and On The 20th Century. She was also the understudy for Irene on Broadway, going on about a dozen times. 

When she got the call to do the national tour, she, her husband and dog packed up the car and began traveling from place to place. 

“I love that this show is light and fun and joyful,” Leaming says. “With everything going on in the world today, we get to be that two-and-a-half hours of joy every night.”

Being on Broadway was always something Leaming knew she wanted to do. In fact, when she was in sixth grade, her teacher inscribed in her yearbook, “I know I’ll see your name up in lights some day in Hollywood,” and she asked him to scratch the last part out and put “Broadway” instead.

Although her first Broadway show –  Rebecca – was cancelled the night before rehearsals started, and it took three years for her to get another chance, she stayed busy doing regional and Off-Broadway shows. 

In addition to her theater work on stage, Leaming is also passionate about promoting mindfulness and sustainability for artists who work in what can often be a stressful field. 

In that vein, Leaming hosts a podcast, “A Balancing Act,” which features conversations with other working artists about how to navigate the industry and create balance and happiness as a performer. 

“What happened to me with Rebecca is kind of like someone who gets drafted by the NFL, and [then] hurts their Achilles and doesn’t get to play; it’s that level of disappointment,” Leaming says. “It had been this thing I had been dreaming about my whole life. When it was taken away, I had to do some deep searching and what I found is that as artists, it’s very easy to wait for things to happen.”

She explains that includes waiting for calls about roles and always comparing yourself to others.

“I went on my search inward and I just had to share it with others so I created this podcast,” Leaming says. “What I found talking with other artists is that we all share these same fears. These are things that we don’t often talk about. It’s been very helpful.”

Among her guests have been Rebecca Luker, Gavin Creel and John Tartaglia. Tony winner Jessie Mueller will be on soon.

“Because it’s not a weekly podcast, I have plenty of time to edit and so I invite people to be as vulnerable as possible and if they want something taken out, I can totally do that, and I think that has helped create some really honest and emotional conversations,” she says. 

Now in its third season, Leaming originally did all the interviews in person, but being on tour, most of the interviews are recorded over the phone.

“I talk to these incredible people and learn from them and it helps me stay on my own path of where I want to be,” she says. “This is my way of changing my corner of the world.” 

“A Balancing Act” not only hears the stories of these artists, but gets tips on how they reduce stress and cope with the challenges that come with pursuing and maintaining a Broadway career. 

“What I’ve learned is how imperative it is for artists to have other things that we love and are actively doing, and being a more balanced person,” Leaming says.   

See Leaming in Hello, Dolly! at the Kennedy Center through July 7. Showtimes vary and tickets are $49-$159. For information about the show, visit here. Podcast episodes of “A Balancing Act” are available here

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org

Stage and Screen: September 2018

Through Sunday, September 23

Small Mouth Sounds
Six people sit in silence, escaping city noises and distractions in favor of necessary self-reflection. Cell phones? Not allowed. But then again, the retreat is led by a guru who can’t quite stick to the rules. Small Mouth Sounds serves as an adult edition of The Breakfast Club with a minimal set and sound. As you put your phone on silent and immerse yourself in the story, you might be surprised by your own self-reflection. Tickets are $51-$60. Round House Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; www.roundhousetheatre.org

Monday, September 3 – Sunday, September 30

Gloria
As a journalist, writing about the lives of others becomes second nature. But when tragedy strikes a New York-based magazine, who gets to tell the story? After stories from iconic newsrooms have hit the big screen (Spotlight, The Post), Gloria acts out a contemporary journalism story – especially in light of the recent horror faced by staffers at the Capital Gazette. Tickets are $20-$41. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

Tuesday, September 4 – Sunday, September 23

Macbeth
Step away from the toil and trouble of daily life and get into the spooky season with this adaptation of Macbeth. Witches promise him a future of riches and royalty, but Macbeth is too hungry to wait. A hero turns into a murderer, and the psychological aftermath spirals him and others involved into madness. Under director Robert Richmond, the timeless tale takes on a more modern life with some newly added scenes. Folger’s production features music performed by the Folger Consort, and is adapted and amended by Sir William Davenant. Adapted or not, one lesson remains the same: don’t trust a witch. Tickets are $42-$79. Folger Theatre: 201 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

Thursday, September 6 – Sunday, September 16

DC Shorts Film Festival
Experience 10 days of film with more than 130 movie options at the 2018 DC Shorts Film Festival. These indie films from around the world are also competing for titles like Best Local DMV Film, Best Animation and Best International Narrative. You’ll watch up to nine films in each 90-minute screening session, so attending just one or two sessions will expose you to many new perspectives from talented filmmakers. After watching, mingle with fellow film buffs at the various festival parties with cocktails, food and music included. Tickets prices vary. DC Shorts Film Festival: Various locations around DC; www.festival.dcshorts.com

Friday, September 7

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope Discussion
Politics and Prose hosts a conversation removed from the Twittersphere on politics, culture and the Black Lives Matter movement with activist DeRay Mckesson. He was there at a pivotal moment for modern day civil rights – 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri – and now all of his experiences are bound in his new book On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope. The book “offers a new framework and language for understanding the nature of oppression,” according to its summary. Share in the discussion or come to learn. Each event on Mckesson’s tour will feature a special guest. Tickets are $10 for students, $26-$28 for non-students. Book included in ticket price. GW’s Lisner Auditorium: 730 21st St. NW, DC; www.politics-prose.com

Saturday, September 15

Kevin Hart: The Irresponsible Tour
Work hard, laugh hard. Except Kevin Hart’s the one working to make you laugh. The actor and comedian is stopping in DC for The Irresponsible Tour with all-new material. Twitter users have applauded the show online, saying the show’s worth every dollar. Hart also has a new movie with Tiffany Haddish out this month, Night School, making you wonder if he ran his jokes with her and was influenced by a fellow comedic genius. Despite his stature – the punchline to many jokes – Hart is only getting bigger in the comedy world. Tickets are $34 and up. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.kevinhartnation.com

Tuesday, September 18 – Sunday, November 11

Heisenberg
When 75-year-old Alex gets a surprise smooch from a comparatively younger stranger named Georgie, it’s not exactly what he expected when boarding the train on this average day. Even less expected was her finding him at his butcher shop sometime after the encounter. Georgie is confusing. Alex is confused. And so is the audience – left in suspense as the play’s runtime begins to unravel her true intentions. This unlikely duo with romantic relations is just another experiment conducted by Tony Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens. He’s just letting the audience in on his conclusive results. Tickets are $40-$89. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

Friday, September 21 – Sunday, October 21

Born Yesterday
For DC natives, Born Yesterday may seem like an all-too-familiar story about gaining political power in the hub of the power hungry. But this satire set in the 1940s is more of a comedic retreat from the current stressful affairs, and the winnings don’t go to a who but to a what: the truth. Ford’s Theatre calls this production directed by Aaron Posner “political satire meets romantic comedy,” but all good stories are grounded in reality. Watch this for an entertaining mashup of unlikely allies and girl power to fight corruption. Tickets are $20-$62. Ford’s Theatre: 511 10th St. NW, DC; www.fords.org

Wednesday, September 26

Welcome to Night Vale Live Show
First-time visitors and regular listeners of the Night Vale podcast have a chance to experience a brand-new storyline with a live show tour. The alternate reality podcast production “promises to find unexpected ways to bring the audience into the performance,” according to the Welcome to Night Vale site. Live music by Disparition and special surprise guests will get you totally immersed in the mystery and spooky wonders of the small desert town brought to the Lincoln Theatre stage. In Night Vale, anything can happen. Prepare by tuning in to past episodes online. Tickets are $35. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Slate

Dick Cavett Takes the Cake at The Watergate

Slow Burn begins with a story that you’ve likely never heard, according to show host Leon Neyfakh. A few days after the Watergate break-in in 1972, Martha Mitchell was held as a prisoner for several days by Nixon acolytes for knowing too much.

When she did share her story, she was dismissed as deranged, and it wasn’t until years later that she was vindicated. Thus we now have the “Martha Mitchell Effect” – the process by which a mental health clinician labels a patient’s accurate perception of real events as delusional.

Slow Burn is a podcast about Watergate produced by Slate, and on it, Neyfakh shares this and other such stories. The show gives a sense of what it was like to live through Watergate – not knowing that it would lead to Nixon’s disgraceful resignation.

To that end, Neyfakh talks with those who experienced it firsthand, and incorporates some of these interviews into the show. This has included his interview with comedian and eponymous talk show host Dick Cavett.

“I must say, I miss it terribly,” Cavett said.

He compared the Watergate era to a trip you might get to take to Paris when you’re young that you’ll never get to relive.  

“You can never get back to that wonderful feeling.”

On February 8, Cavett joined Neyfakh at The Watergate Hotel itself for a live taping of the podcast, during which they had an open conversation about that wonderful and often scary feeling.

The two were joined by Susan Glasser of Politico, Elizabeth Drew, who reported on Watergate at the time for the New York Times, and Evan Thomas, the author of the Nixon biography Being Nixon: A Man Divided. Of course, in the case of Neyfakh and Glasser, what it was like to live through Watergate was more of a speculative question.

Each had their salient points and insights to share; however, Cavett’s stories and one liners tended to steal the show. Cavett, on his show, was one of the first people to begin talking about Watergate, and Nixon came to despise him for it.

Nixon’s malice toward Cavett even comes out on the White House tapesand Cavett said that now whenever he’s feeling down, he goes and listens to that snippet of Nixon asking, “How can we screw him?

Cavett also shared contemporaneous jokes.

“Nixon was the kind of guy that if you fell overboard and were 20 feet from shore, he would throw you a 15 foot line. And [Henry] Kissinger [Nixon’s Secretary of State] would announce that Nixon had met you more than halfway.”

On the show, Neyfakh, excluding one or two asides, steered the conversation away from parallels to life under Trump; however, at the Watergate, the panel openly discussed the extent to which Nixon and Trump could be compared.

Slate certainly knew their audience, for the turn in discussion was well met by the crowd. Neyfakh also described a sense of relief in being able to talk about it openly. I think on both sides, it felt like getting to the heart of the matter.

But some of the comparisons drawn were more superficial (e.g., the contrast between Nixon’s reading habits and those of Trump). Nixon read whole libraries whereas Trump, as Cavett puts it in a tweet:

“A: Imagine Donald Trump’s library.”

“B: You’d have to.”

Cavett also didn’t miss a beat when Glasser began to discuss the contrast between the linear progression that was Watergate and the upside down world of life under Trump.

“Trump came in like an asteroid,” Glasser said.

“I’m sorry, what kind of an ass?” Cavett asked.

“I’ll play your straight man,” Glasser responded.

Perhaps some of the strongest points had to do with the extent to which Nixon and Trump are both insular, and those who have their ear might stand even further outside the norm. 

The emphasis on what it was like to live through Watergate felt germane as well. I was able to speak with Neyfakh over the phone several days before the event, and he said much the same.

“The extreme tension and frankly despair for the country paired with a sense of curiosity, of amusement, the fact that those two things could coexist and be felt in equal measure – I think that’s something that people today can identify with.”

In our conversation, Neyfakh also described the impetus for making the show.

“We were all overwhelmed with the news and with the feeling that we were living in objectively precarious times – when you feel like you can wake up and not know what’s going to happen or what the alert on your phone is going to say. And so Watergate is the last time the country went through this on this scale. So we thought that going back and capturing that experience would give us some perspective on our own experience, and I think that’s panned out.”

When I asked him what the most surprising thing he encountered in his research was, he had two answers. The first of these I’ll leave for the end, but the second had to do with another point emphasized at the live show: Watergate never necessarily had to become Watergate.

“I think the bigger thing I had no appreciation for was how long it took. I knew the dates, but I didn’t have an appreciation for how many steps there were along the way, and how many forks in the road there were in which the country went one way and it could have gone another. And to realize that this story did not have a foregone conclusion, that it was never inevitable that Nixon would have to resign under pressure with the threat of certain impeachment looming over him if he didn’t.”

The other surprise Neyfakh left me to chew on was Nixon’s breakfast of choice: cottage cheese and ketchup. Yuck. Add some aspic next time, Dick.

You can listen to Slow Burn on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. And keep an eye open for season two; Neyfakh revealed at the live event that it will follow the impeachment of Bill Clinton.