Luis J. Gomez talks to us about podcasting, the comedians table at the Comedy Cellar, and how the GaS Digital Network model will change the future of Digital platforms
Comedian Luis J. Gomez has earned the reputation as a solid podcaster over the past few years. With the continued success of Legion of Skanks, Believe you me (with Michael Bisping) and The Real Ass podcast… Luis has parlayed his expertise to create the GaS Digital Network with Ralph Sutton. The result is a new podcast network model as unique as Luis.
Last month Luis spoke to Mick Taylor after a show with comedians Dave Smith, Zac Amico, and Ian Fidance at the new “Philly Comedy Club”.
The Interrobang: Over the past few years you’ve made yourself a real force on the podcasting scene. What was the progression from being a regular on Bobby Kelly’s YKWD to running your own podcast network, GaS Digital?
Luis J. Gomez: I think a lot of people consider me a podcaster, that’s where I made my reputation…it’s something that I excel at. It started off with Bobby Kelly and YKWD. I had been around for a little while and produced shows. I started a podcast called Hammerfisting, which was an MMA podcast. I asked him to come on the show a couple of times and he reciprocated and asked me to do his podcast even before it was YKWD… it was just a bunch of guys hanging around his kitchen table taking jabs at one another. Shortly after that, he started the Riotcast network.
I think Bobby recognized doing my show was something that I was pretty passionate about, and he invited me to be a part of the network. One of the reasons why he started putting me on his show was a deliberate move to get me over to the network. It helped introduce people to what I was doing because Hammerfisting was a pretty unique MMA show; it was a funny MMA show… it was ballsy.
The Interrobang: As a regular on an established Podcast, the dynamic gave you an opportunity to look at the landscape and present yourself more as an entertainer than strictly a stand-up comedian.
Luis J. Gomez: Yeah, it was really dynamic driven. Me, Dan Soder and Joe list ended up being booked on Bobby’s podcast a lot and we had a really strong dynamic. Along with the producer Kelly Fastuca, we would all trash each other. It was very reminiscent as to why I got into stand-up comedy.
When I started stand-up I was watching people like Bobby Kelly, Jim Norton, Patrice (O’Neal), and Nick DiPaolo at The Comedy Cellar. I would watch them and be like… wow that’s fucking awesome. You wanted to be at that table with them breaking balls, forget the bullshit negative stigma about it going around recently, it’s untrue. Everyone wants to go to the Comedy Cellar and sit at that table. Its super intimidating to be at that table; and it’s not just intimidating for women or gays or brown people… it’s intimidating for all comedians. It’s intimidating for good comedians, because all good comedians have self-doubt. Every good comedian questions whether or not they should be there, and that goes for anyone that has had the opportunity to take one of those seats.
The Interrobang: Do you think working with the comedians on YKWD and the LOS podcast, along with learning from the people that hung at the cellar table, helped influence your approach as a kind of aggressive comedic podcaster?
Luis J. Gomez: Yeah, it feels like that. That’s why I had such an affinity toward YKWD originally. The landscape was changing, even then. There weren’t many younger Comics that understood that intimidation and trashing was a good way to learn. In entertainment mediums you’re not typically hearing people trashing each other to their face. We aren’t afraid to do something like that… I think a lot of young comics would be like, “Luis can’t say that”! … because they weren’t hearing many other people doing it. On YKWD I would treat Kelly Fastuca the same way I was treating the guys. Just like the way I would trash Joe list for having a tiny mouth or Dan Soder for having a giant head, it didn’t matter that Kelly was a woman… we were all comedians. I think a lot of younger comedians would have handled a woman being part of the show with kid gloves… and I didn’t really do that. I think I got a lot of fans based off of that attitude… And from there I started Legion of Skanks with Big Jay Oakerson and Dave Smith.
The Interrobang: Do you think the start of Legion of Skanks (LOS) was a direct result of the bonding you had with the comedians from YKWD?
Luis J Gomez: Yeah, I think the original rawness & edginess of that show influenced where I wanted to go with Big Jay and Dave. We used to sit around at night and talk the same way we talk on our podcast. Just being filthy and funny and there was always a little bit of a racial undertone to the jokes, or a sexist undertone or a chauvinist undertone for comedy purposes. It was a different time a couple of years ago, so it wasn’t even weird doing that. Growing up and doing that, it wasn’t wrong to make sexist and racist jokes and not have everyone get offended. But then we started doing it on a podcast, and society around us kind of changed.
We started the podcast over 6 years ago and then the landscape started to shift. Now its taboo and people are like – “These guys are saying some pretty crazy shit”. But for us… we were always just trying to be funny… it was never based off of hate or anything like that.
But just like everything else, I see the holes in anything, and I try to fill those holes.
But just like everything else, I see the holes in anything, and I try to fill those holes.
The Interrobang: There’s an interesting role that you have with LOS… the wildcard Luis character that fans sometimes love to hate. In reality, behind the scenes, you’re the guy that has basically been running the show and making sure it gets out to the public every week.
Luis J. Gomez: You’re right. I think we all play caricatures of ourselves. I don’t mind being the butt of the joke. Self-deprecation has always been a big part of what I consider great comedy. I grew up watching Eddie Murphy who wasn’t talking about being rich… he was talking about growing up eating syrup sandwiches. My personality naturally led to me being the butt of the joke, so I sort of embraced it on the shows. For the sake of the joke, I’ve always tried to be funny first. I don’t really have the ego where I mind being the fall guy.
People weren’t giving me anything, and the second I took it into my own hands, I wasn’t in anybody else’s business anymore… I was in the Luis J. Gomez business.
Behind the scenes, the reality is… I have a pretty good mind about the business. I have a background in sales; I have a background in running businesses… so I adapted those concepts to the content that I create. I need to be my own boss; I don’t like asking people for favors. I can’t be at the mercy of someone else. It’s smarter for me to figure out how to do it myself. So, I figured out how to setup my own ticket distribution, how to set up my own podcast network with Ralph Sutton, and how to set up hosting of my content. It’s a skill set that’s kind of built into me.
The Interrobang: Do you think that attitude extends to running the GaS Digital platform?
Luis J. Gomez: When you watch what’s happening in the world, no matter what side you’re on with net neutrality or any of that bullshit … There’s no doubt about it, one day somebody’s coming for us. One day somebody’s coming to say “you can’t say that”. Whether it’s the FCC, whether it’s Comcast, Verizon or the SJW’s… it doesn’t matter if they are the good guys or the bad guys. The truth of the matter is…it’s all of them… they’re all going to come. So for me… I’m building my storm shelter. I’m creating these projects that are mine. No one is going to take away my podcast or my podcast Network.
The Interrobang: Do you find there’s audiences that haven’t seen the comedians they hear on podcasts perform stand-up live? They may know a lot of comics as entertainers, but aren’t familiar with their individual acts?
Luis J Gomez: Half the podcast fans probably don’t even know our stand-up, and they buy the tickets to shows just because they want to support us. It’s a very strange medium and people get comedy in a lot of different ways now. I wouldn’t do anything else that I do if it wasn’t for stand-up, it’s because I’m trying to get up on that stage at the end of the day.
The Interrobang: When you and Ralph Sutton started GaS Digital, you presented an entirely new model for podcasting. Is there an inspiration in taking the new approach? Do you see other platforms looking at what you guys are doing here?
Luis J. Gomez: Ralph and I were both working with multiple podcast networks. Every network we had experiences with, we realized that they were not many people figuring out the problems that podcasters were having. Like the issue of advertisers… my podcasts didn’t have a huge following, but we did have a few thousand people listening. My argument was why can’t we get advertisers unless we have 50,000 downloads an episode? They were faced with the problem that before you can even begin to speak to advertisers you must have huge numbers. I don’t think that’s true. Our fans love us, so I hate that networks would imply there’s no value in our fan base.
Also, we were hearing no a lot from podcast networks. Whether it was from the logistical side or the technical side, or on how we wanted to monetize it. There were always different things we wanted to do and we just kept hearing the word no. In my opinion, the whole concept should be you just say yes… and work with a podcaster to create what they want to create. That way a specific podcast can use the network platform as a tool to put out the absolute best product possible. Those are the core concepts and that’s why we started GaS Digital. There was an opportunity to work with great talent and give them creative freedom…we saw that there’s not many people thinking that way.
The Interrobang: In that way you’re allowing the podcasts on your platform to be true to who they are. They don’t need to conform to be on your network.
Luis J Gomez: Exactly. And it was about us being problem solvers. Whether it’s the podcasters we work with or the fan base, it’s our job to make sure that we are allowing the content creators to create the content they want to. That’s the whole thing, and I think a lot of these Podcast networks are just loose associations. I saw that happening and I said, “I think we can do something unique”.
The model for GaS Digital is very unique. Nobody else is doing it well, people may have little bits and pieces, but nobody has put it together the way we have put it together. We couldn’t just do a pay wall– that model is stale and fans aren’t interested. You can’t put your podcasts behind a wall because you’re taking away the concept of why it’s shareable. Being shareable is why it grows. You have the availability to share it with your friends… you can download it easy and that’s an important concept. We also realized that there are fans that want to support us, and in order to give better content we have to make something… that explains the new model of adding other elements that add to the experience. Elements that people would be willing to pay for, and just watch… everyone is going to start using this model.
We created our own platform at GaS Digital network. Besides all current episodes being free, people can sign up for the unlimited archives. There’s over 2,000 hours of content from the 17 shows on the network. Every episode Legion of Skanks has ever done… every episode of the Real Ass podcast. Just between those two shows there are over 600 episodes. There’s on demand HD videos and the podcast video is out every single week. Since people are now paying for on demand in their homes it was a very forward thinking technology to add. We always have the last 10 episodes on iTunes for free.
The Interrobang: It sounds like the difference between GaS Digital and other podcast platforms– is that you’re giving people the choice to get extra content without cutting them off from the primary entertainment factor of the podcast.
Luis J Gomez: Right! And a lot of people in order to make revenue are using Patreon. Patreon just added a charge without telling anyone. They just planned on lining their pockets… they weren’t going to tell the podcasters or the content creators… they didn’t tell the fucking audience that is paying them. So they had a mass exodus. The writing’s on the wall if you want to control your own content. You don’t want to be at the mercy of someone else… If Patreon decides to sell to Google and Google decides to shut patreon down because they have another platform that makes more sense… then you’re fucked.
We don’t want the people on our platform to be at anyone’s mercy. Our podcasters don’t work for us… we have a relationship with these talented people. They do a lot of the work, and GaS gives them the tools to go out and do it on their own. We don’t make our podcasters get stuck in 3 to 4 year contracts, we let them give us a contract… and if we don’t do what they need us to in order to get their content out there…then they can leave us with no hard feelings. But we always live up to our end and push their content forward.
The Interrobang: Is there difficulty in getting the industry to recognize that the work being done on podcast platforms should translate into bigger opportunities for individual comics?
Luis J. Gomez: Producing & running a digital platform is difficult to have in your bio or credits. Sometimes having the podcast success doesn’t help, because the industry and everyday people don’t seem to know any better. They don’t know that LOS gets a quarter of a million downloads per episode. There are literally five times the amount of people listening to the podcast then there are people watching certain television episodes.
I think the industry still has a perception of podcasts versus radio. They still have a mindset of “This comic has been on The Tonight Show”… it doesn’t mean shit doggie. A show like Conan is great to comics… but the industry needs to realize that versus late night, when someone goes on a popular podcast… the next day the podcast appearance is better for your career in terms of building fans. Not only are you going to walk away from our shows with more fans than a late night appearance… you’re going to walk away with fans who love you to your core. Podcast fans are in tune with everything you do, everything you think. After the live shows you can see the connection people have with us because they know us from our podcasts. They think they know us… they do know us.
Luis J. Gomez hosts the Roastmasters every Tuesday at the Stand in NYC.
Luis can be heard on the “Legion of Skanks” and “Real Ass” podcasts weekly.
Check out gasdigitalnetwork.com for a 14 day free trial to access all podcasts & archives