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Meet the Podcasters: Chris Jericho, Talk is Jericho

Who is Chris Jericho exactly? Is he a wrestler? Is he a rock star? An author? A podcast host?

From the outside, it is easy to say he is all of those things, but ask him and he will tell you that he is just Chris Jericho. He is a guy that has been successful by following his influences and pursuing his interests.

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I connected with Chris in October to talk about the success he has enjoyed in the podcasting world. There is one thing he wanted me to know right off the bat. He isn’t a wrestler taking the easy road by talking to friends and telling stories.

He doesn’t fault the guys that do that kind of show, but Talk is Jericho is about so much more than what is happening in AEW or the relationships he had behind the scenes in promotions across the world. Chris Jericho wants to forge a unique path and so far, his fans are happy to go with him wherever that path leads.

Demetri Ravanos: Why is it that you think podcasting works so well for telling wrestling stories?

Chris Jericho: I don’t really know if that’s even something that you would limit to such a small net. I mean, my podcast is not just a wrestling podcast. It’s a pop culture podcast. I think a podcast lends itself to telling great stories with whoever you have on your show, whether it’s wrestling or music or if you’re debating, you have paranormal guys or whatever it may be.

The thing I like best about podcasting right out of the gate is, I’ve done thousands of interviews and there’s a type of interview that I refuse to do anymore. That’s the the radio tour. That means you go to a station and you go talk to ten stations in an hour. Every six minutes it’s a new station. It’s a waste of time because you can’t get anything out of somebody in six minutes. You really can’t.

I love the long form version of a podcast where it doesn’t matter who you’re talking to. I can tell right off the bat if someone’s good or bad, but you start realizing after 10 or so minutes that, “Hey, this is a pretty cool interview,” and then that’s when the real stories start coming out. You start un-peeling the onion, so to speak.           

I think that’s why podcasts are so popular is because you get a chance to really talk to somebody. You talk to them for 45 minutes or an hour. That’s a real conversation that goes beyond like, “Hey, how’s it going?” and, “How’s your day?” and, “Tell me what you’re working on.”

Who gives a shit? Like, let’s get into the into the depths of it and get into the into the weeds of it. I love doing podcasts and I love listening to podcasts because you can really get something special from the guests that are talking to you.

DR: Is the love of the format the motivation for as much time and care as you put into it? It would be easy to look at your career and between wrestling and music, be very satisfied. Between the guest list, the variety of topics, the way you do live shows, it is clear that it matters to you that Talk is Jericho maintains a level of quality.

CJ: Well, yeah. I didn’t do this just on a whim. I have a journalism degree. I’ve always loved interviewing people, and I found, once again doing so many interviews, I can tell right away if somebody is a good host or a bad host, and it’s the good hosts that you always have the most fun with. I remember doing the Larry King Show multiple times. He was always one of my favorites. Steve Jones from Jukebox. These guys are just great interviewers, and you go there and you have fun because you’re not talking about the same old stuff. That’s the worst thing you want as a pro is to talk about the same old thing.

“So what’s it like when you’re wrestling the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin on the same night?” It’s like, “Oh my gosh! Again? Like, really?” I understand what it’s like to be asked the same questions all the time. And I also understand what it’s like to not have questions. If I go to the bar and you and I meet each other and said, “Hey dude, what’s going on,” you just talk. You listen, right? You listen to what the other person is saying, and then sometimes really cool avenues open up.

I had Andrew Dice Clay on just two days ago and I had a big opening idea, and the moment he came on, we just went complete to the left and I end up using my opening idea as the closing idea. I still held on because I wanted to talk about it, but you just go with the flow. A conversation podcast to me are not interviews. They’re fly-on-the-wall conversations, and if you could really nail that, you’ll have a good show. I worked on that from the start and it’s been over 10 years of Talk is Jericho, which is crazy.

There’s now over literally a million podcasts, right? Most of them come and go so quickly. Everyone thinks, “I’ll start a podcast.” It’s not that easy and it’s not that easy to get a market share, which is something that I got because I started such a long time ago. So all those things kind of contributed to keep the show going and keep it fresh and exciting.

DR: The show obviously has some touch points. I don’t know if that’s the right word for it, but there are topics or genres that you will come back to over and over, whether it’s wrestling, horror movies, music. There are a lot of things that as a listener, I know you’re going to go down lane X, but it sounds like you think by this point you are capable of having a conversation with anyone about anything if you want it to veer off at all.

CJ: Well, I always adapted kind of the Johnny Carson model of being a host. I was a huge Tonight Show fan when I was a kid because I like Johnny and I trusted him. If one of my favorites, like Robin Williams was on, I was super excited. If it was someone I didn’t know, I’d still watch because I trusted Johnny and his judgment. I knew that he would make it good, and I’ve tried to do that with Talk is Jericho.

Obviously those things are in my wheelhouse that I go back to and talk about because I’m into it. Like I said, my show is a wrestling show; it’s a music show; it’s a horror movie show; it’s a paranormal show. But once in a while I’ll throw in like, “Here’s a chance to talk to the world poker player champion.” I don’t know anything about poker, but let’s give it a try.

DR: There is a good example of that, and forgive me, because I cannot remember the name of who it was you had on, but you timed perfectly a conversation about this serial killer that Apple’s show Blackbird was based on. My wife and I binged that show in about a day and a half. I was super fascinated to learn more, and have always liked you. It was a no-brainer for me.

CJ: That’s the thing. I had watched Blackbird and I have have a bullpen of true crime guys that I’ll go to like, “Do you know anything about Blackbird?” “Yeah.” “Let’s talk about it, because I just watched it.”

That’s another thing to keep things relevant and fresh. You’ve got to know what’s going on and have an open mind. If you don’t, you’re gonna run out of gas. That’s why I never wanted this to be a wrestling show because there’s only so many wrestlers, you know? There’s only so many maybe you could talk to.

I wanted to be able to talk to anybody. Like as an example, I’m not a political guy, but I had a chance a couple of years ago, pre-pandemic, to go interview Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower. To me, it didn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican; as a journalist, that’s just pretty f***ing cool, going there to talk to the president’s son with Secret Service agents standing right next to me.

It doesn’t matter what I am. It’s just good journalism, and I like doing that, too. I have a flat earth guy that came on. I don’t believe in it, but he does and he will go to the death to say that we live on a flat earth. That’s a good guest. People sometimes get mad at the guests that I have on. It’s like, “If you don’t like it, just don’t listen.” I’ve got two shows a week. You just skip to the next week. I am open to talking to literally anybody and everybody that I feel is interesting. I don’t care who it is.

DR: Do you think your audience took to that right away? Do you think you did a really good job of explaining “This is not a wrestling show, this is a Chris Jericho show”?

CJ: My first podcast was on PodcastOne and they wanted me to do a wrestling show and I said no. My boss at the time was Norm Pattiz and I was like, “Norm, I can’t do it. I like too many things. Wrestling, like, I don’t even really know the history. I mean, I know the basic history, but if you want to hit rock and roll, I can go deep with history. I want to talk about all of this stuff.”

I was always a huge Art Bell fan. He hosted a paranormal show for years on radio. I want to be an Art Bell. I want to be a DJ; I want to be a wrestling guy; if a porn star or a comedian or an athlete or a friend from high school that’s doing something stupid that we can talk about, you name it, I’ll do it. I came up with the Classic Album Clash, which is two albums by the same band, you put them head to head and debate them.

I knew that there are so many shows on the air. What can I do to make mine unique? The best way, I felt, for that was diversity. Just make it as diverse as I can, so you never know who’s coming up. Like you never know who’s going to be on the show.

One of my all time favorite horror movies is Sleepaway Camp 2 – very obscure if you don’t know it, but huge if you’re into that genre. I just did a Sleepaway Camp 2 podcast with some of the cast. Some people go, “What the hell is this? I’ve never heard of it before!,” but others will listen to it just because it’s me and will go, “There’s a Sleepaway Camp 2 podcast? I’ve been waiting for this forever!”

DR: If you started about ten years ago with PodcastOne, that had to be about the time the company was signing anyone that had ever stepped foot in a wrestling ring. That might be the ideal place to sign someone like you and let you do something completely different because it had the traditional wrestling show pretty well covered. 

CJ: Yeah, it started with Stone Cold Steve Austin. He had a very successful show and they asked him if he knew anybody. He suggested me and then my show did really good. We went from one show a week to two episodes a week very early on. Then it was, “Okay, let’s get wrestling guys. Let’s hire all the wrestlers to come in and do podcasts.”

For me, that made me go against the grain even more because now there’s even fewer available guests if everybody’s just getting at wrestling guys. I think my second or third show was maybe Eddie Trunk, or somebody like that, talking about Kiss.

My boss was like, “You can’t have a Kiss podcast on your show.” I said, “Why not?” and he’s like, “It’s a wrestling show.” I said, “No, it’s not, and I’m never going to be a wrestling show. If that’s what you want, I’ll go somewhere else.”

I did hard work to establish that because I’ve always been that way. I’ve never just been one guy. I mean, look at my career and all the things that I do. My podcast reflects that. 

DR: You’re well-established and so is the show. Are you doing any sort of conscious promotion on social media or do you trust at this point that people will find it if they want to?

CJ: You can’t do that, man. I promote as much as I can. I’m on Sirius now. I’m on Octane. The show airs on Sirius Fight Nation. I don’t really know who’s promoting and who’s not. I never really get people calling me saying, “Hey, I heard that there’s a Talk is Jericho out on the radio.”

It is word of mouth. There’s longevity and I just promote it as much as I can by myself, and then if the guest promotes it, that helps too, but I can’t make somebody post something. All I can do is the best show I can do. Hopefully people get into it.

You can see the numbers go up and go down, and sometimes I think people forget how good my show is because I’ve been around so long. I’m like the cheap hooker on the street that does the best services, but she’s been around so long, you just take her for granted.

I still love doing the show. I have never, ever missed a show – two episodes a week for 10 years. I’ve never taken a week off. I’ve never done a re-run, ever. I take great pride in that. As a matter of fact, the other day I was down to only having like two shows in the can, and I called my producer, Stacey, who’s been with me since day one. By the way, I would never want to do the show without her. I say, “We need more guests,” and we hammered down and we got four or five in the can.

I’ve also hired a booking agency after 10 years of doing things on my own. They’ve been getting some great guests – Dice Clay, Eric Andre and Jack Osborne, and those type of guys. It’s cool. I exhausted all of my contacts, which have been great. I mean, you get Lars Ulrich and you get Slash and those types of guys, but, like Andrew Dice Clay? I’ll take it. I don’t have Andrew’s number.

DR: Do you ever think strategically at all about guests? Do you ever think at all about if it is better to have someone back on who this audience knows has become a friend of the show versus someone that could bring a new audience?

CJ: You do both. I did Marc Maron and he did my show. They have a policy. They don’t like having people on twice. Go back to Johnny Carson. He had his bullpen of guests you would have on all the time – the guy from the zoo that would be out all the time. I like having my my bullpen of guys that I know are good guests. Or topics!

I have a great crew of guys that do a true crime cast so any time I want to do true crime, I’ll give them a call. “What do we got? What do you got for me?” “Oh, we got this idea.”

There’s guys for paranormal stuff. “What do you got?” “Let’s do the Henry Holmes house.” So I’ll have those guys back on again. You know, a lot of times when I do the Classic Album Clashes, which are fun for me, I’ll have similar guests on because I know, “Okay, he’s an AC/DC fan” or, “He’s a Maiden fan” or whatever. So I’ve never had a problem with that because Johnny had no problem with it either.

If someone’s got a new album out or a new movie out, then of course you want to talk to them about it because it’s a great guest that has something new to promote. That’s what you want.

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

Demetri Ravanos
Demetri Ravanos
Demetri Ravanos is a columnist and features writer for Barrett Media. He is also the creator of The Sports Podcast Festival, and a previous host on the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas in addition to hosting Panthers and College Football podcasts. His radio resume includes stops at WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC.You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos or reach him by email at [email protected].

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