Down in Charlotte, there is a married couple whose mission is to amuse and inform online listeners five times a week. Roderick and Karen Morrow, both 37, host The Black Guy Who Tips, a daily podcast they record out of their home, deep in the Tar Heel State.
For six years, the duo has riffed on the news–everything from the headlines of the day, to the crazy stories that get Black folks talking. On any given episode, the Morrows will have segments like “Gay News,” a roundup of LGBTQ-related news items, usually punctuated by Sylvester's opening yell from "Do Ya Wanna Funk;" “Guess the Race,” where they ask their chatroom audience to guess the race of the lead figure in an usually embarrassing news story; and “Sword Ratchetry,” where they close out the show with the latest news item involving a sword (You’d be surprised how many people mess themselves up with swords on the regular).
Over the past couple of years, the show has received shout-outs in the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times. And considering Rod and Karen do make quite the amusing pair (Karen’s twangy accent and infectious laugh alone make this podcast worth listening to), it’s easy to see why.
Recently, EBONY.com caught up with the Morrows to chat about the show and what made them decide to jump into the podcasting game.
EBONY.COM: So, let’s start with the obvious question. Where did the title of the show come from?
ROD: I used to have a blog called The Black Guy Who Tips back when they had MySpace blogs. I just thought it was a funny name, you know? Once we started the show, Karen wasn’t sure that she wanted to be the co-host because she kept thinking I was gonna end up replacing her, which sounds ludicrous now–1100 episodes later.
EBONY.COM: Many podcasts are done once a week, or even every two weeks. What made you decide to do this one so often?
ROD: I think Karen has to take the credit for that. When I lost my job, Karen was the one who said we needed to turn this into a full-time gig. And part of that is making it a five-day-a-week thing. It’s funny because people look at a podcast and think, well there are these other formulas for doing it, which are all well done–to each their own. But the way I see it is that a podcast is in competition with every other thing you listen or pay attention to. When we think about the Tom Joyner Morning Show, no one ever goes, “Why does Tom Joyner do a show five times a week?”
EBONY.COM: You two have such an engaging, extemporaneous rapport. You play off the other so well. Did that happen as you were doing the show or was that always there?
KAREN: We just happen to record the conversations we’re having. A lot of people think that when people record a podcast they aren’t authentic. But what you get on the microphone is how we are at all times.
ROD: Karen’s my best friend, and I think a lot of shows work because the relationship is what it’s really about. I’ve listened to so many podcasts at this point; you can tell when it’s a good relationship, and you can tell when it’s a bad one. There are some bad relationships that are entertaining to watch, and there are some good ones that are boring. But if you have a good rapport, I think it really drives it. A lot of people never heard a show like ours before, where you have a husband and wife and they’re not fussing and arguing. We just get on there and talk.
EBONY.com: What have you learned about your relationship while working on the show together?
ROD: I think the number one thing we've learned about our relationship is that it's the major selling point for the show. People don't just like that we're funny or topical. It matters to people that we're a happily married couple who still enjoy talking to each other after 20 years in a relationship, which says a lot more about society than it does about us.
Also sometimes on the show we learn things about each other right along with the audience. We can open up about insecurities and issues that we may not have discussed in everyday life for a myriad of reasons. Things like weight, mental health, and political opinions can be easier to discuss within the framework of the podcast than in a discussion off mic.
EBONY.com: What happens when you disagree on air?
ROD: We disagree on air way more than the audience realizes, but we also have really good conflict resolution skills. For the most part we make a joke of our disagreement and move on. I'm the type of person who tries to convince people that my point is right by making them talk out their issues until I can pick it apart. Karen is much more efficient with her conflict resolution. But many times we've taken a few minutes to try to hash out a disagreement on the air and I'd say we're mostly successful in coming to an agreement. Most of the time it's a misunderstanding more than an actual disagreement.
That being said when we disagreed wholeheartedly about something it normally ends with us both just moving to the next topic. Of course it's a comedy show, so we will make a few call back jokes and references to the disagreement later. The main thing is that we don't disrespect each other. We already don't name call or raise our voices or curse at each other off the mic. Doing that for an audience just feels cheap and wrong. Authenticity is everything in this medium.
EBONY.COM: Ultimately, what do you want people to take with them after listening to your podcast?
ROD: I’d say the motto of the show: nothing’s wrong if it’s funny. We laugh at some gallows humor type of stuff. But, at the end of the day, we feel like you have to laugh at some of the terrible things in life because, if not, you’ll never find your joy. We’re gonna cover racism, but we’re never gonna let it break us.
EBONY.com: What advice would you give folks who are considering jumping into the podcasting game?
ROD: Do it for yourself. Most people who start a podcast don't last very long and don't become very popular. If you're going to do it you need to do it for your own amusement first and foremost. Do a show that you can be proud of. Do a show that represents yourself. This way it never feels like work and you never have to worry about keeping up a facade to please an audience. To summarize, just keep it 100.