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Few predicted that podcasts would become the perfect medium for true-crime storytelling, to say nothing about how television gave rise to home shopping and Fox News. Now two Los Angeles comics are flipping gaming hub Twitch into the surprisingly perfect platform for a morning show.
Jack Allison and Cait Raft’s JackAM is a streaming morning show that airs on Allison’s Twitch stream. The husband-and-wife team describes the show as “a morning radio talk show, only with video and not hosted by a millionaire baby boomer” and “a Howard Stern for broke millennials.” Though the show has only been in existence for a short time, JackAM already has loyal fans who stream the show, provide running commentary in the chat, and even call in.
Allison is well known on Twitter (@jackallisonLOL) for his takes on comedy and politics. An L.A. comedy veteran (he has written on Jimmy Kimmel Live among other projects), Allison has seen his share of exploitation in a comedy world disrupted by streaming services, branded content, and new media. On Twitter, and co-hosting his podcast Struggle Session, he finds funny ways to draw attention to the inequalities that exist in the entertainment industry and more broadly in American life.
Raft shares Allison’s politics and passion for comedy (she has written for several animated series and performs around Los Angeles). She doesn’t share Allison’s intensity on the mic but offers a nice counterpoint to his passionate rants.
The whole thing began on Twitter.
“The initial inspiration for JackAM was a couple people telling me that they check my Twitter feed first thing in the morning every day, and me feeling like ‘Hm, I should probably do this on a website that allows me to get paid for this.’ I’ve got opinions every day, and I like sharing them, and people seem to like hearing them… the initial inspiration for starting JackAM is 100 percent trying to spend less time on Twitter,” he tells the Daily Dot.
Though you might not expect it, Twitch, a platform best known for video game streaming, works great for JackAM. Allison says that he noticed people interacting with Twitch like it was call-in talk radio and then decided to develop the show. “The game, most of the time, is white noise, something going on in the background for the host to be doing while they interact with comments and questions in the chat,” he said.
Raft agrees that Twitch is a great format, though she makes it very clear that she is not a gamer and does not like video games. “It’s easy to use. None of us can afford Sirius and regular morning news shows are for boomers and people waiting to get their teeth cleaned at the dentist,” she says.
Even though she has to deal with a misogynistic troll here and there, she says, “I do think it’s important to be a woman on Twitch right now… A lot of people have my back when I criticize everyday misogyny on the show and that feels good. It makes me feel safe to speak my mind.”
Allison relishes the role of zealous truth teller on JackAM, taking on the news of the day through the intersection of politics and show business. Some recent targets on the show business side have included the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Funny or Die, and Honest Trailers. In terms of politics, Allison has taken shots at Elon Musk, Gavin McInnes, Meghan McCain, and others.
Broader social and political issues come up on the show as well. For example, Me Too is discussed fairly often as figures like Chris Hardwick and Aziz Ansari attempt to work their way back into show business.
“Seeing a lot of abusers and harassers get to go back to their jobs is really depressing I think we have to talk about this stuff even if It stresses me out sometimes,” Raft says. “I appreciate that Jack uses his privilege and experience to talk about things that younger less established people are more scared to talk about.”
Allison has a special level of ire reserved for the Pod Save America podcast. In hosts John Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Dan Pfeiffer, he sees a combination of his least favorite kinds of phonies: smug political opportunists and corporately minded entertainment industry leeches.
The Pod Save America team recently launched a “get out the vote” effort called “Vote Save America.” One of the great running gags on JackAM has been “Jack the Vote.” Allison’s own joke-voting push illustrates that the Pod Save America guys’ great solution kinda sucks.
“I do think that talking about the importance of voting is about the easiest, most vapid political analysis that you can do. So it annoys me that these Crooked Media guys, who are of course entrenched cutthroat D.C. guys, are doing a big press tour because they’re bravely doing Rock the Vote. That’s at the core of a lot of my issues with Pod Save America… I’m not sure how helpful it is to any kind of cause for these guys to personally profit wildly from doing ads and selling T-shirts, so I guess I think it’s strange that people so uncritically think of them as unimpeachably good guys doing a good thing. I’m just really not impressed with a website advocating for the bare minimum of political engagement while also doing brand-building for the name of their podcast, sorry,” Allison says.
Their discussions are better politics-related entertainment than the mealy mouthed optimism that many mainstream podcasters and late-night hosts have to offer. As the midterms approach, the hosts foresee more intersection between politics and media like the Pod Save America guys engage in, and they will be there to mock it.
But, JackAM isn’t just Network-style “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” proclamations with a humorous twist. The show also offers variety show-worthy bits and sketches.
That’s often where Raft comes in. In the tradition of Ed McMahon and Andy Richter, Raft is there to challenge and deflate Allison. Unlike those career sidekicks, she isn’t afraid to take over the show. Raft has shared songs about crystals, video of herself getting Botox, and an ode to her favorite breakfast meal, “eggy rice.” She’s always looking for ways “to turn our everyday life into morning show segments.”
Various comedians, actors, and writers also call in to do bits, complain about their jobs (or lack thereof), and weigh in on the issues of the day. It’s sprawling into interesting and meta directions that riff on everything from abolishing ICE to rent control in California.
“I have consigned myself to doing a show at 7am every day, Monday through Friday, for the foreseeable future… If you have something you think we should talk about, please let us know. It’s really hard to prep a whole morning show as two people every day, we can absolutely use the tips,” he says.
“I hope we never get divorced because now we’re those married people who work together and that’s pretty dumb of us! My ultimate goal is to be so successful that our children get their own E! reality show,” Raft adds.
While they wait for the call from E!, even Pod Save America stans can watch JackAM every weekday morning on Twitch.
Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.