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Fishbowl Five with Ben Wikler

Ben Wikler

Photo courtesy of itsalljournalism.com.

Progressive activist and newly-minted DC resident Ben Wikler (wikler.org/benwiklerbio) is launching a podcast tomorrow that will, in his words, ”give a behind-the-sling-shot view of David vs. Goliath battles for progressive change.”

The Good Fight, with Ben Wikler mixes comedy, activism, and interviews with progressive newsmakers -all with a dash of the satirical wit that you might expect from an Onion alum. The show is the successor to the The Flaming Sword of Justice, a show founded in 2012 by Ben Wikler and the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz. The new show’s website is thegoodfight.fm and you can also find it in the iTunes store by searching for “The Good Fight.”

Fishbowl DC talked with Ben earlier today over the phone and got him to answer a few questions for the Fishbowl Five.

How’d you come up with the idea for The Good Fight?

I worked for 6 years in activism and politics -MoveOn.org in ’08 elections, Avaaz.org, and Change.org till last year -and I met all these  activists around the world and in the US who are leading giant fights on things like marriage equality, immigration reform, but their stories weren’t really being told. At the same time, I had the itch to do something creative. So as a side project I started a radio show called The Flaming Sword of Justice with a friend of mine, Aaron Swartz.

He and I moved to new York in 2011 and had this idea for a show that would combine storytelling, activism, and comedy -showing people the thrill of battle, I guess, that activists get to experience when they work on something that’s going to change the world. We worked on that show together till 2012, when he passed away at the beginning of the year. I left Change.org around the same time. Then I realized this would work much better as a podcast, where we can meet our guest wherever and whenever, build in comedy segments, and distribute it on the Internet. So The Flaming Sword of Justice is being reborn as The Good Fight, with a new format. Its going from a five-days-a-week radio show to a once-a-week pre-recorded podcast

What other podcasts do you like?

I like This American Life, I love 99% Invisible, storytelling podcasts, WTF with Marc Maron… I have been jumping around to a lot stuff recently, a lot of Slate stuff, comedy podcasts. Oh also, have you listened to the Savage Lovecast? (Nope.) It started as a radio show [Dan Savage] had for a really long time. Its a combination of sex advice, sometimes politics, activism. And it makes you laugh pretty often. That’s definitely an inspiration for our show. But with more politics, less sex.

So how much sex will there be in your podcast?

You’ll have to listen to find out.

You’re supposed to be a comedy/activist podcast, but how do you make activism funny? We liked Margaret Cho’s comedy, for example, until she got too activisty and preachy. How do keep the preachy from stepping on the funny?

One of the things you can do is alternate. Somethings are just straight comedy and somethings are straight politics. Sometimes they blend together quite beautifully. But some things are just not built for a joke and trying to squeeze one out of it will get you a bad joke. If its not working don’t force it.

Here’s the thing, a lot of the show is story telling, it’s interviews with people about the fights they’ve been involved with. And those stories, sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re just emotionally powerful, sometimes they’re just fascinating. But they aren’t  necessarily comedic in themselves.

But then, on first show, we also have a fake ad for NSA Backup, which is  a free universal backup service that  stores your personal data online. (lolz.) But that ad isn’t requiring activists to be funny. It just stands on its own. That’s the mix were going for.

You used to work for The Onion, how do you feel about the discontinuation of the print edition?

I think its a death blow to the written word. It’s a cruel tragedy. But I guess now people will just have to listen to podcasts.

For more about Ben Wikler’s work, check out these interviews from itsalljournalism.com, here and here.

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