Have you ever pondered what snacks you would bring along when time traveling? Or whether currency will be needed in the future?
For the past 100 weeks, Tony Parsons of Iowa City and William Wright of Coralville have tackled these topics and more during their podcast — The Magical Talking Hat — an hour-long romp through entertainment, historical, political and social issues.
The topics of each show are determined by the listeners who write in questions, which are then pulled, at random, from a “magical” hat.
“The way I try to sell it is it is just us talking about stuff and our listeners write in and tell us what to talk about,” Parsons says. “Our discussion style, some people find it oddly compelling, and if you do, that is why you should listen to it. If you don’t, you should stop immediately.”
The show got its start when Parsons joined Facebook. As one of the last of his friends to do so, he was bombarded with good will and attention.
“I thought … while I have this mass good will, I should exploit it,” he says.
The first episode — which aired on March 17, 2011 — garnered quite a bit of feedback from their friends. The listeners have since dwindled, and they now estimate a core audience of a “solid dozen,” which doesn’t bother them one bit.
On Jan. 27, two of their fans met with Parsons and Wright at the Iowa City Public Library to record the 100th episode. It goes live Feb. 7. The 99th episode is live today (1/31).
One of those fans, Beth Westlake of Iowa City, was proud to help the duo mark this milestone. “I thought this would be a little venture,” she says. “Maybe it would last for three months and that would be the end of it, but they have been regular, every Thursday there has been a new episode.”
But one of the most emotionally charged moments of the show was when Wright detailed his traumatic experience working at a funnel cake stand at an amusement park.
“We don’t rehearse anything, or review anything” Wright says. “So I didn’t go (into the recording) thinking I was going to talk about this.”
What followed was a 20-minute rant about how long lines, hot vats of grease, profuse sweating, and swollen hands were the perfect cocktail for a terrible summer job.
And while an absence of a script for each show might alienate some listeners, Wright said it is beneficial for him and his writing.
“As someone who is dedicating as much of his time as he can to storytelling, it kind of fits in that way,” he says. “It is all spontaneous, and not edited, so it really exercises your mind and your creativity.”
For Mark McKibben, a Cedar Rapids resident and listener who has been given the title of “No. 1 fan,” the show gives him a chance to feel as if he is in the room with friends.
“I started listening and it was just like hanging out with them again,” he says. “I am amazed they got to 100 episodes, proud, but mostly amazed.”