Starting Your Own Talk Show

Seven simple tips and tricks to help you produce your own show

Jimmy Fallon and Adele sing 'Hello' on classroom instruments.
Jimmy Fallon and Adele sing 'Hello' on classroom instruments. NBC Universal

So you have tried to get free tickets to your favorite talk show. And you have done your best to be a talk show guest. Now you're ready for something more. Now you're ready to start your own talk show.

Okay, first things first. Get your head out of the clouds. While it is possible in this day of inexpensive, high-value digital production equipment and access to online video distribution to start your own talk show, the likelihood that you'll get picked up nationally and become the next Rachael Ray is very, very, very slim.

But the chance to become a community celebrity or Internet star? Well, that's not so absurd. Just ask Joshua Topolsky. Topolsky is the unassuming, whip-smart host of On The Verge, the online interview program hosted by The Verge, a technology news outlet. Topolsky is the editor-in-chief of the network.

And Topolsky isn't that much different than you. So what are you waiting for?

We'll tell you how to get started. But it's up to you to make the sparks fly.

First: Know Your Talk Show Angle

Before you start, it is vitally important to know what you're going to talk about. Even if it's simply hot topics of the day, at least that's something. But getting more specific will help you understand everything ahead of you - who your audience will be, what format your show should take, and who you'll invite to be guests. A talk show about comic books? Fantastic. A talk show about zombies? There are plenty already out there, including the nationally syndicated Talking Dead. The point is to pick your angle and stick to it.

Second: Know Your Audience

Now that you know your angle - (let's stick with comic books for this exercise) - you can start figuring out who your audience is. Knowing your audience will help you figure out how long segments will be, how to talk to your audience, who your guests should be and what your topics are. A comic book audience will be male, in their teens, 20s and early 30s, and will want detailed specifics about the books they love and the creators they love to hate. So your job is to know the specifics, get those guests and charm that audience.

Third: Pick Your Medium

Your first inclination may be to host your talk show on television. After all, that's where the big boys and girls play. You might want to show that you can work that medium. But if you're doing your own show and you want to be on TV, you'll likely have to broadcast on cable access. And cable access is going to give you a limited audience. It might be a big audience - thousands of local cable subscribers - but it's still limited. Especially when you consider the power of the Internet.

Today aspiring talk show hosts and producers can shoot a shoestring talk show on a $100 high-definition video camera and broadcast the show on YouTube or their own unique web page. There, the audience potential is enormous - millions of viewers across the globe. And if you don't want to build a set, consider launching a podcast. You can showcase your talk show chops just as easily in audio as you can on video.

Fourth: Invite Some Guests to the Party

Once you know your angle, your audience and your medium (and have gathered all the friends/crew and production equipment you'll need to produce your show), it's time to find some guests. This is, of course, easier said than done. The hard part is knowing whom to invite on your show.

If it's a show about comic books, you'll want to research the most popular titles, creators, comic book companies and ancillary personalities - comic critics, comic shop owners, comic book filmmakers, and outspoken fans. The easier part will likely be getting them on your show. After all, who doesn't want to talk about themselves or their work or their company or the comics they love?

Fifth: Promote Your Program

After you shoot your first show, consider sharing it with the media to help promote your program. Research the outlets that regularly report on your topics. For comics, that could be any of a number of websites and blogs, weekly news columns, or magazines like Wizard or the Comic Buyers Guide. Getting the word out will help you gather an audience even before you begin. And consider keeping this promotion up after your show launches, as well.

Sixth: Launch Your Show

If you're serious about this talk show of yours, you need to plan for regular broadcasts. That might be weekly on local public access or bi-weekly, monthly or some other regular schedule on the web. Your audience will want to know they can count on new content on a regular basis. If you slack off, you'll lose your viewers. That means you'll have to look at your show as a regular job - one you love, but one you have to execute against if you want to achieve success.

Seventh: Bask in the Glory

If you're able to do all of that - and you build yourself a following and some fans - then pat yourself on the back. You've done what millions of other people only dream of doing.