By: Jessica Nakamoto –
Featuring segments of insightful interviews, cringy but comedic gems, and friendly tableside banter, Crave TV’s first original interview series, Mike on Much, is the pop-culture addiction you never knew you needed. With a format adapted from popular podcast of the same name, Mike on Much, follows good friends and hosts Mike Veerman (writer and producer), Max Kerman (Arkells award winning lead vocalist), and Shane Cunningham (“pop-culture aficionado”), as they laugh their way through a short but sweet eight-episode season.
Yet, in addition to all the fun and games, with nearly three years and over 120 interviews worth of experience already under their belt, Veerman, Kerman, and Cunningham are no strangers to the big leagues. And neither are their guests. Joined on stage by the likes of Alessia Cara, Noel Gallagher, Sting, and Shaggy, it’s clear to both fans and newcomers alike that Crave’s latest production is bound to be a hit.
And, with Mike on Much set to make its TV debut, we caught up with Mike himself to learn everything there is to know about podcasts, the TV series, and more!
How did the idea to transition Mike on Much from a podcast to a TV show first come about?
It’s surreal that we’re doing a TV show! I guess it was Justin Stockman, who’s the VP of Specialty and Streaming Services. He has been such a patron of our podcasts from the very beginning, over two years and one hundred episodes ago! He really felt like this could translate. He would say something like, “the chemistry between Max and yourself and Shane coupled with the interviews that you guys have already been doing could really lend itself to a visual medium”.
He was into the idea of sticking us on TV and we love doing this! It’s a labor of love for the three of us to just hang out and make this thing. So why not give it a go on TV?
That’s interesting! To kind of take it back to the start, in 2015, was there ever any interview that stuck out to you as a point where you thought, “Wow! This has turned into a real success”?
Good question! There was definitely a couple of first few interviews where no-one really knew who we were!
Max originally had the idea for the podcast. And he’s in the band, Arkells. So, he said, “we’ll just get guests”. I was like, “who’s going to come on the show? Nobody knows who we are!” But he was like, “oh. I’ll just call in favors”.
So, for our first few episodes, like the demo’s we did for Much, they were all just friends of Max. Like Annie Murphy from Schitt’s Creek or Lights.
Josh Groban was the first real guest we had that didn’t know anybody, but he was going to sit down and talk to me for a half hour and we were going to do a long form interview! And I’m not an interviewer by trade or anything like that, so I just kind of jumped into the fire. I would say he was the first one where we kind of went, “oh, this is a real thing now, not just friends of friends”.
And now, over the last 120 episodes, the real standouts have been people like Noel Gallagher. He’s on our new TV show just because I’m such a huge Oasis fan.
It was intimidating at first, but once we settled in, I was really happy with how it all turned out. But I would say Noel’s probably the one where I was like, “oh my God! Are we a legitimate podcast now?” (laughs)
Well, he came back to your TV show, so you did something right!
Yeah! Seriously! (laughs)
I’m definitely a fan of both the podcast and the TV show. As a matter of fact, I was just digging through the archives on my end. It wasn’t that long ago, but I really enjoyed an episode you had with the Scottish synth-pop band CHVRCHES.
Oh! Max is a massive CHVRCHES fan too! That was a big one. I believe he sat in on that interview.
Sometimes he’ll do that. As a producer of the podcast, if he really, really, likes the artist, and he’s in town, he’ll be like, “I think I’m going to sit in on this one”. And I’m game. The more the merrier! [CHVRCHES] They were great. Lauren’s a really thoughtful and interesting person to interview.
One thing that actually stood out to me was something you said to Max about the interview. You’d mentioned not asking why they use the “v” instead of the “u” in their name because they probably get that question quite a lot. And, it really made me think about interviewer street smarts, so to speak.
Is there anything that you think a good interviewer should really know or maybe have in their back pocket?
I think our interview style and the way we approach our interviews from the start, comes from a neat place. Max is in a very successful band, so he does a lot of interviews. I’ve also been in a band and was signed with Universal, so I’ve been through that too.
Seeing it from that side and then coming to this side where we want to be the ones asking the questions, we’re very cognizant of this. What would we want to be asked? What would we think is a typical question? And we always try to make the guest think about things immediately different. Especially if they’re doing a junket.
If you ask them something that’s a little left of center, their brain is going to start working in a different way and you’re in a more engaging conversation. What I’ve found in the interviews I’ve done and that works is, I always listen to the answers, in the sense that I don’t just move onto the next question on a piece of paper. They might say something that can lead down a road that I didn’t anticipate. And sometimes that ends up being the most interesting thing!
It’s not like I’ve got to get to question number seven out of twelve, then move on. Instead, I’ll ask things like, “you said that you decided you couldn’t keep working with the guitar player in the band, let’s explore that a bit. Was it a personal issue?” And then we’ll start talking about something important instead of just moving on to another question like, “why did you choose to record a record in Kentucky?” or something similar to that.
It’s basically just listening and taking the little openings that they might give me. And really, I kind of approach everything like a conversation in a pub! (laughs) If you were a welder, or a doctor, or whatever, and we end up in a pub together, I’m going to ask the same kinds of questions and have the same sort of conversation I’d like to think I’d have with Nelly Furtado or Sting or whomever.
Have you ever brought anyone in from say a pub to an actual interview?
(Laughs). I’ve never done that! But this is the beauty of Shane Cunningham’s segment. He’s obviously one of my best friends and both pods are really built on the three of our friendships. But Shane’s so funny and irreverent and weird! (jokes) That’s something he’d definitely do on the podcast. He would totally meet someone in a pub and then bring them into his segment. That’s kind of the beauty of how the pod is set up. So, he will do sort of weird things like that.
I tend to play more of a host and really sort of set Max and Shane up. And then, obviously, when I have the long form interview, I try to make the guests feel at ease as if they’re at a dinner party at my place or we’re just having pints together.
You mentioned Max and Shane’s role on the show. I just watched the first episode you had with Sting, and Max was talking a little bit about his job as a producer and his research for questions. It got me curious, what is your pre-interview process like?
Say we’re going to talk to someone like Noel Gallagher for example. What we do is we both come up with questions. Max will come up with say, ten questions, and I’ll have on my phone, five to eight, or maybe three super pertinent questions that I want to ask. Then, we’ll send those to each other and go over the process where we basically say, “ok. I like this question”, or “let’s knock this one out”.
Max might be like, “I don’t think you should go there” or vice versa. And that’s why we sort it out between the two of us and then come to a consensus on our list of final questions. Obviously, there’s also the option for me to call an audible at any point in the interview and just ditch questions if I feel the conversation is going in a good way.
We really talk about where the questions we want placed should be. For instance, with Noel Gallagher, I had a question that I wanted to ask about him growing up in sort of a lesser socio-economic situation. Noel didn’t come from much money, but he now lives in a very different station in life. He’s a wealthy guy. His kids are going to grow up not very much like him. So, does he ever think about how he’s going to impart the values and the lessons that he learned, on his kids who are growing up in a completely different class system than did?
I had that question, and Max was like, “you need to put that at the start of the interview!” And I was like, “you want me to open with that?!” He said yeah, and I was like, “why?” He said, “Because man, I’ve done a lot of junkets and I’m telling you, if you ask him that off the top, it’s going to put his brain in a different spot. And, I think you’ll get an interesting answer regardless. It will set the tone that the interview isn’t going to be the typical, so, the lead single was this. Why did you choose that?” I thought that was a great note, so we did it. And then it unfolds how it unfolds.
But simply, the process is Max and I sorting out what we want to ask, what order we want to ask it in, general places we want to go, and what we want to talk about, whether it be their process, or milestones in their career.
I really like the way you guys have a back-and-forth-type brainstorming session. It reminds me though, now that you’ve transitioned from a podcast to a TV show, which is in an actual studio, are there ever any challenges with scheduling? I know Max travels with his band and such.
Oh definitely! For the podcast, when he’s been on the road, we’ve done call-ins. But shooting the TV show was pretty hectic for a few reasons. Arkells had just released their album, Rally Cry, and we were doing a live show for the podcast. We had just started filming this TV show in this small two-week window before Max went on tour, but after the album was released. So, he was doing all this insane Arkell press. My wife was nine months pregnant and two weeks away from her due date. And Shane was obviously trying to shoot all this stuff.
So, filming these eight episodes had to be done in a certain window because it’s was the only time all three of us pretty much had. But I think it also created its own sort of energy and excitement because we had to do it now or it would never get done. Basically, when you’re forced to do something, there’s a thrilling sort of vibe to that.
Was there a learning curve or a kind of a process for transitioning to TV?
Absolutely! Here’s the thing, when we record the podcast, it’s just three guys sitting around and talking into microphones. But when we’re on a set with a full crew and the lights go up, it’s like, do we play to the camera? How do you act in a way that isn’t super artificial and seem natural while you’re in the most weird, artificial setting possible?
In the first episode, we found that we were telling canned stories and it didn’t really feel like the flow of the pod. So, we talked after that and thought, how do we get back to what we do best and what we’ve done for a hundred episodes, which is the chemistry between the three of us, just talking? And honestly, the answer was just us going, “you know, we just can’t plan as much. We have to have an idea of where we want to go. We can’t over think. We just have to let it flow like what we do on the podcast”. And, from that point on, I feel like we really sort of found our footing.
But it’s still weird! (laughs) It’s like, when Max is making a joke, is he looking at the camera or is he looking at me and Shane? These are considerations that you don’t ever think about when you’re doing an audio podcast.
One part that of the show that I enjoy the most is that that you do have these “behind the curtain” kind of segments. Especially the one with Sting and Shaggy with all the photographers running all over the place while you asked your last couple of questions about Sting being a teacher!
Yeah! I wish we were clever enough to have had a mission statement when we started, but what we always wanted to do, was peel back the onion, pull back the curtain and really sort of show people, for example, the construct of TV.
When we’re doing the podcast and we’d talk about setting up an interview, I’d say, “oh, yeah. I went to talk to Kings of Leon but I had to go to the Shangri-La Hotel here in Toronto”. I’ll talk about what it was like meetingthe handler and then, being in the hotel room where we’re going to do the interview, as well as prepping the questions last minute.
I think there’s something kind of interesting in seeing the process. And, that includes how we make the podcast and how these things go down, as opposed to just presenting the conversation. It’s “how did we get to the conversation?”
Was there any specific planning to edit these longer types of segments down from say an hour and a half long podcast to a TV episode that’s maybe thirty minutes?
Mostly, we talked a lot about visuals, meaning there’s so much stuff that you can do in a pod. You can have an hour, because your listener is just going to be working out or running an errand. That’s not as much of an ask as it is for them to sit down and watch a show. So, we were really thoughtful about asking, “how can we make this a fun visual experience?” And that was flashing photos. If we’re talking about Shane with blond hair and not wearing a shirt in High School, we want to show a photo of that! (laughs)
Specifically, one of the ways we’ve translated the podcast to the TV show is Shane’s Digital Desserts, which are the comedic segments where Shane sits down with a celebrity and they go through Shane’s sort of very odd questions. That’s visual. You couldn’t listen to that. You need to see it. So, that’s something that we think is super unique to a TV show.
Do you think that brings out a different side to your guests as well?
I do! That’s a great question! When they’re not on camera, I find, a lot of times, that if we’re talking to a guest and if they come to us after doing a few interviews on camera, they’ll ask, “this isn’t shooting”? And we’ll say, “nope”.
We’ll be sitting in an office somewhere, and I find that within about five minutes, they actually kind of chill.
Like Bebe Rexha literally just laid down on the couch in an office and it became like a therapy session. I don’t think she would have done if she was on camera! (laughs) You let your guard down a bit if it’s just audio.
So then, the goal is, how do you translate that comfortable feeling to when they know they’re being filmed? Because then, you’re in the same situation as anybody else that’s filming their interviews.
My thing, because I’m getting them for anywhere between twenty-five minutes to a half an hour, I have a lot of time to connect with the person I’m interviewing. Whereas, if I know they’re doing little five-minute hits here and there, you can’t really get into the minutia of their work and how they do their creative stuff.
I just sort of trust that after doing a hundred of these, I hope I can get Sting or Shaggy or Noel Gallagher or Jared Keeso or Alessia Cara comfortable enough, and after ten minutes, they think, ok this guy’s thoughtful. He thought about his questions. We actually have a conversation. So then, hopefully, they get comfortable and open up in a way that give us some insight you maybe don’t get in other places.
I think an interesting thing you and Max brought up on the first episode with Sting and Shaggy, was that you had originally prepped for an interview with just Sting. Shaggy was added after. Do you have a preference on one-on-one versus group interviews?
Always one-on-one. Definitely! Whenever you have two or more people, you really have to serve a lot of purposes. For example, you brought up CHVRCHES. That conversation’s interesting because they’re obviously a three-person group. If I had Lauren one-on-one, I could have had a deep conversation because I would have had twenty minutes just with her. With all three of them, I really am spreading it across three people in the conversation.
Sometimes bands like that because it is less heavy lifting for other people. But, for our purposes of wanting to know how people do their work and what motivates them, it’s a lot easier one-on-one compared to having to pass the ball back and forth and make sure everybody feels comfortable. I don’t want to ignore somebody either. If I were having them for dinner over at my house, I wouldn’t just talk to one person and ignore the other person. But this means you have to split the questions up pretty equally. It’s ok, but I prefer one-on-one.
I agree. Group interviews are harder on the interviewer, easier for the band or actors but we make it work! (laughs)
Yeah! (laughs) Honestly, I think that’s why Sting enjoyed doing press with Shaggy so much. Because Shaggy made a lot of jokes, did a lot of heavy lifting. That was the goal.
They were doing a lot of joking around and I was like, how do I get them to a place where they’re going to answer me honestly and without me being given anecdotes that they’ve told to the Kelly Ripa show or all these other things that I’ve seen.
I’m thinking, can I get some insights here? Yes, why not? For one, I’ve got a little more time than those shows, which is good. And two, maybe I can settle them down and they’ll actually enjoy having a conversation about their legacies and what The Police meant and the reggae community or how Sting felt about teaching. I was really happy I got to ask that as we were doing the photos. I find that really interesting while still leaving space for the funny stuff. Because, I thought they were really funny! Especially the part where Sting said that they were studying Shaggy’s lyrics at Oxford!
(Laughs) That was great!
It was! We had fun, but we also talked about some more in-depth topics. I thought it worked. Those guys had a great energy.
Given all of these fun moments and with over 120 interview under your belt, what do you think it is about interviewing that motivates you to keep going?
I like people! (laughs) And I like learning about people. There’s always those who, if you get a new boyfriend or girlfriend, that are worried, I’ve got to meet their parents or I’ve got to meet their friends. I’ve never had anxiety about that because I look forward to it.
I’ve always looked forward to those interactions, and I try to think of the pod interviews in that sort of light. I approach it like, “you’re someone who does a really cool job. You do things that creatively speak to a lot of people and you have a lot of fans. Is there anything that I can find out that somebody listening would really want to know?” That’s why I like doing it.
You mentioned a little bit earlier about not necessarily being an interviewer by trade, but having people skills is still a key factor.
Yeah, my day job is a writer, producer, director for commercials here at Bell Media. And like I’ve said, I’ve been in a band. I’ve always been interested in creative stuff. I used to write stupid little skits in high school and shoot them in a Saturday Night Live sort of way.
I always wanted to work in entertainment, and I was lucky enough to do it. And then, when Max presented the idea of doing a podcast, and having me as the main interviewer, I was like, “I’ll try anything man! (laughs) Let’s go for it!”
People started responding to it and we just kept it rolling from there. And now, like you said, after doing over a hundred of them, it seems to be something I can say that I do.
When you first got started interviewing, was there anyone in the interview world that you looked up to or thought, “this is a style that I think I could do really well”?
Yeah! I listened to a lot of WTF with Marc Maron. I really loved how Marc Maron would have a comedian on. He’d get someone like Conan O’Brien on and they would break down the early days of getting the Conan O’Brien show off the ground. They would look at the issues with the studio. You’d get behind the scene stories and an in depth look at craft, joke construction and all that stuff. I thought, “man! Maron’s really doing good work at speaking with creative people. People that I respect. And he’s pulling interesting stuff out of them”. So, I was like, if I can do a mix of Maron, which is in depth, and then also try to be fun and make some jokes here and there, that was the sweet spot I want to get to.
I have one more question for you Mike! And that is, can we expect a second season of Mike on Much TV coming soon?
I know that Max, Shane, and I would love to do a second season! I don’t know, the bigwigs at Crave get to make that call. We loved making these eight. We’re super proud of them and hope people like them and then maybe we get to make a hundred of them!
So, to wrap things up, I’ve got a couple of rapid fire, fill in the blank questions. Do you want to give it a shot?
Let’s do it!
If I could interview anyone, it would be?
My favorite holiday activity is…
Oh man…pub crawl! Me, Max, and Shane and all of our friends from Hamilton do a Christmas pub crawl every year. We’re doing it this Saturday. We go up and down a street in Hamilton called James North. So, the Christmas pub crawl is my favorite holiday activity.
On my days off, I love to…
Watch NBA basketball. I’m a diehard Raptors fan. It’s uncomfortable how much my mood is affected by whether the team is winning or losing!
My favorite Arkells song is…
Nice! I’m a Rally Cry fan myself!
Oh good! The new record’s amazing! That’s one of the perks of being pals with Max and doing this. We got to hear the record before it came out. We were like, oh man, this is such a good record! They’re so talented and hardworking. But yeah, “Book Club”. That’s my favorite!
Last one. For all the fans out there, you’ll recognize this as the classic ending to all the pods as well as the new TV show. See you next week if…
(laughs) We don’t die on the weekend!