March 14, 2023

How Do You Feel Now? Better? Or Worse?: Recovering Journalist Rafer Weigel

How Do You Feel Now? Better? Or Worse?: Recovering Journalist Rafer Weigel

If ever there were an ideal moment, topic and guest for Truth Tastes Funny, it's three-time Emmy Award-winning "recovering journalist" Rafer Weigel. Son of iconic Chicago sports reporter Tim Weigel, Rafer came up in the news business, and I chose this interview to close out Season 2, because while we're just two dudes talkin' about  life, news, and storytelling, it's hard not to think about the Dominion lawsuit against FOX, and the general complexion of "news" in a post-truth world. And, of course, the old adage, "If it bleeds, it leads."

Also fascinating is Rafer's experience - as an apolitical reporter - being caught between left and right after breaking the Jussie Smollett case: Smollett was convicted in late 2021 on charges that he staged an anti-gay, racist attack on himself on a frigid January 2019 night and then lied to Chicago police about it. The actor-singer maintained his innocence throughout the case and this month, the former “Empire” star officially filed to appeal his December 2021 conviction.

Chapter Markers:
00:00 - The Art of Storytelling
08:11 - Journalism & The Weigels
11:40 - State of News Today
13:44 - Jussie Smollett
20:00 - Tabloid Journalism & Journalistic Entertainment
23:10 - Comedy, News & Discourse
27:28 - Truth & Risks in Standup
34:01 - A Human - & Humility - Reset
36:00 - Truth Really Does Taste Funny in the End

Now President/Chief Storyteller at WMG Communications, Rafer brings his expertise in crafting engaging stories for his clients using their words to make them look and sound their best on camera. Weigel finds what’s unique about your business or non-profit and then expertly crafts those messages into a comprehensive editorial and content strategy to create consistent engagement for our clients across all their digital platforms.

Find Rafer:

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Rafer Weigel - Final Transcript

[00:00:00] Hersh Rephun: . The funny thing about news today is, well, we cover everything that's funny and not so funny about news today in this conversation. With Rafer Weigel, what if the truth came in a gel cap and we could just pop it in our mouths, forget about it. Well, it doesn't, and we can't. But we can laugh in the face of reality while plotting our survival.

[00:00:28] Hersh Rephun: Welcome to the Truth Tastes funny podcast. I am your host V rep. Who, and if my guests can handle the truth. So can you open wide folks? Here it comes. My guest today is Rafer Weigel. He's a three-time Emmy award-winning journalist. He's worked with such blue chip companies as cnn, Fox News, b ABC News, CS News.

[00:00:54] Hersh Rephun: Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun Times, and now he's with us. Today he is [00:01:00] with us here on The Truth Tastes Funny podcast. He is working with clients in the prophet and nonprofit sector to tell their stories. And Rayer, welcome to the 

[00:01:11] Rafer Weigel: show, hers. Thanks a lot for having me on my friend. I'm grateful to. 

[00:01:15] Hersh Rephun: Yeah, well start by telling us what here is right now.

[00:01:20] Rafer Weigel: No, no. I mean, yeah, no, it's, you're right. I mean, I, I like to say I'm a recovering journalist and uh, you know, I saw every great, I'm not saying I'm great, but every business, you know, needs a y and needs a problem that needs to be solved. Right. And you know, when I was in news, I was getting 20 press releases a day and my TV station, we had two reporters to cover the entire region of Chicago.

[00:01:38] Rafer Weigel: And I'm being glib, and I'm not meant to be glib, but it's basically a shooting on the south side and snow on the north side because local news, if it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead. And god forbid there's a weather event. That's just, that's what they cover. So not only was there no interest in covering a lot of these feelgood stories, especially in the non-profit space, you know, there'd be a lot of great things going on in the non-profit space.

[00:01:58] Rafer Weigel: You know, feel good stories and, [00:02:00] and we would never touch it. And I saw, and I, and I looked at this. My God, PR is a waste of money if you're spending five to 10 grand a month in hopes that the media's going to cover your story. I looked at that and thought, that's just money going into the abyss. So I only knew news in journalism.

[00:02:16] Rafer Weigel: I didn't know anything at all about being an entrepreneur, and so we created. What I like to call like a news for hire a company, but what I quickly found out it was called videography , a lot of video production companies, you know, and they were already doing this, right? It wasn't anything that I, you know, invented by any means.

[00:02:31] Rafer Weigel: But what we had to come up with in terms of our differentiator was that, We really wanted it to be story driven. I'm finding that's a tough sell to a lot of regards. You and I talked about this offline and I want to get your input, honor. Yes. You know, we are award-winning storytellers. Our And how does that translate though, to ROI at, at the end of the day, that's what people care about.

[00:02:50] Rafer Weigel: If I'm gonna spend the money, why do I gonna spend the money with you? And I found that our watch rates are three times higher than the YouTube average. And that was the roi. But for the most part, and I don't know how you [00:03:00] feel about this, people don't tend to buy creative. They wanna buy eyeball. and, okay, so you did a great story and you told it amazing and it's on our website, so what?

[00:03:09] Rafer Weigel: So I've had to really learn how to communicate the value of that. And now I, I, in order to me to, to stay relevant and keep working, I had to bring in partners to bring in those eyeballs, social media managers, YouTube ads, specialists, and so on and so forth, because that's what people are focusing on. But my belief, Hirsch.

[00:03:27] Rafer Weigel: if you're paying for eyeballs, you've got to invest in good content. I mean, if you're, you're paying a social media manager, but you're not investing in putting out something that's going to engage people, don't be surprised when you only get five likes. You, I, I just firmly believe you have to have a content first strategy, but that doesn't seem to be the norm in the marketing world, at least from my experience.

[00:03:51] Rafer Weigel: I don't know if you've had a similar experie. , it may 

[00:03:54] Hersh Rephun: go back to what you started with, which was that people aren't interested. You were [00:04:00] saying in feel good stories or the networks rather aren't interested in leading with feel good stories. What I would think is, that if the news is as stressful as it is and the news is as disturbing as it is, one would think that stories of hope, stories of inspiration, stories about successes and human interest would be desirable.

[00:04:30] Hersh Rephun: And yet, as badly as we need it for our souls, we're not drawn to it. We'd rather watch. We'd rather watch something scary and something a little bit, you know, what's doing, what's been doing well for the last few years apart from the Marvel Universe. Horror horror's been phenomenally successful as a genre.

[00:04:55] Hersh Rephun: Yeah. And you would think that we couldn't deal with anymore horror. We get enough [00:05:00] fucking horror on just turning on the news. So yeah, there's something in our psychology. That's drawing us to controversy and to shock. And when you point to the need for a great content strategy, what I guess we're both trying to figure out is what makes an eyeball magnet strategy for content, right?

[00:05:29] Hersh Rephun: You and I both, we have in common this. I was never a journalist. . I have felt quite often like a journalist for the brands that I work with. I'm researching them. I'm telling their story, I'm interviewing them. I'm not telling them what to say. I'm not feeding them a line of bullshit that they're supposed to come.

[00:05:50] Hersh Rephun: I'm trying to make them shine. And as you do filmically, you're not a videographer. You are a storyteller. [00:06:00] Your medium is video. Or film, or the visual storytelling, but you know, you're not getting up on a ladder and shooting the hookah from the wedding video. You know what I mean? Right. Like that's what people think of when they think of a 

[00:06:16] Rafer Weigel: videographer.

[00:06:17] Rafer Weigel: Right? I always say, anybody can shoot a video. Not anybody can tell a story, and there is a key differentiator there, right? You know, stories are what create that organic, authentic. The other thing that is key though, in the art of good storytelling, and this is something, you know, your wife who's a doc, former documentary filmmaker knows, and this is a thing that all journalists know, and this is a thing that people need to pay for because otherwise you're wasting your money.

[00:06:43] Rafer Weigel: And Donald Miller in the book, building a Story brand. Really encapsulated this perfectly. At the end of the day, the stories that sell are not the stories that position the company as the hero of their own story. I tell my clients, you're not the hero of your own story. Your customers are, you are an integral part of that story.

[00:06:59] Rafer Weigel: You are [00:07:00] the guide in the story. You are the OB one Kenobi, the Yoda that, but the customer is Luke Skywalker and you're the one teaching them how to defeat Darth Vader. And when I would get these press releases, and I get it, you know when you're a PR company and your job is. You know, you're getting paid by this company.

[00:07:15] Rafer Weigel: You want them to, you know, read it and feel good about it. But all the press releases were like, you know, company A is so great, company A is awesome, and company A is this, and boom, boom, boom. And then like in paragraph four, it was like, oh, and they found a cure for cancer. I mean, you know, I'm being obviously over the top, but you know, that's the lead.

[00:07:31] Rafer Weigel: You know, cancer suffer patients suffering relief Insight thanks to breakthrough technology. Don't even tell me the company's name right off the top. Tell me the problem that's being, And then backdoor in the company that's doing it, that is what's gonna grab eyeballs because at the end of the day, the audience has gotta know what is in this for me.

[00:07:51] Rafer Weigel: And so that's just my little 2 cents there on the art of storytelling. Make sure that you're doing something that's going to, you know, engage people and serve, you know, their interests [00:08:00] rather than your company or your clients. 

[00:08:01] Hersh Rephun: You hit the nail on the head with the problem solving aspect. Go back in time a little bit and tell us how you first got interested.

[00:08:11] Hersh Rephun: Journalism to begin with and storytelling. Well, 

[00:08:14] Rafer Weigel: it's an interesting story and it's a cautionary. You know, for your client or your clients, your audience. Uh, so my father was an iconic sportscaster in Chicago almost on a, like a Harry Carey type level. Uh, he was the original Ron Burgundy. He wore a Burgundy jacket.

[00:08:29] Rafer Weigel: He had a mustache. And Bill Curtis was his news anchor when he was the sports anchor in 19 90, 91, when Will Ferrell was actually studying at Second City. So if I'm a hundred percent convinced that my father in some way inspired the movie Anchorman when he passed away in 20, uh 20, or in 2001, I should. He, before he passed away, he said, I expect you to, to carry on the family tradition.

[00:08:51] Rafer Weigel: And the one thing he always wanted to be was a news anchor. He was never able to, to transcend to that level except for one week. This is an interesting story. They put him on the anchor desk for one week [00:09:00] in the early eighties with Oprah Winfrey. True story. After one week, the news director said, guys, this was a horrible experiment.

[00:09:07] Rafer Weigel: Oprah, you look terribly uncomfortable reporting on death, murder, and pain. I'm gonna give you your own show to report on, and I. women's stuff. This was in the eighties. And Timmy, my father was called. He said You actually started giggling when you had to read a breaking news story on the serial murder.

[00:09:23] Rafer Weigel: John Wayne Gacy, when you said his last name, you clown, you're going back to sports. So I did go on this Rex like quest in it's true story, uh, to become a news anchor. And I come from this macho background that to ask for help as a sign of weakness. I grew up on the north. Where we are taught as men, as long as your career is in place, nothing else matters.

[00:09:45] Rafer Weigel: Nothing could be further from the truth. I ended up in Market three as a news anchor. It took me 15 years to get there. My marriage fell apart when my ex-wife moved to Vegas with my son. I became estranged from him, the woman I fell in love with post-divorce. I left behind in St. Louis and I [00:10:00] sunk into a deep, dark depression and I self-destructed and I lost my job.

[00:10:03] Rafer Weigel: And it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I went on a quest to realize that mental health and personal. That's way more important than professional. If you're not in alignment spiritually, whatever you want to call it, psychologically, then the professional stuff is not gonna be sustainable.

[00:10:20] Rafer Weigel: And I was really an ego-driven pursuit. Trying to be an a news anchor was about serving my ego. And that's not a sustainable model either. And so now having that, that, that moment of humility and losing that job and having the rug pulled out from underneath me like that I realigned and now I'm serving others and I'm telling other people's.

[00:10:38] Rafer Weigel: And you know, like this, this is the only sport coat that I own. Hirsch, I got rid of all my stuff. I don't need to be on camera anymore. I like telling other people's stories and making them be the star of, of their show. That's, and, and, and it's just, it's much more filling and much more gratifying for me.

[00:10:54] Rafer Weigel: So I wasn't happy reporting on, on death. Murder and pain and fear and tragedy without getting into [00:11:00] solutions. But we can talk about, this is another thing you mentioned you want to talk about, you know, the news media. It's gotten away from reporting on facts that reports more on opinions. Where we, what I grew up in was the media wasn't about reporting opinions, but it was about looking at solutions.

[00:11:14] Rafer Weigel: And now I don't see them doing that anymore at all. I feel that they're, they're reporting on news that's just meant to oppress or they're inserting their opinion and their agenda cuz their ego is attached to the result. And honestly, don't really watch it anymore. Uh, I'm sad to say I've, I've. Tuned out.

[00:11:30] Rafer Weigel: Obviously the major events, you're never gonna turn, tune out. The Highland Park event has affected us very deeply up here where I live right near there, but for the most part it, it hasn't become a venue that I frequented very often. Are 

[00:11:43] Hersh Rephun: there places that you can go to get unbiased, straight report? 

[00:11:52] Rafer Weigel: Now, I don't know.

[00:11:54] Rafer Weigel: Honestly, I don't know. I mean, I used to think NPR was that way, but I've read a lot of articles from them. Even the [00:12:00] Associated Press, you know, you have to, you really have to read two or three versions now of every story to get to the truth. I, I think, and print, I came from print. I started in newspapers and before going to tv.

[00:12:15] Rafer Weigel: And with TV you only have a minute and 20 seconds. It's really only three paragraphs, maybe, maybe not even that, the equivalent of like one or two paragraphs of a print article. So you really can't get that deep into the story like you can with print. But I've found, I'll read the same story from three different sources and there's a different take on it every single time.

[00:12:36] Rafer Weigel: Now it's, you know, look, we're human, we're going to report through our own prism. It's just whether that Prism is is in any way inserting an agenda. I don't see a lot of checks and balances to the same degree as I used to. 

[00:12:49] Hersh Rephun: What we definitely see are agendas at work, right? Where organizations are putting what they know to be [00:13:00] disinformation out, which is different from misinformation, from a mistake or, or a different point of view.

[00:13:07] Hersh Rephun: A, a left leaning or right leaning, or a centrist view. It's different. It's actually designed to confuse and mislead people. Right? And we're confronting that too. So there are people who say, well now more than ever, we need journalists, a free press. We need journalists who can go after the story and get us the truth.

[00:13:33] Hersh Rephun: Almost like, like bounty hunters, they're like going out to get the truth because it's so hard for us to get ourselves, you know? 

[00:13:44] Rafer Weigel: I'll give you an example. So I was the reporter that broke the story that, uh, Chicago. Did not believe Jesse s Millet's story that he was assaulted by two white supremacists in St.

[00:13:54] Rafer Weigel: Streeterville and 20 degree below zero weather at two o'clock in the morning carrying rope and bleach. Right? Which every [00:14:00] single, every single Chicago resident who heard that story went, yeah, it's a bunch of bullshit. That did not happen, but I, I, I about, after I did my newscast one night, I called my source of Chicago pd and the guy had, he was happy to be working on the case, had just come back from the bar, so he was a little more lubed up.

[00:14:15] Rafer Weigel: I called him up and I'm like, yo, Rocco, that was actually his name. I'm like, what's the deal with this mullet thing? And he goes, oh yeah, it's a bunch of bullshit. I'm like, okay. I said, what? What makes you say that? He goes, are you fucking kidding me? Some black guy getting beat up by a couple of white supremacists in the middle of Chicago.

[00:14:32] Rafer Weigel: If that really happened, they'd be calling me to save the, the white guy's asses for getting their asses kicked. And I said, Can I quote you on the record on this? And he said, nah, no, just say we're skeptical, but we're taking it seriously. So they, we all talk like Chuck Swarski and the super fans here in Chicago.

[00:14:48] Rafer Weigel: Yeah, that was the really 

[00:14:48] Hersh Rephun: good, that was a really good voice that you, that you did. Yeah, but that's so he said, but, so he wouldn't let you quote him, but he was more or less on the record as saying that they're skeptic, we're 

[00:14:59] Rafer Weigel: [00:15:00] skeptical. We, and so that was the word that I used, we're skeptical. And, and when I tweeted that out, and this was the same night.

[00:15:06] Rafer Weigel: Kamala Harris and Velosi and vi and everybody, you know, these hate crimes need to stop here in America and all that. And you know, and I'm apolitical, so let me just make that very clear. But I did watch how both sides, like the left, took this and ran with this as truth. And I tweeted out, police aren't leaving this.

[00:15:23] Rafer Weigel: And then I woke up the next morning to thousands of hate tweets, like from people just attacking me and, and this and that. And I didn't say that Jesse Sp I said, Chicago police tell. They are skeptical that he actually was in fact, beat up. And my own news organization asked me, you know, and Rocco kept feeding me information, so I kept tweeting it out, like, Hey, call me up a week later.

[00:15:45] Rafer Weigel: Hey, you're never gonna believe this. The guy was carrying his subway sandwich back to the hotel or back to his apartment after he was supposedly beat up. I'm like, can I go on the record? Oh yeah, go on the record. He had the sandwich and he had the fucking rope around his neck. I'm like, all right, I'll take [00:16:00] the fucking out

[00:16:01] Rafer Weigel: We did that out again more and. So the point of me telling the story, so my news organization got very nervous about it because the backlash was pretty intense, and all I said was, look, I'm just quoting my sources. I'm not editorializing. This is what they're telling me. When the police finally did charge him with face staging a hate crime, I became this darling of the right wing media.

[00:16:23] Rafer Weigel: I was on Sean Hannity, I was on Glen Beck, I was on W ABC Radio as like this, this courageous truth. And I remember, think Laura Ingram had me and I'm like, yeah, I'll go on. But I'm like, all I did was my job. I just reported what I was told by a very reliable source that was working on the case. How that somehow became apolar raising and B, something to be revered to me was a terrible statement about the state of the media because the first rule you are taught in journalism school is if your mother says she loves you, double.[00:17:00] 

[00:17:00] Rafer Weigel: That. I mean, that's what you don't trust what anybody tells you, and you certainly don't run with anything is truth. That seems to be a dwindling paradigm. That's so that's my, that's my Jesses mullet story. So, well, 

[00:17:13] Hersh Rephun: what I'm interested in after hearing that is what was your adventure like in that world of the Laura Ingrams and the Sean Hannity and

[00:17:25] Hersh Rephun: What was that? What was that? 

[00:17:28] Rafer Weigel: Well, I mean, I'll tell you this, I don't, I don't agree with their politics, but they were very nice to me on the air. Granted, I had, I had, I had reported news that, that, you know, aligned with, with their narrative. Sean Hannity butchered my name. He called me Rafer Yel, and I corrected him on the air and he was very good natured about it.

[00:17:49] Rafer Weigel: But this is what I said to him, Hersh. I said, look, all I did was report what I, what the truth. And by by the truth, I just said what police told me that was the truth. It wasn't that he did it or he didn't do it. It was that, this is what police [00:18:00] said that was the truth. I said, if police had told me that Jesse s Millett was in fact beat up by two white supremacists carrying rope and bleach at two 30 in the morning and 20 degree below zero weather in St.

[00:18:10] Rafer Weigel: Streeterville. Honestly, that's a better story. I would've happily reported that because I would've gone, who are the two white sup? Walking around with rope and bleach at two 30, you know? But that's not what I was told. I just reported what I was told, so I basically was like, you know, I appreciate you having me on here, but I didn't do anything.

[00:18:27] Rafer Weigel: I didn't do anything that's worth noting whatsoever. I think the fact that I was, there was a larger statement on the political climate that we're in, that we want to politicize all these stories. We're doing it with the Highland Park. We're politicizing that story. We're talking, you know, people on the right are saying he was Antifa people on the left.

[00:18:45] Rafer Weigel: Oh, he is a Trump supporter. He may be, he may be not. At the end of the day, his political affiliation is irrelevant. If this man did this, he's a sick fuck. And who cares what political party's in. Yeah. He c you know, he killed people with a fucking assault rifle. What do you mean who care? I [00:19:00] mean, so politicizing the news has become, it's become such a weapon.

[00:19:05] Rafer Weigel: And that concerns me. I just be, because I grew up in a time where we could have political debates with people we didn't agree with, and we didn't get personal and we didn't argue with each other. We'd still have a beer and drink and put our arm around each other and go, you know, you're an idiot, right?

[00:19:17] Rafer Weigel: No, you're an idiot. But we were still friends. I just don't see, I didn't mean to, well, you remember, uh, political on all this. Yeah, 

[00:19:23] Hersh Rephun: no, no, that's fine. Remember when you used to be able to, people used to go on opposing viewpoint shows, for a, an exhilarating, invigorating discourse about the, the stuff that they disagreed on.

[00:19:42] Hersh Rephun: And they were excited to do it, but they knew there would be respect and also that their words wouldn't be taken out of context and put through a mill as grist to try to push their agenda at that [00:20:00] whole machine. and back in the day there were, you know, when Fox emerged as that machine, as a machine like that, they were still kind of a rarity.

[00:20:12] Hersh Rephun: You know, there was a point at which, what's his name? Bill O'Reilly was doing, you know, the, before the O'Reilly factor, when he was doing hard copy or whatever the show Yeah. Entertainment. 

[00:20:25] Rafer Weigel: He was either one of those things. Yeah, right. He was like a 


[00:20:28] Hersh Rephun: he was doing. He was a tabloid guy. Right. But he was a tabloid guy.

[00:20:34] Hersh Rephun: He wasn't considered a journalist. It was entertainment then. And then what's happened now is that what was entertainment then is news now. And what was news then doesn't exist. 

[00:20:46] Rafer Weigel: They used to have Sean Hannity in Combs. It was Hannity and Combs. They eventually just got rid of combs because they didn't want, you know, it.

[00:20:52] Rafer Weigel: It was like, now we just want to hear the one. You know, the one side people want to get their ideas reinforced. I was. That it [00:21:00] was you, you were supposed to challenge your ideas and your notions from diversity of thought. You know, we talk a lot about diversity, equity, inclusion, but there's very little of it on the idea front in terms of being able to exchange ideas from other people.

[00:21:14] Rafer Weigel: And I think that goes for all sides right and left. I'm not saying that any one side of is more guilty of it than the other, but you're right. And those, those discourse shows, I mean, that's. God, I remember we used to get into, like debates in college and talk about stuff at the bar and, and it was fine.

[00:21:30] Rafer Weigel: You didn't, you know, you didn't get upset if the guy supported Ronald Reagan or Michael Dukakis. I mean, you know, dating myself, that's how long ago I was in college, but, but you're right, Hersh, it's, you know, we sound like two old guys right now. Back in my day. , but it's true. Yeah. 

[00:21:47] Hersh Rephun: Back in my, well, I didn't care.

[00:21:49] Hersh Rephun: I didn't, when I was younger and in college and stuff, I wasn't politically active. I didn't really, I absorbed certain things, but I really cared about movies and TV and comedy [00:22:00] and the lighter side of stuff. I didn't really get into that. It certainly was not tuned into activism or any of that stuff. It's only in the last decade where I don't think it's, cuz I'm old, I think it's because I.

[00:22:15] Hersh Rephun: the freedoms that I grew up taking for granted now at risk for my kids and their kids, let's say. So I see us on kind of a really dangerous precipice, which maybe that does happen to everybody once they get into their forties and fifties. Everything just looks dangerous. I don't know. Maybe I'm just making a big deal outta nothing and we're fine and everything's fine, and the whole world's.

[00:22:43] Hersh Rephun: the, the Earth will take care of itself. Everybody's gonna be fu. I don't know, but I do know that I got started to get worried. Yeah. About democracy, and worried about reporting and worried about journalism. I was never interested in [00:23:00] journalism because it didn't need me. , you know, the field of journalism didn't need a guy like me, a comedian.

[00:23:07] Hersh Rephun: So what would I have to do? Really 

[00:23:10] Rafer Weigel: well now you'd have a great journalism show cuz you'd be funny. I mean, the Daily Show, um, man, when that first came out was like, that was brilliant. Like that was like, you know, that was how so many people in my generation got our news because we were entertained and informed.

[00:23:26] Rafer Weigel: I mean, I don't know how much we were informed, but it was, you know, like that was a really good model, you know, and again, being apolitical here, you know, we're both pretty socially liberal guys. I remember when the right, like the con, they tried to make a conservative. Of the Daily Show and it lasted for about seven seconds.

[00:23:42] Rafer Weigel: Yeah. And it was like, I basically walked away with him. I'm like, liberals are just funny. . So, you know, there are few funny conservatives, Dennis Millers. Uh, Tim Allen, but yeah. But for the most part, yeah, the liberals seem to have the comedy cornered. 

[00:23:56] Hersh Rephun: Yeah. Tim Allen's a good example because he's not what you would call a [00:24:00] conservative comedian.

[00:24:01] Hersh Rephun: He's a comedian who's a conservative Right. And Right. Having heard him, Interview with Mark Maron on the WTF podcast. I found him to be a generally very, very gracious and reasonable and generous spirited human being. So his political beliefs is back to that old guy thing. You know, he's old school. That way he respects you.

[00:24:23] Hersh Rephun: If you respect him. He may have a different opinion, nice stuff that we don't get to have anymore. But I think, you know, and because it's my show, I can have my opinion and my opinion. conservative politics aren't funny, and the reason they're not funny goes back to what you were saying, Rafer, in your description of what makes a good press release, the client, let's say, isn't the hero, right?

[00:24:49] Hersh Rephun: Mm-hmm. , there's another hero. There's somebody who's doing something great. And that's the audience, or that's the, yeah. The audience identifying with the. [00:25:00] They're the one whose problem's getting solved. They're the one who's getting the benefit of something of somebody else. And the client is that somebody else who's doing a good thing for them.

[00:25:10] Hersh Rephun: And in conservative politics, it's kind of like, well, if you aren't me, go fuck yourself . So on the conservative side, it's like, you know, unless you're serving my interest, I you really don't exist. And then you could be my father or my grandfather, like when Covid. Started and you know, the Republicans were like, ah, they live long enough.

[00:25:33] Hersh Rephun: Fuck them. You know, they had a good life. The father's like, dude, Mike, I can't breathe. And they're like, fuck you, get off here. Did you sign all your papers? Are the papers all signed? You know, and it's just you. But that's why. That, huh? 

[00:25:49] Rafer Weigel: Yeah. I was gonna say you're wrong for that, but that's hysterical. Well, I will agree with you to point, unfortunately, the left has caught up with regards to the cancel culture.

[00:25:57] Rafer Weigel: You know, bill Mart goes on [00:26:00] about this a lot and, and you know, I mean, comedy, you're a comedian. You, you know, comedy used to be very inappropriate and now you can't say stuff anymore without pissing off the council on the left. And, and god forbid you said something back in 20, 30 years ago. They will cancel you.

[00:26:19] Rafer Weigel: Now, that is one thing I disagree with about, you know, and Mar sat, he's like, who are you that you're so effing perfect that you never once made a mistake? So there's, there's become this righteousness Now to me, on any fringe, um, you know, politically, you know, Dave Chappelle, you know, he, his number one. Are coming from the left in the LGBTQ community.

[00:26:42] Rafer Weigel: And I'm not saying that what Dave Chappelle says is okay. I'm certainly not saying that. And I'm not saying that, you know, they shouldn't be offended by the things that he says. But the intolerance in terms of just in your real, I mean, have you seen that in comedy now, like your comedian, like have you seen that where it's almost like what you [00:27:00] Basically, I feel like if all, if you're a comedian now, all you can do is tell dad jokes.

[00:27:03] Hersh Rephun: I do agree with that. I do. Because Rafer, what happened is, The carefulness fear. The whole point of being a standup comedian is to unleash a fearlessness. That's what we struggle with as comedians coming up, trying to do a get your first few minutes together. I, one of my buddies once challenged me at an open mic.

[00:27:28] Hersh Rephun: He said, uh, for this three minutes that we get for this open mic, don't do any material. Just be brave. Like do something scary. Do something that scares. . And I did, I, I did two of these. I did one where I talked about suicide. Hmm. And the only thing I, I, and I started telling this story and I was, I was like, did you ever notice?

[00:27:50] Hersh Rephun: Which just popped into my head and I said, did you ever notice how lucky you get just when you're about to kill yourself? And it got a, a huge laugh [00:28:00] because it was this huge release that I told a, a story. That wasn't real. That wasn't true, but it encapsulated a lot of things that we all go through about depression.

[00:28:08] Hersh Rephun: So that was one that never would've come out if I hadn't been brave. And another one was just talking about ass. Just the concept of of an ass or the ass, okay. For three minutes, which is scary because it could very well not be funny. And so the risk of not being funny was what I had challenged myself to.

[00:28:33] Hersh Rephun: So you know, we can draw our own parallels between suicide and ass, but Right. , 

[00:28:39] Rafer Weigel: but it worked out, is what you're saying. Yeah, 

[00:28:41] Hersh Rephun: I was, well, it worked out because no one was going to judge any of it right at that moment. You know, this is maybe 10 years ago. Right. But no one was going to. the way that you get judged now on social media and if you have a platform now you're [00:29:00] judged every time you say something.

[00:29:01] Hersh Rephun: So that cancel culture. The only good way to use cancel culture would be if I could go back 30, let look 30 years ago, I said I do to my first wife, go back and cancel that. We could cancel that with cancel culture. Maybe you could go back and, and, and cancel mistakes you made, but, oh. , you know, but I agree with you.

[00:29:25] Hersh Rephun: It's, it's, we're stymieing the same spirit of conversation we're talking about. And what is the intent, right? Hatred. Hatred and fear have a smell to them. We know what that is. We, and sometimes we get confused because we see it in print or type or on Twitter or in sound bites and not in context. And that's, The pervasiveness of of social media creates a pitfall for anyone who's saying anything with any depth, [00:30:00] because they're at risk of offending people based on the context in which it's received and delivered, which they may or may not have any control 

[00:30:07] Rafer Weigel: over.

[00:30:09] Rafer Weigel: And it's interesting because there are some comedians now that go so against the concept of political correctness, like Ricky Jervais like comes to mind. I don't know if you saw his special, but he just went on and on and on. Yeah, I did. Yeah, and I mean, he's like offending women and all this stuff. Now, again, I'm not saying that that's okay.

[00:30:25] Rafer Weigel: I, I'm, I'm not, but you know, he decided I'm gonna go out here on a limb and just offend whoever I want to offend. And so, and it was funny because we can't do that anymore. Not, and I'm not, again, I'm not saying it's, it was a good thing that we were. , making fun of people, you know, sexist, racist, humor. I'm, I'm not saying that in any way, shape or form what I grew up in a, in an area.

[00:30:45] Rafer Weigel: Chicago is a very ethically diverse area. Now, granted, it's also very segregated, but the way that I grew up in the eighties in Chicago, in these, you know, around, you know, Polish, Jewish, African American, not a [00:31:00] lot of Latino, but Asian, you know, we were raised as kids to embrace each other's differences. and celebrate them through humor.

[00:31:10] Rafer Weigel: That was the defense mechanism that we used, and we had a very diverse, ethnically diverse, you know, group of friends. It wasn't homogenous in any way, shape or form because we didn't find each other's differences in any way. Scarier, alienating, but the way that. Disarmed. That was through humor. Now you can argue that we've evolved since then and now.

[00:31:32] Rafer Weigel: That's why we're having conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion. I'm a firm believer that diversity of thought makes a organization better cuz they're gonna see things that I don't see. But at the end of the day, what we are talking about is like, I'll get off my soapbox here, is humility, right? I mean, you talk about that hatred coming from the right and the, and the Bill O'Reilly's and the Hannity.

[00:31:51] Rafer Weigel: There's no. Coming from those pundits. And by the same token, the cancel culture and saying that these people who made mistakes, I made [00:32:00] mistakes. I made a mistake, and a couple years ago I made bad decisions with women. That's, I've learned from those mistakes, but you know, people deserve second chances and to not give them those second chances to satisfy your own ego is again, lacking in humility.

[00:32:14] Rafer Weigel: That to me is more of a prevailing. I think if you have that humility where you recognize, look, I don't have all the answers and I'm not all that I can only, you know, this is my world. Let me just contribute what I can. That to me seems, and then, and I certainly don't see a lot of humility on social media, so I don't know if there's something, some kind of connection there or not, but you know, if you want to be a good storyteller, I'm gonna tie it back into my profession.

[00:32:37] Rafer Weigel: You have to have that humility because you gotta. As a reporter, I'm not the story as a videographer and a content creator, a content marketer, I'm not the story. It's up. It's them. That's the, it's they, it is they that that is the story. It is the customer. It is about other people. It is not about me. It is around every, about everybody else around me.

[00:32:53] Rafer Weigel: So anyway, I didn't mean to go off on that soapbox, tangent there. 

[00:32:56] Hersh Rephun: That's awesome, Rafer. It's very well said. Because [00:33:00] the truth is that humility is the counterpoint to judgment. So, mm. . When you have someone on the street corner looking at somebody and going, oh, I don't like what they're do. What they're doing isn't, isn't any good.

[00:33:16] Hersh Rephun: They're sitting there judging that person down the street. Up the block is another person looking at that second person going, oh, well I don't like what they're doing. I don't like what that person, so there's always someone judging, and the person judging is lacking humility, because if you are humble, you will not put yourself.

[00:33:37] Hersh Rephun: Everyone else, you won't put yourself above the story. You won't put yourself above the truth. You won't put yourself above the feelings of the person down the street from you. So I think you nailed it. We need you. Humility. A lot of people will say compassion. We definitely need compassion. But compassion's subjective, humility covers so [00:34:00] many bases.

[00:34:01] Hersh Rephun: You know, if, uh, if we can do a. I feel like we, as a human race, as a species, we need a reset. We need someone to come in. Now, maybe that's not gonna, if that really were to happen and that's, you know, like, God forbid an Armageddon or a nuclear war or something, I don't know that I would be the beneficiary of that reset, but we need like a reset that doesn't hurt.

[00:34:27] Hersh Rephun: You know, we need like a little reset. We wake up and instead of Groundhog Day, everybody's just a little bit. Had a chill pill, had a little reset, a little tweak. I think it's like one of those things, like when you go to have something repaired in a watch shop or something, and it's for some reason it's always a second behind.

[00:34:50] Hersh Rephun: You don't know what the hell's wrong with it, and the watchmaker opens it up and they hit the, they go, oh, well this was just this thing right there, and now your watch works. [00:35:00] Perfect. We just have that weird little thing that's off in all of us. We're all a little off. We're all, 

[00:35:07] Rafer Weigel: yeah. Well, and the other thing is that we've all got a little AFib and Well, the only way to do that is to do it internally.

[00:35:13] Rafer Weigel: Right. I mean, and that's what I had to do. I, you know, I had to do a humility reset, and I don't have all of the answers, but what I see is, I definitely think everybody would agree with you. I think that a lot of people right now though, are blaming the other. For the reason for the reset, you know, I need a reset cuz you're fing everything up.

[00:35:31] Rafer Weigel: I need it because you're effing everything up. Right? And that's like, and I just want, and, and look, if I'm in that, that space and like, you know, I get shit wrong all the time and somebody gets mad at me. Instead of getting mad at them, I'm gonna look at and go, all right, what could, what can I do differently to improve this relationship?

[00:35:50] Rafer Weigel: And sometimes there is nothing you can do and Right. I. That's the catch. You know, that's the, that's the danger is like if you, you can go so humble that you could and you as a [00:36:00] comedian might, might understand. You can go into that self-loathing space. You don't wanna do that either, right? You, you know, it's that, as Nigel said in spinal tab, it's that fine line between clever and stupid.

[00:36:10] Rafer Weigel: You want to be able to be accountable. For what you did, but at the same time have boundaries when you know, okay, this guy is just an asshole and doesn't like me and there's nothing else I can do. It had nothing to do with me. Right? Like that's one of the, like I went down the humble route, lost the job.

[00:36:25] Rafer Weigel: Big time. Humility. Humble, humble, humble. And then I had to then take the step back and realize, okay, you know, some of these things were outside of my control. Some of these things, Independently of decisions that I made. You know, I'm not talking back then, I'm talking currently now. That's not always an easy thing to do, like you, you know, to have that confidence and that humble balance, that's a day by day thing, and I'm, I'm still trying to figure it out, so, you know, if you figured it out, let me know how you did it.

[00:36:51] Rafer Weigel: I'm just gonna 

[00:36:51] Hersh Rephun: keep talking to you because I think I figure a little bit out. Every time I talk to you, I figure a little more out. You drop these little nuggets [00:37:00] like exciting spinal tap. . There's a very fine line between stupid and clever, which is really true because it's, it's razor thin. If we look to the fine line between stupid and clever, then we're actually being humble about our own intellect because we're like, well, one step to the right, I'm a fucking idiot.

[00:37:24] Hersh Rephun: Right? , you know, and that's in a, if you know, I wish we were allowed, they were allowed to curse in Congress. They could talk to each other more. Honestly, I feel goes back to that British, when you're watching like the British Parliament things, you know, I'll refer my colleague to distinguish gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago.

[00:37:45] Hersh Rephun: You know, it's like what you really want to do is come out and say, you fuck in Twk. You know, you ibe. And if he, if you could say, if they could talk to each other like that, like, like they, like Mitch McConnell could say, say [00:38:00] something and then they, and then they come back to him and go, fuck you, fuck you, man.

[00:38:05] Hersh Rephun: Your next, 

[00:38:06] Rafer Weigel: you got your fucking mind. This is your next standup routine. Herrs. Totally like he'll. It could be, you know, the, the inner monologues of Congress, what they would really want to say to one another. Right. And those were, by the way, very good invitations. I think that would be a very good, uh, Shtick.

[00:38:21] Rafer Weigel: I think that'd be hilarious because right now everybody says I'll develop on social media, but they don't say it, you know, face to face. Mike Tyson, I think said it best. He's like, this guy's tweeting stuff that he'd never say to my face. You know, I used to, I used to watch what I said around people that I knew could kick my ass, you know?

[00:38:38] Rafer Weigel: And that was like you developed a filter because you just, you had to, and if you wanted to be an asshole, then you better well go get to the gym and get big enough to defend yourself. Otherwise, you know, I had to be nice out of. And now you can say whatever the hell you want on social media without any fear of repercussions.

[00:38:56] Rafer Weigel: Well 

[00:38:57] Hersh Rephun: before social media, I was a smart ass in high [00:39:00] school and I didn't go to the gym, but I had a very, very tall best friend. That was my, that was the thing that I could always just run and hide behind him. and Mike, Mike, if you're out there listening, I need you to, I need you to show up again cuz this new set I'm gonna, Is, uh, is gonna piss some people off.

[00:39:22] Hersh Rephun: Well, Rafer, thank you so much for coming on this show and this was so much fun and I hope you enjoy it. I hope we get to have more conversations together cuz we haven't solved all the problems. I know that. Right, 

[00:39:37] Rafer Weigel: right. We only got, we got as much as, be more humble and yet, Uh, and Congress needs to say what they think.

[00:39:44] Rafer Weigel: Yeah. And then my favorite, like, uh, you're a big fan of The Simpsons, I'm sure Old Simpsons, but like my favorite. Sure. Troy McClure. You remember that? Uh, character and, uh, yeah. Troy McClure, one of the, I'm Troy McClure. And my, the favorite book, fake [00:40:00] book title ever came from The Simpsons, which was Get Confidence, stupid.

[00:40:04] Rafer Weigel: And I often thought that would be the name of. My autobiography, get confidence. Stupid . 

[00:40:11] Hersh Rephun: Awesome. So you have your marching orders too. You have, are you working on an 

[00:40:15] Rafer Weigel: autobiography? No, I've been working on everybody else's story, but my own and, you know, I'm one of those guys. I'm like, ah, who ca, you know, and then I go on a podcast like here with you, and I tell my story and I'm like, I mean, that might be, you know, I haven't accomplished enough hearse for anybody to read and be like, yeah, I wanna be like that guy.

[00:40:31] Rafer Weigel: I, I not, I, I wouldn't, I, yeah. Again, it's the humility coming out. Oh, 

[00:40:36] Hersh Rephun: well, there's too much humility. That's another, that's another, uh, spinal tap thing when they're at Elvis's grave and he says, uh, you know, really, really puts things in perspective, doesn't it? And he, Michael McKee says, yeah, too much. Fuck in perspective,

[00:40:53] Hersh Rephun: So we have, we have too much, too much perspective, but I'll, I'll maybe I'll write your autobiography. I'll [00:41:00] write your autobiography for. and it'll be I, oh, you're very kind. I am. I am. I am. Rafer Weigel, an unauthorized autobiography by Hirsch Rapon. And we'll, we'll do it 

[00:41:12] Rafer Weigel: together. All right. Well, I'm grateful for whatever partnership we come up with, my friend, and I'm grateful for meeting you.

[00:41:18] Rafer Weigel: Okay. The friendship and for the time. Thank you. 

[00:41:21] Hersh Rephun: Thanks so much for tuning into Truth. Tastes funny. If you enjoyed the experience, please leave a five star review and share this podcast with your friends.