Straight Up, No Chaser: Why the ‘Table of Truth’ Is a Smash Hit
Posted Sunday, April 22, 2012 1:41 PM
Billing themselves as the black male version of “The View,” the Table of Truth can’t be accused of plowing an oversaturated field. And listening to the podcast’s Backlash episode, the conversation meandering from planking to the dearth of African-American comic book heroes, it’s kind of true. Except Elisabeth Hasselback couldn’t improve a 19th-century tale of a slave with superpowers like these guys can. The Table of Truth -- four friends and entrepreneurs on the cutting edge of hat tilting -- broadcasts conversations you overhear on the subway and quote to your friends later. Archetypes assigned (Cam the Mouth, Ant the Heavy), they’re pioneering a “hood therapist” model and putting it on iTunes.
ToT’s creators are built of the hybrid genetic material of Steve Urkel and Stefan Urquelle, bred on comic books and “Star Trek” while averting sorrier characteristics of actual nerds, like social gracelessness and fear of seeing a woman naked. Most of them are self-taught artists, a couple DJ, and they’re all on a straight IV of Twitter and Instagram in an effort to catapult after-dinner discussions into a brand. Their conversations, addictive insights from 30-something native New Yorkers, are punctuated with hoots and good-natured digs (distinct from the actual “View”). The appropriateness of watching the films of a dead porn star are considered -- on the difference between whether it’s OK to watch Brandon Lee vs. a dead porn actress’s oeuvre: “I’m not physically excited watching The Crow...” Guests are a hodgepodge of hipsters, skaters, writers and smartass girls.
Women are funny to them (scary and funny). Romance and rejection, sex and breeder anxieties are explored without becoming a tired, Yakov Smirnoff- style primer on gender studies. The subject of girls is sacred to the podcast, and according to Duane Merchant, The Face, who spoke with Highbrow Magazine, actually the basis for living.
“Ask any guy. Why did you go to college, start playing the guitar, learn to break dance, get your license?” (Conversely, I can’t play any instruments or break dance, and I failed my driver’s test three times, so I consider their general commitment to us quite flattering). Dating Like an Adult and Attack of the Exes are popular archives, their tones lively and sometimes bewildered.
This inside peek into the way straight men talk, think and behave is what Pope Phoenix, the Mastermind, sought to recreate from his Bronx youth. “I always had a tight group of friends to talk openly with about my life without being judged. I figured every guy had that. Older, I realized this wasn't the case.” He envisioned a forum in which the four could grow as artists, friends and pop culture magnates while solving their girl problems.
The debate over what women want isn’t a revolutionary one; it’s the packaging. And, when branding oneself, it helps that there’s not much competition for a group of stylish black dudes who can quote the “Star Wars” trilogy word for word. But image, from typeface to T-shirts to ToT stickers plastered on benches in Budapest, doesn’t necessarily trump content.
“We try to be socially informed, whether it be politics, pop culture or relationships,” The Mouth says. Through discourse on issues like whether The Lion King is a ‘black movie,’ maybe this is an accessible forum to play with perception. “We’re black, but far from media’s typical portrayal. Black geeks? Sure, why not?”
Fight The Power, a strong episode on the spate of suspicious deaths of black men over the last few months (decades?), was plugged on Twitter as such: “Why won’t Ant go see a black Superman? Why are black people waiting for a leader?” Mother Jones this isn’t, but they manage to weave vital sociopolitical perspectives into geek culture. Social awareness is neither a mantle nor mission, but Cam is aware that this is an opportunity for conversations about justice, about change.
“Blacks still needing a ‘Malcolm’ or a ‘Martin’ to lead us somewhere, instead of educating ourselves. That change starts with ourselves.” But Duane’s take on the election year sums ToT’s Justice Lite leanings. “Anyone but Santorum-- that guy is trying to ban porn.”
Ant, the Heavy, is similarly straightforward on the role of a show like this. “Come to us for the answers. Will we solve all of yours problems? Nope. But we do take pride in [reflecting] peoples’ voices. Answer questions or current events, entertain, tell the truth.” And we get to listen in on a passionate even split on whether or not to give your SO [significant other] your Facebook password.
In its third season, the ToT brand expands with guest stars, bimonthly parties and, emboldened by the entrepreneurial spirit of multimedia emperors before them, video. Entrepreneurial spirit and modesty.
“Not only are we funny, but we’re good-looking guys,” Duane informs us. Ladies with reasonable bandwidth, take note.
*Table of Truth is available on iTunes. Check out episodes at http://thetableoftruth.com/
Nadine Friedman is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.
Photos Courtesy of Table of Truth:
Table of Truth: Ant, Duane, Cam, and Pope;
Cam and Pope listening to a guest;
Ant in deep thought
Duane during a video shoot
The makeshift table during the live season finale
Fan picture from Budapest