Feast of Fun titillates and celebrates

by Barrett Newell

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday March 30, 2009

April Fools' Day marks the 11th anniversary of one of the Internet's most popular and downloaded GLBTQ podcasts. Formerly known as the Feast of Fools, the Feast of Fun started as a "performance art cabaret" at the now closed Randolph St. Gallery in Chicago and has become an important fixture in GLBTQ news and entertainment media.

Produced, written, and hosted by partners Marc Felion and Fausto Fern?s, the podcast has won the People's Choice Podcasting Award for "Best GLBT Podcast" three years running and, as recently as last week, the Chicago Reader's Readers' Choice for "Best Gay News Source."

Updated daily during the business week, the informative and humorous program aims to celebrate all of GLBTQ culture with discussions of up-to-date news items and oddities as well as cultural phenomena. It also features in-depth, conversational interviews with prominent, up-coming, and obscure members of the GLBTQ community. Past guests include icons like drag artist RuPaul (pictured below), legendary activist Cleve Jones, and actor George Takei.

Lending Voice

The self-described news junkies and avid blog readers avoid creating an identifiably "mainstream gay" or "alternative queer" program, which they feel opens the show to not just a larger gay audience, but a straight one as well.

"When you draw attention to these extraordinary news items, the gay and lesbian experience doesn't seem so outlandish to the everyday person," said Felion. "Our listeners are smart people who embrace who they are. If you have an internalized homophobia, you are not going to like our show."

Giving a voice to all members of the GLBTQ is a fundamental tenet of the show. Past guests like YouTube celebrity Chris Crocker and famed blogger Perez Hilton exemplify those often overlooked by other media outlets - even gay-centric ones - despite their undeniable popularity and cultural influence. "[Many of our guests] don't get celebrated even though they're such an intimate part of our daily lives. ... [Members of the gay community] have to give each other an opportunity to shine."

Free to use bawdy humor or talk frankly about sex, the podcast format affords creative liberties pivotal to the show's continued success. Having worked in cable access television, Fern?s explained, "If you're going to reach a gay and lesbian audience, you have to be able to talk about certain things the FCC won't give you the thumbs-up on."

From Fools to Fun

Felion and Fern?s also capitalize on the power of the Internet to create the most interactive experience for their listeners as possible. Felion said having an online forum for the show and using blogging components, Facebook, and posting videos to YouTube, Vimeo, and other hosting sites allows the show to reach across "a very fragmented internet community." He believes using these tools allows the duo is talk with their audience, not at them.

Recently, the podcast's name changed from the "Feast of Fools" - a reference to an essay by gay activist Harry Hay - to the "Feast of Fun." The decision to do so came after the couple spoke to the publicist of Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk. According to Felion and Fern?s, the "fools" reference was explained, but the publicist still dismissed the program as somehow unprofessional.

Since the name change, the couple continues to work to produce an approachable and dynamic program. The wiliness to undergo such a change after over a decade and bolster the content of their show with the tools available to them online reflects their flexibility and ingenuity, while their positive energy helps reinforce the show's message that all members of the GLBTQ need and deserve to have their voices heard.