Only LGBT radio talk show in the Northwest, OUTSpoken, leaves the air – The Spokesman-Reveiw
Image from Spokesman- Review article – http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/feb/28/only-lgbt-radio-show-in-the-northwest-outspoken-le/
Jonathan Shuffield, left, and Sergey Grankin, right, broadcast from the KYRS studios in downtown Spokane on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. It was the last “OUTSpoken” program the two will do before taking the show to a podcast-only format, which has more than 100,000 listeners already. The program, which focuses on gay life and issues, as well as the arts and entertainment, has been popular on the community radio station and gets callers from around the nation. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
By Rachel Alexander
On Sunday, Jonathan Shuffield and Sergey Grankin sat down in the KYRS studio to talk about the musical “Kinky Boots” and interview a documentary filmmaker about climate change.
The two-hour episode touched on topics familiar from the nearly four years the pair have been on the radio: politics, show business and friendly banter. But they also took some time to say goodbye to their longtime listeners.
“There might have been a mini-breakdown before the show,” Shuffield said on air, laughing.
After three and a half years hosting “OUTSpoken,” a talk show that mixes liberal politics and entertainment with a gay perspective, the pair are moving on to a trio of new ventures, including a podcast and local public access TV show. Sunday’s show was their last on KYRS.
Their show has been the only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-focused radio talk show in the Northwest. They’ve discussed issues like same-sex marriage, HIV prevention and transgender bathroom laws while bringing on celebrity guests like Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho and William Shatner.
Gaye Weiss, the executive director of Spokane AIDS Network, said they’ve helped spread information about pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a drug regimen that can prevent HIV-negative people from getting the virus.
“These guys are not afraid to touch any topic, which makes it really, really a good voice for Spokane and the region,” Weiss said.
The result is an irreverent mix of topics blended together by Shuffield and Grankin’s back-and-forth banter. Though Shuffield is 41 to Grankin’s 21, the two mesh well and often finish each other’s sentences.
“Jonathan proposes to everyone who comes on our show,” Grankin said.
Shuffield, pretending to be offended, objected. “I have discerning taste,” he said, rolling his eyes. “But it does tend to be everyone.”
The pair met shortly after Shuffield moved to Spokane from Tulsa, Oklahoma, after a breakup. Shuffield had been in media for 20 years and decided to work through his pain by creating a sitcom about an older, chubby gay man trying to re-enter the dating world.
After a long day of casting, the producers found many of the young men auditioning didn’t realize the show was about gay men and walked out as soon as they found out. Frustrated, Shuffield said one of the producers took a marker and wrote HOMOSEXUAL in big letters on the board.
Grankin showed up to audition, looked at the board and exclaimed, “I’m gay!” He ended up getting the part.
“I cast him as my best friend and then he became my best friend,” Shuffield said.
The show was never completed due to some health issues that flared up for Shuffield. Instead, he created “OUTSpoken,” which he initially co-hosted with several other men. Those men began getting too busy to do the show, and Shuffield found Grankin was co-hosting more and more. Eventually, “OUTSpoken” became a Jonathan and Sergey production.
Spokane is in some ways an ideal place for an LGBT radio show, Shuffield said. In bigger cities like Seattle, where acceptance is seen as a given, people can be complacent. And smaller or more rural areas don’t have enough of an LGBT population to make a show like “OUTSpoken” possible.
Michael Jepson, the organizer of Spokane Pride and the self-proclaimed “Gay Mayor of Spokane,” said listening to “OUTSpoken” gave him a chance to learn about an issue in-depth in an accessible way, rather than getting the news in pieces on Facebook.
“It’s like sitting down with an old friend and just chatting and catching up,” he said.
He also appreciated that the show was on a community radio station, where straight people could stumble across the show, learn something from a gay perspective and maybe think about issues in a new way.
The end of the show has been emotional for some listeners. Shuffield remembers getting a phone call while in the studio for one of the pair’s last shows.
“Our producer Kurt was like, ‘Someone’s yelling on the phone, they’re very upset, can you talk to them?’” Shuffield said.
The Inland Northwest LGBT Center closed its doors in 2014. Ongoing fights over transgender rights, high rates of LGBT youth homelessness and debates over laws that allow people to deny service to LGBT people for religious reasons are proof of the need for shows like theirs, Shuffield said.
When Shuffield came out, he was rejected by his parents and later was fired from jobs after bosses told him it was because of his sexual orientation. Anti-discrimination laws didn’t exist back then.
“I came out in a time when a lot of people already had those rights,” Grankin said. As a child he moved to Spokane with his parents from Kyrgyzstan and said he was shunned for months and excommunicated from his church when he came out to them.
“That experience 20 years later is the same one I had. Why is this still going on?” Shuffield said.
The end of “OUTSpoken” is a happy one for the duo, who are moving on to an even more overwhelming schedule. They’re putting out a podcast, “The Martini Lounge,” focused on entertainment.
The martini name came from listeners telling them their show was “like getting a drink with you,” but they don’t plan to follow it quite literally. Everyone will be drinking when they record, but the drinks don’t have to be martinis.
Though the show is less focused on LGBT issues than “OUTSpoken,” Grankin said, “We’ll always come from the LGBT perspective, being gay men.”
In addition, they’re debuting a TV talk show on CMTV-14, Spokane’s community access channel, called “The inBox with Jonathan and Sergey,” which will be more political and humor-based. Over the summer, they’re also filming a 10-episode celebrity interview show, “HangingOUT” with Jonathan & Sergey, in Los Angeles.
“Who needs to have time off?” Shuffield said.
Both have worked on “OUTSpoken” as volunteers while holding down full-time jobs, and the hope is to make their new ventures into sustainable careers. Having a podcast will allow them to have sponsors and ads, and get away from FCC regulations on swearing, which can be “stifling” with celebrity interviews, Shuffield said.
Both have been asked why they don’t move to a bigger city with a more vibrant gay community or entertainment scene. Shuffield said they’ve always tried to highlight events and other unique things happening locally. Neither is interested in leaving.
“We try really hard to remind people what’s good about Spokane,” he said.
This story has been updated since its original publication to clarify that OUTSpoken is the Northwest’s only LGBT radio talk show.