By now we all know that just because you’re a quote-unquote adult doesn’t mean you actually know what you’re doing. There are always lessons to be learned from your own experiences, from friends and experts, and, in the case of Hello! It’s Hobert, from a DJ and a talking clam.
The new series—premiering on CAN TV on Thursday, February 6, at 8:30 PM and on YouTube the next day—describes itself as a “satirical, lightly-motivational cable access talk show,” and seems to answer the question, “What would happen if some of Chicago’s most creative and bizarre comedians were in charge of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but for grown-ups?” Hobert Thompson leads as a fictionalized, talk show host version of himself with his trusty sidekicks, DJ Lo Buj (Sohrab Forouzesh) and a puppet simply named Clam (Liz Getty), helping him explore the ups and downs of a different topic every episode, like dating, health, and friendship. Along the way there are sketches, songs, and hilarious parody commercials.
“It’s not surrealness for the sake of surrealness, or irony for the sake or irony, we want it to be sincere,” Thompson says. “It’s not an easy balance, but I think that tone of silliness lends itself just as well to sincerity as it does to irony. We can be silly and goofy but at the end of the day we’re trying to teach you something, even if it’s unsuccessful.”
Thompson, a longtime producer of and performer in live variety shows in Chicago, was inspired to create a show of his own during a movie night with Hello! It’s Hobert writer-producer Tucker Millett. They were at the the Found Footage Festival, which famously features obscure clips found on thrift store VHS tapes, many of which are from cable access shows. In January 2018, Thompson, Millett, and the rest of the crew started training at CAN TV, which offers classes on every aspect of production, to create their own project. All they had to do next was come up with an idea for a show. Luckily the choice for the next movie night also proved to be inspiring—the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Hello! It’s Hobert isn’t CAN TV’s usual fare. Thompson’s not sure how the folks who come to the channel to watch meetings with their alderman or religious programming will react to him singing about his prostate exam, but he worked to make the show as accessible as possible while hopefully introducing some of the best comedic talent in the city to a new audience. Thompson says watching the series’ eight episodes two years after production first began, is like looking at a comedy yearbook.
“It’s sort of like cutting down a big tree,” he says. “A good botanist can look at the tree rings and can tell you what the tree went through at certain times.”
Each episode will air weekly on CAN TV in a 30-minute spot, then slightly longer uncut episodes can be watched on YouTube the next day. As for what’s next, Thompson and crew aren’t looking for any financial gain or fame, they just want people to enjoy their passion project.
“I wanted to make this to give away,” Thompson says. “We all did. It’s for the love.” v