By Andrew Osborne
Sure, lots of people have podcasts, and some of those podcasts even have fans…but DoubleToasted.com has a congregation (and that’s just for the Sunday Service, one of five R-rated, live-streaming weekly video broadcasts covering movies, video games, politics, dating advice, and whatever else the rotating ensemble of regular panelists, callers, guests, and random audience members feel like chatting about.
But the content (and fan involvement) doesn’t stop there: manic, mercurial site creator Korey Coleman and his level-headed, long-suffering co-host Martin Thomas constantly interact with a live chat Greek chorus of site members posting wisecracks, GIFs, and fan art throughout the various shows, after which every episode is posted to SoundCloud and YouTube and discussed, debated, and dissected on social media from Twitter to the Children of the Toast group on Facebook.
And while most successful online programming stems from the pre-existing celebrity status of its participants, Double Toasted built its fan base from scratch the old-fashioned way, through hard work, word-of-mouth, and a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign (though a feud with Marlon Wayans and a controversy over Marvel’s upcoming Dr. Strange adaptation spawned in their very own humble Austin studio certainly didn’t hurt).
So, whether you’re a long-time fan or just discovering the site, Culture Vulture hereby salutes Double Toasted with an oral history of the decades leading up to the second anniversary of Korey Coleman’s fledgling media empire.
IN THE BEGINNING
Long before social media, there was public access television, where Coleman got his start with an Austin cable movie review show called The Reel Deal.
KOREY COLEMAN: Oh, yeah, I was doing the show with a friend of mine named Ian…and we did that for about six months. He got married and I just kept doing it by myself.
MARTIN THOMAS: Korey and I had known each other. And I was with him at a screening. He just invited me to come along with him. And I was there when [Korey’s original co-host Tony Guerrero] came up and approached him and just said, “I’m a big fan of your show, and I know you’re looking for a co-host and I want to volunteer to do that.” And Tony was just some high school kid who came up with such enthusiasm that Korey said, “Well, okay.”
CULTURE VULTURE: So right from the beginning, fans were interacting with the show.
MT: Yeah, and at times, when they needed a third person, Korey would call me and say, “Hey, would you mind going to see this and coming to [The Reel Deal] and talking about it?” And I didn’t think anything of it. It was, “Sure, why not? See a free movie.” And it just got to be a thing where, I don’t know, I was casually coming down so much that…well, it’s like if you show up at a church too many times, you know, the Reverend will pull you aside and say, “You need to join. You need to be a member.”
KC: We just were doing silly skits and stuff. Martin’d come in and be a part of those. And me and Martin started talking some, y’know, catching up. And, like, “Yeah, just keep coming around, man.”
CV: And then you had another show on local TV?
MT: The local WB channel.
KC: We did it for about two years.
MT: It was 18 months. Behind the Screens. We would shoot it on a Thursday morning and then they would air it Saturday afternoon.
CV: And was it basically like a cleaned-up version of The Reel Deal?
KC: Just slightly…we didn’t curse on the access channel like we do [on Double Toasted], if you can believe that.
CV: So, were you full-time at the WB?
MT: No, man, I had my day job. I had The Reel Deal and Behind the Screens. We would record The Reel Deal on Wednesday nights and then have to get up early the next morning and go record Behind the Screens. And then once that was done, I had to go back to my day job. It was a crazy time.
KC: I never really liked [Behind the Screens], ‘cause it was supposed to be kind of a step up — and it was — but it was one of those things where you had to go and be your own sales department, too.
CV: Was selling ads a good learning experience, at least? Or was it just kind of a pain?
KC: I’m not good at selling ads. I’ve gotten better at selling things today. But back then it just — I mean, you’re not going to make any money off these people that are small businesses here. They’re barely getting by.
MT: To tell you how Behind the Screens ended…[the woman] who worked at the station and was our editor, her boss just one day said, “Cancel [that show] for me so I can have her full attention.” And then [the boss] quit to take another job a month later. So, it was a learning experience on how capricious the business is and how things can just be taken on a whim like that.
CV: Yeah, for no reason.
MT: And the ratings weren’t bad or anything.
KC: I mean, if you want to say a learning experience, that’s one of the reasons I don’t like to have anybody really control what we do…especially after [Spill.com].
Most of today’s Double Toasted fans know Korey and Martin (a.k.a. “Leon”) from the cult fame they achieved (along with Tony Guerrero, a.k.a. “The Co-Host 3000” and four other critics, including Chris Cox (a.k.a. Cyrus) and future Sinister and Dr. Strange scribe C. Robert Cargill, a.k.a. “Carlyle”) on the now defunct website Spill.com.
KC: [Spill] came about with me just joking around…animating our old audio. And when Chris Cox had put it on YouTube, you know, that’s when we got a call from New York. And the guy that I talked to…he goes, “Well, the animation’s kind of cool, you know? We’d like to hire you to continue to animate this and do these reviews like you do.” I said, “All right,” ‘cause I thought…they were bigger. The only thing that was bad about them, I didn’t know at the time, is that they were a business to business company. They created toolbars for businesses. And so they wanted to try to get into entertainment, which they were not suited for at all.
MT: They tried. They made an earnest try, but they just weren’t prepared.
KC: They said, “We’re not equipped to do this.” And they…sold us to Hollywood.com. They were in entertainment, but they were just kind of, you know, a run-of-the-mill gossip site. But they decided that they wanted — their company was on the come-up. And so they said, “Let’s expand. Let’s try to make a network or something.” And so, that’s when they brought us in.
CV: And Spill was all animated?
KC: Yeah, all the reviews were animated. But I decided, you know, we need to expand and have content up every day, because animation’s just not going to cut it. It takes a little while to do. So, that’s when I started doing podcasts with some people…and that’s how we got some of the more popular content that kind of surpassed the animation after a while.
MT: Well, for the animated bits, it was like we did a podcast. Our review was all of us talking and riffing, and then that would get edited down and animated. And then, once we started putting up the audio of the entire session, that’s when it became more popular than just the animated segments. Because people said, “Well, I want to hear all of it.”
CV: And you were all in character?
KC: Well, the characters were not really —
MT: I mean, they weren’t that different than —
CV: Yeah, it was just you guys calling each other by different names.
MT: Yeah, right.
CV: Which is still funny. I mean, it’s odd.
MT: It took a little getting used to. But, I don’t know, once we did, it was easy. I actually — I think we all kind of liked it more, ‘cause then it was, oh, well, it wasn’t ME saying that.
KC: Because, according to who you asked at the time, [some people were saying], well, Korey wanted to use his real name so he’d get all the attention and he asked you all to use fake names so that nobody’d know who we are. No, and I asked people specifically…I said, look, you’re contractors. I’m hired full time. I can take the risk of using my name. I gave people a choice and said do you want your real names or do you not want them? Because if they take your real names and they start using them — I don’t know what’s going to happen after that. I don’t know if they’re going to take your likeness or whatever. It’s probably not going to happen but, you know, there’s a possibility.
MT: Once he explained it like that, it was, oh, okay. Absolutely, you’re right.
With an eight year run, Spill.com lasted much longer than Behind the Screens…yet likewise ended randomly and without warning, prompting Coleman and Thomas to once again seize control of their destinies with the cable access TV of the digital age: podcasting. The duo rebooted in Coleman’s bedroom on December 23, 2013 with The Korey & Martin Show (for now), which eventually became Double Toasted and evolved into a slate of video broadcasts with a rotating crew of co-hosts and panelists live-streaming before a live studio audience in Austin, Texas (though not without some growing pains).
KC: [Some people thought] I’m going to get to drink in the studio, have a party time. And people started to learn, like, no, man, that’s not what this is about.
MT: This here’s a business!
KC: I went and got the numbers on all of our shows and how they’re performing. And some things [were really] eye-opening for, like, man, that’s what we should be doing more of, that’s cool. And then some things are, well, I told you, if we weren’t getting up to this level right here, then we either got to work it out or, uh, you know.
CV: I was listening when you first started up. You know, before you had a name for the show and it was just you and Martin. Seemed like, you know, “Well, let’s see where this goes.” And now, two years later, you’ve got a studio, you’ve got a lot going on. Do you have an idea to just keep going up and up and up? Or is there a point when you can sort of hit a level and say, “All right, now we’re good?”
KC: There’s always goals that you have to set up. I don’t think you have anything if you don’t have goals involved. So, you try to have these goals out there. Some of them are realistic, some of them aren’t. But, you know, you have your monetary goals that you want to try to meet, and then you have your business goals. What we are, we’re in the business of content. So, there’s a certain amount of content that I’d like to produce that helps us grow…but I don’t like to get anything out there unless it’s good, it feels natural and whatnot. And I’ve got plans on how to do that.
CV: So, it’s a lot of work for you now, but that’s okay.
KC: But that’s okay right now. I don’t think I’ve found anyone who can just take it while I’m gone. As people are beginning to learn, it’s more than just flipping the cameras. I watch some of these shows that people do…and it’s still kind of, like, we’re joking around amongst ourselves, you know? We’re not really connecting with the people that are out there as much. And that’s how we get by…we make people feel like they’re hanging out.
CV: Well, it’s the 10,000 hours thing. You guys have done it for 10,000 hours.
CV: And even when I was a guest once on Double Toasted I was thinking, oh, yeah, that’s right. You can’t just come on and talk. You’ve got to be — you’re onstage, you know?
MT: That’s true.
CV: Well, I’m really inspired by Double Toasted, because the advice parents always give their creative kids is to go network until you meet rich, famous people or until you get a big company to notice you. But they never tell you to make your own thing and build an audience, which is much better advice.
KC: I’ve seen so many people kiss each other’s asses, seen people with attitude. I’ve been amazed at how shitty some people can be. Really just egotistical people who think that they are better than other people. I mean, it amazes me. And I’m kind of grateful for having that experience, because that’s pushed me to where I’m, like, hey, man, if I can’t make it on my own, then I don’t want to do it. If I had to do this by kissing somebody’s ass or something, then I’m not worth anything, you know?
CV: And two years in, Double Toasted’s still going strong.
KC: Everything’s been on the up and up. Everything’s growing, so I’m — I can’t really complain right now.