It’s day 9,753 of social distancing; Broadway’s reopening still feels lightyears away; the novelty of baking is wearing off as it’s become clear that baking is actually really, really hard. That’s why we were so excited to discover When Lightning Strikes!, a new podcast helmed by veteran journalist Jeryl Brunner on the Broadway Podcast Network. In the podcast, Brunner drills down with some of Broadway’s best about the exact moments that set them on the course of their dreams.
Broadway Spin: Tell us what When Lightning Strikes is all about.
Jeryl Brunner: When Lightning Strikes! is all about the moment you knew you HAD to be a performer. I always loved the Mark Twain quote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Often people have that proverbial mic drop moment or moments where they realized they knew what they were meant to do. No matter what it took. Lightning has struck! And I am invested in unpacking them. The chats are candid and (hopefully) funny. And in addition to actors, I also speak with writers, producers, directors and creatives as they lay down their THIS IS IT! discoveries.
BS: When did “lightning strike” you with this idea?
JB: This idea has been gestating within me for several years. As far back as 2013 I wrote a story for a magazine where I asked artists, athletes and scientists—leaders in their fields—about their lightning strikes moments. A rock star described how he saw The Who perform live in Oklahoma City when he was 15 and how that led him to become a musician. One scientist told me about the time when he was in college and grasping to understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. He was struggling for weeks until one professor wrote the equation on the blackboard and it finally clicked for him. I don’t understand the Theory of Relativity, but hearing him talk about it was absolutely riveting.
BS: Why launch something like this when Broadway is dark?
JB: We can all use some joy right now. Also, I hope that these stories provide inspiration and serve as a reminder that no matter who you are, your path can begin with a single or series of experiences that are relatable. Plus, the artists provide insight into their lives and offer some levity and behind-the-scenes insight. Whenever I interview performers, especially ones who perform live theater, where they have so many great theater memories, I love asking them this question because the answer is often so visceral and thrilling.
BS: Who are some of your upcoming guests and who are some dream guests?
JB: I have some exciting guests coming up. Just a few are Michael Zegen from the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Tiler Peck, Jonah Platt, Astrid Van Wieren, Katie Brayben, Tedra Millan, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Anika Larsen and more! Who are my dream guests? So many! Audra McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael R. Jackson, Jonathan Groff, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler, Sara Bareilles, Adrienne Warren, Patti LuPone. I could go on and on and on!
BS: Since you’re an expert in podcasts now, what are some others you recommend?
JB: Back in October, which seems like a lifetime ago, I attended a launch event for the Broadway Podcast Network and was instantly smitten by the site and what cofounders Dori Bernstein and Alan Seales created. I love that there is one stop shopping for all these Broadway-themed podcasts, everything from auditioning guidance from Justin Guarini to insider chats with Broadway legends like Donna McKechnie (“The Ladies Who Lunch”) and Tonya Pinkins (“You Can’t Say That”). I love Kerry Butler’s “Breaking Broadway” and Josh Lamon’s “Josh Swallows Broadway,” where they have funny, fun and insightful talks with the coolest guests.
Outside the Broadway Podcast Network, I LOVE This American Life. Also, I am a total improv nerd, so I like Curtis Retherford’s improv podcast, which features a lot of my amazing improv teachers from Upright Citizens Brigade. And I’m loving The Pack Podcast, which presents short comedies written and directed by Eugene Pack. These radio plays are hilarious and touching and feature the best casts like Cecily Strong, Dana Delany, Andrea Martin, George Segal, Marsha Mason, Sherri Shepherd, Blair Underwood, Dayle Reyfel, Michael Urie, Tate Donovan, Rob Morrow, Milo Manheim, Willie Garson, Laraine Newman, Lainie Kazan and on and on. The plays are transporting!