People will do anything to make their commutes more bearable: rack up peak cell-phone minutes, play solitaire on the dashboard, listen to recordings of books they'd never want to read.
Then there's Ravi Jain. A Bostonian who drives 30 minutes each way to his job, he's raised the bar for vehicular multitasking by conducting a weekly talk show from behind the wheel.
Video blog Drivetime with Ravi (drivetime.ravi jain.org) features a deadpan Jain chatting with prearranged guests he picks up along his route. With camera firmly mounted to dashboard, he interviews writers, artists, musicians and other interesting characters who sit beside or behind him, sipping from a complimentary mug of water. Shows run 8 to 10 minutes, with memorable moments including a back-seat ukulele concert and the specter-like appearance of a digital co-hostess.
Jain, a 35-year-old artist, develops interactive content for an educational foundation in Boston and has been a fan of late-night talk shows since childhood. His photographer wife Sonia often co-hosts for half the show, until she gets dropped off at her job. We talked with him about his video blog.
How do you find your guests?
The first batch were people I contacted from the artist community because my wife and I come out of that. After the first couple of episodes there was a flood of interest in the blog, so I got a wave of people contacting me, but that wave has crested and washed over me with the holidays. I need to get back into it.
Ever thought of just offering someone a ride at a bus stop?
And then get knifed? [Laughs] No, I haven't. The problem with picking someone up at random is that you don't know how interesting they will be. But I am looking for a way to engage the audience and am thinking I might pick a certain time and spot where I'll drive by and someone can just jump in and ask our guest a question.
Are you ever worried one of your guests will go psycho on you?
Well, you never know what someone is going to do. [Exaggerated aside: Yeah, that's it. Add the danger element.] But really, I have felt pretty secure so far.
Do you tape most shows in the morning?
Now, yes. Some of the early episodes were in the evening, but since the clocks changed and it got dark at 4 p.m. I've done most in the morning.
What kind of car do you conduct interviews in?
Most are in our 1986 Audi. People have been saying it will die for the last five years, but it seems to hold itself together by sheer force of will. We also have a 1998 Volvo, but since it's "new," I don't want to mess with rigging up the camera.
How's the camera set up?
There are two devices. One is a rugged clamp that you can open the mouth and shove it between the heating vent and dashboard and tighten it up. On top of that is a microball head, which is like the head of a tripod, and you put the camera on that.
You once mentioned doing the Gridlock Griddle, where you cook during the show. Will that happen?
I have to do it because I've hyped it up. I'd love to have a cooking guest on.
Who is your favorite talk show host?
Certain hosts from certain eras I'm drawn to from the whole late-night genre. I look to '70s Carson, '80s Letterman and '90s Conan. They all have that kind of irreverence that I appreciate, where they don't take themselves too seriously but just try to have fun and be goofy and still respect the audience.
Jessica Berthold writes for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.
In a word:
People who liked the cult TV show "Fishing with John."
Vlogger conducts a talk show during his daily commute.
This Blog as a Person:
Max Headroom channeling Johnny Carson.
Interviews with the producer of an Australian TV show and the founder of a mobile social networking company. A singer performs in the back seat. Ravi does a faux-thriller segment called "What's in the Trunk?"
Two days before Christmas, a Jewish writer reads an essay about his experience of the holiday, while an absent co-host Sonia is digitally added to the episode, appearing and reappearing like Glenda the Good Witch of Oz. (Post: Dec. 23, 2005.)
Making It Happen:
Boston artist Ravi Jain, 35.
Once a week.
Appropriate. Video downloads easily to QuickTime.
More than 4,000 hits/day.