Jon of All Trades

JoAT Origin Story

Jon Eks, host of the Jon of All Trades Podcast

I’m Jon, and I love nothing more than listening to someone with an interesting or unusual job talk about the ins and outs of that job. So I created a weekly podcast that features interviews with people from all across the employment spectrum. You’ve likely heard the figure of speech “Jack of all trades” referring to someone who is versatile and adaptable to a wide variety of tasks. That’s what this is designed to be an audio exploration of. Except, I’m Jon, not Jack. Welcome to Jon of All Trades. New episodes post every Wednesday.

Still not sure what to expect at Jon of All Trades? Below are three related stories that should shine a light on what you can expect here. You can call this the Jon of All Trades origin story.

***

louisdirecting-300x225

To anyone creative, Louis CK is an inspiration. To comedians, Louis CK is also the source of envy. He struck a deal with the FX Network that allowed him to write, shoot, direct, and edit his own series with minimal (if any) input and interference from the network. This is an auteur’s dream. Yet not everyone can be trusted with that level of responsibility. Taking on that many duties at once requires a diverse and impressive skillset that most do not possess.

In 2012, I read an interview with Louis CK on the AV Club that illuminated why Louis CK is uniquely situated to create a show such as his and handle that many aspects of it. Here’s a snippet from that interview:

AVC: In a conversation with fans on Reddit, you wrote that one of the last jobs you had before becoming a comedian was covering football games for local cable-access. That seems like, on one hand, terrible and an incredibly tedious gig, but on the other hand really useful in terms of learning how to put something together.

LCK: Totally. Really useful. Yeah. Covering football games—

AVC: How do you get a job like that?

LCK: Well, I was technical director of a cable station, so I had to do everything. But you get it by going to a local-access cable station—I don’t know if they still have those. But I was a volunteer intern, and I was in high school. And I learned how to use every machine in that place. My biggest advice to people would be key on the technical. If you learn how to use these machines—cameras and editing systems and stuff like that—then you will have the tools to do stuff creatively. There’s some people who turn up their nose to the technical side of production. It’s the dumbest thing that people do, because then you need to get permission and crews to shoot for you. But I learned how to fix the fucking cameras at this local-access cable station. I knew how to do everything. So I could be trusted with the equipment. That’s really all it ever comes down to, is insurance. They can’t fucking give you the equipment unless there’s somebody qualified to run it. And I learned how to do this stuff when I was 16 years old. So out of high school, I worked at a cable station, and I covered the football games. And so I had to drive this little remote van with a switcher in it and cameras and three big, fucking heavy cases. And there’d be, like, three volunteers with me. Had to drag these cameras up to vantage points around the football field, and the clock is ticking and people are showing up for the game, and start placing the cameras, register the cameras—which is a really weird technical process with tiny screwdrivers—plug them into the van, fucking fire up the van, get all the shots right, punch in all the fucking names of the players and their numbers, and get ready, and here comes the game. It’s a lot of pressure. Yeah, huge training ground. Great benefit.

In short, this seemingly inconsequential covering high school football for a public access station made Louis CK, Louis CK. If this were a comic book, this would feature prominently in the Louis CK origin myth.

***

The first time I ever created something substantial was when I launched CruJonesSociety.com with my friends in early 2008. The site was comprised of daily comedy essays and taught me a lot about the demands of constant content generation as well as the practical challenges of trying to grow something from the ground up. It was the first time I actually had to become Jon of All Trades and handle virtually every aspect of the site.

One of our recurring features was called Happy Friday, which was an article that aggregated noteworthy links from throughout the week and put a funny spin on them. As I was digging into old editions of Happy Friday looking for something that would help inform a piece I was writing for EksAxis.com, I came across this entry from Happy Friday 57, from July 2009.

ringmaster-195x300

I’m referencing an article that had appeared on ESPN.com written by a vendor at Fenway Park. Here’s a snippet from Happy Friday:

“Hauling cumbersome trays of shit up and down hundreds of flights of stairs in the oppressive heat of the dead of summer while fans yell at you to “get out of the fucking way” sounds physically and emotionally exhausting.

And it is. Jack McCluskey, who’s been a vendor at Fenway since 2002 gives us an inside look at the life of a vendor. We would argue that there are few things as fascinating as listening to someone who has an unusual job talk about the ins and outs of that job, and to that end, McCluskey delivers the goods. All the good, all the bad, and all the bizarre are on display here. Very well done.”

I’ve apparently been working on this podcast (without realizing it) for 5 years.

***

Back when I worked my corporate job, I was on the go a lot. During one particularly harried week where I spent virtually every night at some gala, networking thing, or weird work obligation and just wanted to go home on time for a change, I chatted with one of my colleagues in the elevator of our building. He noticed me wearing a freshly pressed suit and asked what I was up to that evening, and I replied thusly:

“Oh, I have to go the fucking Governor’s mansion again.”

He looked at me and then put his palms in the air and retorted sarcastically, “Oh, you have to go to the Governor’s mansion again?! How fucking terrible for you. Do you think you’ll be able to survive going to the GOVERNOR’S. MANSION. AGAIN? Give me a break, dude.”

I laughed, he laughed, and then it hit me. Going to the Governor’s mansion is probably awesome to your average person who doesn’t have to do it as part of their job. For me, it’s something I have to do, and at the end of an extraordinarily long week, I looked at it as a burden. But when I talk about my job, people are frequently blown away by the fact that I regularly talk to reporters, have to interact frequently with U.S. Senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and that I make public presentations all the freaking time. Your job is probably boring to you. You do it all the time, so you become numb to it.

I once hired a film crew for something my company was doing, and the sound guy was a freelancer. I asked what job he had lined up next. He told me he had a gig with NFL Network for the Bronco game and that he would be holding the boom mic on the field after the game and for locker room interviews. I asked him how many times he’d been in the Broncos locker room.

He snorted, chuckled, and then said, “Oh… At least two dozen times. Easily.”

A place you may have dreamed of going, this guy has been there at least two dozen times and couldn’t care less about it. It’s part of his job. I want to talk to those people. No matter how glamorous a job, how interesting a profession, how mysterious a trade, someone out there has done it more times than they count and are now probably bored by it.

hattori hanzo

One of the great storylines in the Kill Bill movies is that of the pristine qualities of a Hattori Hanzo sword. The Bride requests one from Hattori Hanzo, he obliges, and we see him present it to her with a great deal of pageantry and impenetrable mysticism. It’s a great scene, and it works on me as intended because it’s a great movie made by a great director.

But I can’t help but always think… Yeah, but he still had to forge some fucking steel and actually MAKE the sword. How did he make the fucking sword?

***

As Jon of All Trades, no matter what job is featured, I hope we always answer the proverbial question of how he made the fucking sword. Thanks for joining me, and thanks for listening.