Shop Talk, the Comcast C2 chat show, has become a local phenomenon since it began just over a year ago.
The format is simple: Charleston-based hosts PC (real name Paul Curry) and bespectacled, hand-rubbing ex-rapper Sman the Man (Ivan Heyward) chat while their interviewee sits in a barber chair. Everybody faces the camera. It's just like a few friends yakking in a barber shop, except this time the conversation is shared with the rest of Charleston. Shop Talk covers relationship issues, the black community, and entertaining everyday matters.
At their studio in North Charleston, the two presenters react quickly to each other, interjecting, cracking jokes, and making light of their talents. It's obvious that their on-screen chemistry is no act. That's what they're like in real life.
About three years ago they ran into Tammy McCottry-Brown, host and producer of C2's The Tammy Show. They said they were performers who wanted to be on her show.
After asking the pair what they would do, she then put PC on the spot, making him sing. "We followed her around like two puppy dogs," PC says.
"There was a little stupidity involved," says Sman. "We said, 'Hey man, I think we can be on TV too.'"
PC and Sman then recorded a mock show to prove their on-camera skills. "It wasn't like the show is now," says PC. "It was a variety show with skits. We recorded it in a living room and took that to the station manager, who thought there was something there."
But the pair didn't immediately get to work. They spent a couple of years procrastinating. However, the two friends were spurred into action by the tragic passing of PC's sister and Sman's mother.
"My sister died two years ago in March," says PC. "She was 31. She never got a chance to live. I was driving home with tears streaming when I called Sman on the road and said, 'I got it!' That's a reason why we say the barber shop idea was God-given."
PC and Sman submitted a new seven-minute demo that was much closer to the Shop Talk concept on C2 today. According to the guys, they were told not to get too excited.
"That was definitely a damper," says Sman. "Just because the demo was entertaining, that didn't mean it would translate to the screen."
That said, Comcast aired the pilot.
"The first show was ridiculous, though Sman was good," PC says, "The second show was a classic. We wanted four shows. Now we're on our 53rd."
"Who knew?" adds Sman.
Aside from the addictive banter, Shop Talk's popularity comes from its focus on relationships, or as Sman calls them, "boy/girl topics."
"You have relationships with your coworkers, your loved ones," PC says. "If they work, then you can be happy. Also, shows that are nichey and clicking always do good. We cover relevant topics. We're funny and entertaining. And it's a show where your opinion counts."
Nichey or not, Shop Talk has become far more popular than PC and Sman could ever have guessed. According to the duo, the demographics for the show are wide-ranging. "It's not just women, even men come up to me all the time," says PC. "They don't hesitate. They consider us one of them. They identify with us and the say thank you for the things we talk about."
PC adds, "There was a lady in Walmart, in line behind me. She said, 'I have a question for the Shop Talk guy.' That was the only reason she lined up! The attendant was also talking to me about her relationships."
PC and Sman hope to expand Shop Talk with a local radio show, adding radio affiliates before going on to national magazines and networks.
"Whatever happens, we're gonna be around," says Sman. "We're a part of the community. To be able to do something that will help everyone is a blessing."
Shop Talk airs on Comcast C2. It is also available on Comcast On Demand. To guest on the show, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send a short video clip and the hosts will do their best to include it in a future segment.