A generosity of spirit and a sense of humor.
Those are the words Wilmette resident Paul Traynor uses to best describe the ethos of the podcast Race Bait he co-hosts with Evanston resident Tania Richard. The podcast will appear live at the Second Annual Chicago Podcast Festival on October 8.
Race Bait features open conversations about race between the two friends, as well as guests invited to their show. The show’s tagline? “A Black woman. A White man. We talk about racism so you don’t have to.”
The tagline’s humor is intentional — something that’s present throughout every episode as Trainer and Richard tackle the thorny topic of race. “The goal is to treat the subject seriously, but not take ourselves seriously,” Traynor explained. The show jumps into the heart of the matter, while still finding ways to laugh about it.
“We want people to feel entertained first and foremost and somewhat encouraged,” Traynor said. That’s because the show aims not to be divisive, but to bring people together through honest conversation.
Traynor conceived of the idea for a live show tackling issues of race after realizing how difficult those conversations can be for people. He reached out to Richard, whom he met working at a corporate event, who suggested a podcast. In January 2017 they launched and have since produced 26 episodes.
Topics are drawn from trending news stories, as well as current or popular movies, books and television shows. Some of the shows hit on heavy topics, such as events in Charlottesville, Chicago violence or the Philando Castile verdict, to popular culture like the television shows “Black-ish” and “The Jeffersons.”
Many of the shows feature guests, some of whom are authors or experts, such as Cheryl Judice, author of Interracial Marriages Between Black Women and White Men, who spoke on the show about interracial marriage.
But other times the guests are ordinary people. “Our goal is to bring on guests and normal people who share how they’ve experienced racism in their lives,” Traynor explained. While most of the guest so far have been black, Traynor said they hope to expand the scope to include people of all races.
Traynor draws on his own skills as a writer, film producer and owner of Hay Moon Media, which produces messaging for corporations and nonprofits to produce the podcast. But he’s unequivocal that there is no acting on Race Bait (Richard is also an actress, writer and does corporate messaging). “The whole idea is to be real, organic and honest. I am very much being myself on the podcast,” he said.
The upcoming Chicago Podcast Festival is something new for the Race Bait co-hosts. The festival runs October 2 to 8 and includes 34 podcasts. While the festival includes appearances by some national celebrities, such as Rick Bayless and Andy Richter, most of the podcasts feature local standouts, such as Race Bait.
Traynor views the festival as a unique opportunity to perform before a live audience, as well as a way to potentially expand their base. “Our goal is just to get people to feel more comfortable talking about race,” he said.