Recently I interviewed writer/director/comedian Kyle Stout about his stint on The Real World Ex-Plosion (the 29th season of the show that just aired and is set in San Francisco). Here’s what he had to say.
Cat Doss: So, tell me a little bit about yourself and the kind of work you’ve done.
Kyle Stout: Born in Kentucky, raised in Virginia, and after graduating with a degree in Communications, I flew out to the Bay Area on my birthday to make a living in film.
So far, I’ve been writing, directing and producing short films with friends and I recently screened a short film of mine at the Castro Theater as part of a film festival for Scary Cow, a film co-op I’m a member of.
CD: How did you end up on the Real World San Francisco?
KS: Blind luck.
Arielle is a friend and fellow filmmaker who I’ve worked with on various projects.
She invited me to the house while they were filming just to come by and meet the cast. Then, as we were coordinating schedules, she actually asked if I’d like to help her prank the roommates.
CD: Tell me about your episode, about shooting it, etc.
KS: One of the roommates, Ashley, had left the house early on and they had been waiting for the new roommate to show up for over a week. Arielle and Jay decided that I should be the “new” roommate for a day.
CD: So, what did you do? What was the prank?
KS: The plan was for me to go in there and just be incredibly obnoxious and rude to the roommates, to put them on edge a little bit.
I was flattered and a little insulted that Arielle thought of me for that, but I also couldn’t say no.
So I went in with no script and no idea what I’d actually do once I was in the house.
I just channeled all the annoying traits of every roommate I’ve ever had and just kinda went for it.
I messed up Cory and Tom’s pool game by knocking a few balls in; I spit out a beer that was offered me; I ate peanut butter from the jar with my fingers after picking my nose — that kinda thing.
I almost felt bad about it at first, but they were all pretty cold towards me the second I walked in the door so I kinda used that to my advantage.
CD: Nice! So, what was it like seeing yourself on TV?
KS: Pretty surreal.
And I hate when people use that word, but there’s no other good word for it.
I’d already seen most of the footage when they released an exclusive web clip early in the season, but they restructured some of what I’d done for the “Sh!t They Should’ve Shown” episode.
They added some of the roommates thoughts on me and on what I did, which was pretty eye opening.
They just kept talking about how fat I was and how ugly I was. It’s pretty humbling being called fat on national television by someone who was so nice to me while I was in the house.
I have no illusions about how television works and how that network in particular casts it’s programming, but I was a little surprised that they chose to focus on a few of the roommates essentially calling me fat and ugly for the majority of the segment rather than what I was there to do, what I did, and the reaction it got because to my knowledge that’s never been done on the Real World before, but I could be wrong.
CD: What were you expecting to see?
KS: I mean I didn’t know what to expect and I really didn’t think they’d even show it at all.
I was hoping they’d show more of the prank stuff and maybe some of Ari and Jay’s scheming leading up to it, which they did in the web clip, but what was actually aired was a little different, which is to be expected with any reality show, so I understand.
The reaction on twitter was probably the craziest part. I was at an A’s game (Oakland Athletics Baseball team) when Ari texted me and said “you’re on TV!”
Five minutes later there was just a flood of people tweeting me and following me and telling me and Ari how funny that was, so that was really cool. #HumbleBrag
Someone even suggested I audition for the next season, which was funny to me.
CD: So, what do you think about the media’s emphasis on body image, being someone who’s experienced the effects of it firsthand?
KS: I mean I won’t lie and say I think it’s a good thing, but I will say that I understand it. It’s easy to place people in a box based on a two-second glance. It takes effort to get to know a person — like REALLY know a person.
And maybe most people don’t want to make that effort and would rather pre-judge and categorize based on what they see.
CD: Do you think it’s healthy to place so much emphasis on physical appearance in our society?
KS: I think a certain amount of emphasis is healthy.
In the sense that it promotes an overall healthy life where things like high cholesterol and heart disease aren’t a daily concern, but when we, as a society, completely shun someone for being a little overweight or even a little underweight, it calls into question what we even value anymore.
Someone could go on CNN tomorrow with a cure for cancer, and if they’re a little overweight they’ll be “that fat scientist who cured cancer.”
It’s things like that I see on a daily basis in media and just in everyday life that sicken me because it’s easy to categorize a person, and it’s also easy to blame the media for promoting that stigma — the fat shaming culture and the constant Photoshopping of magazine covers, of people who don’t need Photoshop.
CD: What are your thoughts on the reality TV industry after having worked in it?
KS: Well, I wouldn’t say I worked in it. I fell into it for a day and people saw it on TV months later. But I always knew it wasn’t REALLY “real” before, so the things I saw while in the house and the things I heard about it secondhand didn’t surprise me one bit.
But I will say that maybe “Reality TV” isn’t the right label for that kind of programming anymore because it’s just as manipulated and artificial as the scripted narrative [programs], so lines between reality and fantasy have become a bit blurred, which can be confusing to a young impressionable viewer.
CD: Where do you see television going in the next 20 or so years?
KS: Away from actual televisions for one, which is already happening with Netflix, tablets, and countless mobile apps.
Cable as a medium is dying, so I fully expect us to be relying on services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. for creative content.
CD: Content-wise, where do you see it going?
KS: Well the obvious answer would be interaction-based programming, which, again, is already happening with all the text-to-vote talent shows, but there’s another level that it could go where viewers can influence the direction of a one hour narrative drama. “Text DARYL now and vote to keep Daryl Dixon alive.” That kind of thing.
CD: That’s an interesting idea.
KS: Logistically it’s a nightmare, but it could be a scenario where the writers and show runners shoot alternate endings to episodes and air whichever one the viewers vote for — like a choose your own adventure book, but with TV. And with things like Google Glass and Oculus Rift starting to become available to the public, there’s the idea of total viewer immersion where you could actually be “placed” right in the middle of Westeros and have an episode of Game of Thrones happen all around you.
CD: So, “Virtual Reality TV.”
KS: Essentially, yeah.
CD: Do you have any advice for aspiring reality TV stars out there?
KS: Well, I would say just be yourself, but in actuality you’ll probably end up being whoever the producer thinks you should be, so if that can be considered advice, there it is.
Cat Doss is an artist/writer/filmmaker/performer living in the Los Angeles area. She was born in Huntington, West Virginia. A classically trained painter and a winner of multiple awards in various disciplines, Cat refuses to confine herself to one medium preferring to experiment with her work and investigate the workings behind the creative process. Her art can currently be found at Facebook.com/someassemblyrequired