The idea for Wake Up! In Provincetown, a talk show hosted by Harrison Fish and Bob Keary that streams on YouTube on Fridays at 9 a.m., started as an inside joke.
Last spring, Fish and Keary were hosting a virtual trivia show at the Provincetown Brewing Co. “We started joking that it was like a morning talk show, because Trevor, who works for the brewery, was kind of our tech guy,” says Fish. “We started calling him Gelman, who was the tech guy on Live With Regis and Kathie Lee.” (Actually, Michael Gelman was Live’s executive producer.)
Fish and Keary got to thinking that maybe they should have a talk show. “We had 50 viewers on our trivia, but only 15 teams playing,” says Fish. People were tuning in just to hear them gab.
This was around May, at the height of the pandemic’s first wave. “One of the biggest reasons we wanted to get it going during Covid is that a lot of people who were used to coming every Fourth of July week, every Bear Week, were going to be missing their Provincetown fix,” says Fish. “So, we thought this would be a really great way to allow people to connect to the community, and kind of feel like they were here.”
Their first show was July 3, and they haven’t missed a Friday since. Counting their Election Day special, which was live from Washington, D.C., they’ve had around 25 episodes. They have about 2,000 unique viewers monthly.
Though the show is broadcast live from the Provincetown Brewing Co. taproom (with the exception of some pre-recorded segments that give the hosts a breather), it is totally polished, thanks to Jonathan Hawkins of Live From Provincetown. “He is behind the camera giving us hand signals and pointing to places we’re supposed to be looking,” says Keary.
“There have been some moments where I kind of had to pinch myself,” says Fish. “We had Donna Brazile on, and it was mind-blowing. If you watch that interview, it is just me and Bob sitting there wide-eyed.”
“Miss Richfield was amazing because she came in full costume, makeup, hair, everything,” says Keary. “We tell every drag performer, ‘If you come, we know it’s early, you don’t have to be in drag.’ She not only came in drag, she crashed the set in that little scooter that she drives around town, 45 minutes before her interview was supposed to take place.”
“We are in the middle of our news segment, and suddenly all you can hear is ‘Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!’ and she comes rolling into the set,” says Fish.
Keary came to Provincetown after graduating from Boston University in 2005. At first, he spent summers here, going back and forth from L.A., but moved to town full-time in 2011. Fish, similarly, came first as a summer resident, in 2016. “This is my second winter in town,” he says.
“We’ve been working together since the summer of 2016 at the Red Inn,” says Keary. “Total strangers would be sitting there at the bar, just listening to the stuff we are saying to each other. This guy, one night, was like, ‘You know what? I really like your schtick. The two of you have a great schtick.’ We weren’t even doing anything.”
Fish and Keary say being a bartender or server is not unlike hosting a talk show. “There are bartenders who make drinks, and then there are bartenders who create an experience,” says Fish. “That’s what makes people come back to a bar.”
Initially, the show was going to be just during the season, then Fish proposed continuing it past the summer. “The idea of the show was really to highlight the community and what we love about it, and foster a livelier wintertime community,” says Fish.
“At first, you worry that there’s going to be slim pickings in terms of people to talk to,” says Keary. “But then, you realize that if you just look around and dig a little deeper, there is always someone to talk to.”
A couple of weeks ago, they interviewed Agnes Mittermayr from the Center for Coastal Studies. They’ve even done a segment on DeVita’s trash pickup. “People who think Provincetown is nothing but a gay tourist utopia are now seeing the real characters who keep this town running, who keep this town what it is,” says Fish. “We’re showing sides of Provincetown they’ve never seen before.”
What’s in the show’s future? Keary says they would love to be on Provincetown Community Television, but “we are not necessarily G rated.”
“We have always envisioned having a live audience, like a morning talk show would have,” says Fish. “And that’s something we definitely hope to do this coming summer, if that’s a possibility.”