The story behind the alternate reality of Huron City Radio, a new podcast with a local bent

[Seagulls chirping.]

“Well, greetings, land lovers. Welcome to the Huron City Radio Midnite Hour, broadcasting from the largest body of freshwater on the planet. Today on the horizon, we have, uh, oh yeah, you guessed it: ENDLESS GLASS IN EVERY DIRECTION. I’m Tom Bobbajobski, your host throughout. Stay tuned, because in 20 minutes, I’m going to see how long I can scream before passing out or disturbing the neighbors. I’m just kidding. There are no F-ing neighbors! And now, a word from our sponsors.”

Cut to a commercial for Burrow’s Homegrown Meats, “Where nothing is wasted.”

This is where we enter the world of Huron City, the Grey Water Area, and the Kitten State, a place that is strangely familiar yet decidedly askew. It’s a tongue-in-cheek but loving take on the Blue Water Area and life on the Thumb Coast, the creation of Daniel Williams, a British expat who has called the region home for well over a decade now.

“Huron City is my interpretation, for want of a better word, of being a stranger in a strange place,” Williams says. “I feel part of here but still, I don’t always know what’s going on.”

“It’s about finding the local things you have in every small town community and just making them a little abstract and absurd,” says Daniel Williams, creator of Huron City Radio.When I first learned about Huron City Radio, it was described to me as a podcast. And yes, while it is distributed and listened to in the same way people listen to podcasts — Spotify, iTunes, et al. — I always think of podcasts as a couple of people sitting around chatting about this or that.

Huron City Radio is a full-on production. The shows are largely scripted with local actors providing the voices and playing the characters. There is music and sound effects and fake commercials. (Remind me not to shop at Maddie’s Matted Mattresses.)

“A lot of our scripts have an almost supernatural vein to it. It’s here but it’s a bizarro world. Like walking through some kind of portal,” Williams says.

It’s kind of like an absurdist version of Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor’s long-running NPR show about the fictitious Lake Wobegone, but right here in St. Clair County. I found myself thinking about Mystery Science Theater 3000 for some reason.

But for Williams, who grew up in England’s Norfolk County, his own primary influences were the radio dramas and comedies broadcast on the BBC. These were satires and mockumentaries like On the Hour, an absurdist over-the-top take on news shows which spawned the popular Alan Partridge character.

“It started with the idea of a guy on a boat,” Williams says of The Midnite Hour with Tom Bobbajobski, the first show to come from the fictitious radio station that is Huron City Radio.

“It reminded me of the pirate radio stations that used to be located off the UK coast. And then add in the social isolation that has come with the pandemic.”

Williams moved to the Blue Water Area about 11 years ago to live with his wife Marney, whom he met through mutual friends. The couple are now raising their family in St. Clair.

He credits the local small business and creative communities with helping him feel welcome here, meeting people and making friends at places like the Raven Café and the Exquisite Corpse Coffee House. Williams wrote some children’s books and Weekends Gift Shop in Port Huron would sell them. He’s performed in productions from local theater companies like Enter Stage Right.

Inspired by Tyler Moldovan and his Desmond District Demons film festival, Williams batted around the idea of making his own movie prior to creating Huron City Radio.

Welcome to the slightly warped world that is Huron City in the “Kitten State”“I’ve always thought it would be great to write a film. I’m always writing. I have stories and half-stories everywhere,” he says. “I wrote with Tyler and we actually shot a test scene. But then COVID-19 came to town.”

When the pandemic struck, the local creative community responded by moving their productions online, whether it was streaming concerts or virtual theater. It was actually his participation in an Enter Stage Right “Zoom production” of The Lost World that sparked Williams’s imagination for Huron City Radio.

“Their doing Zoom shows made me think that a radio show was possible,” he says.

So he began to write The Midnite Hour. Enlisting help from friends in the music and theater communities, Williams would gather everyone online to perform the scripts. He would take over from there, spending hour after hour editing and producing each episode. Local bands contribute music at points throughout. It’s a true team effort.

The eight-episode show that is The Midnite Hour is but one of several planned for the Huron City Radio world at large. In fact, a new show, Uncle Walter's Year of Wonder, debuts this Friday, Feb. 19.

A fake advertisement for Maddie’s Matted Mattresses, one of the “sponsors” of Huron City RadioWilliams tells us that since first debuting in January, The Midnite Hour has already reached far beyond the fictitious shores of Huron City and the real Blue Water Area. The podcast has been listened to in six continents and 12 different states — so far.

By creating this specific world of a small town Huron City, the Huron City Radio team has made something with wider appeal.

“It’s about finding the local things you have in every small town community and just making them a little abstract and absurd. Like the commercials we have — they’re ridiculous but not far away from impossible. We’re taking what’s there and making it slightly stupid,” Williams says.

“With me not knowing the background of everything here, it’s easier for me to take on the absurdities. It’s warm-hearted and tongue-in-cheek.”

Visit Huron City Radio online to listen today.
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