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Q&A with Katie Nolan, host of 'Garbage Time' on Fox Sports 1

Katie Nolan hosts "Garbage Time with Katie Nolan"

Katie Nolan hosts "Garbage Time with Katie Nolan" on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 9:30 p.m. March 15, 2015. Credit: Fox Sports

Katie Nolan was a little-known blog-content provider until 1 1/2 years ago when Fox Sports 1's "Crowd Goes Wild" premiered. By last spring, the show was gone, but Nolan carried on as its unlikely breakout star.

"No Filter," her video series on Fox Sports' website, kept her in the spotlight, notably when she pointedly took on both the NFL and the role women play in sports media in the aftermath of the Ray Rice domestic abuse incident.

Then, last month, The Big Lead reported that ESPN unsuccessfully attempted to hire Nolan for Bill Simmons' Grantland site via a trade that would have given Fox rights to negotiate with soccer announcer Ian Darke and reporter Marty Smith.

No dice.

So, starting at 9:30 p.m. March 15, Nolan will have her own weekly show on Fox Sports 1, "Garbage Time with Katie Nolan."

Nolan, 28, grew up Framingham, Massachusetts, and attended Hofstra.

While bartending in Boston after college she started a blog and later wrote and produced videos for the site "Guyism." That's where Fox found her.

Newsday's Neil Best spoke with Nolan recently about her career path.

NB: Let me start right off with a provincial question: How did a Boston-area girl end up at Hofstra?

KN: It's an interesting question, but the answer probably isn't as interesting as I bet you'd hoped. I wanted to go to school for public relations, and I also wanted to minor in dance. And Hofstra had two really good programs for both of those, so that's why I ended up there.

NB: Do you still dance?

KN: Kind of, but not in any sort of professional way. That's sort of become just my fun story to tell people about what I used to do.

NB: So I assume you read my articles in Newsday religiously in the late 2000s?

KN: Obviously, all the time. (Laughs.) I did do the Newsday crossword every day, though.

NB: What was your Long Island experience like?

KN: It was interesting. At first it was kind of a shock. I'm sure you're used to hearing that when people get to Long Island for the first time, it's a bit of a shock to the system. But I found Long Island people very endearing. There are a lot of interesting differences between Boston and New York in general, and I think they're sort of heightened in Long Island. But I have a lot of good friends that I met at Hofstra.

NB: You obviously come from a sports-oriented area yourself, but did it help to round you out as a sports person to have that New York experience, too?

KN: Yeah, definitely. The Red Sox winning the [2007] World Series when I was at Hofstra was an interesting experience, because I wanted to celebrate but there was no one to celebrate with.

NB: Were there any fistfights?

KN: Not me. I have never been in a fistfight in my life. But it's an interesting dynamic living in New York in general as a Boston fan. It's kind of fun that way. It's fun to be the contrarian when everyone hates you, as long as your team is winning. As a contrast, I was also at Hofstra when the Patriots lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl [in 2008] and that was awful.

NB: Do you ever stop and think about the craziness of these last couple of years? It seems as if things are happening very fast.

KN: Incredibly fast. Normally it's moments like this when there are interviews and people ask: So, how long have you been doing this? Where did you start? Or, what's your story? That's when I start to realize, wow, my story is pretty short and not all that interesting. It's crazy what's happened to me. When it comes to day-to-day stuff, right now we're launching a show in two weeks so I'm so busy with the writing and booking guests and figuring out what the set is going to look like. It's not a constant thought, that's like, wow, this is really crazy!

I'm hoping once the show launches and I can take a deep breath, I can have a moment of: It's really fantastic and incredible how fast things are happening. It's been a lot of hard work, not necessarily through the traditional avenues that people would take to get here, but I think that's part of what makes it so interesting and also is probably part of why it happened so quickly.

NB: So is it OK for people to call you an overnight success?

KN: Yeah, overnight success. I love that. Because it's like, yeah, overnight, as in I didn't sleep for like a week one time because I was working so many hours. It definitely was overnight.

NB: When you first started on "Crowd Goes Wild," if someone had told you you would sort of be the breakout star from that group, I assume that would have sounded like an odd concept?

KN: Oh, I never would have believed it. When I signed on to "Crowd Goes Wild" I was supposed to play a role. I think it was called "digital correspondent," and I was supposed to sit on the couch and they would go to me and check in on Twitter and see what's happening on Facebook and basically keep my hand on the pulse of social media.

Then after a couple of days doing that, I think they had a meeting before the show and I was chiming in on one of the sports conversations we were having and everybody was sort of like, oh, well that's an interesting opinion, but you won't be able to chime in on the conversation unless we move you to the desk, so let's just try it. They had to build an extra little panel at the end of the long table so I could sit there.

It ended up just working, to keep the conversation balanced. I mean that was amazing to me. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to go from, oh, just read a couple of tweets, to you can actually say your opinion and what you think and we view that as valuable. So Fox, that was really awesome. I'm grateful for that.

NB: For someone at that stage of your career, "Crowd Goes Wild" must have been a great experience, being with that collection of people, including Regis Philbin.

KN: Yeah, I can't think of a better show to have started my career with, to be honest. It had everything that could ever possibly be thrown my way. I mean, one of the first conversations I ever had with Georgie Thompson, one of the hosts on the panel, was she said, "It's amazing that you're starting in live television, because if you start in pre-taped television and then went on live, it's so different. They're throwing you right into the fire."

You're live on TV your first time ever on TV, with five other panelists where you have to try to get a word in edgewise, with crazy segments that have dogs and children and she was like, there's no possible way you won't learn a million lessons. And I really did. I know "Crowd Goes Wild" had some critical reviews, but I met so many people that taught me so much about what's really important to keep in mind in this industry.

And what I learned from Regis is that the best person you can be on TV is just to be yourself. People will say one thing or another, but it doesn't matter. Just keep doing what you're doing.

To work my first TV job with Regis Philbin, if you told me when I was 15, 16 that that was going to happen, I would have never believed you.

NB: You said in an SI interview in November that you envisioned someday having a Jon Stewart-style show; is that what you're after with "Garbage Time"?

KN: During the Sports Illustrated interview, that was when we were coming up with the concept of the show, so it was right in the front of my mind. "The Daily Show" is the best thing I can compare it to because it's going to be really different than anything in sports. I hate when people are like: We have a new show! It's going to be so different! But it's an Internet show that's going to air on television.

Low budget sounds like a negative thing, but it's very low budget. It's a small studio, a very intimate setting. It's like me, two cameras and then two producers. So it's a really small space. It's going to be me sitting at the desk for the first segment doing monologue jokes, sort of sports mixed with entertainment mixed with humor. Then there's going to be some podcast conversations with people in the industry, whether it's journalists or bloggers or people on Twitter. Then there are going to be celebrity guests and athlete guests doing really silly, funny things.

So it's sort of like a late-night show but it's not on that late at night. We're trying to blend humor and sports, which is a very difficult blend. You have to sort of straddle the line. But the goal really is to make something that's fun to watch, that doesn't take itself too seriously, but that also if there is an issue in sports we feel we need to talk about, we can address it through this medium.

It's just sort of a place for sports fans, people who like sports, just to enjoy watching a half-hour show. It's better than it being like: Here's this issue! Here's my opinion! Here's his opinion! It's just sort of a fun, laid-back, once-a-week, half-hour show.

NB: In order for that to work, it has to be personality driven; is that something you're comfortable with?

KN: Yeah, absolutely. Is that daunting and a little intimidating for a person who's been on one TV show? Of course it is. I know the task at hand. I know that's huge. But I think the most important part about the show and the part that will make it feel so different is that I've been doing YouTube videos, or videos in some form on the Internet, for the last three, four years of my life. That's my main medium.

So what I'm used to is the interaction between the audience and me. A lot of people say, don't read the comments, don't read your Twitter replies. But I do. I feel like the Internet has the ability for you to hear directly from your critics and then address their criticisms. Or ignore them, whichever you do. But I think the connection with the audience and the relationship I have people who follow me or my fans or people who don't like me, I think that relationship is what's really driving the show.

It's a personality driven show, absolutely. But we're also going to do, as a counterpart to the show every Wednesday, an Internet show where I answer questions that I've gotten on Twitter or email or wherever they want to send me a question. I'll answer any question they have. We'll show maybe some behind-the-scenes footage and then tell them what's going to happen on the next show. So there's going to be a lot of back and forth.

NB: As a 28-year-old, do you hope to speak specifically to the under-30 world, or do you think you can appeal to sports fans in their 40s and 50s?

KN: I think it can appeal to anybody; everyone's hope would be that it can appeal to anybody. But the social aspect of it isn't going to be shoved down anyone's throat, because that's what turns off the younger market. You're watching a show and you're in your 20s and it's like, Tweet at us with this hashtag! And kids are rolling their eyes and changing the channel.

We won't be doing that because we don't want to turn the younger audience off. But also we're going to be talking about sports topics and social topics that have to do with sports. So really it's just a show for anybody that doesn't take sports so seriously that they can't laugh every now and then at their own team.

NB: So what did you think about the report of a trade that would have sent you to ESPN?

KN: Of course. (Laughs.) To be completely honest with you, reading that story was very interesting for me because I did not know any of that, because as I'm sure you know, we're all kept in the dark for anything contract related. I feel like it probably would have been one of the biggest trades in the sports world. It was certainly very strange.

NB: At this stage of your career, can I assume you are taking it one step at a time and not thinking about five or 10 years from now?

KN: It has to be that. I can't look five years in the future, because if I'd looked five years in the future five years ago, I never would have gotten here. It's kind of a reckless way to live, like one day at a time with no plan, but my goal right now, before March 15, is to just get the best show I can on television. Where it goes? I'm hopeful for it but I think looking too far into the future would only be a detriment.

NB: Back to Hofstra for a moment, what was the first thing you did after graduating in 2009?

KN: I did the stupidest thing you can possibly do: I moved to New York City without a job. I had one roommate, my cousin. She was moving from California and needed a roommate. She was like, oh, we'll find a place and it will be cheap. Don't worry about it. We did, and it wasn't cheap. I tried to find a job. I was pretty hopeful, but I couldn't find one. I think it was a year after that I finally moved back to Boston and started bartending.

NB: So you were in New York for a year with no job?

KN: I worked at a gym. I sold gym memberships for Equinox while also trying to find something in my field.

NB: So you've never actually had a job in public relations?

KN: No. I had, I think, four internships, which I think is the max you can have before you finally have to say: No, I think I probably deserve to be paid.

NB: And you never actually danced professionally?

KN: No, never. Well, I used to dance at bar mitzvahs on Long Island, actually.

NB: You mean, like when they have a DJ and dancers to get the kids motivated?

KN: Yup, that was me. I worked for Hart to Hart DJs, so that's technically dancing professionally, because I was paid and I did dance.

NB: Was that an OK job?

KN: Yeah, when your friends are working retail and you work at a bar mitzvah where you get paid $25 an hour and it lasts a couple of hours and you get to eat the buffet food, you really can't complain. For college it was a perfect job.

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