Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2012

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Sounding off

Sounding off
Sam Seder '88

Radio host Sam Seder '88 offers a counterpoint to right-wing talk shows

by Andrew Clark


As an undergraduate, Sam Seder '88 was immersed in all forms of government. He majored in government, was president of his sophomore class and, as a senior, held the same post with the Student Government Association.

Seder's days still revolve around politics, as he works round-the-clock to provide the world with viewpoints from the left side of things.

Every day, Seder, 45, hosts “The Majority Report,” a podcast that also airs live online. On Saturdays, he co-hosts the nationally syndicated program “Ring of Fire” with Robert Kennedy Jr. and Mike Papantonio. And he can sometimes be seen quipping on current events on MSNBC.

The Worcester, Mass., native says it's crucial that Americans keep up with current affairs.

“Politics are important because they have implications on everything our society does,” says Seder, who lives in New York with his wife, Nicole, a director and documentary producer, and their 6-year-old, Myla. “I'm interested in politics because they will dictate what kind of world my daughter is going to grow up in.”

But Seder didn't go straight from Connecticut College to political punditry. After graduation, he moved to Boston to go to law school and follow in the family tradition. But it wasn't the right fit, he says.

Instead, he spent nearly five years in Boston's venerable stand-up comedy scene. He moved to California in the mid-'90s, where he wrote pilots for Fox, HBO, CBS and NBC. He's also directed movies and acted in sitcoms, from “Spin City” to “Sex and the City.” He remains active in the entertainment world, doing voice work on Fox's animated series “Bob's Burgers.”

Seder's entry into the realm of political talk radio was a fortuitous twist of fate. In 2003 his long-time friend, comedian Janeane Garofalo, asked him to team up with her to host “The Majority Report,” a new left-wing talk show on Air America.

“At the time, I just thought that it could be a fun thing to do,” Seder recalls.

The Hollywood funnyman found himself in a new role, politically opposite the Rush Limbaughs of the world. In six years, Seder hosted four different shows for the now-defunct radio station, including “The Sam Seder Show,” “Seder on Sundays” and “Break Room Live.”

Eugene Gallagher, the Rosemary Park Professor of Religious Studies, says his former student's success in political talk is not terribly surprising.

“Sam could engage with the material in a serious but playful way, encapsulate his thoughts in a striking verbal image, and actually use that to further the discussion,” Gallagher recalls. “In the glimpses I've had of Sam's career after college, it seems to me that he has continued to develop those skills in ways that have served him well in his multiple pursuits in political commentary and comedy, which are often not too far apart.”

Day after day, Seder tackles the hot-button issues that dominate newspaper headlines. He interviews a wide range of guests on the “The Majority Report”: one day a grass-roots activist, the next a U.S. senator. From the death penalty to abortion to health care, no topic is off the table, but Seder always explores it from a liberal point of view.

Seder admits it's tough to compete, day after day, with Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and other conservative voices. The shrinking talk-radio industry hasn't helped, he adds.

“But the market is going to change when the delivery mechanism changes, when you see the emergence of things like podcasts,” Seder says. “The way the industry is currently set up, it will be very difficult to change. The structure of the industry is biased against new formats.”

Despite the ups and downs, talk radio has been a natural fit for Seder.

“For the most part, I love it,” he says. “Our politics can get depressing. You're working on this relentless 24-hour schedule. And it's hard to constantly come up with 90 minutes of new material. But it's definitely been healthy for me. For one, I don't yell at the TV as much any more.”


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