Counter Culture


Counter Culture Home Edition Ep. 1

Our talk show is transformed into a talk show from Grover's house with
Daniel Kostelec, Shakespeare Performer and Entertainer at Renaissance Faires;
Danielle Gustafson, Board Member, Bat Conservation International; and
Dr. Will Miller, Psychotherapist, Ordained Minister, Standup Comedian, Author of “Refrigerator Rights” and host of "Conversations With Dr. Will"

AIRED: April 21, 2020 | 0:28:00

-Welcome to "Counter Culture," a talk show in a diner.

Tonight, I welcome Dan Kostelec, who dons the character

of William Shakespeare at Renaissance Fairs

and schools all over the country.

-I pull out a Beanie Baby kitten,

and I say, "No! It's a fluffy kitten!"

And then I start throwing it at people.

And I just made my cat run. [ Laughs ]

-...Danielle Gustafson, a woman with a passion for bats.

-Bracken Bat Cave.

There are thought to be 18 million bats using this cave.

-...and Dr. Will Miller, an old buddy, therapist,

a minister, and a stand-up comedian.

-The most useless part of your brain, Grover,

is right here in the front -- the frontal cortex,

That's the thinking business of your brain.

-All right here on "Counter Culture,"

the Home Edition.


Welcome to "Counter Culture,"

a talk show normally broadcast from a diner,

but we're going with the flow through the magic

of live streaming and broadcasting our show

live from in front of my own kitchen counter.

However, don't worry, we still have coffee

and the same great menu of guests.

Hi, guys. How are you?

-Great. -Thanks for having us.


-Great to have you.

This is gonna be a great show.

I mean, if we were all in the same room,

which virtually we are,

it would be one of the best meet-and-greets ever.

My first guest certainly lives up to his hero's famous words

that all the world's a stage

and all the people merely players.

[ Cheers and applause ]

He performs as William Shakespeare

in parodies of the playwright's famous works

at Renaissance Fairs, schools around the country

through his entertainment company,

Shakespeare Approved.

-Sing out loud!

-♪ Now I know my ABCs ♪

-His witty banter and comic take-offs

have his audience, young and old,

clamoring for more.

Please welcome Dan Kostelec.

Dan! How are you? Welcome! -Thank you. Good morning.

-Or evening.

-[ Laughs ] Yeah, or whatever it is. Right!

Your hero would certainly be taken aback

by this medium.

-Yeah, I mean, you dropped this into

the 16th century, and we would probably

all be burned as witches, but... [ Laughs ]

but Shakespeare was no stranger to times of plague.

And they had to deal with various outbreaks

of different types of plagues all the time

in the 16th and early 17th centuries

when he was working.

And the theaters would close down,

early modern versions of social distancing.

There's a well-known meme going around at this point

that Shakespeare wrote "King Lear"

during an outbreak of plague, so...

-You not only perform Shakespeare

or parodies thereof,

but you actually become Shakespeare.

Am I right?

You sing, you dance.

-♪ Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall ♪

♪ Humpty Dumpty had a great fall ♪

-When I'm at a Renaissance Fair,

there is no Dan Kostelec. He does not exist.

It is all very deep in character as William Shakespeare.

In my stage versions of them at Renaissance Fairs,

like "Macbeth,"

but it's the parody version, as you were saying,

so death by fluffy kittens.

Everybody in the audience has equal opportunity

of becoming a part of the show,

whether they are an actor, a set piece, or even a prop,

in some cases.

And for the person playing Macbeth,

the ridiculousness starts when he's doing his,

"Is this a dagger I see before me" soliloquy.

And I explain everything to the audience.

I say, "Now, at this point,

Macbeth delivers a soliloquy to you,

the audience, directly.

That's a big word. So everyone stay with me."

And everyone says "soliloquy."

I say, "Now, soliloquies, are when one person,

in this case, Macbeth, is talking to you,

the audience, directly, but no one else in the show

can hear him.

So, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, King Duncan, earmuffs."

And everybody puts on earmuffs.

And then I say, "He holds out his hand dramatically.

He says, 'Is this a dagger I see before me?'"

And then the actor will repeat,

"Is this a dagger I see before me?"

And then I pull out a Beanie Baby kitten.

I actually have one right over here.

I should have grab him.

I pull out a Beanie Baby kitten, and I say,

"No! It's a fluffy kitten.

Because there's nothing so dreaded or deadly

in the entire world known as an adorable fluffy kitten."

And then I start throwing it at people.

And I just made my cat run. [ Laughs ]

Every tragedy can be funny.

And a comedy doesn't have to mean it's funny.

Comedy, in the classic tradition,

just simply means everyone lives.

And tragedy, just simply means

most of your principal characters die.

-Now, for those who have never been to a Renaissance Fair,

describe what goes on.

-If you go to a nice big, really elaborate one

where there's permanent structures,

it is 16th century Disney World.

There's sometimes a castle.

There is a joust. There's shops and streets

that you can wander down, get yourself a giant turkey leg

or other food on a stick.

You have hawkers, hawkers everywhere,

people hawking the wares for a shop.

People hawking a show.

And that's what I do when I'm not actually performing my show.

I'm building the audience for the next one,

telling people, "Hey, you need to come see my next thing!

It's going to be amazing and brilliant.

You could be in it. It's called "Julius Caesar."

Beware the Ides of March of the Penguins."

And if they give you a smile or they laugh,

then you know you got them.

You know that you can pull them into your world.

But it's immersive entertainment.

You can talk to, of course, the queen

or princes and kings and princesses,

but you can also talk to the regular people.

So it's as immersive of a theatrical experience

as you can hope for,

because everybody stays in character and it goes

6, 8, 10 hours in a day.

-Tell us one wend their way as William Shakespeare

into Renaissance Fairs.

-I got into it being a theater student

many, many years ago in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

at Harrisburg Area Community College.

-Is that where you're from?

-Yes, that's where I'm from originally.

There was an audition notice on the green room bulletin board.

I happened to be cast as Will Shakespeare

because I have the hairline for it.

[ Laughs ]

And then I went about trying to memorize nearly all the sonnets

that I could just to have them in my back pocket to pull out.

And then that season, just started

putting together miniature skit versions of "Romeo and Juliet."

And then I was offered by a different Renaissance Fair,

"Hey, do you want to come in and do some stuff for the weekend?"

And so I started taking what I had built the year before

and then throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall

while also reading various Shakespeare plays

and started building the show as it exists now.

And over the last, what, 15 years,

we've created 10 shows.

-You also perform in schools, as well.

-Yes. The show that I have

the most original text in is "Romeo and Juliet."

But most of the shows, it's at least half,

if not three quarters modern English,

the way we speak it now.

Plus also lots of silly jokes that the kids will get.

So for "Romeo and Juliet," Romeo is doing the balcony scene.

And I say, "All right, Romeo, you get down on one knee."

"No, they'll love me." And that'll make the kids laugh.

And then, "Juliet, you stand here and lean

on the balcony, one hand upon your cheek,"

and then there'll be a third child playing the balcony.

"Have you ever played a balcony?

No? Well, just stand here and look impressive."

All right. So here's the balcony.

And here's Romeo and here's Juliet.

I say, "Now, Romeo, repeat after me.

But soft." And he says, "But soft."

And I start laughing with the kids.

I go, "Ha-ha. He said 'butt soft.'"

Then I explain that but soft means,

"Whoa, look there. What's that?"

So, "Romeo, say it again -- 'But soft.'"

"But soft." "He said butt soft twice!"

And it's just a lot through a lot of the jokes, and

because when they're laughing, they're open to learning

and you're open to the ridiculousness of the situation.

-Now, of course, we're all in suspended animation.

What are you doing while you're waiting for the plague

to pass and the fairs to reopen?

-I have a podcast called

"Shakespeare Approves of This Podcast."

I'm doing daily versions of it.

It's called Shakespeare's Coffee Break,

where I'll stream it on Facebook

just as Shakespeare from the waist up.

From the waist down, I'm usually in sweatpants

and I just talk with the audience,

read their comments, and we pick a different topic each day.

And then I'm also doing live readings of plays.

I'm working with a wonderful group

down in New Jersey called the Zenith Players.

We're picking a different Shakespeare play a week

and reading those, broadcasting to Facebook

through Zoom.

For myself, I'm working with other professional actors

doing readings of my shows,

rewriting those for this format, using professional actors,

and then also some audience members.

And we're doing those once every three weeks.

So we just did "Twelfth Night and the Three Bears"

on April Fool's Day

because they felt everyone could use a laugh.

And then on Shakespeare's birthday,

April 23rd, doing "Romeo and Juliet,"

the flying and coming of demon edition.

-Dan, thank you so much for joining us

on "Counter Culture" Home Edition.

It was great having you. -It is my pleasure.

-Good luck. And we'll see you at the fair.

Dan Kostelec, a performer of whom

Shakespeare would definitely approve.

-This is an exciting time for people like me,

citizen scientists.

-My next guest is a mild mannered marketing professional

by day, but a bat observer by night.

She believes that bats need better public relations

because they are so much more important to us

than their undeserved reputation might lead one to believe.

she is a board member,

a Bat Conservation International,

also the spouse of our own Brad Clein,

our morning anchor on WLVR, please welcome.

It is a pleasure to have on

"Counter Culture: the Home Edition."

Danielle Gustafson. Danielle, how are you?

-Grover, I'm so happy to be with you today,

virtually, of course.

-Like Batman, you have another life.

As I say, mild mannered marketing pro by day,

bat observer by night.

-I like to describe myself as a bat enthusiast.

So to my mind, bats need a PR agent.

They do many beneficial things for us.

So you could talk about them,

everything from insect control to pollination.

And certainly when we talk about insect control,

there are also crop pests that they help us control.

And then the pollination piece is incredibly important.

And who knew that bats were also excellent seed dispersers.

-How did you become a member

of Bat Conservation International?

-There was a moment in my digital marketing life

when I found myself at the New York Stock Exchange

and I ran their digital footprint for about 12 years,

and I was invited to go on an expedition to the Amazon

with the New York Botanic Garden

and Bat Conservation International.

And I thought to myself, boy, I have no work-life balance,

and that would be an excellent thing to do.

And I'll just say that it turned out it was 9/11

and we all got stuck in the Amazon.

We were netting bats every night.

Those people on that trip

are all still really close friends of mine.

And many of us are on the board

of Bat Conservation International.

-You go on a lot of trips in pursuit of bats.

-One of my favorite places in the world

is a place called Bracken Bat Cave.

And it's actually in Texas.

And it is the world's largest congregation of mammals.

There are thought to be 18 million bats using this cave.

They've used it for over 10,000 years.

We know this because we've done guano core samples

and that's as far as we've gotten.

They've probably been using it longer than that.

The cave is perfect for mammal babies.

And so all the bats there, these 18 million are all female bats.

And it's a maternity roost,

and they all give birth to a single pup

because being a bat is life in the slow lane.

They only give birth to typically one pup per year.

So imagine 18 million bats flying out of one cave entrance.

And it takes them four hours to all fly out.

They'll fly up to 10,000 feet.

And as far as a hundred miles and back in a night,

and they're eating their weight in crop pests.

We talk about this one cave as being the difference

between Texas farmers being profitable and unprofitable

in terms of the pesticide load

that these farmers would have to apply

to replace the job of those bats.

And these bats are being studied in terms

of like self-driving cars.

So the bats are echolocating.

And if you could imagine, 18 million bats all exiting

through a very small entrance and exit

and not running into each other.

How did they do that?

That research is applicable to self-driving cars.

So the lider that they use in terms of cars,

we can study the bats

and learn how they communicate in such a way

that they don't run into each other.

And, yes, we, in self-driving cars,

should not run into each other.

-How many species are there?

-This is one of the interesting things.

There are over 1,400 species of bats,

and I actually know the person that keeps the list,

and I want to tell you it is a very active list.

So in February, we were telling people

that there were nearly 1,400 species of bats.

And when Brad and I founded the New York City Bat Group

in 2004, and we started doing Bat Walks

for the American Museum of Natural History,

the number we used was 967.

And so I'd like to give this example

of the number of species, the bats and how it changes

as an example of how poorly studied bats are.

-How did they get such a bad reputation?

I mean, you know, Dracula didn't turn into a bunny, okay?

He turned into a bat.

-He did not turn into a fluffy bunny,

even though many bats are fluffy.

But I will say, they are cryptic.

And they come out at night. And they hang upside down.

And so many people are afraid of the night.

Things go bump in the night.

And so most of the knowledge that we have about bats

stems from our understanding of their echolocation,

which is essentially sonar.

And so we've discovered sonar during the Second World War.

And that was really the time that we started

realizing that not all bats were created equal.

And we started looking at the diversity of that.

-Right. And real quickly, I would love

to take one of your Bat Walks through Central Park,

which I know you lead quite often.

-Oh, and I would love to take you into Central Park,

but even more, I would like to take you here in Bethlehem.

What about going into Nisky Hill Cemetery?

-Ooh. -I've already seen a bat there.

Yeah, that's right. Based in Bethlehem, near WLVT.

-In the time of COVID-19,

it has become kind of my citizen science walk each day.

I inventory all the bird species

that I see on a given walk

and report those in to something called eBird.

-Yes. You always promote the idea of citizen scientists

where you don't have to be a pedigree scientist

to contribute to science, and I think that's wonderful.

I want to thank you for joining us

and really giving us the inside scoop on our friends, the bat.

-My pleasure.

-Danielle Gustafson, a citizen scientist

who believes that any animal that eats its weight in insects,

pesky insects, can't be all bad.

Our next guest and I met years ago

in Philly's comedy club scene.

-Dr. Will Miller!

-And we'd been friends ever since.

He's a psychotherapist, an ordained minister,

and a stand-up comic.

-And I was an acolyte, a candle kid.

And the next thing I know, I'm not paying attention.

ADD, not paying attention.

The kid next to me goes, "Hey, man, you're on fire."

[ Laughter ]

And my big shirt went up in a huge flame.

-In a pinch, he can entertain,

analyze, and minister to himself

if quarantine really gets to it.

He's the author of Refrigerator Rights"

and "Why We Watch." He's got quite a story.

And it's my pleasure to introduce

my old buddy, Dr. Will Miller.

-Dr. Will!

We talked about this for so long.

-I'm over the top that we could be connected like this,

even, you know -- even though it's remote.

Yeah. You know what? Back in the New York --

I mean, in the Philly comedy scene,

Clay Heri, of course, who was one of the

persons booking comics,

started inviting New York City comedians down to Philly.

And I was one of the early ones.

And you and I met and we've been connected and fans ever since.

It's been great. -Ever since. [ Laughs ]

-I often tell people that, you know,

I don't know who first said this in their act,

but they said, "You know, comedy's a strange job.

I mean, you only work 45 minutes a night.

It's the only job where you can say,

I'm going to work. I'll be right back."

Right? -[ Laughs ]

-So, I had my days free in New York City

and I went back to Columbia University

and I just kept getting degrees.

And so this accrual or accumulation of alumni "hats,"

if you will,

is just simply because I took advantage of my time.

-Over the course of the years,

I have kind of worked across a wide span

in the area of mental health.

I started my career while I was a comic at night.

I started my career working as a therapist at a heroin clinic

in Lower Manhattan.

Over the years,

I've been a therapist and counselor for people,

so I really feel like I have a feeling

for what people are dealing with right now.

And the isolation is very, very challenging for people.

It really, really is.

You know what?

Someone goes to a therapist because you have symptoms,

you're not feeling well.

And if your symptoms kind of spin out of control,

you feel like you need help.

The two things now that people are feeling

are either anxiety or depression.

And the anxiety piece is difficult because,

you know, you need to calm yourself down.

And what I've been telling people is it's really important

to practice some form of meditation.

The most useless part of your brain, Grover,

is right here in the front -- the frontal cortex.

That's the thinking business of your brain.

I've spoken about the health benefits

of meditation for a long time.

-And now you have your YouTube series,

Conversations With Dr. Will, in which you offer insight

and many of them now about the current situation

and dealing with it, as you say, and the locus of control,

you were talking about.

-Yeah. Yeah, you know, yeah, that's a pretty good point.

It was, "You'll love this, as a comedian."

The guy who coined that term is a psychologist

named -- get this, here's his name --

Julian Rotter.

Imagine carrying around that name your whole life.

Anyway, Julian Rotter said, individuals

have either an external locus of control,

meaning that they feel like they're at the, you know,

at the mercy of points outside themselves

or they have an internal locus of control.

If you think about external locus of control,

think about what we've seen in the news the past few years

of people who live in these awful,

horrible countries where you have no illusions

you can control anything other than just,

you know, feeding yourself and taking care of your kids.

The American frame of reference is an internal locus of control.

We feel like we're empowered, we're task oriented,

which is really great.

That's why we do a lot of good things.

Except, if you don't have control.

Then we freak out, and that's what's happening today.

People are having anxiety

because we can't, not just control that.

People, I think, are okay to adjust to some quarantine time.

But not having any idea about the end game here is really,

really challenging for type-A active persons.

And people either get anxious or they get depressed.

And I worry about both of those types. But two reasons.

One is depression means you just kind of fold your tent

and you just can't get engaged.

And that's a very bad direction to go in, okay.

The best quote I ever heard about depression

was psychologist Rollo May.

He said, "Depression is the inability to imagine a future."

Think about that.

You just get stopped and you can't find a way out.

Now, here's the skinny during the quarantine, Grover.

A whole lot of couples -- just talk about married couples

who are in the house.

Just put aside the kids for the moment.

...are anxious types married to depressive types?

And they cope radically differently one from the other.

And so part of what we have to do is be compassionate

with the style of the other person.

So if you're kind of like a low-key person

and you're with someone who's has a lot of anxiety.

You need to first acknowledge,

"It's okay. That's how you're wired.

What can we do and talk about

to have you kind of find your footing again?"

Like meditation, for example, and exercise.

And then conversely, the anxious people who are married

to someone who's kind of like nonresponsive and gets isolated

is to compassionately acknowledge.

"Boy, I know this must be

hard for you in a particular way.

What can we do or talk about that would help

lift you up a little bit to get out?"

You know what they found with PTSD?

The two most helpful strategies

for dealing with the trauma are movement, okay,

and specifically yoga.

Think about yoga. -Hmm.

-Yoga is almost like a semi-meditative

spiritual activity

where all parts of your body are stretching.

-The research is profoundly helpful with that.

They've done this research for 10 years.

This is the brain research,

you know, from soldiers and police officers.

That's who I work with. I work with police officers,

first responders, firefighters who are traumatized regularly.

But now many of us are. we don't have an end game.

We just don't know how this is going to end.

There was a guy named Robert Sapolsky

from Stanford University,

and he was the guy who established years ago

that human beings have an amazing capacity

to handle an acute stress, a fight or flight

and come down with very little damage to your organism.

We're very poorly designed for chronic stress.

That's kind of the gnawing, you know,

worries that you can't get away.

That's what really cooks the blood

and really ruins your health.

And that's what we have to deal with,

is the chronic stress.

This is a chronic stress challenge for all of us

staying home.

We'll be okay.

We'll get out of it, and we'll be changed.

You know that any time in any culture

that there was an epic system-wide catastrophe,

in the aftermath, became some of the richest creative times,

in all of those, you know.

Within a generation of the Black Plague in 1400,

the Renaissance began.

So we're gonna have something fantastic come out of this.

We really are. And you, sir, are going to lead it.

-[ Laughs ]

-Anyway, thanks so much for joining us,

especially at this time.

-You know, if you see a minister,

a therapist and a comedian walk into a bar,

well, it's probably Dr. Will Miller.

Hey, check out Conversations With Dr. Will Miller on YouTube.

It'll help you out.

You'll be glad you did.

Well, that's our show for this evening.

I want to thank all of my guests,

a Shakespeare Approves re-enactor, Dan Kostelec...

-If they give you a smile or they laugh,

then you know you got them.

-...a board member of Bat Conservation International,

Danielle Gustafson...

-This is one of the interesting things.

There are over 1400 species of bats.

-And my old pal, comedian, minister,

and psychotherapist, Dr. Will Miller.

-We'll be okay.

We'll get out of it, and we'll be changed.

We're gonna have something fantastic come out of this.

-And thank you, folks. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

And see you next week when we'll have more

great conversation right here

on "Counter Culture: the Home Edition."






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