Earlier this month, fuboTV launched the fubo Sports Network (free ad-supported programming available both to fuboTV subscribers and to everyone else through a variety of apps and fubosportsnetwork.com), and Julie Stewart-Binks is playing a prominent role in their new original programming. The network’s original programming so far includes The Cooligans (comedians Alexis Guerreros and Christian Polanco riffing on soccer, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m.), The Players Lounge with Cobi Jones and PJ Harrison (soccer interviews and discussion, Wednesdays at 8 p.m.), and two shows featuring Stewart-Binks, Call It a Night with Julie Stewart-Binks (a sports comedy show airing Tuesdays and Thursdays) and Drinks With Binks (an interview show airing Fridays at 8 p.m.). Stewart-Binks recently spoke to Awful Announcing about her new shows, and said Call It A Night in particular is the combination of sports and comedy she’s been looking for.
“To be honest, it’s like my dream job. They gave me essentially everything I wanted. When we had spoken earlier this year, it was like everything that I had thought of over the last year and kind of put together, plus everything I’ve been working on ahead of time in my entire career…I feel like I manifested it almost, you know, ‘Put that energy out in the universe.’ And then I’m being quoted in an article that you’ve written saying I want to do a late-night show feel with sports and comedy, and you put that out there, and people see it or they feel it. You let people know your goals, and fubo just offered me the ability to cultivate that at like a startup level. It’s not the big, big, big show from NBC or ESPN or any of that, but it’s the ability to kind of create my own thing.”
She said Call It a Night‘s goal is to bring what people enjoy about late-night shows, but specifically focus that on sports.
“We’re basically trying to do what Fallon and Kimmel do, and essentially what SNL does, but all sports. So, you know, people would probably look at an archetype of what Katie Nolan’s done with ESPN. We’re trying to do the idea of a cold open into a monologue with topical headline jokes, have a guest, do a fun bit with the guest, I model that off of what Fallon does a lot of the time where it’s a bit more lighthearted.”
As mentioned above, Stewart-Binks turned to stand-up and improv comedy after parting ways with Barstool Sports in May 2018. She said that while her stand-up material wasn’t as topically-focused as what she’s doing now, it was vital to getting her to think about what could make good sports comedy riffs.
“My stand-up experience is helping me think differently in the way that when I see the news or I see a story, I now think ‘What are the other layers or the other elements that we could connect this to?’ But then I also think there’s my confidence in doing something different. My confidence ahead of doing stand-up was ‘I can do a report on this, I can do an interview.’ Now it’s like, ‘Okay, I can write something that’s different.’ One might not land, the joke might not work, but I am giving myself a creative license to try. And I go through the jokes a lot and I try them out. And I’d say like 80 percent of our jokes that end up going to air are pretty good.
“So I think honestly the stand-up experience has just been thinking about things differently. We do cold opens where I want to do something where it’s either like social
commentary on sports broadcasting or on sports. We do one where I’m practicing my teases and bumps, but they get increasingly more and more ridiculous. Because broadcasters are just, if you actually listen to many of the broadcasters when they’re going to break, the stuff they say doesn’t really make sense or it’s not really paid off, it’s so extreme. So it’s trying to do comedy on that. …And we just try to meld pop culture with sports and comedy.”
But it’s not all just laughs. Stewart-Binks said the show also provides the chance for more serious discussions and commentaries when appropriate.
“It’s also having the opportunity to not always having to make something funny; if there’s commentary to be had, we’re going to do something on that. It’s a license to be a bit more creative, and because we don’t have any big rights or highlights, we don’t have any big partnerships with any leagues at the moment, we can kind of have a little bit more fun, we can kind of push the envelope a little bit more than a bigger show could.”
One example of more serious discussion so far came from Stewart-Binks talking with guest Nelson Figueroa about his exit from SNY:
Another case of commentary saw her opining on the Antonio Brown saga:
Overall, Stewart-Binks said doing Call It a Night has taken a lot of effort, but it’s been rewarding.
“It has been so much work. It has been the most work I’ve ever put into really anything in my professional career, in a different sense. First of all, it’s a different way of using your brain, it’s seeing ‘Oh, Daniel Jones is starting at quarterback’ and finding what’s the next layer, peeling back the layers and figuring out what’s funny about that, without also burning bridges or hurting people’s feelings or being mean. It’s comedy, it’s trying to find something that surprises the audience about that. So I’ve really enjoyed exercising that part of my brain.”
She said the approach to a show like this is very different from typical sports broadcasting (and also different from the stand-up comedy she’s done), so it’s a mental challenge to get into the right routines. But that’s getting easier with more repetitions.
“It’s still going to take a while until I can feel comfortable, because topical headlines aren’t what I would do for my stand-up comedy. So it’s just figuring out a formula of headline, punchline, headline, setup, punchline. And the more you do it, the better you get at it. I’ve been working on that.”
Stewart-Binks said her work with fubo involves a small group of people who are doing everything and filling multiple roles, but they’re all devoted to what they do, and she’s getting the support she needs from management.
“The thing is, though, we don’t have a big staff at all. We basically have six people that do my two shows and The Cooligans. And then we have The Players Lounge as well in LA, and we have a ton of other content that’s on fubo Sports Network right now. But we have people that are APs (associate producers) that are also building the sets, that are also co-hosting with me, that are shooting. It’s actually insane. It almost feels like we’re creating a class project every Tuesday and Thursday. We work probably like two or three weeks ahead on each show, but on Mondays, we’re still working on the next day’s show and we still have so many things to try and get in place.”
“And then then we have to bring the set in. The set doesn’t live in a studio; well, it does, but in pieces. We rent from a studio called Live X, which has been incredible; they have a built-in technical staff there, from audio to technical directors to graphics, and they help with the show and we give them elements; they are top-notch. So we have the set we’ve built and they help us construct it and then disassemble it ever single show. It’s like a real make-work project at some points, it feels like we’re doing everything the hardest way possible, but that’s until we get sponsorships and get a lot more eyeballs on, and then we’ll be able to make this bigger.”
“That’s the coolest thing about fubo. My boss, Pam Duckworth, who’s the head of the network, she wants to make this thing really work and is willing to invest in it. So, you know, you start to say ‘Okay, you know, we could use some extra hands here,’ ‘Okay, let’s hire people.’ ‘You know, if we just had a little bit more money in this area, we could do this.’ ‘Okay, well, let’s do that.’ So she’s really willing to make this thing get big.”
Stewart-Binks said that startup feel and collaborative approach is also exciting, as it represents a chance for both her and her co-workers to really make an impact on the final product.
“One of the things that attracted me to fubo in the first place was that especially with the startup, there’s no guarantees that anything’s going to work. I see this show, it has my face all over it, it has my name all over it, and I really want it to work. I want it to be something that I can be super proud of and at the end of the day I’m just like bursting at the seams of showing everyone about it. Because a hundred percent of the show has my stamp all over it.”
“But I told some of my co-workers in the first week, I always make sure everyone knows that while the show has my name and face all over it, it’s all of ours. And I want everyone to feel, ‘What do you want to get out of this, do you want to be on air, do you want to write, let’s get you doing that.’ Because we’re all learning, we’re all getting reps. I want my like my group to feel like their names are on the show too, and a lot of people in LA and New York would be like ‘Oh honey, no, that’s yours,’ and I’m like ‘No, no, no, it’s all our show because I can’t do the best job I want to do without all of them.”
Stewart-Binks said although she’s been doing comedy for quite some time now, she’s still learning new things about it, and new ways to make comedy work with sports.
“I technically am a professional comedian, I guess; I’ve done it enough times and made money doing it. But I guess I could say that I’m still exercising that side of my brain. So The Cooligans come into this as comedians doing a show; I come into a comedy show as a sports broadcaster. So it took a lot of learning in many realms, but I like it a lot because it’s like my brain is so activated. Sometimes when you get good at something, it’s like second nature; it’s writing the script, it’s reading off a prompter, it’s doing a talkback, it’s doing highlights, you kind of know it. But this is challenging me so much that I feel like I’m always on, which I like; it’s exhausting, but I like being so involved.”
As for her comedy role models, Stewart-Binks said her work’s influenced by multiple people, with Katie Nolan making a particular impact on the sports and comedy front.
“I kind of try to make it a bit more playful in the Jimmy Fallon regard, his isn’t necessarily super on the social commentary side. But then I love female comedians like Samantha Bee and Chelsea Handler. Obviously Katie Nolan, I draw a lot of inspiration from her paving the way for people like me to say ‘Hey, you know, I want to do something a bit different.’ Because she was the first one to do this in sports, so I kind of think of us as like she’s like Jay Leno and I’m like James Corden. It also feels like no one’s really kind of done this before, so we’re almost like in a sisterhood if you may in this kind of realm.”
“I also will just watch people do roasts. You know what’s funny, as a sports broadcaster you watch so much film, on Monday Night Football, on baseball games, on hockey, everything like that. But now, doing the show, it’s like ‘Okay, I want to see [Dave] Chappelle’s stand-up, I want to see how he cultivates his punchlines or what really motivates him. I want to see the Alec Baldwin roast and see how people do comedy in such different ways sometimes; while there is a format, it’s sometimes just what’s funny.’ So now I have a lot more research to do then I did perhaps before, but I think that’s the fun part of it, challenging yourself in that regard.”
The fubo Sports Network shows are now Stewart-Binks’ main focus, but she’s also continuing with some work with SNY and CBS Sports HQ. She said part of her decision to take this new deal came from encouragement from famed TV executive and talent representative John Ferriter, who was her manager until his death in July.
“My manager negotiated this deal and he actually died right after he did, which was really tragic. He created The Arsenio Hall Show, he worked with Kimmel and Seacrest and got a lot of their shows off the ground. And when I asked him about it when it kind of came across to me, I was like ‘Should I do this? It’s not an entity I had really ever heard of before, it seems kind of risky.’ He was like ‘Any time you’re offered to do your own show and it’s exactly what you want to do, you have to take it.’ He was also like ‘You’re also only going to get as much out of the show as you put into it. Monday to Thursday, without a doubt, you’ve got to go full-on into the show. If you want to still have your fingers in the other pies you have, do that on the weekend.'”
“Now, that’s a lot of work. I try to give myself some time so that I’m not burnt out, so like I’ll work at CBS or SNY on the Friday, or offer to work on like maybe one day on the weekend, just so I at least also get to recalibrate. And it’s within such a creative environment, you want to give yourself a chance to look around. The best ideas come when you’re relaxed. And I find that right as I’m falling asleep is when I have my best material, so I wake myself up and write it down.”
Beyond Call It a Night, Stewart-Binks is also doing the weekly Drinks With Binks show, and she said that’s been a great fit for letting her interview interesting people in the sports media world.
“Drinks with Binks was a show that Pamela Duckworth had already named and created before I arrived! Evidently, she knew what my strengths are. This is sort of an after-hours feel where a guest and myself talk about life, sports, motivations, fears, really anything over a beverage (can be alcoholic or not). It’s a 48-minute vodcast, and it’s much more casual. What I like about this is I feel my guests are comfortable to open up and be themselves. Many of my guests have been on the other side of the microphone, so I enjoy making them the star. We aren’t playing games or reading headlines, we’re just both being ourselves. And any time you give someone booze and a platform, you never know what you’re going to get.”
“I don’t want to be just trying to put a product on air just because it’s my job. I want to put the best product out there. …I’m booking all the guests to our show right now, so I’m just like harassing everyone I know from Dan Patrick to Trey Wingo to Nick Mangold, and they’ve been great, because I think people recognize that you’re trying to create something cool, and also we all recognize that this is a vehicle that could also help my friends to get their content out there too.”
She said that part of the focus there is also in producing segments that can have some appeal after the fact to those who didn’t watch the whole show.
“It’s about the clips, it’s about like a 30-to-90 second thing that people will see. They’re not necessarily going to watch my hour-long show Drinks With Binks, they’ll see one 15-second clip with Dan Patrick.”
Stewart-Binks said it’s taken a lot of effort to get the fubo Sports Network shows up and running, but she’s loving doing them, and she’s excited about what the future may have in store.
“It’s a lot of work, but I think the more we do it, we’ll get in a position where we can have some more resources to be able to hire more people and make it so it doesn’t feel like it’s this final exam every single day. But it’s great, and it’s really cool to go to work and see yourself do your own show. And it’s on a platform that’s also accessible; it’s just fubosportsnetwork.com, type it in and boom. …And while not a traditional format, we obviously know that everyone doesn’t really know what the next five to 10 years are going to hold.”
Call It a Night with Julie Stewart-Binks airs on the fubo Sports Network Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. Eastern. Drinks With Binks airs Fridays at 8 p.m. Eastern.