One Year Later, Streaming Talk Show Still Seeks To Help Pittsburgh Through The Pandemic
Sometimes, it feels like pandemic-watching is all there’s been to do over the past year. In that sense, “Alone / Together / Pittsburgh” is the live-streaming talk-show doppelganger of every Pittsburgher who’s lived through it.
The first episode aired March 17, 2020, just days after Pennsylvania locked down in the face of the coronavirus. Some 155 episodes and more than 500 guests later, “Alone / Together” is still airing about three nights a week. And host Patrick Jordan said he and collaborators Dave Mansueto and Pete Spynda will keep going as long as the pandemic continues.
"We're in this for the long haul now"
“Now it's, ‘We're in a marathon and we’ve got to finish it,’” he said. “We are definitely going to end this thing once the pandemic is done. This is not like a career path for us. But yeah, Dave, Pete and I talk about this all the time. We're like, 'We're in this for the long haul now.'”
“Alone / Together” began as the talk-show companion to Live at 25 Carrick, a streaming pandemic showcase for local musicians. Hosted initially by Jordan and artist and performer Alexi Morrissey, it was meant to highlight the local arts scene; Jordan, after all, is an actor and artistic director of barebones productions, Mansueto is a performer, and Spynda is a DJ and the force behind the Pittonkatonk music festival and educational initiative. But even as Jordan became the solo host, it quickly became clear that during a pandemic, there was a lot more territory to cover.
“We were having doctors on. We were having accountants. We were having, you know, psychiatrists,” said Jordan. “We had lots of different people, just trying to help.”
Like all of us, "Alone / Together" has come a long way from the pandemic's earliest days
The show is done all remotely via Facebook livestream, with Jordan ensconced in the paneled basement of his Point Breeze home, and guests likewise logging in from home. Each episode runs an hour or more in a loose, even goofy, conversational style, with Mansueto and Spynda occasionally appearing on-camera.
Shows have featured community activists and advocates, musicians and more, including names like WQED’s Rick Sebak and Mayor Peduto’s chief of staff, Dan Gilman. Regular contributors include chef Kate Romane (on restaurants), Day Bracey (local beer), and Natalie Bencivenga, who does her own short interviews with local difference-makers. One regular feature, a viewer poll called the “Jag / Off,” pitted Pittsburgh celebrities and cultural icons against each other, bracket style. (Ultimate winner: the cookie table.)
And aside from help from a few sponsors – most of which complements a Venmo appeal that goes toward paying guests -- it’s an all-volunteer gig, said Jordan.
"Alone / Together" has served as a real-time barometer for pandemic-era Pittsburgh
Like all of us, “Alone / Together” has come a long way from the pandemic’s earliest days. Last April, said Jordan, “We were freaking out on the show and had graphics, like, ‘Hey, there were 62 cases in Allegheny County today, everybody. We need to lock this down right now. We are heading in the wrong direction.’” Those numbers, of course, would have looked great in July, when daily cases were routinely three times higher, let alone in December, when daily reported cases occasionally topped 1,000.
Addressing everything from mask-wearing to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, “Alone / Together” has served as a real-time barometer for pandemic-era Pittsburgh. It’s been heartening to see so many people pull together, Jordan said. “I know the one thing that we found out was a lot of people love Pittsburgh. It's not just us,” he said.
“We had a guy [on the show] who ran a 47-mile marathon in his backyard to raise money for the food bank,” said Jordan. “So he literally ran in circles for 47 miles.”
Jordan characterized the show as “kind of like a time capsule of what everyone was feeling, like every now and then. It was like, people were panicking, and whatever was happening in our daily lives, we talked about it on the show. It just became that kind of thing, like, ‘Hey, if your roommate or life partner is driving you crazy right now, you're not alone. This isn't normal. Like we are living through something that is not normal, like not leaving your house for two weeks is not normal.’”
Viewers can access past and current episodes of “Alone / Together” through the show’s Facebook page.