Shortly after appearing on Stoney Speaks, Theobald decided to produce a variety show like the ones he grew up watching. In May 2001, he filmed his first episode of Watch This! Eleven years later, the show's format is remarkably similar -- a mix of comedic monologue and pre-filmed sketches, which Theobald writes, shoots, edits, and acts in, playing most of the roles in various costumes and disguises. His makeup kit includes about 20 different mustaches.
Theobald, who produces a show every two or three weeks, sees it as "a way of being validated, a way of saying, 'Oh, you have meaning.'" He just wishes he could get paid for it. "I guess the dream would be somebody saying, 'Hey kid, I'm gonna make you a star! Come over here, sign this, sign this," Theobald says in his gruffest agent voice, pantomiming a cigar in hand. "A bunch of cast members on Saturday Night Live got discovered through Internet sites. But that's not a plan, that's like saying, 'My retirement plan is I'm going to win the lottery.' Yeah, work on that luck, buddy."
For now, Theobald is sticking to his day jobs as a caretaker and as a day manager at a Berkeley pizzeria. After finishing a shift one recent weekday, he used the restaurant as the setting for a sketch. Changing out of his dingy T-shirt and customary brimmed hat, he donned an all-black leather vest that showed off his bare chest. He pulled out his camera, set up his tripod, and got to work. Borrowing a few empty beer glasses and pitchers for set decoration, Theobald issued directions to Steve, the bearded director, who is his friend and neighbor and often hangs out helping film sketches and directing the live shows.
Theobald took a seat in a booth and Steve stood behind him recording. Theobald then reached up and pretended to strangle Steve, who made gurgling noises and wriggled about. The scene was for an upcoming skit called "Inside the Music's Behind," a riff on VH1 specials and ASCAP music rights.
After the scene wrapped up, one of Theobald's co-workers asked, "When's this going to be on? Can I see it?"
"Friday, Channel 28," he replied. "Do you have cable?"
"No," she said. "Can I get it on an antenna?"
"I don't know. But it streams live on our website."
The irony seemed lost on both of them. Theobald is in his 40s, younger than Stoney Burke, but he still resides firmly in the pre-Internet generation for whom television possesses an aura unmatched by streaming videos online. "I haven't figured out how to post videos on the Internet," Theobald confesses, even though he is skilled at Photoshop, iMovie, and other complicated software. So why doesn't he just learn how to upload his videos? Why does he need an entire television station at his disposal?
In response, Theobold recounts an interaction another producer had with a guest on his public access show. "The guest said, 'I want my friends to see that I was on television. I know it's on a disc or YouTube, and I can watch it anytime I want. But it's not the same." For Theobald and other public access enthusiasts, "the thrill of television is it's somehow out of your hands." When a show airs on BeTV, "somebody else is saying, 'This is good, we're going to put this on.' Or, 'This is terrible, we're going to put it on anyway because that's how we roll.'"