New Show “Solution Time” Draws Attention to Social Issues through Comedic Lens
PROVO, Utah – Aug 05, 2019 – Social innovator Alicia Gettys, communications and operations director at the BYU Ballard Center, spends her workday immersed in hope, human-centered design thinking, and solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social problems. While at work, the world feels like it’s moving in a good direction with social innovation at the heart of the solutions. Yet these feelings often fade when she turns on the nightly news and hears tragic stories about things going terribly wrong in families, communities, the nation, and the world.
“When the Boston bombings happened, watching the news was hard,” Gettys says. “I was watching the best of human’s capacity ruined by the worst of human capacity. I couldn’t watch the news for a week or two after the bombings. The Ballard Center exposed me to hope and solutions, and I decided that more people needed exposure to that hope.”
After giving this idea of hopeful news some thought, Gettys partnered with the Ballard Center’s Social Venture Academy to create a comedy show titled “SolutionTime.” The show explores social problems in depth, presents solutions, and provides recommendations to listeners about how to get involved.
Gettys describes her show as “kind of ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,’ except it doesn’t leave you feeling more hopeless about America.”
The comedic monologue dives into a particular social problem while simultaneously featuring someone who has personallyfaced that social issue. As the show’s producer, Gettys envisioned a combination of fact and comedy to stir the audience to action. Like a TED Talk, the show is twenty minutes or less in order to provide listeners with substantial content while also being mindful of listeners’ time constraints. The goal of the show is to raise awareness and provide exposure about social issues in ways that will appeal to listeners and ideally invite them to take action.
The first show, which aired on Veterans Day, featured the topic of ending veterans’ homelessness. The episode discussed the unfortunate truth about the high number of veterans in the United States who suffer from mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a result of these health problems, many of these service men and women live on the streets. Changemakers across the nation have been working to house these veterans, and since 2010, fifty-one percent of homeless veterans are no longer living on the streets. (Wentling, Nikki. “HUD Reports Drop to 37,878 Homeless Veterans in 2018.” Stars and Stripes, 1 Nov. 2018, www.stripes.com/news/veterans/hud-reports-drop-to-37-878-homeless-veterans-in-2018-1.554650.)“Solution Time” helps listeners understand how this incredible change was achieved in such a short amount of time.
In this particular episode, NFL all-pro player Chad Lewis interviews former veteran Phillip Goard about his life experiences. Goard has overcome the grasp of alcoholism, PTSD, mental illness, homelessness, and prison—a seemingly impossible feat. Today, Goard is a full-time student studying construction engineering, living in his own apartment, and working for a local TV channel in Salt Lake City. When speaking about his personal journey, Goard says, “I weighed 105 pounds when I was arrested. I’ve actually stopped saying that I was arrested. I was rescued.”
Mark Johnston, an expert who has worked with government entities on the issue of veteran homelessness for the last thirty years, was also featured on the show. Johnston began working on veteran homelessness during President Ronald Reagan’s administration and currently serves as the chair of the U.S. Department of Affairs committee that is focused on ending veteran homelessness. He spoke about specific cities across the United States that have worked hard to eradicate veteran homeless in their city. According to Johnston, New Orleans managed to end veteran homelessness within a period of six months.
Zach Atherton, comedian and owner of Improv Broadway, located in Provo, Utah, debuted as host for “Solution Time.” Atherton holds both JD and MPA degrees from Brigham Young University. Atherton hopes that the show will draw attention to important social issues and gain the coverage needed for opinion leaders to make a change in their communities.
“Comedy is the vehicle that can draw attention to these issues,” Atherton says. “A mayor somewhere may think, ‘I can take this initiative on.’”
Atherton and Gettys hope to one day partner with investors, organizations, and NGOs and offer their platform as a vehicle to spread important messages to the public. The pair of producers want to ensure that they are sharing sustainable solutions not just spreading popular opinions.
“Part of the method is that we research and vet solutions with data to show that these things have actually worked,” Atherton says.
Gettys’ goal for the program is to showcase respect and comedy simultaneously. Comedy is a way for listeners to relate to current events in a humorous way while maintaining respect for people who have experienced the social issues discussed on the show. The show host does this by drawing attention to myths or statistics surrounding a social issue, a comedic term called “punching up.”
An example of this balance between humor and respect is a joke Atherton tells about college professors being likened to the working poor. Evidently the Bureau of Labor Statistics classified 9.5 million individuals as the “working poor” in 2014, with one out of four part-time college professors falling in this category. Atherton quipped, “The next time your teacher hands you back a paper that says, ‘Needs more work,’ you know he is just asking you for a better job.”
Gettys hopes to reach those who care about social issues and want to be involved in implementing solutions to those social problems. “In general, people haven’t been trained on how to solve social problems,” Gettys says. “I don’t want to stop compassionate acts of service from occurring; I want to empower effective problem-solving. I want to help people see what is possible.”
Atherton echoed Gettys’ thoughts. “We hope these issues aren’t one-and-done things,” Atherton says. “We want to start a campaign that we will revisit at another point in time and re-share in follow-up episodes. We want these to be more than just fun stories—we want them to last for years. Our hope is that we can see small change take place consistently over time.”
Episodes of “Solution Time” can be viewed on YouTube at solutiontime.tv, the Facebook page @SolutionTimeTV, or the website https://www.solutiontime.tv/.
Media Contact: Alicia Gettys (801) 422-5283
Writer: Ballard Center