Interview: They Call Him Baba Booey, but We Call Gary Dell’Abate Our Newest Host
By Luke Y. Thompson on September 4, 2012
To Howard Stern fans and prank callers, “Baba Booey” is an essential part of the vocabulary. But to the Nerdist Channel, he’s about to reveal a whole new side. The producer normally known as Gary Dell’Abate considers himself a huge gadget geek, and he’s out to demystify technology for all those folks out there whose phones don’t do anything other than make calls. Debuting today, Dell’Abate’s new show They Call Me Baba Booey may play on the name recognition from Stern, but it’s Gary who gets to be the lead this time around. Via the technology of Bluetooth, we spoke to Gary as he was driving through the mountains of upstate New York.
Nerdist: What is They Call Me Baba Booey?
Gary Dell’Abate: The thing that Peter [Executive Producer Peter Levin] and I came up with is that I could pretty much talk about whatever I want within reason, as long as it’s always anchored in tech. So it will always start out talking about a gadget or some kind of technology. And then from there I can talk about a book, a movie, about CDs, about what I’m watching. It’s going to be more about how people are applying technology every day. My show is not going to be the cutting-edge, here’s the newest/latest/greatest – although sometimes it will be – but it’s really geared towards people who are technologically stunted. On the first show I’m doing Monday, I want to talk about Apple TV. Now, that’s not a new product, but I cannot believe how many people who own Apple products don’t have Apple TV – they don’t know what it does and how it can help them.
GDA: That’s the name; the one we figured everybody knows.
N: Have you had the desire for a long time to be a host, as opposed to the guy in the background?
GDA: I’ve thought about it for a couple of years. When we got to Sirius and I started doing the wrap-up show, I got very comfortable doing that. I don’t wanna be Howard, but there are things that are very interesting to me that are not interesting to the show, and I thought to myself, “Well, I can do that! I can talk about that stuff.”
N: We also hear that you have the ultimate man-cave. What are the key ingredients for a good man-cave?
GDA: A bar and a pool table. Lots of sports memorabilia. And then for me, I have a 1953 Rock-Ola Comet jukebox. I have an eight-ball pinball machine, fun stuff like that. A couple of chairs from Shea Stadium. All the stuff my wife loves! It’s in the basement. But I do have to say that my house has pretty high ceilings for a basement. So it’s dark paneling, but it’s not a true cave – there are a couple of windows and doors in the cave.
N: What would you say is the biggest misconception Luddites have right now about modern technology?
GDA: I think the biggest thing is that people tend to shy away from it, like I have a guy that works in my office who says, “I don’t understand the stuff; it’s too complicated.” And as technology’s advancing, it’s really not very complicated any more. I think that people like that are starting to realize that when you see – the running joke is that my ten year-old set up my computer. When the next generation is born with it, you can either stick your head in the sand, or you can just go with it. But stuff is not only getting more advanced; it’s getting much easier to use.
N: I’m probably one of the stunted people, and will definitely be checking out your show. One of the things that always deters me is the notion of taking on a new monthly bill. Is that a ridiculous notion?
GDA: Well, it depends on what you’re talking about. One of the great things about, like, Apple TV that people don’t understand is there’s no monthly fee. I’m also going to be talking about Slingbox in the future; again, no monthly fee. Moving down the line, I’m going to be talking about, can I cut the cable? Do you need cable TV, when you talk about services like Hulu Plus and HBO Go – which is free to you on your mobile device if you have HBO. And these are things that people just don’t know or understand. But you could go in a way where you cut the cable, and just use some services that have much cheaper monthly fees. My cable bill right now is $204 a month. I could theoretically bring that down to $100 a month if I didn’t want to watch sports or news.
GDA: I called my cable company the other day, because they’re getting the Red Zone and the NFL Network, which is the only reason why I have DirecTV. And the cable company’s always trying to get you to buy into their triple-play: Internet, cable and the phone. And the guy just said, “You could save thirty bucks a month if you buy the phone package,” but I don’t really need the phone package. He said, “Buy it anyway, and don’t hook the phone up; you’ll still save $40 a month,” which I thought was so weird. Then I was talking to my friend at work, and we started debating why we need a phone line at all. He has one for his fax machine, and I said, “When was the last time you faxed something?” I’ve maybe used a fax machine three times in the last year. So the answer is, we’re getting very close. And again, kids go to college with a cell phone, and they learn to live for four years without a hard-line phone. They don’t need ‘em.
N: I’ll miss them. There tends to be less breaking-up on them.
GDA: But you understand, the breaking-up that you and I are getting is because I’m traveling on the road. So think back 25 years ago, and you and I couldn’t even talk; I’d have to stop at a pay-phone. Usually, when you’re in a house, there’s not much breaking up.
N: Going along with that, what kind of problems that we have now technologically will we be telling our kids about, that they won’t believe we had to deal with?
GDA: I’m on a trip right now where I’m taking my son to college. And we were just telling him, when mom or dad went to college there was no email, there were no cell phones, there were no fax machines…I’m not even sure if FedEx had been created yet. So if you forgot something, you were sorta screwed. Now, there’s nothing that can’t be done over the Internet, over the cell phone, scan a copy, send it, overnight it; we’ve got Amazon Prime so we get free two-day shipping for a year on anything.
N: Conversely, though, are we now more screwed than ever if the power goes out?
GDA: If the power went out before all the technology, we were screwed anyway. Are you saying because so many people rely on email and texting?
N: Yeah, because maybe we’ll lose the coping skills to do without.
GDA: Actually, no. You may have lesser coping skills, but when you have to, you figure out how to cope.
They Call Me Baba Booey premieres today on the Nerdist Channel.