Maureen Sullivan and Mike Tevault of Pinellas Park prepare for their weekly Internet radio show, “The Health and Humor Hour” June 6.
CLEARWATER – Since January, Maureen Sullivan and Mike Tevault have applied their knowledge as nurses to a unique format: a new Internet radio show that combines health, humor and interviews with relevant representatives of the healthcare industry.
The Pinellas Park married duo now have weekly audiences of 600 to 800, listening in from all 50 states and 55 countries to their show. The Health and Humor Hour is the No. 1 show for their parent company Entertainment Global Media, and their overall hits since the show began are in the range of 8,000 to 10,000.
More importantly, Sullivan would argue, their guests – including the deputy director for the National Diabetes Education Program, the deputy secretary from the Florida Department of Health and a representative from the Center for Autism and Related Diseases at the University of South Florida – have conveyed important information to the Health and Humor Hour audience.
“Because we’re both registered nurses, it’s kind of neat to take the health element to the radio,” Sullivan said. “The opportunity for both of us to network has been absolutely phenomenal.”
The whirlwind experience stemmed from Sullivan’s standup comedy routines, which began about five years ago.
“I started going up in uniform as a nurse,” she said.
The first time, her audience wondered if someone had been hurt, she said. But instead Sullivan had jokes about “absurdities of health care.”
“It went over very nicely to the consumer,” she said.
Sullivan joined a comedy festival in Las Vegas. She was invited to entertain during an annual meeting for the Florida Emergency Nurses Association, where she’s a member.
Then things got interesting. Some of the stand-up comedians Sullivan knew began to get into radio. Specifically, Nolan Raay started up Entertainment Global Media, which in about eight months has become a network of 30 different Internet radio shows grouped into categories: comedy slam radio, talk radio, and stations based on music genres, from rock and heavy metal to hip hop.
“Basically, one day she came home and said, ‘How would you like to do a radio show?’” Tevault remembered.
The show would be a part of the comedy slam radio, honing in on Sullivan’s comedic experience. Audiences can watch the show live, with video from inside the Clearwater recording studio or view the recorded archive of the show after its broadcast.
“He’s always been told he had a radio voice,” Sullivan said, smiling at her husband of 13 years. “The minute I started this, I changed the car radio off of music (to) strictly talk shows.”
The conversations around their dinner table became more focused on health news and topics. In the three months, the hosts interviewed guests about Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease for women, diabetes and cancer. In the first 12 weeks of the show, the weekly views per show climbed to more than 600.
Given the popularity of the Health and Humor Hour, in March, Raay separated it into a new network: Health Info Radio. Tevault designed the logo for the network, combining a medical caduceus symbol with a microphone.
To emphasize diabetes month in March, the Health and Humor Hour hosts interviewed Diane Tuncer, deputy director for National Diabetes Education Program, part of the National Institutes of Health. In May, they recorded an interview with Kristina Wiggins, deputy secretary with the Florida Department of Health.
“The Department of Health kept re-tweeting the link to the show,” Sullivan said. “I was just absolutely stunned. I’m amazed at the ability of social media now. And I fought it for the longest time.”
That show, first broadcast May 30, has seen more than 800 hits to its archive.
“Which is a lot because the average show doesn’t get that many,” Raay said.
Sullivan said she knew they hit it big when a guest asked how much it would cost to be on the show. There isn’t a charge, she said. The show emphasizes education and cross-promotion of organizations making a positive difference in healthcare.
“It’s exciting for me that we can provide a place for people to come on and promote their foundations, their nonprofits … that we can bring in international education on the radio and then archive it so people around the world can pick up on it,” she said. “To me, the interview doesn’t stop the process. It really just starts it.”
Tevault, who retired from a career as a police officer to become a nurse seven years ago, still works in “telephonic care management,” consulting with patients over the phone for the insurance company Humana.
Sullivan has been primarily an emergency nurse, working in Northside Hospital, Ed White Hospital and St. Petersburg General Hospital. Recently, however, she’s moved to health education, earning national certification as a diabetes educator.
“That’s what was so great on March to connect with, to me, the diabetic gods in the National Institutes of Health,” Sullivan said. “I was just so honored.”
Diabetes education is sorely lacking in the healthcare industry, the couple said.
“We hear a lot of horror stories,” Tevault said. “They’re told, ‘Well you’re diabetic. Take this medicine, don’t eat carbs and come back in three months and we’ll check your blood again and see how you’re doing. They don’t give them any real education on the disease or diet or lifestyle changes or anything to try to make it better.”
Patients are full of questions, and it’s helpful to have someone like Sullivan who will sit down and explain it to them, he said. While on hiatus from nursing, Sullivan is looking to possibly start a business in diabetes education. The radio show is another conduit for that overall health education goal.
“I’m having a hard time launching a diabetic education program, but now I can come on the radio and hit an international audience with a diabetic showcase,” she said.
Sullivan said she wanted to ensure the show was informative and accurate for her audience.
“I think because we’re both nurses that there’s some quality behind the information going out,” she said. “There’s some legitimacy to it. We’ve never spoken of anything without doing really extensive research on it.”
In fact, the couple’s roles reverse a little bit on the show.
“It’s kind of funny, because you seem to be the more serious one of the show, where you’re actually the comedian,” Tevault said to his wife. “You get into the hardcore health stories, and I try to find the kind of amusing health stories.”
Sullivan has actually finished writing a book of her experiences as a nurse over the last 30 years.
“I’ve taken a lot of the stories on stage, and now they’re all in a book,” she said. “It’s just amazing to me that it’s going to go to the publisher in the next week or two.”
She said the stories came out easily, starting with her first “code blue” heart attack, experienced when she was a nursing assistant at age 16.
“He looks at me different now that he’s read the book,” Sullivan said of her husband.
The Health and Humor Hour now has sponsors that help send the message out to the world. And even aside from their show, the Entertainment Global Media has thrived.
“The station as a whole is doing an amazing service,” Sullivan said. “The variety that comes through (the recording studio) in the course of the day is absolutely amazing.”