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Making UKR History

Noah Rivers recorded the 50th episode of his Hashtag the Praise Break program this spring

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Noah Rivers’ Hashtag the Praise Break is the longest running program in UKR history. Photo courtesy of Noah Rivers.

Academy of Art University School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) and UrbanKnightsRadio.com (UKR) Program Director Noah Rivers made department history on Sunday, March 4, when he logged his 50th episode of Hashtag the Praise Break, the longest run in UKR programming. 

“In the radio business, 50 episodes is where we say, ‘This is officially a show,’” said Matty Staudt, UKR general manager. “The key is consistency—anybody can start a show, but the folks that really stick with a show are the ones that really make it.”

Rivers’ Hashtag the Praise Break is a Gospel program never heard before on the airwaves. Most radio shows cycle through tunes, commercial spots and brief talking points. But Rivers sets his above the rest by implementing comedy sketches and skits parodying the characters and customs found in church communities, especially in predominantly African-American congregations.

“My show is comedic Gospel,” he explained in the UKR studio at 79 New Montgomery. “It’s my experience with the church.” 

Born into an African-American family in Vallejo, California, Rivers grew up in a Baptist Christian church with a primarily Caucasian congregation. He grew up with a religious upbringing, regularly attending Sunday service, incorporating prayer in his daily routines, reading the Bible and modeling his life through its teachings. 

As he grew older, Rivers’ love for Gospel and interest for different denominations grew. He visited various churches, and sang in three choirs, just to experience how other sects received and interacted with worship. With some guidance from Staudt, Rivers was inspired to base the radio show on his passion for Gospel music, spirituality and fellow churchgoing family, but with a twist. Through a comedy lens, Rivers wanted to show his interpretation of Christianity is more than strict traditions and by-laws. 

“I’m literally pushing the doors open and showing people church isn’t just about following what the Bible says word-for-word,” he said. “The truth is, you can’t be depressed going into a black church, because if you go in depressed, you better walk out happy. Because you’re going to see some type of comedy.”

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UrbanKnightsRadio.com Program Director Noah Rivers in the UKR studio. Photo by Nina Tabios.

Started in 2016, Hashtag the Praise Break has seen Rivers perform as church mothers, pastors, organists, choir members, young and old churchgoers, aunties, children, you name it. He’ll create story arcs around YouTube videos and old Vine clips, using the sound bite as his punchlines. 

“When I’m recording these skits, it’s usually just me going all out by myself in the booth,” he said. 

“He came with a concept that was very funny, a parody of what it’s like to go to a black church,” said Staudt. “He’s created a super unique brand out of it, I don’t know anyone doing what he’s doing.”

“Noah Rivers is setting the bar mighty high with Hashtag the Praise Break,” said COM Director Jan Yanehiro. “It shows that Noah and his show are hitting the right tone and topics for Art U students.” 

Rivers graduates this coming May, passing the program director torch to Noa Daniels, his current assistant director and host of UKR’s La Femme—“I know it’s in good [hands] with Noa,” he said. 

Though he has no set plans after graduation, Rivers said he wants to work behind-the-scenes with a Gospel artist. He also wants to do a traveling podcast or radio show addressing poverty, developing countries and places hit by natural disasters. “I want to do humanitarian work to show that we still care,” he expressed. “Because you don’t see it too much on the regular news, but people still need to know what’s going on.”  

But until then, Rivers still has a few more weeks to continue his UKR run before he leaves the radio station for good.  

“When I found out I was the longest running radio show, I was like, ‘Oh. I’ve done this too long,’” he laughed. “But it’s really a milestone, because hitting 50, whether it’s years, days of breaking a habit, of anything, it’s a big accomplishment. I do feel good about hitting 50, but now I want to hit 60.”