Dr. Andy Roark premieres 'Cone of Shame' on YouTube


Veterinary speaker and author hopes weekly Web show will take pet owner education to the next level.

Worried that veterinarians aren't the first stop for information for a growing pool of pet owners and pet product manufacturers and interested in helping veterinarians be “a voice that's heard,” speaker, writer and associate veterinarian Andy Roark, DVM, has debuted a new YouTube show, “Cone of Shame.”

"Two things make me happy about this," Dr. Andy Roark says. "I made exactly what I wanted to make. And I don't know anybody else who's making anything like this."The typically five-minute-or-less show is edutainment, mixing Roark's signature humor with important topics like signs a pet needs to see the veterinarian or tips on applying parasite preventive. Roark hopes that pet owners like the show enough to watch it weekly and that veterinarians like it enough to share with clients-and be inspired to step out and do a little public education themselves in social media, local media and at public speaking engagements.

Find photos from an exclusive sneak peek of “Cone of Shame” in the pages to follow, and click here for a link to the YouTube channel.


After seeing an interview gone wrong for Marty Becker, DVM, on the popular TV news show 20/20-“[the producers] had an agenda, they edited how he responded, they told a story [about veterinarians overcharging] that's not a story he wanted to tell”-Dr. Andy Roark decided to put his video show on YouTube, a medium where he could say what he wanted to say how he wanted to say it. “The idea of other people being able to control [my message] bothered me,” he says.


YouTube is a bit of the Wild West when it comes to sponsored content. Some videos are company-produced commercials, others are wholly viewer-supported and some take some money or free items from advertisers and may or may not be up-front about that. Dr. Andy Roark wants to make YouTube videos “that are honest and unbiased and perceived as unbiased." "We clearly mark advertiser time. This is what I'm getting paid to say, but I'm not going to talk about anything that I don't like.”


These were the thoughts that haunted Dr. Andy Roark: money to build a film set in his new home's basement and a way to pay collaborator Meg Pierson and producer Stephen Boatright (pictured above). “It was in Home Depot [buying drywall] that I slammed into the first of three big questions about the show,” Roark says. “How am I going to pay for this? But I was like, this needs to happen. Now that I know how to make it, I couldn't stand the idea of not making this thing.”


Bashing his forehead into a keyboard, Dr. Andy Roark wrestles with the second of his three big questions: How am I going to make enough content to keep a weekly show going? No problem. His first script took 10 hours to film, ran for 15 minutes (when he wanted five or less) and got split into two. “I was trying to get all the facts in and make them funny,” Roark says, “but you don't know how long they'll be when you're writing the scripts.” He cut heavily, edited that 15 minutes by half and then cut the result into two separate videos, assuring himself in the process he clearly wasn't going to run out of material. Since then, he's gotten at least eight or nine videos in the can and is planning for at least six months of weekly videos.


Dr. Andy Roark was surprised at how serious producer Stephen Boatright took the quest for the right chair for the set. “Stephen found this one at a Goodwill for $15. It's this off-orange, throwback chair, kind of fun and funny, but it's a real-sized leather office chair.”


“If you look at this set, there are a bunch of toys on the shelf. But there are also joint models and a model of a heartworm and an EKG machine in the room,” Dr. Andy Roark says. “One of the things we struggle with is [mixing] fun and credibility and education. That's what veterinarians struggle with. That's the biggest hurdle using humor as a veterinary clinic. We're telling people, ‘Hey, this is fun, but I'm still a doctor and what I'm telling you is serious and legitimate and backed up by research.'”


Artwork adorns the “Cone of Shame” set, and right now it's all courtesy of photographer Ben Baker, who has been taking photos of dogs in Elizabethan collars for the upcoming book Cone Dogs. “He was so generous and sent me a suite of photos to print,” Dr. Andy Roark says. “My favorite is an elderly woman with a little Pomeranian. You know, this is her baby, this is her friend. The cone represents the trust in the medicine we practice, the trust in us. She wouldn't make her baby wear the cone if she didn't trust her veterinarian.”



Under Dr. Andy Roark's “Ideas for Pet Show to Change the World” came four directives: “Don't be boring” came twice. “People have shown us that quality information takes a back seat to entertainment,” he says. “Humor is the tool I have and I love. If I can use humor to get viewers' time, then I'll try to give them the best information backed up by science.”


“We get to talk about one of the most wonderful things in the world, and that's what pet owners want to see,” Dr. Andy Roark says. “I hope the show encourages other veterinarians to point out the things that are funny and joyful in what they're doing.”

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