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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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In Movies & TV

The lovely and talented Nikol Hasler.

Former "Midwest Teen Sex Show" host rises to life's challenges


Nikol Hasler was born in Janesville, Wis. in 1979. She spent much of her childhood living with foster care families in Wisconsin and Illinois and had her first son at the age of 19. At the age 21, after experiencing a stretch of homelessness, she had another son.

Despite the hardships associated with an abusive childhood, unsupported teen pregnancy and single parenthood to three kids, one with autism, Hasler's talent could not be extinguished. With luminous blue eyes, a Dorothy-Parker-sharp wit and a high intelligence, it wasn't long before Hasler experienced professional success.

In 2008, she started hosting the semi-educational and outrageously funny podcast, "Midwest Teen Sex Show." The show featured tongue-and-cheek humor while offering information about sex topics like masturbation, homosexuality and dating older men.

Many of the low-budget podcasts were filmed in a home in Waukesha. Twenty-five episodes were shot over the course of a few years and eventually the show averaged 125,000 viewers per episode. It received national attention from "Nightline," "The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet" and "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric."

The three-to-five minute podcast was both popular and controversial. Although it was praised for being able to reach teens, some parents found it too racy and teachers and therapists panned it for not being factual enough.

Comedy Central, however, liked the concept and offered to produce 10-episodes of a TV version. Hasler moved out to Los Angeles, but the show never materialized.

Hasler also wrote "Sex: A Book For Teens" that includes an endorsement from former surgeon general Dr. Joyce Elders and feminist author Joyce Dodson. She also worked on a show called "Real American Family" and has written numerous sex columns.

About a year and a half ago, Hasler was diagnosed with cancer.

Last month, Hasler finally shared with Facebook friends that she was battling cancer, and made it very clear she did not want sympathy. With the support of friends in Wisconsin and California, as well as her 13-year-old son, Hasler is sloshing through the dark swamp of a serious illness, enduring hair loss, loss of energy and fear along the way.

As she will point out, Hasler is one tough girl. She has determination and a knack for overcoming adversity. The kid has chops.

OnMilwaukee.com: You grew up in the foster care system, right?

Nikol Hasler: I grew up first with my mother, who was a bit insane, and then with her abusive relatives, eventually going into the foster care system where I lived until I was 17. At my last case management meeting, while I was waiting to move to another foster home, I remember the case workers saying "You're 17. You've been in 15 placements. We could put you in one more, but it just doesn't seem like we should put you through that." Foster care itself was an often abusive, unsafe place with people who should not have been taking care of any children, let alone children who needed extra care because they'd been through abuse and neglect already.

OMC: Tell me about your sons. You have three, right? How are they handling your illness?

NH: My oldest son is 13. I had just turned 19 when he was born, and we had friends who tried to help us, but we were homeless until he was about 6 months old. My other two sons are 11 and 5. The younger two are living with their fathers, and my oldest is with me. He's really an amazing person, and he has been strong, funny and I'd be a lot weaker without him. My five-year-old is pretty upset, mostly because of my hair falling out. It didn't help that he lost his first tooth right around the time I went bald. He was in a pretty big panic about his teeth.

OMC: When did the "Midwest Teen" stuff start up? How did you get involved?

NH: That started in 2008. A friend of mine from high school came to my birthday party. We got drunk and he mentioned that he had some ideas for podcasts. Within a month we were shooting the first three.

OMC: How many episodes did you make? Why did you stop?

NH: We made 25 episodes, and had many more in mind. I think making the pilot was eye opening for all of us. You know, Britney Barber and Guy Clark are extremely talented. Guy's editing is such a huge part of what made the show work, and Britney was pants-peeingly funny. But, as the show gained leverage, I also became more serious about it, often taking the brunt for getting details wrong. Also, I got most of the positive media attention. I still believe the others found that irritating. I loved the attention, and I loved finally being respected as a sort of expert. I really wish we were still making that show, and if they asked me to do it now, I would. Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)

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