Remember back in 2010 people used to say “bazinga,” and even though you knew that it was corny and that The Big Bang Theory wasn’t funny, at least you knew that it was a Sheldon reference? Reciting “Bazinga” or other sitcom catchphrases is a minor offense compared to the far more insufferable activity I partake in.
During the peak of my podcast consumption, I would go around saying things like “keep it crispy” (You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes) and lisp “my sciences!” (Gilmore Guys) not expecting anyone to get the reference but making it anyway. Talking became more like an inside joke with myself and the podcasters with whom I shared a parasocial relationship.
While I now leave enough room in my head to make space for my own thoughts, podcast bits still latch easily. I would go so far as to say that my personality is still almost entirely cobbled together by American comedy interview podcasts and RadioLab. I’m definitely not the only one with this kind of brain, either.
If you’re trying to learn a factoid about Karl Ove Knausgaard or Soviet city planning, go back to Open Source with Christopher Lydon or 99 Percent Invisible, nerd. We’ll be out here trying to simulate friendship and get our minds infiltrated by spiritually Brooklyn-based content creators.
When there are negative iTunes reviews complaining about the hosts’ vocal fry, there’s a good chance that I’ll enjoy the podcast. Seek Treatment, hosted by noted enchantress Catherine Cohen and “one of Paste Magazine’s top 12 biggest bitches on set” Pat Regan, has me deeply obsessed. (My obsession is to the extent that every time I think of the word “obsessed,” it is in Catherine Cohen’s sing-song tone.) This is a podcast I turn to for inimitable turns of phrase by idiosyncratic yet relatable people wittier than I am. Cat and Pat get a lot of mileage out of the questions: “Who were you, who are you, and who do you want to be?” For someone with an overcorrective and proper brain but who is still prone to odd behavior, Seek Treatment can be a balm because its hosts and guests destigmatize bouts of weirdness by embracing their own neuroses. By regaling the audience with characteristic chattiness and millennial resilience, Seek Treatment has earned a devoted cult audience and makes a randomista feel less alone.
has truly been revolutionary to my vocabulary, and operates with a framework applicable to any setting, meaning that the in-jokes from the podcast can be replicated in real life. Unlike the idea of slathering cream cheese over defrosted Digiorno’s, Who? Weekly’s signature concept, “whos” and “thems,” is fairly intuitive, something a mother could find amusing. A “who” is the type of public figure whose name you hear and go, “who?” A “them” is a recognizable A-lister whose name you hear and go, “oh, them.” However, hosts Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger do not care about thems! Everything is for thems! This one thing should be reserved for Lucky Blue Smith, Susan Sarandon’s daughter’s blog, and for a glorious moment, Fiji Water Girl. Finger and Weber point out both the joyful absurdities of minor league celebrity culture and the grift that goes into chasing clout. The obsessive energy only proliferates into after hours on the Who? Weekly Facebook group, the only news source working harder than Reuters.
Anyone who starts an episode by calling out BJ Novak (Who?) for sliding into the DMs of e-girls automatically has my attention. If Who? Weekly is lawful good, Red Scare’s alignment among cultural commentary podcasts cannot exactly be contained by Euclidian geometries. I only slightly long for the ignorance I lived in before the ”Praxis Girl” video went sofly viral, the front-facing Twitter satire that introduced me to Red Scare. Admittedly un-PC and uninterested in smarmy moralizing, Anna Khachiyan’s and Dasha Nekrasova’s voices are to be sought when a person is sick of insincerity and aesthetic mediocrity. Not everything they say is contrarian; in fact, much of their conversation consists of fairly innocuous riffing. Still, a listener is more akin to a paypig than a “friend of the pod.” An aspiring girlboss should keep their wits about them so as not to be radicalized by “bimbo socialism.” I’ve kept my veneer of liberal civility yet, but when I seek a third opinion on essays, news items, and HBO’s Euphoria, it’s fun to look through A and D’s irreverent lens.
It brings me no amount of pleasure to admit that 2 Dope Queens is the reason I describe many bad things as a “hate crime.” (This counts because my every thought actually begins with “as a woman, and as a woman of color.”) Thanks to Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, I now use the words “rude” and “disrespectful” often to express my displeasure. For example, Kesha’s “Praying” losing the Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance to Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”? A hate crime (against women). Mitski’s “Nobody” not being the song of summer 2018? Rude. Comparing Elizabeth Warren to a child witch written in 1997? Disrespectful, to somehow everyone involved. The podcast ended last year because Jessica and Phoebe are booked and busy. But during their run they did the good work of exposing their audience to a diverse group of up-and-coming comedians, highlighting the inherent delight of showcasing different perspectives in the traditionally straight white male world of stand-up.
A few weeks ago I was in my friend’s car when “Pump Up The Jam” came on the radio. In my head I immediately heard the dulcet tones of Jessica St. Clair’s Marissa Wompler shrieking “Womp! Up the jamz! Womp ‘em up while they’re hot and spicy like a Digorno’s pizza crawling up in your butt!” I tried my hardest to do an impression of Womp It Up’s Marissa Wompler, which then devolved into talking about her STARS program teacher Lennon Parham’s Charlotte “Char-Dog” Listler and the inappropriately close yet tender relationship they share. That then devolved into talking about the joey pocket in Listler’s ankle, Listler’s long-lost son August Wilson, and prolapsed anuses. It all ended with me saying “you just have to listen to it to get it!” flustered at the potential for confusion I created. While Marissa Wompler started as the Comedy Bang! Bang! intern created by Jessica St. Clair during a 2010 episode, her world has expanded into a rotating cast of Marina del Rey citizens, zaniness, and real emotional stakes. Much like the North Pole, Marina del Rey now takes a mythic status as the stage of the Wompler-verse. Long live Hill 16.
Jane Song is an intern at Paste and very qualified to talk about culture. You can find her at janesong.net or more frequently on Twitter at @janesingasong.