How Did Vanessa Bayer and Jonah Bayer Get Weird? We Talk to the Podcast Hosts to Find Out.

Comedy Features Podcasts
How Did Vanessa Bayer and Jonah Bayer Get Weird? We Talk to the Podcast Hosts to Find Out.

Every podcast begins with a question, and How Did We Get Weird’s is right there in the title. The new show from former Saturday Night Live star Vanessa Bayer and musician, music journalist, and veteran podcaster Jonah Bayer finds the siblings remembering weird things from their past. As Vanessa describes it, “We talk about stuff that we remember, stuff that we miss, those moments when we were younger that helped us become who we are today.” From pointless pop culture ephemera, to favorite snacks that no longer exist, the two sift through the forgotten dregs of history in a quest not just for nostalgia but for self-awareness. How did they get weird? And what did Keebler’s short-lived Sweet Spot cookies have to do with it? Every week a famous guest joins Vanessa and Jonah to talk it out, from comedians like Bowen Yang and Tom Scharpling (who discusses the vastly underrated Reggie Bar), to music world figures like Laura Jane Grace and former MTV VJ Dave Holmes (whose episode, “Remember the Radio?”, features what is easily the show’s most expansive topic to date.)

Nostalgia, of course, has become the driving factor of most pop culture these days. A single podcast about remembering stuff wouldn’t normally stand out amid the glut of shows with the same basic concept. What sets How Did We Get Weird apart isn’t just the experience of its pro comedian and podcaster hosts, but the charming relationship between Vanessa and Jonah. The two have a knack for taking a unique approach towards ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia, with their conversations driven by the kind of closeness that only develops between siblings. Add in the weekly guests, and you have a show that transcends the nostalgia genre.

The Bayers recently spoke to Paste about How Did We Get Weird, their childhoods, and the appropriate word to use for podcasting consortiums like Will Ferrell’s and iHeartMedia’s Big Money Players Network, which produces the show. You can find that conversation below, slightly edited for clarity and concision. And of course we had to start with a frank discussion of how the two really feel about each other’s art—Vanessa’s comedy and Jonah’s music, most famously with the punk band United Nations.

Paste: Vanessa, what do you think of Jonah’s music?

Vanessa Bayer: Well, look. I am Jonah’s number one fan so I support everything he does. For a lot of my life I felt like it’s a band and they’re playing pretty good music and then just somebody screaming over it? Yeah. But I also get that that’s a genre of music, so more power to them. You know?

Paste: Right. And Jonah, what do you think of Vanessa’s comedy?

Jonah Bayer: I think me and Vanessa have a very similar comedic sensibility. So I think she’s very funny. She’s one of the funniest people around-

VB: Ahhh! How nice!

JB—and I think we have a lot of.. I think there’s a lot of stuff she does, like very subtle things, that always make me laugh. I’m a fan. Yeah.

Paste: Is Vanessa the funniest member of the family?

JB: I don’t know, our dad is really funny. So it’s probably a close call between the two of them. What do you think, Vanessa?

VB: I would agree with that. I would say our dad is really funny. I mean, our mom is funny too, so I wouldn’t say there’s a clear-

JB: I’m also really funny too.

VB: Also Jonah you are-

JB: Let’s not forget about me.

VB: I was kind of taking you out of the equation because you were already speaking just now, but yeah, Jonah is also very funny.

Paste: So you have a new podcast together. Why did y’all decide to start that up right now?

VB: First of all, we live on opposite sides of the country now, and we don’t get to hang out as much as we used to when we both lived in New York. So we love talking and hanging out. And another thing that we love to do is text each other about nostalgic stuff. I’ll get random texts from Jonah like, “do you remember this thing that was in our house growing up?” Or whatever. So we love talking about nostalgic stuff. And then also Jonah… I don’t mean to brag about my cool older bro, but he has quite a history of podcasting. He had a podcast for years that I used to come on once in a while and guest host, and he teaches a class on podcasting. He’s very modest, so I don’t know if he’d tell you that. So he has such a history with podcasts, and I’ve always had so much fun going on them, that we thought it would be fun if we did something together. Jonah, do you have anything to add to that-I did not mean to steal the spotlight.

JB: I think that’s pretty accurate. Vanessa and I have worked together a lot. She’s been on my podcast, we had a webseries together called Sound Advice. I’m really involved in podcasting, I’ve taught courses in it. It’s just something we’ve talked about doing for a while, and it just kind of worked out. We found a concept and scheduling and everything that worked out.

Paste: I guess the schedules worked out because of COVID?

VB: Actually we started working on it before COVID. Do you remember that, Jonah?

JB: Yeah, yeah. We started before COVID, and it’s kind of changed. We’ve tried a few different things and now it’s great because I live in a fairly rural place and everybody’s doing everything over Zoom. So it’s better than ever.

Paste: You mentioned how you like to remember old stuff together. That’s kind of the basis of the show, a sort of nostalgic lens on your childhood. What’s the weirdest thing from your youth that you’ve remembered because of this show?

JB: It’s funny because I feel like we’re always trying to think of stories, like, “what are we going to talk about?” But if we just have a conversation we’ll think of like 20 things. It comes very easily. What do you think, Vanessa?

VB: There’s so much stuff. One of the first things I thought of just now, and I don’t know if this is the weirdest thing, but you know when we used to play charades at our grandma’s apartment building, we’d play charades into the security camera and then the police would come, or the security people would come, because that’s not what those cameras are for.

JB: I remember a time when… I had like all these piercings in high school, and one of my piercings came off and I couldn’t get it back in. I don’t know if it was a lip piercing or something. And Vanessa had to get called out of class to come down to this office to help me with it.

VB: I remember getting called into the infirmary so that I could help you put your labret piercing back in. I remember the nurse but I guess she couldn’t help you.

JB: Maybe that was above her paygrade.

VB: But I remember feeling very cool that I called out of class to do that.

Paste: You’ve had some good guests on the show—Bobby Moynihan, Beck Bennett. Do you plan out ahead what you’re going to talk about with them, or does it all just come up naturally in the conversation?

JB: When we reach out to a guest we generally have them pick out a topic. They’ll pick a topic and we’ll get it in advance and Vanessa and I will talk about it and do some research on it. But then there are other segments of the show where we have them come up with stuff from their past on the spot. But generally the topics are submitted by the guests in advance, so it’s something they’re interested in and can talk about.

VB: And a big element of the show, we have the guest bring in their topic, like Jonah said, and then we usually play some kind of a game where we bring up other nostalgic things that we researched in advance. So like a big element of the podcast is that we’ll research a lot of these things, like snacks and games and stuff like that, and some classic stuff that really appeals to us. We’d do all this research on our own during our free time, we’d just be like “remember this computer game?” It’s like such a pastime of ours to just mindlessly research all this stuff from our childhood, anyway, that now that we get to incorporate this research into a podcast it feels really rewarding. And honestly kind of justifies some of our personality quirks, I think.

JB: Yeah, I’ve noticed that I’ll be on these obscure Wikipedia pages for some snack from our childhood and realize I’ve been on this page before. But I’m researching it for a podcast now, even if I’ve read it before for absolutely no reason. So it’s nice to feel like it’s work now instead of just wasting time.

Paste: Wikipedia’s been around long enough that we can now be nostalgic for looking up nostalgic things on Wikipedia.

JB: Yes. It’s very meta, exactly.

VB: And we’ve been really struck by how many snacks that are no longer available that have petitions on to bring them back. We didn’t know that people used in that way.

Paste: Have you talked about the Keebler family of chips that they got rid of in the ‘90s or ‘00s? They had a great line of different chips in the ‘80s that every kid I know loved but they were all gone by the end of the ‘90s, like O’Boisies and Suncheros and Pizzarias. Did y’all ever have those as a kid?

JB: No, I don’t remember that at all.

VB: I don’t really either.

Paste: O’Boisies were good. Their slogan was O’Boisies are O’Boisterous.

VB: Ah, I do remember that.

Paste: When you talk about old snacks that’s the first thing I think of.

JB: We did talk about the Keebler Sweet Spot cookies lately.

VB: Yeah. We were talking to our mom the other day and she remembered them, the ones that came in a sleeve. They probably erased them from the internet but I found them. It was on a Reddit page.

Paste: Alright. So how did you hook up with Will Ferrell’s podcast shingle to produce the show?

VB: We spoke to a bunch of different podcast agencies, and [Big Money Players Network] seemed to really understand the concept.

JB: I think they’re called “networks.”

VB: What did I call them?

JB: Agencies.

VB: Oh, sorry. We spoke with a bunch of different networks. Excuse me. Thank you so much, Jonah.

JB: It’s okay. I didn’t mean to correct…

[Note: The previous exchange was obviously a bit.]

VB: No, you’re right. We spoke to a bunch of different networks and Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players seemed to get the concept the most and also they were really patient with us while we were figuring out… We could just tell they’d be so great to collaborate with. There is really an art to podcasting. You have to keep the conversation going and make it interesting and really engage the guest, even though we’ve been so lucky because our guests are so engaging. But like it really felt like a good fit because they really made it that we felt so comfortable. And they’re just so thoughtful and helpful and great.

JB: And I wanted to add, I haven’t said this before in an interview, but me and Doug [Boehm] did the theme song together. Doug’s this really incredibly talented producer and engineer who’s worked with Tokyo Police Club and Drive-By Truckers and all these cool bands. I play all the guitar on the theme song and Doug did the programming and mixed it. So that was a really fun musical project we were able to work on.

You can listen to How Did We Get Weird with Vanessa Bayer and Jonah Bayer (and its theme song) wherever you listen to podcasts.

Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.

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