Relationships are hard. They’re hard for a lot of reasons, but mostly because people are just the worst. Of course people are also the best, too, so we keep trying to hang out with them as much as possible, before inevitably pissing them off and driving them away forever. Because the person who is the absolute worst is almost always yourself.
Don’t get too down, though. Lauren Cook and Kurt Braunohler, comedians and married people (to each other, even), are here to help us all through the pain and turmoil with their new audio series Wedlock, which recently debuted through Audible. Across the show’s six episodes Cook and Braunohler explore a variety of topics related to the not-so-simple act of existing together with another person in this world, from how to handle change, the healthiest ways to fight (it involves physical contact, apparently), and how to talk about sex. And they’re not just casually extemporizing about it for hours, like a typical podcast, but visiting with experts and other comedians in a tightly edited, totally professional-sounding half-hour audio series.
If you’re familiar with Braunohler’s previous podcast work for Nerdist, you might remember that Wedlock didn’t start with Audible. The pre-Audible version of the show “was pretty spontaneous,” Cook says. “It wasn’t something we had been stewing on for a while. Kurt had a podcast with Nerdist and he had this multi-format thing, and it was kind of like a random idea that we went with.”
Braunohler jumps in at this point about the show’s origins. On the phone the two regularly complete each others’ thoughts, showing the comfort and easy rapport that you should probably have with the person that you’ve married. It’s the kind of overlapping, cross-fading conversational style that needs to be quoted at length for maximum impact.
Kurt Braunohler: Also I think it came out of the fact that both of us thought, we were both not married for so long…
Lauren Cook: and didn’t necessarily anticipate getting married—that wasn’t on either of our bucket lists, I’d say…
KB: Both of our models from our families for marriage… Lauren’s mom was never married, my dad was married four times, so I don’t think either of us thought marriage was definitely for us, so when we decided to do it, we were both like, well, we’re going into this thing from the unique perspective of “what’s this all about, who knows?” So we figured we’d talk about [marriage].
LC: We also come from really different dating backgrounds as well, so it felt like we had a lot to talk about in that respect. Just sort of how to navigate this committed relationship with two really different backgrounds. Kurt had been in a series of long-term relationships and I had never been in any but I had been in a ton of short ones. We felt like we had a lot of different things to jump off from.
Paste: How did you know Kurt was the one if he was your first serious relationship?
LC : ‘Cuz he was still there?
KB: I was just still there. It’s not, like, a high bar.
LC: That’s not true.
KB: I got the prize!
Unlike those more informal early episodes, the Audible series is a fully professional operation. The two approach it like a TV series, with a different theme each episode, and the freedom to travel to various locations or interview a variety of guests to investigate and expound on those themes.
“We have unlikely experts, so each episode we dive into a different theme,” Cook explains. “For instance we have an episode on fighting and we interview a hostage negotiator who was literally a cop on the streets. there are tons of different interviews with exciting people, but it’s not always a famous comedian. But sometimes it is a famous comedian.”
Over the course of the six episodes they visit a nudist colony, pursue fight therapy, attend a tantric sex clinic, and more, sharing the results and their opinions with the listener along the way. It’s educational not just for the audience but for the hosts themselves. As Braunohler says, it’s like they got Audible to basically pay for their couples therapy. They both readily admit to learning a lot from making these six episodes.
LC: I learned that I could maybe be a nudist one day. I was actually wildly surprised by how comforted [I felt]. I went into that whole experience thinking it’s going to be shady as hell, that it’s going to be so weird. We were exploring in that episode dealing with change in a relationship. What if you had a partner who suddenly woke up and told you they wanted to make a huge lifestyle change? IE, maybe be a nudist. So we were chatting with all these people about how they maintain their relationship or how they lost their relationship and I ended up just feeling really at home there. There hasn’t been a segment where I haven’t learned a lot. We really go deep.
KB: We did a segment where we went to a tantric sex shaman and she taught us all this stuff about tantric sex and then we did that and I thought it was pretty interesting. Stuff that I hadn’t thought of before. We’re not like Sting or anything like that.
LC: It was really good sex though!
Paste: How has the show helped with your relationship?
LC: The fighting episode was really helpful. Not only because we learned some strategies, not just from the hostage negotiator, but we also had a movement component to that episode.
KB: A thing called fight therapy, where a woman teaches couples to physically fight when they have disagreements.
LC: That’s what we did with Kyle Kinane and his girlfriend Rachel Olson. We learned a lot about how to—when you want to totally kill your partner, how to take it into the physical realm, and then the energy deflates.
KB: You remove the emotion physically and then you can actually talk about whatever it is that’s kind of blocking the relationship, which is fascinating.
LC: We had pads that we put down in our house.
KB: It’s based in jujitsu, so a lot of ground movement and grappling.
LC: A lot of holds, like strangleholds and stuff.
Despite the show’s name, and Cook and Braunohler’s heteronormative relationship, Wedlock isn’t just about what some would call “traditional” marriage. The two are fully aware of the broad spectrum of possibilities that exist in the world, and try to make sure their show is relatable to anybody in any kind of a relationship.
LC: It’s really not just about being married at all. It’s definitely not just about being a heterosexual couple. We talk to a guy who was a furry. The span of the people we check in with to get their opinions on how the relationships are working and how it might help our relationship work—there’s something for everybody.
KB: Even if somebody’s just dating, most of our questions are from people who are just dating.
LC: Or single, or heartbroken, or polyamorous, or whatever.
Throughout the series Cook and Braunohler remain great hosts because of their own relationship. They know what it’s like to want to throttle each other viciously over mundane arguments, but also know how each other thinks, acts and creates. That level of intimacy shines through in both their interactions on the show and in its production
LC: I feel much more free working with Kurt. I’ve worked with other writing partners on projects, and you’re worried about hurting somebody’s feelings, or egos get in the way…
KB: You can kind of be much more blunt. “You are not fucking getting this, listen to me!”
LC: Because ultimately you’re gonna go to bed together in the same bed. There’s not a fear or anxiety about hurting someone’s feelings. We’re way past that point.
Paste: Has the show caused any major fights between the two of you?
KB: Not the show itself but the production. We’d sometimes have arguments about how to handle certain elements and still are on opposite sides of those opinions.
LC: We fight a lot. We really do! There are a trillion fights that I can think back on.
KB: But it’s good. I like that we fight. I’ve been in relationships where we never fought, and it was like, it was just creepy. It wasn’t normal. We just weren’t talking about things.
LC: And if we didn’t fight about this show it would mean that we really didn’t care about it.
KB: Yes! It’s just passion.
Wedlock is available now through Audible Channels.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy, games and wrestling sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.