Posted in Books, Podcasts

“Just Between Us” From YouTube to the NY Times Best-Seller List, a podcast is born

Allison Raskin and Gabby Dunn are best known for their YouTube channel, Just Between Us, where they do sketches and a more talk-y couch show. They got their start together a couple years ago, and have since developed a strong online following. Raskin has been open about her struggles with mental health while Dunn is a prominent LGBTQ+ activist, or what she calls a bi-con, or bisexual icon.

Dunn and Raskin have since co-authored two novels, NY Times best-seller I Hate Everyone But You and recent release Please Send Help. Individually, Raskin is a writer and director and Dunn has a financial memoir based on her podcast, Bad With Money.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the first live recording of their podcast, also titled Just Between Us, which was recorded at the DC Improv, to a packed house. The podcast covers similar ground to their couch show, where they pick a subject, and discuss it at some length. On the podcast, they do a couple little bits about their current goings-on, have a guest, and then talk about a topic of personal or professional interest.

One of the reasons I personally have really connected with this podcast is that Allison and Gabby are Jewish, and they provide a different representation of what that looks like in media. Jews in media are pretty one-note, and it can be difficult to find anyone that looks or feels like me, but Allison and Gabby are relatable. They both have their own unique personalities and ambitions, and are not defined by any one aspect of themselves. Both have also been forthcoming about their mental health struggles, which is incredible. Their whole shtick has been that they are an odd couple, but you can also clearly tell that they are a unit. They really care about one another, and know each other well. They have amassed a following because they are so genuine, and because fans gravitate towards that realness.

The first segment of the show was devoted to their misadventures in traveling, some bits about the show being live, and an introduction to the podcast, for the uninitiated. Dunn wore a killer print suit, very summer and super on-brand, and Raskin sported a black jump suit, which is true to her simple but classic style.

The show’s guest was Dani Sauter, AKA Blonde in the District, who is a fashion blogger and style queen, also showing up in a summer printed suit, although hers was in a citrus color. I was not previously familiar with Sauter’s work, not being super plugged in to the fashion blogging community, but she was delightful. She was funny, engaging, and I cannot emphasize enough how much she was killing it in that suit. She is everything I imagined a fashion blogger to be, honestly. She’s put together, she’s glamorous, she’s what I imagine Eloise at the Plaza would be all grown up. In short, I am in love.

The three discussed Sauter’s work as a blogger, as well as her role in the body positivity movement. What really struck me about their conversation was something Sauter said. “People think body positivity is just for curvy girls, it’s not. It’s for everyone.” She could not be more right. She inspired me so much that I wore something fun to work today, instead of just one of my regular outfits from my rotation.

After their guest, Dunn and Raskin introduced their TOPIXXX segment, (my personal favorite part of the podcast) where they discussed Bachelor Nation, the Bachelor family of products, including the Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise. I’m familiar with the concept, as I too hate-watched the show guiltily in college, but it lost my interest after I realized I only really got negative emotions out of it. Basically, I don’t really care about the show, but I thought it was interesting to hear them talk about it. They were trying to figure out if they can ethically justify watching and engaging with the show, considering how destructive it seems to have been, especially in the past. Personally, I’ve watched Unreal, and found it to be a very entertaining satire of the whole Bachelor genre, so I’d prefer to watch that than the actual show.

Finally, when the two usually bring on a producer to talk about what they’ve learned and rate the show, they surprised Allison’s dad and brought him up. He was adorable and they had clearly not warned him, but they ribbed at each other and wound down the show in a good-natured way. He is pictured here, looking flustered and dressed almost identically to my dad, another middle-aged Jewish man who is a lawyer. He got a few good bits in, and was a good sport about being called to the stage without warning. Allison’s mom was perhaps the most amused, the look on her face when he jogged up to the stage was itself worth the price of admission.

Overall, I think Just Between Us, in whatever iteration you prefer, is worth a watch or a listen. You can find their podcast wherever you find podcasts, and their books are available wherever books are sold. You should try your local bookstore, because if you listen to Bad With Money or read the news, you know Amazon is probably evil. They also have merch available, and you can find out if they’re coming to a city near you here.

Posted in Podcasts

“Dear Hank and John” A Comedy Podcast About Death

Dear Hank and John is a podcast by duo Hank and John Green, also known collectively as the Vlogbrothers of Youtube fame. They began the podcast in mid 2015, and have been releasing them weekly ever since, with some brief intermissions and occasional guest hosts replacing either brother.

I came to the podcast since my job requires a lot of manual labor that is relatively mind-numbing, and requires some sort of soundtrack to make tolerable. As such, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and have plowed through hundreds of hours of audio in the last year. I have been a vlogbrothers subscriber since 2012, and I started listening to the podcast a month or two ago. I have since listened to all eighty-five episodes of the pod, and it’s very engaging.

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Hank and John (or John and Hank, as John prefers) have awesome chemistry, and hearing them talk to each other directly rather than through alternating video blogs is weird, but they have a really entertaining back-and-forth. They also manage to be both serious and silly, which is a hard spectrum to nail, and they clearly enjoy making the show together and talking to each other. The brothers dispense what they refer to as dubious advice (and it usually is) for the first forty minutes of the show, and then for the last ten or fifteen they talk about their personal interests, Mars and the British football team AFC Wimbledon. The beginning of the show starts with light banter, and John reads a nice short poem. There are a lot of inside jokes in the community Hank and John are part of, but the show has inside jokes inside the inside jokes.

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I personally enjoy the pod so much that I use it as white noise when I do work, or walk around. I would very much recommend it, it’s definitely one of my favorite talk-y podcasts at the moment. You can find it wherever podcasts are dispensed.

Posted in TV

Katherine Ryan’s “In Trouble”

I set low expectations when I sat down to watch Katherine Ryan’s In Trouble. I am a student of the genre and I like to think I’m open minded, but there’s a quiet sexism that’s embedded in us all. Still, I like to give everyone a chance, and especially the few women who find success in such a male dominated industry. The thing is, In Trouble doesn’t need my condescension. It’s brilliant, maybe the best performance I’ve seen out this year.

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There isn’t a flat moment in the whole special, but Ryan’s clear strength is in story -telling, and form. She connects all of the threads of her story, working her jokes in with grace and dexterity. Her delivery is spot on, and her crowd work is the best I’ve seen in years. I saw a similar attempt in Michael Che’s Michael Che Matters last year, but like a lot of comics, Che used the audience to bounce jokes off of. That’s fine, and it works. But Ryan, ahhh. Her crowd work is a conversation, with the audience and the viewer. It makes her stories more vibrant, she brings us into her vision of that moment. The moments when she talks to the audience, listens and then responds to them, are some of the best in the hour.

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Ryan doesn’t overshare, her personal details are relevant and funny, and her description of her family is a winning bit. Ryan describes her family with a degree of empathy, and manages to describe their peculiarities with a tone of semi-tolerance. She manages almost the impossible, acting authentic in some places and exaggerated in others. Her racial humor is hilarious, without offending this Jew, and her jokes about Canada and America were spot on. When Ryan talks about the women from her hometown who tormented her when they were young, you see them. You know these women, they’re from your hometown too. Her description of her relationship with her sister is sweet, and funny. Their closeness leaves plenty of room for comedy and jokes about the middle child, which were everything.

If you’re a fan of comedy, watch this. If you’re a fan of women, watch this. If you’re a fan of humans, watch this. Just watch this. It’s available on Netflix, and it’s worth your time.