If you’re a woman and/or an LGBTQ person and you haven’t already been listening to the Throwing Shade podcast, you have been missing out on a life-giving weekly shot of catharsis.
Since 2011, comedians Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi have been dishing out news about events and legislation affecting the gay and female communities with a healthy dose of editorializing and absurdist comedy thrown into the mix. (Think righteously impassioned screeds against homophobia and misogyny combined with improvised characters inspired by everything from Sunset Boulevard to MailChimp). And since January of this year, Gibson and Safi have taken their act to the late-night airwaves in a weekly late-night Throwing Shade series on TV Land.
FourTwoNine got the pair on the phone to talk about balancing broadcasting and podcasting, surviving in Trump’s America, and how their studio audience may just be the best place to use Grindr in all of L.A.
FourTwoNine: How would you define the term “throwing shade” for the uninitiated?
Bryan Safi: It’s now in the dictionary! It’s one of the new words added to Merriam-Webster. We certainly didn’t invent this term. It seeped into the popular culture from the movie Paris Is Burning, and now it’s on RuPaul’s Drag Race and all that kind of stuff. It’s really just an artful way to trash somebody.
Erin Gibson: That term really spoke to us as far as how we would like to bully the bullies, and talk about social issues in a way that’s a little more creative.
BS: And us having the upper hand on the people who are trying to get one over on us.
How did you first end up working together?
EG: We were on a TV show on Current TV called InfoMania. Bryan was doing a segment called “That’s Gay,” and I was doing a segment called “Modern Lady” where we looked at how the media talked about women and the LGBT community. And when that got canceled, we were like, “We don’t want to shut up!” So we started doing the podcast thinking that it would just be a way for us to continue talking about this stuff in the way that we liked doing it, which is a lot of F-bombs and a lot of absurdist tangents.
What’s the difference between the TV show and the podcast?
EG: Well, we pack a lot into a half hour for sure. It’s definitely more of a roller-coaster ride and less of a meandering fun-park ride. It’s still our sensibility, but it’s just very compact. And then we get to add visual elements like sketches to what we always talk about on the podcast.
Is it tricky to find enough material for both the show and the podcast every week?
Bryan Safi: Unfortunately, no. [Laughs]
EG: We’ve got plenty of material right now.
BS: We each talk about such niche things, I think it’s always been in the back of our heads: Wow, what if this well runs dry? And that would not be a bad thing for the world. But nope! Hasn’t happened yet. It’s unbelievable that the year 2017 sounds like the future, and yet it seems like we’re living in the past.
You take on these very serious topics, but handle them in a very funny way. Has that been easier or harder to do in the age of Trump?
BS: I think it’s a scary time when you don’t have a community at your fingertips to talk all of this out. It can feel like living in a vacuum. And Erin and I do share a sense of responsibility to be like, “No. Fuck that! Fuck this situation! You don’t need to be under this. Get on top of it. Bust down the door. Try to do something every weekend or every week to make yourself feel better, because this is a mountain of bullshit.”
EG: And the other thing is like, there aren’t a lot of people who are on late-night TV who have experience being marginalized. We do have Sam Bee, but then everybody else who is talking about this stuff hasn’t really experienced it firsthand. We know that [other late-night hosts]are going to be talking about the same issues that we talk about on this show, but no one will be able to do it in the way that we do it.
How do you guys go about finding the stories you cover?
EG: We have a laundry list of things that we look at every morning: ThinkProgress, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Broadly…
BS: …Towleroad, Queerty. Just sort of our daily rundown. On the TV show, we’re lucky to have two incredibly brilliant women who do research for us and find new stories.
EG: And because our podcast is international, a lot of our fans are like, “Hey you might not know about this, but this is happening in Indonesia or France.” Or sometimes it’s like, “Hey, this is happening in Oklahoma and no one’s talking about it.” I think we’re lucky that we have a base that’s very active and wants to be part of the conversation, and wants people to know about stuff that is happening in their backyard that no one’s reporting on.
Have you had any memorable fan interactions?
EG: Last year in Chicago, someone dressed up as Frappiato Maxiato and Lady Attorney and came together.
BS: …Which are two characters we do on the podcast. It’s amazing when people cosplay the things we just randomly say. It’s so flattering and so inventive.
EG: Also, we heard through grapevine that Grindr blows up in our live studio audience when we tape on Fridays. So I wonder if it’s the same people being like, “Not only am I getting a dose of absurdist political comedy, I’m possibly also going to meet the person of my dreams.” I hope that’s happening! [Laughs] If you get nothing else from the podcast or our show, please, please, please hook up with somebody.
The Throwing Shade TV show airs Tuesday nights at 10:30/9:30c on TV Land. The Throwing Shade podcast is available every Thursday on iTunes