The Hosts of Podcast “Throwing Shade” Toss Political Correctness (and the Haters) Out the Window
Podcasters Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi share their thoughts about taking their show on the road, cracking inappropriate jokes, and rejecting Rico Suave.
Talking about LGBT rights or women’s issues makes some people uncomfortable. Fortunately for their listeners, self-proclaimed “feminasty” Erin Gibson and “homosensual” Bryan Safi aren’t “some people.” On their comedy podcast, Throwing Shade, the two dive into the issues of the day headfirst, covering everything from Wendy Davis’s filibuster to the state of gay rights in Kansas and Arizona—all with a heavy dose of politically incorrect hilarity. Since its debut in 2011, the show has garnered a five-star rating on iTunes, earned a Best GLBT Podcast nod from the 2013 Podcast Awards, and gotten picked up as a web series by Funny or Die.
Gibson and Safi are currently taking the show on the road, bringing their rapid-fire banter to nine states and two countries, with more stops being added all the time. They talked to Groupon about what it’s been like touring, how the show has transformed, and why they won’t be interviewing Rico Suave any time soon.
GROUPON: How did you meet and what were your first impressions of each other?
Bryan Safi: We met at the UCB Theatre, but we didn’t really know each other then. Because we didn’t want to know each other. [It wasn’t until] we ended up getting jobs together at Current TV—where Erin hosted a segment called “Modern Lady” and I hosted a segment called “That’s Gay!”—[that] we instantly bonded. My first impression of her was that she was an extremely hard worker and extremely hard headed and I knew I wanted to be a part of that.
Erin Gibson: And [I knew I liked Bryan because] Bryan would do a joke where you would go in his office and say, “Can I talk to you for a second?” and he would say, “Yeah, sure, but first, can I borrow $400,000?” And he still does it—that’s four years later—and I love it.
BS: My jokes don’t die! They live on and on and on. The people around me die, but my jokes don’t die.
G: That’s actually something I really enjoy about the podcast. It feels exactly like you’re listening to two people hanging out. But how much editing actually goes into making an episode of the podcast? Can you give me an example of something you’ve had to cut out?
BS: Sometimes we can take a story to a darker place because really, with everything we talk about, you either laugh or you cry. But at the end of the day, our policy has always been humor first, message second. And I think there have been times where that’s gotten reversed.
EG: This is a rare occasion, but every once in a while, we will get very macabre and laugh at something that I think is inappropriate, even for us, and we’ll [say], “We took it too far. I don’t want that out there.” We wade through so much shitty news and so much sad stuff, that sometimes we lose perspective over what is sensitive.
G: You just performed at SXSW and you’ve been touring with the show for over a year now. What’s it been like taking the podcast on the road?
BS: It’s incredible. It’s amazing to go to each city and to find our people and people like us. It really makes me have faith in America that I could move to any of these cities and instantly have friends. It’s inspiring to know that people give a shit, and that we’ve affected people in ways that we certainly had never imagined.
EG: It’s also really good for us, because we’re both performers at heart and quotable visionaries second. That’s a good title for us, right?
G: How do your live shows now compare to the first live shows you did a year ago?
EG: Oh, god, they’re so much better.
BS: Yeah, they’re just better and better and better. SXSW was a crowd that wasn’t entirely ours. We had a huge turnout, but we knew that a lot of that audience was new to us…[But] we were able to pull off that show and do such a great job. Someone asked us, “God! It just seems so effortless! How much prep do you guys do?” and I said, “Oh, not a lot.” [But in reality,] it’s been two years of prep…[and] talking to each other and finding out what our strong points are, what our weak points are. But I have to say, we’ve come out of it with an incredibly solid show.
EG: When we first started, we pre-wrote jokes, we had to have our notes in front of us, and [now] we really have abandoned all of that. We bop around a lot, we’re a lot more animated, we don’t plan out jokes. We just get into the idea that this is going to be a live podcast, and…we’re not going to have a safety net.
G: You’ve also had a few guests over the show’s run. How do you decide who you want to bring on the show?
BS: A lot of that stuff is through Funny or Die. They’ll give us a list of people or we’ll send them a list and we’ll try and match who might be the best fit.
EG: I’ll tell ya who didn’t make the cut! Rico Suave!
BS: They pitched Rico Suave and we were like, “We love him, but he’s not really…”
EG: He’s not gay, he’s not a woman, he’s not a feminist or LGBT ally.
BS: I’m sure he’s an incredible person!
EG: I’m not.
BS: I’m sure he’s fine and I’m sure he went through a hard time!
EG: No! He had one hit! Whatever.
G: Finally, one of my favorite recurring jokes in the show is what Bryan is going to title his life story. If the two of you wrote a book about your friendship, what would you call it?
BS: Oh god…Have a Salad and Figure It Out Later! That’s one pitch! The first page just says, “We eat so many salads.” That’s chapter one.
G: I would read it.
BS: Thank you!
Check their touring schedule to see if Throwing Shade is coming to a city near you. You can also listen to back episodes of their podcast for free on iTunes, or watch an episode of their web series at Funny Or Die.