Chances are if you’re reading this you’ve done something awkward at one point in your life. Something that when you think about it now you subconsciously cringe your entire face. These are likely events at the bottom of your stories-to-tell-strangers-at-a-party list. How to be Less Awkward takes these very personal stories and harnesses them into a podcast form to serve to the masses.
I will say there’s something oddly reassuring about hearing others most intimate embarassing stories. Suddenly, all the cringe-worthy things from your past are less unorthodox.
To add to the inherent comedy these stories come with, host Laura Merli is a stand-up comic veteran who’s able to milk every last laugh out of the awkwardness. I got a chance to meet Laura and talk about the origins of her podcast and where she wants to take it from here. Below is our full interview.
Discover Pods: What’s your podcast name?
Laura: How to be Less Awkward
DP: What’s your podcast about?
Laura: Guests share true stories of embarrassment and hilarity.
DP: Unfortunately, awkwardness is something I know all too well. What have some of the most cringe-worthy stories been about?
Laura: Sexuality and bowel movements are pretty common themes. (Separately thus far, but I’m sure there will be a story involving both on the podcast someday.)
DP: Where do you want to take your podcast from here? Any ambitions to do a roadshow akin to The Moth?
Laura: Our audience has been growing every month, which has been really exciting to see. Eventually, we’d love to have a series of live shows, but are still thinking through how it would look and feel. We’d want to deliver an experience that’s different than you can have listening at home, but is still true to our show.
DP: What’s unique about your podcast?
Laura: As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Bluebeard, “the human condition can be summed up in just one word, and this is the word: Embarrassment.” Everyone can relate to the terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’ve unintentionally broken a social norm. It’s terrible. However, oftentimes, those moments become things you’ll look back and laugh about. “How to be Less Awkward” shares those stories.
DP: Why did you choose to podcast?
Laura: I had been listening to a lot of My Favorite Murder and felt really inspired by the conversational tone. Up until that point, the internet radio / podcasts I had listened to were very produced and stylized. I still like that style for topics that I want to get the facts on, but the My Favorite Murder-style back and forth was the first time that I listened to something and felt like the hosts were friends of mine. The topic of awkwardness came up because that’s a big focus of my comedy and I felt like everyone had a really awkward story to share. That is, until I tried to record a test episode with my sister, who has lived a pretty non-awkward life.
DP: How do you find people willing to spill their most embarrassing stories?
Laura: I’ve been doing stand up for about 2 years now and have met a lot of hilarious people whose acts are inspired by their lives, so that was my jumping off point. Plus, I’m a bit of an over-sharer myself and have gravitated toward like-minded people in life in general. I’ve been lucky in that most people that I’ve invited to be on have been interested, but I know the format isn’t for everyone and totally respect when people don’t want to do it. I have had a few awkward moments where I’ve asked someone to be on because I thought they were really funny and open, but they thought I might be asking because they seemed really awkward, so I had some explaining to do there.
DP: Do you think we’ve reached “peak podcast”
Laura: I think we still have a ways to go before that happens. I still get questions like: “how do I listen to podcasts?,” “how can people put podcasts on in their car?,” and “Woah, how did you get on iTunes?” (Anyone can get on iTunes.) There are a lot of great podcasts out there, but it being a new-ish medium I can’t imagine that the craft won’t get better and better. Especially now that so many people are getting into podcasting.
DP: Anything else you’d like to add?
Laura: What we look for in a story is something that at the time seemed like a catastrophe that could never be shared with anyone, but now is something the guest looks back on and laughs about. It’s a very conversational tone, with the goal being to make the listener feel like they just had a great night of over-sharing with friends.
DP: What are your top 5 favorite podcasts?
- My Favorite Murder (it’s a hilarious true crime podcast…yes those two things can go together!)
- Mouth Time with Reductress (sketch comedy)
- Bad with Money with Gaby Dunn (interviews about people’s relationships with money, from the point of view of a person that’s always been bad with it)
- My Dad Wrote a Porno (Guy reads the adult novel, authored by his father, aloud for this friends. Witty banter ensues, British style)
- The Dollop (funny guy researches outrageous real-life stories and tells them to another funny guy)
DP: Where can listeners find you?