Podcasts are in tune with the democratized spirit of Internet media; anyone with a microphone and a computer can offer their listeners unlimited hours of recordings, usually for free. Limited only by their imaginations, podcasters have a freedom of expression unrestricted by commerce, censorship or geography. Several great podcasts have blossomed in Denver's flourishing arts community; here to celebrate them is Podcast Profiles, a new series documenting the efforts of local podcasters and spotlighting the peculiar personalities behind them.
Releasing weekly episodes since August, Empty Girlfriend came out of the gate fully formed. The brainchild of local comics Christie Buchele and Haley Driscoll, the podcast interviews local comedians, musicians and veterinarians about their relationship histories, offering "love tips and love quips from unqualified professionals." Buchele and Driscoll are charming and disarming co-hosts who put their guests at ease for surprisingly revealing interviews. Though unafraid to delve into more somber topics like heartbreak, disease and personal struggle, the podcast is always leavened by their quick wit and sentence-finishing chemistry. Westword caught up with the Empty Girlfriends to discuss rising from the ashes of an attempted sketch show, asking personal questions and doo-doo pussy.
See also: Podcast Profiles: Adam Cayton-Holland and My Dining Room Table
Westword: I haven't transcribed a dual interview before, this should be interesting. You guys have pretty distinct voices though, so it should be fine.
Haley Driscoll: Yeah, Christie sounds like a man.
So, did you guys come up with the idea for the podcast together?
Driscoll: We originally tried to start a sketch group called "Fourth Beer." And what we wanted to do was have a monthly sketch show with comedy videos.
Christie Buchele: Sort of like the Grawlix, but with less emphasis on standup. We'd have more live sketch and then a video so we'd have to practice writing scripts and developing that stuff.
Driscoll: And like interaction games with the audience.
But then you decided, "Fuck it, podcasts are easier?"
Driscoll: Kind of.
Buchele: It definitely was. We did write a sketch, and then we filmed it. We put it out a couple weeks ago, but we didn't really love the editing.
Driscoll: It was kind of hard to work with the dude.
Buchele: We found him on Craigslist. He was looking for people. He was really good at first, I think he just over-promised time-wise and then under-delivered. He still did good work, but when it came to the final edits he sort of missed the mark as far as our vision. It came out a little creepier than we intended.
Tight editing is pretty crucial for comic timing.
Driscoll: Yeah, it got really frustrating.
Buchele: A lot of it was still funny to me, but we just needed to change the music and the timing. But he was just done. He thought we were too demanding of his time, even though it had been like four months since we shot it. I don't know if the Nix Brothers have just spoiled everybody. They're just super-efficient, so maybe that's how we think these things should work.
Driscoll: It took like half a year though to make a five-minute short! I ripped him like five new assholes.
Buchele: Yeah, Haley got really mad. It was a good first experience for us writing and working together. And then the live show never really got off the ground. Haley's main objective was to do more live sketch and my main objective was to do more video stuff, but if we couldn't find somebody to really work with then that wasn't going to be able to come together.
That's when the podcast idea comes up?
Buchele: Well, I'm a huge podcast fan. "Empty Girlfriend" was a name that we had...
Driscoll: ...for the sketch show. It was one of the ideas.
Buchele: Yeah, before we came up with "Fourth Beer" it was one of the titles that we had thrown around a little bit. Then we realized that we're just talking about relationships and all this stuff together all the time, anyway. We're also both pretty unabashed when it comes to discussing ourselves, so we thought "we should just be talking about this."
It's a really personal subject to ask people about. For example, I don't know how well you guys know Dr. Kev, but I imagine it'd be a little weird to ask him about his sex life. You're transgressing a boundary for sure.
Driscoll: He was so open!
Buchele: He actually approached us to do the podcast. That makes it easier. Other people that we've had on are pretty close, though, and that is actually just as interesting because you see what they're really open to talking about.
Driscoll: Some people are way more open than thought they would be.
Who surprised you with their openness?
Buchele: Just the people that we really didn't know that well who still did pretty good. Mike Marchant did really good, he talked about his cancer. Haley had just met him the day he walked into the apartment. I also had a high school friend who was in the Epilogues, Jason Hoke, who was really open.
Driscoll: Justine Marino. You didn't really know her.
Buchele: Yeah. So there's a lot of instances where one of us doesn't know the guest at all, so we've been really happy about how much they share.
Was anybody more reticent than you expected?
Buchele: I thought Greg Baumhauer would be a little bit more open, just because of the myth and legend of Greg...
Driscoll: ...or at least kind of nastier about sexual stuff.
Buchele: And he really wasn't. He wasn't into divulging his discretions.
Well, this is a new and improved Baumhauer.
Buchele: That's absolutely true. That's the interesting part of that dynamic with people. Then there's other people who'll talk, and it'll be a really good conversation, but then we'll walk away and realize "wait, they didn't mention their current girlfriend even one time."
Driscoll: Stephen Aygei didn't really...
Buchele: He had a hard time. It was funny.
Driscoll: It was hilarious. All he talked about was doo-doo pussy. And nothing else.
Buchele: We've learned a lot from people and how people look at that kind of stuff. It's been interesting and rewarding thus far.
Have you found that people open up more --because podcast listeners come to know a lot about the both of you as well as your guests-- when you're willing to be as revealing as they are?
Buchele: I think that's like the main ingredient of the podcast. We started it knowing that we really have no shame talking about that kind of stuff. From the beginning, we were hoping that people would jump on board. And a lot of them have.
Driscoll: We try to get them into a comfortable space with us. Particularly with segments on the show like "Obscure Sexual Fantasies."
Buchele: I sometimes get bashful with that one. When we had Nora Lynch on the show, I got really bashful to ask her, because, you know, that's like your elder. I was nervous with Dr. Kev too, but Haley had already put it out to him so I was like "thank God I didn't have to ask."
Driscoll: Dr. Kev just started talking about his...
Buchele: Yeah, he wanted to jump into it early.
That particular segment gets super-personal. I think once you get used to talking about those sorts of things, particularly in a public forum like comics do, it doesn't seem like such a big deal anymore, but that's usually a very private matter. I think I'd be more uncomfortable to ask that question than I would be to answer it.
Buchele: Yeah, it's not in every episode. A couple times we forgot or ran out of time, and a couple of times I just got nervous. That was closer to when we first started doing it, so I wasn't as brave I guess.
Whose idea was it for that segment?
Driscoll: I don't know. We were just kind of brainstorming back and forth when we came up with it. We had a few that got left behind. We had one called "High School Love Letters."
Buchele: I think we'll still do it, we just have forgotten to ask people if they still have them and if they can bring them in. There is a "High School Love Letters" on Steve Agyei's episode.
Is it a letter that he wrote or a letter that he received?
Oh man, that's so much worse!
Driscoll: I know, and it was all tear-blotched too. And we put music in the background.
Jesus, that poor girl.
Buchele: We didn't say her name or anything. But we've done that segment, we've done some dream interpretation stuff. We like to talk about astrology sometimes
Driscoll: I've done some characters, like in the "Werewolf Radar" episode, but we haven't done that in a long time.
Have you guys thought about doing a live podcast recording as a way to kind of bridge the gap between the podcast and it's origin idea?
Buchele: I would love to do a live Empty Girlfriend because talking about that stuff is, like you said, awkward to talk about even face to face, but imagine how much worse when it's front of a crowd. It may even be more interesting to me. We'd definitely love to do the live thing, I just think we're trying to establish the podcast before we do anything too fancy. It's almost like trying to run an open mic when you're a brand new comedian. You don't want to put the cart before the horse. It's hard to know the time commitment you'll have to put into everything that goes into recording, editing and producing the show every week. We didn't know anything and we do it all ourselves. We had to learn all the equipment stuff and building a website.
I didn't know you guys did all of that yourselves.
Buchele: Malkah Duprix did the theme song and Karen Wachtel curates a playlist for us on Spotify.
Driscoll: It's on Christie's computer, so she ends up doing the most putting it together. She put the website together.
Buchele: Yeah, I'm also a control-freak a little bit, so Haley deals with that really well. But it's been fun to learn that stuff. I didn't know how to put together a website; I knew nothing about the equipment or the software. We've both learned so much, and again, that goes back to that live show and being frustrated by working on the video with that guy who had no respect for our time or our vision. That's probably one of the biggest things we learned with this, is just finding the right people to work with and that we trust. And that's only us two.
Anything you want to be sure to mention before we wrap up the interview?
Driscoll: Ask us questions!
Buchele: Yeah, that's the number one thing. We have a link on our website for people to email us questions. You can do it anonymously or whatever. Those are always the funnest ones though. We don't get a lot of questions, so we end up answering ones from dumb internet people. You can send us topics that you'd for like us to discuss, if you see anything, throw it our way. We only have eight hours of our workday to search for stuff for our podcast. And keep listening. The support from everybody has been amazing.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.
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