Independently successful on the online media landscape (as well as comedy, in Hesseltine's case), the two became fast friends and quickly brought their inimitable chemistry to the airwaves with Girls Gotta Eat. Each episode tackles a different series of listener questions and consults with an expert for answers. The show is such a hit that the pair has taken its act on the road, and the nationwide tour is rolling through Denver July 15-16.
In advance of their Comedy Works dates, Westword caught up with Hesseltine and Greenberg via email to discuss the Girls Gotta Eat origin story, their listeners' most pressing questions, and how to build a successful podcast.
Westword: What's the origin story of Girls Gotta Eat? How did the two of you meet and decide to embark on this project together?
Ashley Hesseltine: We met on a press trip for social media influencers in Aruba (you're eye-rolling, we know) — at a candlelit dinner on the beach with our toes in the sand — and we immediately connected over telling jokes and discussing the hellscape of dating. When we got back to NYC, we solidified our friendship with a dive-bar and late-night pizza date. I had wanted to start a podcast about dating and relationships, and I felt like Rayna would be the perfect co-host because she was funny (and most important, willing to publicly discuss her personal/sex life), so I asked for her hand in business and she said yes.
Which three episodes would you recommend to new listeners just getting into the show?
We always want the episodes to be both hilarious and offer takeaways. Some great ones to start with are
"Make 2019 Your Bitch," which came out 12/31/18, "Let’s Talk About Sex," with renowned sex therapist Ian Kerner, from 9/24/18, and then "Being Happy Being Alone," with writer Maria Del Russo, from 7/1/19.
What are some of your listeners' most persistently asked questions?
Coincidentally, our most frequently asked questions are also titles of some episodes: "How Can I Make Him Commit?," "When Should You Give It Up?," "How to Get Over a Breakup" and "How to Meet Men in the Wild."
What sets your live episodes apart from the ones you record in the studio? Does having an audience make you more self-conscious?
The live shows are unlike the podcast or any other live show you've seen (we say that confidently!). The weekly podcast is generally one topic from start to finish, with or without a guest. The live shows are a full-blown interactive comedy experience. We tell personal stories, read the most shocking and hilarious emails we've received, do slideshows, have audience participation and occasionally live dance performances. We want every person who comes to the shows to walk out thinking, "What the hell just happened in there?" We don't feel self-conscious about the audience whatsoever, but rather emboldened by the energy of so many hysterical, open women being in our presence.
When you first started recording shows, could you have predicted the response you've gotten?
We are tremendously humbled and excited by what this show has become and accomplished, but this was always the goal since day one.
How do you navigate the business side of podcasting? How did you build up a listenership impressive enough to support ad buys and national tours?
A ton of thought and energy goes into making this podcast a real business. We partner with advertisers in order to support the show. The main focus is choosing brands with products that we actually use and feel proud to recommend to our audience. We choose where to perform based on cities with the most listeners and then which venue will be the most fun for them. The listenership grows every week via word of mouth, social media, and just simply by having consistently exciting and evolving content with guests who have new takes on ever-present topics in dating and relationships.
How has the touring experience gone so far? Have you enjoyed the opportunities to meet directly with your fans?
Rayna Greenberg: Touring has been endlessly entertaining; like any successful married couple, we sleep in separate rooms. Each city is a new opportunity to eat and drink in cool places, for Ashley to find a yoga studio, and for me to creep on the local "talent." Meeting our audience is the BEST! We love hearing their hilarious dating stories, listening to girls tell us how the show has affected their lives, and eating all the snacks people bring us. There's never a meet-and-greet where we don't cry several times.
Do either of you have any projects coming up that you'd like to mention before we wrap up?
We will be hitting cities all over the U.S. and Canada for the rest of the year and into 2020! Show info and tickets are always available at stupidliveshows.com.
Join Ashley Hesseltine and Rayna Greenberg for live-episode tapings at 8 p.m. Monday, July 15, at Comedy Works Downtown and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at Comedy Works South. Tickets range from $30 to $60; get them and more information on the Comedy Works box-office page.