BRITTANY: I’m Brittany Luse and welcome to Sampler, the show where we play you handpicked moments from podcasts that you just have to hear. So I am super excited for my guest today - technically - I guess we’re neighbors? Umm…
WENDY: We were neighbors! For - you were the first person I sat next to when I arrived here.
BRITTANY: That is true! That is true. Well I guess - now that you’ve started talking I should introduce you. Welcome to Sampler Wendy Zukerman.
WENDY: Thanks for having me
BRITTANY: For those of you who don't know, Wendy is the host of fellow Gimlet show Science Vs and I'm really looking forward to this episode today because Wendy has brought clips to play for me.
So Science Vs actually launched in Australia last year. And we heard it at Sampler when we were looking for clips for the show and then Gimlet was just like so impressed with Wendy and how great the show was and how much fun it was. And we acquired it. And now, the second season of Science Vs and the first season of Science Vs as a Gimlet show, is coming out on July 28.
BRITTANY: It’s coming up!
WENDY: It’s coming up!
BRITTANY: Tell people about what Science Vs. is all about.
WENDY: So Science Vs. is a show that pits facts against everything else. So we look at all these ideas in society, some of them are fads, some of them are diets - we look at organic food, we look at fracking, the G spot, all of these things and we really put them under the scientific microscope, but - hopefully we do it in kind of a fun and goofy way.
BRITTANY: First I thought that when - you were just gonna bring clips about science, which is something I’m not super familiar with? Past high school age. But actually Wendy - is - brought some clips that, that sort of have to do with something else I know absolutely nothing about, which is her homeland of Australia. So if you couldn’t tell by Wendy’s accent, she is from [in Australian accent] down un-da.
WENDY: Oh nice, that wasn’t too bad.
BRITTANY: That wasn’t bad?
WENDY: It was pretty bad. It’s pretty bad. It’s a hard accent.
I’m really excited to bring you Aussie podcasts. Cause we really stepped up I think in the last couple of years and we’re making some really good stuff.
BRITTANY: I mean -
BRITTANY: The first season of Science Vs. was produced in Australia, so obviously you guys are onto something.
WENDY: I hope so, yeah.
BRITTANY: Well, I mean, you know take it away.
WENDY: All right.
BRITTANY: Let’s the ball rolling.
WENDY: All right.
BRITTANY: I’m excited.
WENDY: So this clip is from Burn Your Passport, which comes from the ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. And it’s hosted by this very wonderful Australian comedian called Nazeem Hussain. And the premise of the podcast - the kind of loose premise is that traveling is crap - why would you ever leave Australia or your homeland. Burn your passport, stay where you are.
WENDY: But it’s really just an excuse for Nazeem to get a whole bunch of comedians on the show, and - and have a chat. And the - the clip that I want to show you is from Sami Shah. His interview with Sami Shah who’s a Pakistani comedian. And Sami is telling Nazeem about a time that he got into a Twitter feud with a very unlikely opponent.
———CLIP: Burn Your Passport———
SAMI: I was on Twitter one day -
SAMI: and I made a joke about the Taliban -
NAZEEM: What w-
SAMI: because they were threatening TV stations in Pakistan - it was a TV station that critical of the Taliban so we blow them up.
SAMI: So I did a thing where I was like - oh, the Taliban threatens TV stations complaining the way my grandparents complain that there’s nothing good on television anymore. So the spokesperson for the Taliban - the official spokesperson - his name is Ehsanullah Ehsan - was on Twitter - and had an official account. I - I think he even had a blue tick, like -
NAZEEM: What was his display pic?
SAMI: Like I don’t have a blue tick, but he did.
NAZEEM: He had a blue tick!
SAMI: I bet he had one.
NAZEEM: What was his photo? Is it a smiling one?
SAMI: It was him on a horse.
NAZEEM: Aw man, you know that’s, that’s what you want. If you’re the spokesperson for the Taliban. You don’t wanna just be standing there against a tr-
SAMI: Yeah, you can’t just be grinning like a - like an idiot.
NAZEEM: Not even against your motorbike? No, you gotta be old school.
SAMI: Yeah, it’s got a horse with like a - with a [semitor?] or something, so -
NAZEEM: Smile or no smile?
SAMI: I - I’m pretty sure there was no smile.
NAZEEM: Aw yeah, damn straight!
SAMI: It was like those Tinder pictures, you know, where you like - you look away and you don’t smile, but it’s kind of like - it’s like -
NAZEEM: Do I look aloof enough?
SAMI: With a dog, you know. So he tweeted at - back at me and he goes “Yes, but the difference is that our old people have exothermic relations? Which is a suicide bombing reference.
NAZEEM: Oh god.
SAMI: And then I tweeted back and I said “Yeah, but you haven’t been around by grandfather when he has beans for breakfast.” And then he tweeted back, and he said “That’s really funny. You should come over here and do -
SAMI: And I realized, I’m tweeting fart jokes with the Taliban.
SAMI: On Twitter and no one should ever say that sentence in their life. And I have friends in, in the - in journalism in Pakistan who then messaged me and said, “Dude, whatever you’re doing, stop right now.”
SAMI: Because this is not gonna end well-
NAZEEM: Though -
SAMI: for you, so.
NAZEEM: You know, online communication does have a - a tone problem, like it’s hard to understand. Like maybe he was actually being quite cordial - and he wasn’t like -
SAMI: Yeah, like.
NAZEEM: Maybe they just establish a comedy club. Like a Taliban comedy club.
SAMI: The Tora Bora Improv.
NAZEEM: And if you bomb on stage -
SAMI: Yeah, yeah yeah.
NAZEEM: Aw shit! So did you - did you favorite or retweet that one?
SAMI: Well I did retweet it, and then - and then this - the - all the journalist friends were like, dude you need to be careful, because then the Palestine -
SAMI: intelligence agency will get on you for this. So -
NAZEEM: So -
SAMI: then I del - deleted the whole thing.
BRITTANY: What?! Literally - all right, okay first of all…Sami. I like the fact that he like - so he’s like, oh well I deleted the entire exchange. But then went on like a podcast and told -
WENDY: And talked about it all. Yeah. And this is - I feel like this is very Australian humor to make a joke like - I hope you don’t bomb on stage! But I’m cheering you -
BRITTANY: That’s Australian humor?
WENDY: Oh, that’s Australian humor.
BRITTANY: Oh wow.
WENDY: That’s - we - it’s - it - we, we, we cut it close to the bone, let’s just say.
BRITTANY: It’s - I mean, close to the bone - close to the bone and on the nose. Talk about on the damn nose. Oh my god!
WENDY: There’s definitely something to it - I mean the idea of when something really horrible happens in the world and that you have to give it some time -
WENDY: Before you then make a joke about it.
WENDY: That concept exists in Australia only to break it. So a, a bad -
WENDY: event might just have ended, and there will be a pun ready to go. And then kind of people look around like - what? Too soon? Nope, definitely not too soon, here we go, let’s do this. And I don’t think as a nation we’re not taking these events seriously - it’s just how we are dealing with them and talking about them.
BRITTANY: Well this is good - I feel like we’re - I feel like you, I feel like we’re off to a very strong start.
WENDY: Should we take it down a notch then?
BRITTANY: I mean I’m re - I mean, sure. I mean I have no clue what you’re playing so you’re - “Should we take a down a notch?” And I’m like where is down?
WENDY: Oh, okay. This - this is like - it kind of fits into our - our - the theme of going from laughter to serious to laughter too quickly back. So the next clip, I’m gonna show you is from a show called “Better off Dead.” And this is a podcast about euthanasia. and -
WENDY: Yeah. So deep breaths - and it’s hosted by Andrew Denton who’s a TV personality in Australia, so he’s very well known. And he says up front in the first episode of Better off Dead that his dad died what he thought was a very horrible death, and so he goes on this journey in this podcast to find out why his dad had to die badly — and that is why there aren’t laws in Australia, like there are else where, that allow doctors and nurses to assist in suicides.
And in this clip that I’m gonna play for you, you will hear Andrew Denton but the first person you’ll hear is a nurse named Cathy Pryor talking about the moment she helped her dad to die.
And so in this clip I’m gonna play you - a nurse named Cathy Pryor will talk about the moment she helped her father to die. And I think it’s important to know that her dad was dying of terminal cancer and it was at a - quite a horrible phase and he had tried to kill himself -
WENDY: — twice and it did not work. So it’s coming to this point, and this is what happened.
————CLIP: Better Off Dead————
CATHY: Well I went in one day, and he said, “I so wanna go. I just wanna go.” And he knew his death was gonna be horrible. So I said to him look dad, if you really wanna go that badly, I’ll take you home and I’ll help you. [music] We went home to his house and we walked around the garden and he was so calm. We looked at all his fruit trees, he told me how to prune his fruit trees to make sure people at the apples and watch - do the raspberries, and - it was, it was quite surreal. And finally said, “No, I’ve had enough. Let’s go and have a glass of wine.” So we had a glass of wine and I said, “Dad, you know, do you really wanna do this?” And he said, “I’m so happy. This is wonderful, I’m going.” And he said, “You are so brave to help me do this.” And I just said, look, hopefully when my time comes, someone will help me. [music] We had [Insulin?], Morphine, Pethidine - and he showed me the vein, he injected some of it himself, and then I injected him. And I sat with him until he lost consciousness. And one thing he’d said before he died was, don’t let me survive. Whatever you do, do not let me survive.
ANDREW: To make it appear as though Peter had suicided, Cathy went home, then came back, expecting to find him dead.
CATHY: I’d got rid of the syringes and all the rest of it. Came back, and he was still alive. I mean, deeply unconscious, but he was alive. I just presumed we’d give dad all those drugs and he would die, and because he said, “Don’t let me survive”... so I put a plastic bag over his head and tied his bag around his head, and the noise was awful. Because the breathing got - you know like the bag was going in and out of his mouth and finally I put a pillow over his head until he died.
BRITTANY: Oh my god.
WENDY: It - it’s heartbreak - and it makes you, it makes you just question a lot. I - what do you think?
BRITTANY: Well the thing that got me is like - you go into this situation, or she went into this situation thinking that it was - for better or worse it’s pretty cut and dry. But then like when she returned and he wasn’t dead, it’s like - that’s completely - that’s like a completely different emotional jungle gym. Do you know what I’m saying? Where it’s not like -
BRITTANY: Like -
WENDY: For sure. When you’re actively putting a plastic bag -
BRITTANY: And a pillow over someone’s head. You know what I’m saying? It’s different than injecting drugs, I think. I don’t know what - even what kind of relationship you have to have or what kind of mindset you have to be in to - to think that this is the most loving act that you can perform for somebody that you care about? And then like - not even really taking into account - what is this gonna do to me?
WENDY: I guess we just - we just don’t talk about it, and I, I like that at least this podcast gives you - at least you can talk about it through these people -
WENDY: And you don’t have to say if, if - I can’t even finish the sentence -
WENDY: you know, if, if it were me.
WENDY: I know.
BRITTANY: Oh my gosh.
WENDY: I know. It’s - yeah. I mean, don’t - don’t listen to this one for laughs, I guess.
BRITTANY: [stifled laugh] That’s an Australian joke.
WENDY: Yeah. Too soon? Too soon.
BRITTANY: Okay, well. Wendy, we are gonna take a quick break. And when we come back, we’re gonna talk more about the new season of your show and we’re gonna hear some other stuff from Australia. So - just like a boomerang, we’re coming right back.
BRITTANY: Look at that! Look at that!
BRITTANY: This episode of Sampler is brought to you by Audible.
And today we’re kicking off a new show-within the show, where people you may not normally hear from at Gimlet recommend their favorite books to me. So, welcome to Brittany’s Book Club. Today, my very first guest is Kalila Holt. She’s a producer on a new show we’re working on called Heavyweight, hosted by Jonathan Goldstein.
KALILA: So the book that I’m recommending is a book of short stories, it’s called Get In Trouble and it’s by a woman named Kelly Link… who is the most amazing human on earth. So in this scene, one of the characters is having a birthday party, and the like hip thing for teen girls in this story is fake boyfriends who are also like monsters of some sort.
[clip from scene]
She has this great sort of cross between horror and teen stuff but she does it in a very literary, artful way.
BRITTANY: This already sounds so good.
BRITTANY: Listen to all our book club recommendations at gimletcreative.com. You can find “Get In trouble” and other titles by Kelly Link on Audible. Start your free 30-day trial and get a free audiobook. Just go to audible-dot-com-slash-SAMPLER. That’s audible.com/Sampler.
————END AD BREAK————
BRITTANY: Welcome back to Sampler. My guest today is Wendy Zukerman. She is the host of fellow Gimlet podcast, Science Vs. And Wendy has been playing me moments from some of the best Crocodile Dundee land podcasts.
WENDY: Decades old reference there.
BRITTANY: To me it feel - that’s how I know I’m getting old, because like to me, I’m like - Crocodile Dundee’s very recent.
BRITTANY: Very recent.
WENDY: We’re talking 80’s, I’ve gotta say.
BRITTANY: So, Wendy - the new season of Science Vs. is coming out July 28th and you and your team have been working like nonstop to get ready, so like how are you doing? Like, how are you feeling?
WENDY: It’s getting exciting - we’ve got the trailer out, we’re starting to put everything together, it’s - it’s feeling like it’s in a good place but it’s very nerve-wracking.
BRITTANY: It is- it’s scary like to, to put something out there in the world.
WENDY: It is - I didn’t - I keep thinking I’m not scared, and then last night I had this dream that were were in the studio editing and the whole - like a lot of people were in that studio: Alex Blumberg, Matt Lieber, and I really needed to fart, and no one would let me out of the studio. And that was the- that was it.
BRITTANY: You know what’s funny is that for a second, I was like - I forgot that you said that it was a dream, and I was like - this is every day for me. So I was like - [Wendy hysterically laughs] I was about to be like, oh my god, me too and then - and then my other side of my brain was like no, she said it was a dream.
WENDY: I snorted. You made me snort!
WENDY: Yeah. So I think that tells you a lot about my anxieties.
BRITTANY: Well - what can we expect on Season 2? I loved Season 1, like I re - talked about you know, pornography, you talked about the paleo diet, you talked about being sugar free. You covered a lot of my favorite topics.
WENDY: Oh, that’s nice. That’s -
BRITTANY: So what can we expect on Season 2?
WENDY: In season 2, the episode’s gonna be a bit longer, more in depth. Like in a go out on the fields. In the fracking episode we go out onto a frack site and we see how it’s - how it’s done, and we kind of put these questions and fears that people have about fracking straight to the frackers. one particular scene that I’m thinking of - so we met Seneca Resources, the fracking company really early in the morning and Rob Boulware who’s their PR guy showed us around and then all of a sudden we’re just outside the frack site - in his car -
WENDY: Like this - have you guys seen these letters? From the -
WENDY: And we’re just like chatting about how the fracking works and then all of a sudden we start getting into questions about contamination and they were just starting to get - not uncomfortable at all, but completely skirting the question.
WENDY: This is - this is to Seneca, and this is a letter stipulating that you guys changed the water supply.
ROB: So just the fact that you have one of these letters doesn’t mean we actually polluted something, it means that they’re responding to a complaint that was made.
WENDY: I think this says it actually - it is determined that there was a pollution. A contamination caused by -
Rob?: And so is this one - this is in Warsaw Township, Jefferson -
WENDY: It was sort of - it felt a little like bizarro land, because - if you and me were to have a conversation -
WENDY: I would ask you a question, you would answer it. And they would have the exact same body language but then just not answer it.
WENDY: And you even mention that like -
Rob?: I stand - I stand firm on what we’ve done in Seneca, that we have not had those issues.
WENDY: But - but then -
Male voice 2: And that’s -
WENDY: you read the letter and it had the -
Male voice 2: No, because this is not fracking –
WENDY: I think there are two sides to this topic very much - in fact there’s probably 10 sides to this topic. There is definitely this grey area in the middle that I hope we explore and tell people about. But they were not helping themselves.
BRITTANY: All right, so Wendy - so like continue - take me back to Australia, continue to walk me through these Australian podcasts. Cause so far, I mean - we have had some highs and we have had some lows emotionally. It’s been an enjoyable whiplash, but whiplash just the same. So I’m ready to see like what’s coming next, what’s coming next.
WENDY: Okay, okay so this next clip is from a show called “True Stories” which is from SBS, the Special Broadcasting Service. Where one person is telling a story that is important to them and - the, the beautiful thing about this podcast is that it tries to represent what Australia really is. A diverse nation of immigrants and first people’s. Not just a blond Ken doll with a surfboard on the beach. This clip is from a story titled “Ex-Yugos” -- short for Ex-Yugoslavians - and it’s written and read by Sofija Stefanovic. Sofija was born in Yugoslavia back when there still was a Yugoslavia, and her family moved to Melbourne, which is where I’m from - when she was five, and so she kind of left a country in the brink of a civil war. So in this clip, she tells this story of a very memorable encounter with another Ex-Yugo that had the potential to become very uncomfortable.
———CLIP: True Stories———
SOFIJA: Recently I was tipsy on a Melbourne tram. There was a group of music students from the VCA with their instruments neatly zipped up in cases. With them was this older guy about my age, maybe 30. He had crazy big hair, and I thought I saw the remnants of makeup on his eyes. Maybe he was a bit high or drunk. He was hanging out with the young musicians and talking to them in a familiar accent. “That’s not real music - music you read from sheets. Real music comes from within, you know? From the soul.” The young man listened politely and I was reminded of the hundreds of old Yugoslavian songs, best sung when you’re drunk and smashing glasses. Songs about heartbreak and desire. He slumped down next to me and we continued the tram ride towards St. Kilda. I suspected him as being one of ours - what we ex-Yugos call each other - from his features and his accent and his attitude. Maybe he thought the same about me, cause he asked me where I’m from. Serbia, I said. He switched from English and said, “I’m from Bosnia.” I knew if I broke into song now, something from [Biela Dugme?] or [Aslah?], he’d know it and we could sing all the way home. We spoke in our language. “Which city are you from?” he asked. And I told him, Belgrade. It turned out we were the same age. I guessed he’d come to Australia later than me. I’m from Srebrenica” he said. And the word felt like a punch. My heart rose into my throat, because Srebrenica if you don’t know, is a small town in Bosnia where there was a massacre of over 8,000 Muslim men and teenage boys in 1995. I did some quick maths in my head and realized that this guy was 12 at that time. That’s why he’s alive. They killed boys just a little bit older than that - if he had an older brother or a dad. I was 12 then too, in Melbourne, listening to my parents howl as those images came up on screen. The massacre was perpetrated by my people. The Serbs. He could have screamed at me or turned away and let me dissolve into the floor, like I wanted to. I don’t know what the other people on the tram thought as watched our foreign language exchange. But what they now saw was the drunk guy hugging me and me falling into his hug. The two of us holding each other tightly. He called me his sister and though we were strangers, we weren’t strangers. The war wasn’t our idea. The decisions were made by people bigger than us. We sat leaning against each other, neither of us sober, our eyes filled with tears about something that happened a long time ago. We sat in solidarity in some mutant version of brotherhood and unity, the kind that can resurface on a Melbourne tram with the memory of the massacre.
BRITTANY: Oh, that’s beautiful.
WENDY: Aw, I’m glad you liked it.
BRITTANY: Oh, it’s beautiful. I don’t - I’ve been having…
WENDY: It’s really beautiful. I think I - I, I think I almost cried when I heard this clip the first time. Because I, I think - I think what hit me was the political situation in, in America, but I guess in the world right now… is about so many big ideas - racism at the heart of them, I think. That’s what it feels like - blaming -
BRITTANY: I would - I am inclined to agree.
WENDY: Yeah, yeah, okay. I feel like I’m not going out on a limb here.
WENDY: And, and then there’s the clip that I feel is at the - it’s just o - this like little microcosm of what our worlds are really like. We, we talk the big talk, we have ideas, people get angry at rallies, but life is really just getting coffee from someone, being in a tram with someone.
BRITTANY: Huhhhh. I mean. I mean - the world is literally burning, but I mean it’s like, you know - I guess like the whole point of life is to continue to have moments like that and like to get from one to the other to the other.
WENDY: Yeah. And I - I, I like to think that most people in that situation - maybe they wouldn’t have hugged - the -
BRITTANY: I usually -
WENDY: - the writer? But -
WENDY: But would have had some kind of nod of - this wasn’t your fault, we’re- this is different. I feel like this is what, what actually does happen, and then we just - I hope so. I don’t know.
BRITTANY: What do you mean you feel like this is actually what does happen?
WENDY: I, like I feel like - this guys’s response of hugging her rather than getting angry at her for past wrongs that were not hers.
WENDY: That -
BRITTANY: That she wasn’t even -
WENDY: That oh - then on a 1 to 1 scale, and then you-
WENDY: Met someone, who’s, who’s background and you were having a joke with them,
BRITTANY: Yeah, and -
WENDY: and they -
BRITTANY: Having a regular convers- having a regular conversation doesn’t - yeah.
WENDY: And then you found out that they had - that their history had, had wronged you, I, I don’t think - I think there would be this mutual understanding of where - where does this put us, let’s keep talking. You wouldn’t just punch them in the face. I think that’s how most people -
BRITTANY: You wouldn’t -
WENDY: would respond.
BRITTANY: just punch him in the face. But the thing is though is that like - I don’t know, like okay so like I’m black and I’m from the United States. And if I met someone who said - you know, and if I found - let’s say that their like great-grandfather was part of the KKK. I literally would ha - I honestly would not have any interest in continuing a conversation with them. I would not have the grace of this man to do that. I would just be kind of be like - ah. I’m just gonna go ba - I’m gonna just, I’m just gonna go home -
BRITTANY: Like, it’s been really great meeting you, I’m just gonna go back and lock my doors and be in the safety of my bed. And like I don’t necessarily think that I’m wrong for that - but, like the fact that this man felt like he could do that, that to me is - it’s ve- like, like that was - that was really - I don’t - yeah, I don’t necessarily think that I’m wrong, but I do think that this man had an incredible response. [sighs] God!
WENDY: I know!
BRITTANY: That was really good.
WENDY: [sighs] Didn’t we solve the world’s problems yet?
BRITTANY: I don’t think so.
BRITTANY: So Wendy thank you so much for joining us.
WENDY: Thanks for having me.
BRITTANY: You were aces. You’re awesome. You’re great. Is there like an expression in Australian for like - “great.”
WENDY: I guess it’s just - “great.”
BRITTANY: So the new season of Wendy’s show, Science Vs. is coming out on July 28th and if you absolutely cannot wait, the trailer is out already, it’s three minutes, it’s short, very sweet and it leaves you just like thirsty for more. Be sure to go subscribe to Science Vs. wherever you listen to podcasts. And by the way, it’s Science Vs., like V-S. Like with a V and an S. Science Vs. July 28th. Wendy Zukerman, straight out of Melbourne.
WENDY: Thanks for having me!
BRITTANY: It’s my pleasure.
WENDY: Straight out of Melbourne! Damn, that’s good.
BRITTANY: To recap the clips featured on the show today, the clip about trading fart jokes with the Taliban came from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Burn Your Passport. The clip about euthanasia came from Better Off Dead. And the clip about a memorable encounter on a Melbourne tram was from the SBS’s True Stories.
This episode was produced by Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, Matthew Nelson and myself.
It was edited by Annie-Rose Strasser.
Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian and our ad music was made by Mark Phillips.
The show was mixed by Enoch Kim and Matthew Boll.
Sampler is a production of Gimlet Media.
Oh, and one last thing, Another Gimlet Media podcast, Surprisingly Awesome, is looking for a couple that's willing to let them record their wedding. That sounds bonkers right? But doesn't it also sound like a really awesome way to remember your special day? If you're getting married in September, and are interested in inviting Surprisingly Awesome to record your wedding from start to finish, fill out the form at SAListener.com.
BRITTANY: Next week on Sampler, two sisters talk to us about happiness… and each other.
GRETCHEN: This is so astonishing to me, because here I am, your sister, and I always thought that you were like the tall, pretty, popular one. I mean I felt like you were very hot. And I assumed you thought so. This is like a total revelation!