May 16, 2016

#15 ‘Mother Podcast’

by Sampler


Background show artwork for Sampler

Sarah Koenig, co-creator and host of the wildly popular podcast Serial, tells Brittany about her love of college improv, why she can't watch crime shows anymore and how the podcasting world has boomed in the wake of Serial.

**Warning, this episode contains adult language.**

Episode #15 features clips from the following episodes (please click below for hyperlink to episodes):

Hello from the Magic Tavern, “Episode 53, Tom the Nominee”

The New Yorker Radio Hour, "Episode 17: Cuba Gooding Jr., on O.J. Simpson, and Embracing Insomnia"

Task and Purpose Radio, "Episode 15: Saying Goodbye to Serial Season 2"

Sparkle and Circulate with Justin Sayre, "Episode 15, Fancy and Fabulous with Nathan Lee Graham"

The Facts:

This episode was produced by Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman, and Brittany Luse with help from Kate Parkinson-Morgan.

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 Matthew Boll.

Sampler is a production of Gimlet Media.

And special thanks to Nick Thorburn and Mark Phillips, who made the scores for Serial.

And thanks to Dave Kestenbaum, for sending the podcast, Hello from the Magic Tavern our way.

Where to Listen


BRITTANY: Hi I'm Brittany Luse. Welcome to Sampler, where we play you hand-picked moments from podcasts that you just have to hear. Guys! Today on the show I’m going to be talking to Mother Podcast herself, Sarah Koenig. Sarah is the co-creator and host of a little podcast -- um, you might have heard of it? It’s called Serial. Some would say -- ok, I will say -- that Serial put podcasting on the map. Before Serial, the number of people in the US consuming podcasts grew slowly over the course of a decade. It got up to 35 million people by 2014. But then, Serial struck. Since its launch, podcast consumption has surged to 60 million listeners. That means 1 in 5 people regularly listen to podcasts. We’ve got a special playlist of podcasts from the post-Serial world to play for Sarah today, but we’ll be covering some adult topics, so if you’ve got kids around, this is a good time to pause and put on earbuds.

BRITTANY: Sarah Koenig, welcome to the show.

SARAH: Thank you.

BRITTANY: So you're the creator of Serial, creator and host of Serial.

SARAH: Co-creator. With Julie Snyder.

BRITTANY: So you’re the co-creator of Serial with Julie Snyder, and Serial is — I guess, for people who don't know—a wildly popular podcast.

SARAH: Oh come on who doesn't know?!

BRITTANY: No there are people

SARAH: I'm just kidding.

BRITTANY: No it's actually, one of the things I've learned… it’s really interesting is how people, just the pockets that people sort of nestle into when they start listening to podcasts. So the first season you focused on a Baltimore-area murder case of a teenage girl that not very many people had heard about. With season 2 you dig into the case of Bowe Bergdahl who's a U.S. soldier who walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban who held him for five years.


BRITTANY: The thing about Serial is that podcasting had been around for a while. You know the first season of Serial that was the fastest podcast to get to five million downloads. Which is like, just a level of listenership —

SARAH:  Oh dude, it's surpassed 200 million downloads.

BRITTANY: Wow! 200 million downloads... It was like really the first show, you know of this medium to really just like, blow the hinges off that way. And kind of in the wake of the tidal wave that was Serial, it kind of made way for this surge of growth in the space where there's just like this fast weird and like growing world of podcasts which is you know, good for me. It can even be argued that the boost that Serial gave the podcasting industry it created the right environment for a company like Gimlet to really get off the ground, and you know in turn Gimlet getting off the ground created my job so thank you.

SARAH: Oh I hadn't thought of it that way. You're very welcome! I hope you're being handsomely paid.


SARAH: No I didn't even I had no I feel like people are always like why did you do it as a podcast and what does it mean and what does the medium mean and I'm just always like I don't know it seemed easier than doing a radio show. Like I didn't even totally know—like I didn't know what a podcast was, really.


SARAH: I feel like that was what it was freeing for me because I was like I don't know what one is supposed to sound like so I'll just make—we'll just experiment and try stuff and see if it works and that was really helpful.

[excerpt from Serial]

BRITTANY: Well, you may not have known it at the time, but your podcast ended up revolutionizing the entire medium. Serial premiered in the fall of 2014. All of the shows we’re going to play for you today were created in the wake of your debut. So we’re going to show you a true variety of things, and some of them may seem a little random, but stick with us. We’re showing you all that has happened in Serial’s wake. How does that sound?

SARAH: Good!

BRITTANY: Just like to back up a bit you used to work with Alex Blumberg who also happens to own Gimlet and be my boss. Um you guys worked together at This American Life and he told us - he told us that you used to be like super into improv.

SARAH: Oh he told you! In college yes I did. Yes, and a little bit after college too.

BRITTANY: Really? Were you like in a troupe?

SARAH: This is so embarrassing that you're making me say this out loud.

BRITTANY: This is good we're loving this.

SARAH: Uch. I was in a group called… it's hard for me to say it. Called Atomic Pile, OK? I don't even know what that means but that's what it was called. And you know what, until this moment I forget it existed - I forgot about Atomic Pile.

BRITTANY: Fond memories?

SARAH: Yeah no it was really really fun. And I feel like making radio stories, and especially Serial in its less stressful moments which are few, but it’s the same feeling of like putting on a show that um that I had in college. Like sometimes I think like all of this that I'm doing is just trying to recapture that like total ridiculous goofy freedom of college, of college theater.

BRITTANY: So the first clip we’re going to play you is called Hello From The Magic Tavern. We picked this one because it's from an improv podcast - called Hello from the Magic Tavern so this podcast is actually kind of difficult to explain. So I'm going to let the host Arnie and his co-host someone named Chunt explain it themselves -



ARNIE: Hello from the Magic Tavern, a weekly podcast from the magical land of Foon. I'm your host Arnie. If you've never listened to the podcast before this is what's going on. A year and a week ago I fell through a dimensional portal behind a burger king in Chicago into the fantastical land of Food. I'm still getting a slight wifi signal from the Burger King through that dimensional rift and I use it to upload a podcast I record every week here in the tavern, the Vermillion Minotaur in the town of Hogs face, in the land of Food. I interview monsters, adventurers, royalty.

CHUNT: At this table.

ARNIE: At this very table.

-------CLIP ENDS--------

BRITTANY: So on this episode, their guest is this guy Tom Blaine who was a prince in the land of Foon but he is now an actor so Arnie and Chunt ask Tom about his budding acting career in the magical land of Foon.

---------CLIP BEGINS---------

CHUNT: Hey well I'm so excited to have Tom the Traveler back.

TOM: Yes well I think we all know what my real identity is. Tom Laine Beleroth, Prince of the Beleroth Empire.

CHUNT: And possible winner of a Tosser Award.

TOM: No I am not.

CHUNT: Oh you're still Tosser nominated

TOM: I am like you Chunt, in that I am cursed.

CHUNT: We should for new listeners what is the like you left the northeast where you're a prince and you became an actor.

TOM: I hid away to drop the role of prince and become something else and I joined a group called the Cock Ticklers and…

ARNIE: Wonderful acting troop.

TOM: Yes and then I played Danlet which is a famous role and I was lucky to be nominated for a Tosser which is the highest acting award in Foon. The Tossers were just recently…

CHUNT: I thought there was some controversy that no other species was nominated except for humans?

TOM: Well do you have whites… in your world?

CHUNT: Do we have whites?

TOM: Whites they're undead but they're mysterious.


TOM: Yes how else would you?

ARNIE: You do have wights in your world?

CHUNT: Oh I don't know.

TOM: The Tossers are dominated by wights because Tosser it's called that because it's the person who can best toss off who they are and become something else and people seem to think wights can do that very well because they're dead so they're blank slates.

CHUNT: Sure but you yourself are very good at tossing yourself off

TOM: Yes yes I frequently toss myself off.

CHUNT: Does it take a lot of practice?

TOM: Um it can yeah but I've been trained by the cock ticklers. I went to the Tossers and it was as usual dominated by wights and…

CHUNT: Do you mind walking us through like what is the morning of the Tossers?

TOM: Well um

CHUNT: Well you're getting ready for this awards show.

TOM: Yeah the hardest part is the red carpet… which is a red carpet that by the end of the night is soaked in blood. Because um a lot of people are jealous of other nominees and um all weapons are allowed on the red - that's why it's called the red carpet. But the problem is that's why it's hard for someone like me it's mostly wights you can't kill them.

CHUNT: That's true.

TOM: You can't kill a wight because they are dead and it's sort of mysterious as to what they even area. And they look like people that you used to know but they're not those people. They're wights.

CHUNT: Yeah.

ARNIE: I do have to say though, in defense of wights, they can just walk through walls which is very impressive onstage.

TOM: I don't think that this is the proper time, culturally, to be speaking in defense of wights.

CHUNT: Yeah I've never been…

TOM: I think it's time for wights to just listen.

ARNIE: Well just because they're dead it's not their fault.

CHUNT: Yeah but that's the thing bout wights they're so they're so like they're martyring themselves. Like oh I'm dead it's like you know what you've got a lot of advantages as a wight.

TOM: Yes, yes. Anyway so those of us who are living have a very difficult time on the red carpet because we're the ones whose blood gets spilled.

------CLIP ENDS---------


SARAH: It's so weird. [laughing] I feel so confused.

BRITTANY: Why are you confused?

SARAH: I don't know because like, the setup for the—it's so, there are many levels, of um, of like set-up and mediation before you get to the jo- I don't - you know what I mean? You've got like, Arnie and Chunt or whatever and then like the Burger King and then Foon and then there's a guy who's probably actually an actor pretending to be an actor in this other place. I was like I don't understand what all the set-up is for. But, um, I don’t know, I thought the jokes about the ‘wight’ people was funny and the blood-soaked carpet was funny.

BRITTANY: [laughing] Um, so…

SARAH: It reminded me of like—oh my poor son, I shouldn't say so— he doesn't, he doesn't have like his own computer and he's not really allowed to play video—he does play video games like on the computer but he doesn't have the games other kids have.


SARAH: And so sometimes when I pick him up from school, from after school, he's playing basically video games but on paper so they're like drawing all the things and then doing like different lev—like "I'm almost on another level"—but they're just drawing stuff and like describing what's happening as they're drawing.


SARAH: And it reminded me of that a little bit. Like the blood-soaked carpet was just like ‘And all weapons are allowed. And now, but now you have to go over this hill and then now you're not at the thing and no you missed.’ And it's like you're drawing it, how can you miss? You know what I mean? But like… anyway it's funny it reminded me of that.

BRITTANY: Honestly I did improv as a small child -

SARAH: Oh you did?

BRITTANY: Yea they had a Second City in Detroit area - that’s where I’m from - and the “yes, and” - like continuously building on something -

SARAH: Right. Like,you’re not supposed to sort of close off ideas or openings to a new thing.

BRITTANY: That’s the the scariest part.

SARAH: It’s hard!

BRITTANY: That’s definitely the scariest part. It makes something more rewarding -

BRITTANY: Um So we are going to shift from improv to I'm sorry to say this, but naturally crime.

SARAH: Oh ok.

BRITTANY: So the next clip is coming from the New Yorker Radio Hour. So this is a podcast made by WNYC and the writers and editors of the magazine The New Yorker. This clip is an interview with writer Jeffrey Toobin and actor Cuba Gooding Jr. who recently played OJ Simpson on the FX series “The People Versus OJ Simpson.” So I love this clip because a lot of times when a criminal case gets really big it becomes this moment that like everybody is kind of a part of. And in this clip you get to hear about how Cuba experience the OJ scandal at the time, like as a young black man, but then you know ah had a different experience as an actor later down the line. So the first voice you're going to hear in this clip is David Remnick, who is the Editor of The New Yorker, setting the scene of the infamous televised OJ chase.


SARAH: That stressed me out.


SARAH: I don’t know… I feel like it’s going to make me sound grandiose of I say it, and I don’t want it to sound grandiose. But the thing that he's saying about not being able to watch Making of a Murderer like I can’t, I haven't watched it either. Even though you know I have… all these people are saying.. I haven’t watched The Jinx. Like I don’t um — like my heart is beating so fast right now. [laughing] Hearing that, it’s um.. It’s like I can't invest in like a violent thing for a while I feel like. It’s really um, I find it really upsetting. All parts of it. I mean, not just like the violence of it - and also remembering how bloody, how incredibly bloody that - I haven't’ seen this series - this OJ one…

BRITTANY: Yeah, American Crime Story. Yeah.

SARAH: Yeah. You know, I remember the coverage at the time, right, and I just remember—my memory of it anyway— is just an intensely bloody crime scene. And um, I dunno, I just don’t wanna be in it.


SARAH: I don't know. Just when Cuba Gooding Jr. was just talking about... sort of when an event like that happens it's sort of like an explosion, you know? And I feel like the aftershocks and the reverberations are so much wider than I think we like to think about. And um trying to capture that in you know making a TV series or making a podcast or making a documentary story of any kind um is hard but I think like that's the thing — that’s the thing I'm always trying to do. So maybe I'm just having a stressed-out feeling about being on deadline or something like, “Oh my god I'm back at work.” [laughing]

BRITTANY: No but it's almost like - the thing that you say about like something you run into in as you're doing the kind of work that was being done in the people vs OJ or the kind of work that you do with Serial sort of re-contextualizing something that has already happened, specifically something where you know the people affected by the situation or the event, many of them are still alive. You're not putting this narrative out into a vacuum.

SARAH: Right right right, Yeah. You’re so aware of how everybody in the story is hearing it. You can’t be like, oh well that’s done -

BRITTANY: Yeah there's never a point where you're just like oh I'm done it's out there there's nothing I can do.

SARAH: Right and making those episodes I have all of the people in my head all at once you know for a really long time. I have to answer to them. You’re always like bracing yourself a little bit for if I use this quote how are these like seven different people going to respond, you know? And am I prepared for that response? And do I have a good answer? And do you know what I mean? And so, it's just. It’s stressful.

BRITTANY:  And something I think about and the difference between Serial Seasons 1 and 2. In Season 2, I guess you use a lot of Bowe Bergdahl talking from 25 hours of recording by Mark Bohl, but in Season 1 the central character seems to be Adnan Syed. You guys had plenty of phone conversations directly. You know, Cuba Gooding Jr. said something about being haunted in a way by this role and how there are certain things — same with you— that he doesn't necessarily want to talk about or experience or watch or listen to. Do you feel a difference in the way that you relate to the narratives of Season 1 or Season 2 because you were maybe in closer proximity to the main subject of Season 1 than you were to the main subject of Season 2?

 SARAH: I feel like the answer should be yes, but not really. Is the truth.


SARAH: I mean, yeah it was just really different. The relationship with Adnan and me, and the relationship with Bowe and me. With Adnan his case was already more or less done - I mean it turns out it's not none and he's had this kind of cool second phase now that's currently going on but at the time, you know this was 15 years ago and I think, he's settled in unfortunately for anybody but settled into a life of prison like he knows what his life - and he knows more or less what his future is - I mean maybe something will change, but he has pretty much accepted where he is. is and there was something about Bowe being so in this liminal place in his life where he just has no idea what's about to happen to him and is still - you know he's held for five years basically like in a hole and then by the Taliban and then he comes back to the United States and he's not in jail or anything but he is confined I think in sort of every way a person can be confined and it’s sad to me.

[serial theme music plays]

BRITTANY: So on that note, we’re going to take a quick break - and when we get back, I want to talk to you about how Serial has affected your life.

————— ——AD BREAK ————————

BRITTANY: This episode of Sampler is brought to you by Framebridge… the custom framing company of choice for Nash Reilly, and other people who want to prank their older brothers.

NASH: My oldest brother John could be the most competitive human being alive.

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BRITTANY: Whatever you’re going for, Framebridge is the easy and fast way to get the perfect custom frame. Sampler listeners can get 15-percent off of their first order right now. Just go to and enter the promo code SAMPLER. That’s promo code SAMPLER.

This episode of Sampler is brought to you by Sonos… Sonos is the smart, wireless, speaker system that allows you to stream all of your favorite music..or any room or every room in your home.

Sonos engineers work to make sure that your music and podcasts sound as close to what the musician or artist or podcast host intended whether you’re listening in your bathroom while brushing your teeth, or in your kitchen while cooking dinner…

BRITTANY: How does it feel to you’re putting things out into the world, and you have no control of how people listen to it?

AUSTIN: Ya, it’s someone’s art, it’s someone’s story, it’s somebody’s emotional experience that they’re trying to convey to people.

That’s Austin Thompson, Gimlet’s own Technical Director. He’s in charge of how all of our podcasts sound...

AUSTIN: It’s your job to make sure it’s released in a way that those intended emotions will impact people as intended. You watch somebody listening to it through like one ear of their Apple earbuds while like talking on the phone… ya there’s an element to that that’s like why did I put that hard work for in… but then that’s sort of the job of an engineer and those projects. To make sure that the important element gets through under any playback scenario.

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—————END AD BREAK—————

Welcome back to Sampler. My guest today is Sarah Koenig, who I affectionately refer to as Mother Podcast, and we’re talking about the lessons she learned from working on Serial, and we’re playing clips from shows that have all been created since Serial Season 1 first aired.

BRITTANY: OK so getting back into things - The idea of serializing a narrative is a really old idea. The first thing that comes to mind is like when I had to read Tale of Two Cities when I was in the 9th grade, you know like Charles Dickens releasing a chapter of it every week, you know what I’m saying? leaving people with a cliffhanger, but telling a story in a serialized fashion in a podcast and in real time… like how do you manage something like that?

SARAH: It's not like, we said ready set go, and we just start reporting and producing a podcast at the same time. So especially for Season 1, I mean, I reported for a good year before we started making any episodes and releasing them. That was slightly less true for Season 2. I had done a lot of reporting, but there was still a pretty good chunk left to do when we started Season 2. That said, yeah it's ridiculously stressful.

BRITTANY: Yeah, why did you decide to do- why did you decide to do a serialized show in the first place?

SARAH: Julie and I had been talking for a long time about trying to do a new show.


SARAH: And I really like books on tape. That's what I love is just getting lost in a narrative like that over time, chapter by chapter you know? And it just like, you can do anything when you're absorbed in a story. I just wanted to basically make a book on tape. And but I'm not a fiction writer I'm a reporter so I just said well, ‘we'll just do it with nonfiction.’

BRITTANY: Yeah and then you have Serial.

SARAH: Yeah. That's all it is. It's just a nonfiction book on tape -

SARAH: Julie really hates it when I talk about it being like a book on tape. She's like shut up about that! That does not sound exciting!

BRITTANY: No, It sounds cool! It sounds in depth, and lengthy... something about the idea of a constant cliffhanger -  thinking of Serial - like Serial was the first thing that expanded my idea of what a podcasting narrative could do… You know, you covered so much and in so much detail in Season 1 of Serial what was it like to have to follow all of that up in Season 2?

SARAH: Oh like, was I worried about like, being a flop in Season 2?

BRITTANY: I mean... I guess you could put it that way. [laughing] But I mean, just with the, uh, yeah were you worried about repeat success?

SARAH: Not really—I felt pretty sure that, that whatever story we chose for Season 2 would be really, really different. So, I knew... I knew... that I would probably, we would probably lose, um, those people who were just really into that genre.


SARAH: … of story. And, I am such an idiot. I didn't totally understand how much people like a crime story. I just, I'm not, I know that sounds really dumb and like faux-naive or something, but I just didn't—I had not even really heard of the term true crime before… I don't consider myself like a crime reporter. So it's not my thing, so, but I realize it is for a lot of people and that we would lose a percentage of those people. So I was... ready for that. And that was fine, with me.  Honestly a little less attention, and sort of less intense attention was welcome. [laughing] We were a little excited about that, of just like can we just yeah not have so many people like looking over our shoulder as we make this thing? Which sounds obnoxious, but some of that was stressful where like a million think pieces of like, well what does it mean, and is it right, and you know, and are they doing something unethical? And you know it just was it was a little bit like Uhhhh... uhhh... so um, but... uh… And I also feel that if you love the story you're working on, other people are gonna come with you because that's infectious when someone is really really interested and curious about something, no matter what it is. It's funny, I feel like the narrative in the media, weirdly, about Season 2 has been like, “Um, yeahhhhh... not as popular" and it's like, I'm actually not sure that's true. According to our numbers, that's not true.


SARAH: So it's funny, like I'll see things in the press that are like, I actually thought Season 2 was good, and I'm like YEAH it was really good. It was really good. You can lost the actually. It's really good.

BRITTANY: Um, so, um, speaking of Season 2.

SARAH: Did I tell you it's good?

BRITTANY: I think... I think I...

SARAH: Did you get that?

BRITTANY: I, I think we got that one on tape [laughing].

BRITTANY: Yeah so speaking of season 2. Season 2 may not have been for the true crime bloodthirsty set - um but a big audience that was interested in Season 2 is the military. And so our next clip actually comes from a podcast called Task and Purpose.

SARAH: Right

BRITTANY: So Task and Purpose is a podcast which is a part of a larger website and online resource for the new veterans coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan and they analyze the episodes from a different perspective than the average listener. And this next clip features co-host Nate Bathea. He's a former U.S. infantry officer and he served in the same battalion actually as Bowe Bergdahl and host Lauren Katzenberg, and she asks Nate about his overall impressions of Serial Season 2.


LAUREN KATZENBERG: If you had to point to one specific plotline reveal or interview from this season and say wow that's impressive that's good journalism what would it be?

NATE BATHEA: I think the background information on Bergdahl. I think the way they dug through this family life and were able to get people to speak very frankly about him. People from home. I know those episodes were not necessarily the most popular. It's hard to divorce that from the sort of geopolitical discussion that this invariably entails… but I think it would be very easy to just dismiss him as some sort of flyover state kook and the fact that they really did the legwork and went there and found these people and that they really did the legwork on finding these people— I mean some of them self-reported— but his Coast Guard basic training comrades… it seemed to me that the easiest thing in the world for reporting this story is just to take the established narrative facts as a given. And so the fact that they really did go through and say we're going to try and not treat anything in this story as a given… whether or not they succeeded can be debated but I think that's a worthy approach. And so in that regard seeing how much attention they paid to his background and giving the people who knew him and cared about him the opportunity to speak frankly— you know on a very unpopular topic I might add— I think was to me evidence of a very of honest journalism.

LAUREN: OK vice versa, was there any plot point or storyline that you think Serial just never really got right?

NATE BATHEA: I thought the episodes in which Mark Bohl was the cornerstone and particularly that seemed to hit a low point with the episode that only concerned Bergdahl's escape attempts in which aside from very very loosely attributed interviews with Afghan civilians that they got second and third hand the only source in that whole sort of gripping yarn was Bergdahl himself, who had a personally vested interest in making it read a certain way. But the way— I think for me particularly— during that episode specifically where Sarah Koenig said oh they these fighters working for the Hakani netowrk were shooting the shit just like young men in war anywhere and it seemed like an implicit comparison between American soldiers and militants in the Afghan Pakistan region I, uh, I came away from that feeling as though I wanted the Serial podcast to take on a corporeal form so that I could throw it into a volcano.


-------CLIP ENDS-------

SARAH: Um... you know, I agree with his first point, and I don't agree with his second point. [laughing] Shockingly. Yeah, I mean, yeah, it's interesting, it it it is um... I didn't listen. I knew Task and Purpose was happening as a podcast about, about this season. But I never listened to it. Mostly because I didn't want to get stressed out by it. It just it just struck me when he said, when Nate said, you know the fact that we talked to his family and got them to talk about him just like as a regular person and a human being with feelings and he was like on such an “incredibly unpopular topic” and — it's interesting because it's like yeah in the military, but the rest of the world doesn't necessarily feel that way about Bowe or what Bowe did- it's just a reminder that we're all in our own universes.


SARAH: By the same token, the notion that we shouldn't be thinking about who our enemy is and why they are our enemy, and if they're our enemy and why they do what they do… that that's somehow - that they're a different creature from an American soldier, I don't buy that.

BRITTANY: Do you receive or consider the feedback that you get from military personnel or from veterans do you consider that differently than you consider feedback from the wide breadth of your listeners?

SARAH: Yeah I do. It's their world I'm describing, you know? Like we were… our fact checker was showing it to somebody who was in the military or had been in the military or something to make sure just like even small things that we weren't just goofing up small terminology, or military concepts or something like that that we wanted to be really sure that we were respecting their world and their experience as much as we could. A lot of them had a lot at stake in this story in all kinds of really complicated ways. And so yeah of course you care what they think.

BRITTANY: OK so we've arrived at our last clip.

SARAH: Is it another like sad, hard one?

BRITTANY: No no no totally different so I said at the beginning of our conversation that sort of in the wake of Serial there was just more space for this strange new world of podcasting. And podcasting is just a place where you can get as specific as you want. Specific group of people, specific place, specific voice. And our next clip I think is really illustrative of that. So this next clip comes from a show called Sparkle and Circulate. It’s a comedy and interview podcast. It’s basically a celebration of the LGBTQ community.  In this clip you’re going to hear the host, Justin Sayre, talk about his trip to Italy and shopping for a rather unique souvenir.


JUSTIN SAYRE: We were in Venice over Christmas. I know I sound so fancy but literally there's a wrapped up cheeseburger in my purse right now. Do not feel as though i am leaving you for greater things. I still I’d kill somebody for a cronut right now. There's nothing happening. So I'm in Venice with my two friends and we're traipsing around and I'm in this huge huge grey felt hat and this jacket that I had bought there and these two kind of shapeless shirts that I bought in a lady's underwear store in Rome that I loved loved loved anyway so I we go into this little vintage shop in Venice and I love a broach. I love a pin of some sort. I think it dresses up a jacket. I think it's just spectacular and I go to the desk and the thing about shopping in Europe is that even though men's clothing is a little more adventurous in Europe, there is kind of a line... like I go in an Ann Taylor loft in New York and this is the truth I run things in there. I'll have one of those I'll have some of those and don't look at me askance because I'm paying for it and they're fine with it. They don't care. You know they're happy that somebody's buying Ann Taylor Loft really but in Italy it was a little more - I had to play it a little - you know the Catholic Church is there so we have to be careful. So I go over and they have a whole tray of broaches. And ladies and gentlemen there is a broach that I bought that I cannot even believe it exists. It is a small rabbit right laying on its side with its ass you know just curted up, just kicked up a little like you put in your Craigslist ad when you're having a bunch of men over. The position you'd be laying if you were just presenting to the open doorway. You understand what I'm saying. You know. And the rabbit in one hand is holding a bouquet of flowers and looking askance at his, you know, kicked up ass and then in his other hand he's just leaning luxuriously on his cheek. Now that in itself is provocative in a way that I had not expected a rabbit pin to be. But what kicks it all off ladies and gentlemen is one of his ears is pierced with a pearl. So I saw this broach of a gay sexually adventurous rabbit and I was like I've never wanted anything more in my life. So I start bargaining with this woman and she's like ah well maybe 30 and I'm like 30 whatever fine whatever you're going to charge me and she's like well you know it's kind of I don't know if you really like it. She's trying to talk me out of it because she thinks for some reason that maybe I don't deserve the gay broach. But let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, I'm a 34 year-old gay man, I deserve that broach! And I bought it, and I wear it to this day, and it's a little hallmark of a new trend in my life where I'm only going to become more myself, much like that bunny presenting its ass to the world.

——————CLIP ENDS—————

SARAH: [laughing]

BRITTANY: Nice to get a gentle reminder every once in a while just be yourself. Do you.

SARAH: There are many odd things about that but I like it. I liked it. I was hoping for a better story, but I enjoyed the presentation.

BRITTANY: [laughing] I'm glad we were able to at least show you something new.

SARAH: He did a really good job explaining that rabbit.

BRITTANY: Yeah, I think the thing that got me was the pearl earring. You never think about bunnies wearing jewelry.

SARAH: But bargaining with someone is not saying it will be 30, OK. That was the wrong use of bargaining. I was hoping for a real bargaining story, but other than that quibble with his verb. [laughing] He could've just said "I bought it..." but he, you know.

BRITTANY: You know.

SARAH: Anyway...

BRITTANY: But what's the fun in saying you bought something? [laughing]

SARAH: Well right, I know...

BRITTANY: Like saying you picked up a souvenir on vacation... not as much fun as...

SARAH: Exactly.

SARAH: But I feel like, he totally won me with the, with the cheeseburger, which I thought was a smart move, very smart move, and then... yeah I just really really enjoyed the description of the rabbit.

BRITTANY: Are clips like that what you had in mind when you published the first episode of Serial? Like you know what I'm going to come out here shake some things up, bust open the podcasting world so that people can talk about purchasing rabbit broaches?

SARAH: Power to him, I'm like the more the merrier we got the space. Like yes. Absolutely. That's what I think is great about podcasting is just that spirit of ‘try anything’ is great. Like I think that's great.

BRITTANY: Well Sarah, you had a good time? You enjoyed yourself? That's such a leading question. I feel like you can flag that as journalist and be like that's leading.

SARAH: Oh it's way more than leading. It's like a trap.


BRITTANY: Sarah thank you so so much for talking to me today -

SARAH: Oh, a pleasure.


BRITTANY: Are you taking any pitches for Season 3?

SARAH: Yeah!

BRITTANY: Prince. I would love it if you reported on Prince, and what happened to him.

SARAH: So many questions.


If you haven’t already, you can, and should! listen to the full seasons of Serial 1 and 2 wherever you get your podcasts -

And to recap the clips you heard in this post-Serial podcast tidal wave: we started off the journey with magic, improv, and red carpets with Hello from the Magic Tavern,

Cuba Gooding Jr. got personal in The New Yorker Radio Hour, we heard a veteran’s take on Serial Season 2 from Task and Purpose… and we learned about the world’s most incredible rabbit broach from Sparkle and Circulate.

Stay tuned after the credits to hear what Sampler has in store for you next week -

This episode was produced by Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman, and myself, with help from Kate Parkinson-Morgan.

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 Matthew Boll.

And special thanks to Nick Thorburn and Mark Phillips, who made the scores for Serial.

And thanks to Dave Kestenbaum, for sending the podcast, Hello from the Magic Tavern our way.

Sampler is a production of Gimlet Media.

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Next week on Sampler… I finally get to sit down with the people who inspired me to get into podcasting — hosts of The Read, Kid Fury and Crissle:

KID FURY: Oh you’re talking about us?

BRITTANY: I’m talking about y’all.

KID FURY: Oh, I was like oh this must be a really great show. OK, well thanks!

CRISSLE: Thank you, that's very kind.