Podcaster Laughter

So, I’m not a very happy person.

I think this blog has made that rather clear.

I don’t particularly like being an unhappy person, but it’s just how I am. I’m learning to cope with it, the way a person copes with acne or a receding hairline. Even my best moments are tinged with melancholy. I’ve been this way since puberty hit. It’s just a part of me.

When you’re sad all the time, things that suddenly and unexpectedly jolt you into smiling stand out like flashlights on a moonless night. One of those things for me is the sound of laughter, very specific laughter.

Besides being a sad person, I’m also a lonely person. The situation with that is about the same as the one with the sadness: it’s just a part of me. Since the moment when I graduated high school, well more like the moment when my best friend’s parents, best friend’s sister and I delivered my best friend to college, my loneliness has only intensified. I’m currently learning to make peace with it, but at certain points over the last few years it became so crushing that I just couldn’t stand to be alone anymore. The only problem is that I’m not that great at initiating and maintaining friendships, and even when I do start to hang out with people the wall around my heart refuses to let the warmth of human interaction penetrate to the core of me. Enter podcasts and YouTubers.

The many high school and college age YouTube stars who post videos of themselves just hanging out make you feel like you’re in a conversation with an attractive pop-culture-savvy friend.

The plethora of podcasts being constantly produced and streamed allow you to plug the voices of other humans directly into your ears. It feels like immediate intimacy. What’s better is that you can choose what those humans talk to you about: film, TV, politics, tech, true crime, comic books, standup comedy. It’s like having a super cool, instant friend whose interests align perfectly with yours. Okay, you can’t hug them or talk to them, but it’s better than crying alone in bed (not that I do that. much. shut up!).

The voices of your favorite podcast hosts become familiar and reassuring. They wash over you as you do the dishes, jog, and snuggle into bed at night. You associate their vocals with relaxing or listening enrapt. One of the best parts of letting yourself be totally wrapped up in someone else’s voice is the sound of their laughter.

Laughter in itself is nice to listen to, but there are certain laughs that just catch your attention and spark an answering joy inside of you. You don’t even have to know what the person is laughing about, just the reassuring sound of their chortle cheers you up.

I haven’t done a ton of (or any) listicles yet, but thinking about my favorite podcaster laughs has prompted me to make one. So, here are a few of the laughs that never fail to lighten my cold, dead heart:

1.Crissle West of The Read

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Crissle is one half of The Read: a show hosted by two queer black friends living in NYC. Her co-host is Kid Fury. Together they give a hilarious rundown of all the fuckery happening in the world of black pop culture, dole out tough-love life advice to listeners and stick it to racist assholes. I think all white people should be required to listen to at least one episode of The Read. Regular listening can help you qualify for “woke” status. You can hear Crissle’s free-spirited laugh here, on a segment she did for the show Drunk History.

2.PJ Vogt of Reply All

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Podcast networks are getting more popular. You’ve probably heard of ones like Earwolf, Panoply, and Maximum Fun. The CNN of the podcasting world seems to be Gimlet Media, and their first show to get really big was Reply All, a show about any and everything having to do with the internet. The show’s deep and engaging reporting on topics from websites that crowdsource diagnoses for medical patients suffering from mystery maladies to how fake locksmiths use Google ads to con people make it fascinating and addictive. The other best part of the show is the relationship between the hosts, the lovable curmudgeon Alex Goldman and the eagerly snarky PJ Vogt. PJ’s laugh is deep, throaty and unapologetic, and it makes me smile every time. You can hear both of their laughs in this clip.

3.Paul Scheer of How Did This Get Made

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This is one of the most popular podcasts from the previously mentioned Earwolf network. If you need to cheer up on a rough day, this show is one of your best bets. Paul, his wife, June Diane Raphael, and their friend Jason Mantzoukas are the three hosts. They’re all comedic actors in LA, and they know a thing or two about how ridiculous showbiz can be. That makes them perfectly qualified to pick apart some of the worst movies ever made. Each episode is dedicated to their observations of a god-awful film. You don’t need to have seen the movies to join in on the fun, and most of the time you’ll be glad to have never seen these movies. Paul’s laugh is monotone and steady, and reminds me a bit of Squidward’s laugh on Spongebob Squarepants. His dry laugh reflects the absolute ludicrousness of the terrible acting, writing and special effects that they are witnessing. What makes it better is that Paul is often reacting to Jason Mantzoukas saying something terribly and hilariously raunchy (which seems to be the only kind of things that Jason can say). You can hear Paul’s laugh and a great story about his own experience acting in a bad movie in this interview.

 

Happy listening, guys!

 

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Self-Worth (Or a Lack Thereof)

My roommate has a way of looking at me really intently. I squirm under her gaze. I’m used to being invisible, unseen, unnoticed. I’m quiet, and I’m not good at getting attention. Instead of asking for it in positive ways, I hang around awkwardly and lurk in people’s space, hoping attention will be bestowed upon me. When that doesn’t work, because why would it, I skulk away bitter and disappointed.

I’ve never been seen by someone the way that my roommate sees me. She’s like an older sister to me. She hunts me down with her questions and her looks and doesn’t tolerate my bullshit.

When I dream of being seen, I dream of being coddled and worshipped. That’s not how my roommate sees me. She challenges, scolds and provokes. Sometimes I don’t want that attention.

 

She sees right through me in uncomfortable ways and holds me accountable. It’s not fun. It’s painful. It’s necessary.

I’ve never been loved so aggressively before. I’ve never been cared for in a way that’s so inescapable. I’ve never felt someone cling to me even when I let go of them. It’s terrifying. It’s amazing.

I don’t love myself. I don’t even like myself. I don’t understand how my roommate can so fiercely love a person who I can barely tolerate.

I hate cooking. I absolutely hate it. I’m actually not that terrible at it, but the activity itself makes my anxiety levels go through the roof.

I was determined to cook radicchio. What’s radicchio, you ask? It’s a bitter leaf that’s kind of like cabbage. It’s super good for you. You can tell that it’s really good for you, because it tastes so nasty.

That’s not fair of me to say. The internet told me that radicchio is packed with nutrients that are hard to obtain due to a prohibitive lack of deliciousness. The internet also promised me that the recipe it was providing me with would make radicchio super yummy.

I’ll never know if that promise was true or not, because what I pulled out of my oven was a burnt pile of flakes that loosely resembled the shredded leaves that I put into the oven. Before you curse the internet for its lies, know that this disaster was entirely my fault. The recipe gave instructions for roasting entire heads of radicchio. I had shredded leaves. In my complete lack of common sense I was like, “Um, derp, yeah I guess I won’t reduce the cook time or temperature at all, it’ll totally be fine, probably, whatever.” God, I’m so stupid sometimes (read: most of the time).

Anyway, that shit came out of the oven burnt to a crisp. There was nothing left. The smoke alarm in our apartment even tried to warn me that the situation was beyond salvageable by going off. So, I did the only rational thing: I ate that pile of charred mess.

Okay, okay, before you judge me hear me out. I hate wasting food! Yo, motherfuckers are starving in Yemen and here my stupid ass is scorching up perfectly good nutrients. The least I could do was choke some down. Plus, I had actually been excited to see if the recipe would turn out delicious or not. Um, what’s that you say? The fact that I burnt the hell out of it meant that there was no possible way it could be delicious? Get out of here with your common sense!

Fast forward to the next morning when my roommate came home to find a pile of burnt leaves in the trash (I was smart enough not to eat the whole thing) and me in bed with an ice pack and a bucket next to me. I didn’t puke, though! It was just a precautionary measure after some rather unpleasant business on the other end. Despite all my reassurances that I was fine, she was deeply concerned.

 

But, I was fine. I was FIIIAAAAANNNN. Seriously, shortly after waking up, I got up and started puttering around, feeling much better than I had the night before. After being satisfied that I was not at death’s door, my roommate put her hands on my shoulders and looked deeply into my eyes.

 

“Why?” she asked me. “Why don’t you value yourself?”

 

Uncomfortable with being called out for my profound lack of self-worth, I tried to laugh the situation off, but my roommate held her ground.

 

“I pray for you that one day you will value yourself the way I value you and that you’ll be able to look at yourself with love.” Her face was so intense as she spoke, and it really hit me how much I had hurt her by hurting myself. That meant that she loved me. No one has ever loved me this way before. How can I be so precious to her when I constantly feel like a human trash pile? If there are things about me that make me lovable, why can’t I see them?

 

I wish I could say that this experience finally got through to me and I am filled with self-love, but that hasn’t happened. I still despise myself. I still go through life feeling constantly disappointed and disgusted by my very existence. I’m pretty used to it by now. Living any other way would feel weird.

 

If I fuck up a recipe, I think that I deserve to suffer through eating the burnt mess. If I fuck up in life, I’m tempted to draw the sharp edge of a box cutter across my skin as atonement, the way I used to in high school. If I find myself physically attracted to someone, I instantly remind myself that it would be rude of me to inflict my ugliness upon them. If someone hurts my feelings, I swallow my frustration and remind myself that I probably deserve it. If I start to think about my career goals, I think about how I’ll probably never actually accomplish my goals, because I’m lazy and weak. In every way, I look at myself as a non-entity, a failure, a dumpster fire of a human. It’s a shitty and counterproductive way to live, I know. I don’t really know how to fix it, though, and the idea of fixing it is kind of scary.

 

At least now what I do know is that I need to do better. I need to get better. Someone loves me. Someone sees value in me. I want to find out what they see.

 

Every day I constantly think of ways to add worth to the refuse heap that is me: I could lose weight, I could become fashionable, I could learn how to do my makeup, I could go to graduate school, I could publish a book, I could make more money, I could become a good cook, I could learn to dance, I could single-handedly destroy Donald Trump’s political career. The way I see it, I’m like one of those secured credit cards with a starting credit line of only $100: I’m virtually useless until value is earned and added. My roommate sees so much inherent worth in me, so much so that it baffles me. Why do you love me, I can’t even cook chicken properly?

 

I’m starting to warm up to the idea that maybe just existing makes me worthy of love and other good things. I’m definitely not in a healthy place, but you have to start somewhere. Maybe I’ll start by refraining from comparing myself to waste materials. Or at least, better waste materials. I could be like a pile of those air cushion things that you get in boxes from Amazon. Sometimes you pop and recycle them, but sometimes you save them for when you need to mail a figurine to your great-aunt. That’s a step up from hot garbage.

 

One day maybe I’ll be able to look myself in the mirror and say, “Hey, you pessimistic, pudgy, bearded, sloth-like lady with low earning potential, you deserve to love yourself and be loved.” I hope that day comes. I can’t promise that I’ll get there soon, easily or ever at all. I did, however, promise my roommate that I will never again punish and sicken myself by consuming a charred pile of ashes. I’m really grateful that I have someone around to love me, since I can’t yet seem to love myself.