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Julie Klausner: The Podcaster

In the male-dominated world of podcasting, one redhead is rising to the top. Fast.
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It’s not every day you get to hear Joan Rivers play f***/marry/kill. Or hear Lizz Winstead, the co-creator of The Daily Show, discuss dog penises. But then How Was Your Week is not your average podcast.

“Lizz was talking about how her dog is the only one in the world that can’t clean its own dick,” says the host, Julie Klausner. “But it’s not all like that. I had Sharon Needles on the other week - you know, from RuPaul’s Drag Race? And I made her cry.”

If you’ve not yet heard of Julie Klausner, you will. The 33-year-old redhead New Yorker is a comedy polymath, and she’s advancing on several fronts at once.

Her memoir, I Don't Care About Your Band has been optioned by Will Ferrell. Amy Poehler has recommended that we “read everything that Julie Klausner writes and listen to everything that she says… She is hilarious, wise and smarter than you.” And in the largely-male world of comedy podcasting, How Was Your Week has – after only one year – been praised as one of the best out there by both Rolling Stone and GQ.

DAME caught up with Klausner between podcasts, in her apartment in Nolita, New York, to ask about the secret of her success, the fine art of podcasting and how one might follow in her footsteps.

For more Julie Klausner, check out her podcast or visit her Tumblr page or follow her on Twitter.

What’s this about Patton Oswalt bullying you into starting the podcast?
Photo credit: Melissa Hom

Yes. He tweeted “why doesn’t Julie Klausner have a podcast?” I’ve known him for a while, and he’s just that kind of guy. It's one thing to give your friends vague encouragement to do something, and it's another to publicly shame them into doing it. It’s very flattering to have his support.

So how does one start a hit podcast – our readers want to know.

Research! I listened to Tom Scharpling’s podcast [The Best Show] and Marc Maron’s [WTF] to get a sense of the format. And I tried out a couple of different things. Originally, the plan was to talk to somebody about their actual week, but that changed because sometimes guests just didn’t have an interesting week that week. So it evolved.

How does your interview style lead to a discussion of Lizzie Winstead’s dog’s cock?

My interview style comes from the way I'd talk to somebody that I know over dinner just to keep from falling asleep! It really should feel like you're hearing from a friend that's excited about something. And sometimes, yes, that friend is interested in dog penises.

Do you have a fancy home studio?

I wouldn’t call it fancy. I do it in the kitchen of my apartment in No-ho, New York. But it’s just a couple mics, a laptop and Garage Band, so I can do my podcast on the move. I interviewed Rickie Lee Jones in her hotel room recently, and Amy Poehler in her trailer at Parks and Rec. And I record my own interstitial stuff, wherever - a rental car, a coffee shop in L.A. That's the benefit of the technology. I upload wherever and then Chris Spooner, my producer, cuts it together every Thursday night.

What advice do you have for aspiring podcasters out there?

If you look at successful podcasts, people appreciate segments, consistency and I think following the model of a TV show is important. Before there was podcasting, there was broadcasting, so listeners expect a rhythm from you and a pattern that they'll anticipate, about how long sections last and what comes next. Beyond that, just try to be different.

Does the fact that podcasting is male-dominated work to your advantage?

Not really. But podcasting and comedy in general, is changing fast. I see young women coming up with more ambition, talent and confidence than ever. I think there are more men in the podcast world because tech-centric skills are necessary in order to figure out how to do it. Personally, I hate tech stuff. I have to get a new wireless router and I can't even tell you how miserable I am at the prospect.

Have you ever wanted to give up and throw in the towel?

I started out as a writer and performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater group. But in 2002 I quit performing and went back to school for illustration. I really learned a lot. I learned to express myself in a more internal, more isolated way and I realized that I really missed writing and performing. So I was able to bring more to it when I returned.

Is there anyone who helped you up along the way?

Oh so many people! Tom Scharpling is a mentor of mine. I listened to The Best Show for five years before I started my podcast, and it was intimidating. I never thought I could do it until Patton kind of pressured me. But listening to Tom fill the air with his own voice and just be as incredible and funny and brilliant as he is week to week is a tremendous influence.

Which female comics have inspired you?

Amy Poehler is the real deal. Fran Lebowitz and Cynthia Heimel are incredible humorists. And then Amy Sedaris is probably one of the most talented performers, out there. I've also been just incredibly influenced by a lot of gay men. John Waters is my all-time idol. It’s actually a challenge to have a podcast that is not exclusively all gay men guests.

Name your five favorite podcasts.

The Best Show.
What The F**k.
This American Life.
Superego.
Throwing Shade.

Meredith Hoffa lives in Los Angeles. Having started her career in television at PBS' NewsHour, she now writes for various print and online outlets. Recent publications include The New York Times, Maxim and the anthology "Rejected" (2009, Villard/Random House). She is a graduate of Wesleyan University. Personal website: www.meredithhoffa.com
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