Over the past decade or so, podcasts have gradually grown in popularity. From celebrities and influencers, to corporations and artists – technology has made it possible for individuals to share their ideas and stories, with audiences, residing miles away. Due to their auditory nature, podcasts enable people to soak in new information, gain exposure to avant-garde ideas, and empathize with individuals they’ve never met – all of this, whilst performing mindless tasks like driving, cooking, or doing the dishes. Perfect for the average busy student or employee, who’s perpetually hard-pressed for time!
A recent upsurge in online dialogue about social justice – has paved the path for podcasts to take on the difficult task of sparking and showcasing discussions about social issues: feminism, racial discrimination, the LGBTQ community, sustainability, and mental health, amongst others.
Influential pods like ‘The Hilarious World of Depression’, ‘Yo, Is This Racist?’ and ‘Native America Calling’ are exemplary of the extent of digital discussion surrounding previously stigmatized themes.
As of today, a podcast that stands out, for its humorous outlook – coupled with unnervingly raw honesty (a rare occurrence in today’s age of facades and deceptive appearances) – is Dyking Out.
Hosted by New York City-based comedians Carolyn Bergier and Sarah York, Dyking Out is a podcast about queer life, news and pop culture, filtered through the warm, genuine, and absolutely hilarious lens of two lesbians.
Each week, Carolyn and Sarah collaborate with a special guest (comedians, musicians, academics, scorned ex-lovers) – to engage them in conversation about a plethora of queer themes. Or as they claim, in an attempt to “advance the gay agenda.”
In honour of their 100th episode, which aired on September 24th, 2019 – the producers of Dyking Out managed to snag an episode with comedian and bisexual “dykon” (dyke icon), Margaret Cho.
The episode, entitled ‘Moms w/ Margaret Cho’ dabbles in an array of topics – right from comedians’ instinctive urge to conform to social norms and socially acceptable ideas of “good comedy” – to Cho’s experience of residing in Peachtree City, where she grappled with a largely conservative populace – as a bisexual woman.
Over the course of the episode, the trio exchanges emotionally charged anecdotes, and light-hearted, humorous quips, as they delve into Cho’s experiences with her own mother, in the light of her blatant queerness.
Whether it was her first time coming out as queer, her first same-sex partner, her experience at a rehabilitation centre, or even her first abortion – Margaret Cho’s mother played a primary role in her daughter’s queer journey: shaping, moulding, supporting, and also occasionally destroying little bits of Cho’s queer identity.
A wonderfully enthralling episode – it deals with numerous queer topics with ease, sensitivity and hilarity – making its audience smile, laugh, sigh, shake their heads, occasionally weep, and of course, sing along to their catchy theme song, which plays at the beginning of each episode.
We were lucky to grab a quick virtual conversation with Carolyn Bergier – the producer, creative director, and co-host of Dyking Out – who was kind enough to answer a few questions about the creation and sustenance of this magnificent podcast, and also about their 100th episode, Moms w/ Margaret Cho.
Here is an excerpt from our interview with her –
Q. What compelled you to start Dyking Out? Was it a spontaneous decision, or something you had been ruminating over for a while?
Sarah already had a podcast and mentioned that she was interested in doing more podcasting. So this one weekend, we met for brunch to talk about my sudden divorce and Sarah’s simultaneous breakup, and I pitched the idea for Dyking Out. Sarah was immediately onboard, and we started planning out the podcast. Then we sat on it for a year while we adjusted to our new lives.
Q. Do you think humour is more effective in initiating dialogue about social justice, than other mediums? Are people, perhaps, more receptive to conversations about stigmatized topics – such as, the queer community, when presented in a humorous manner?
Absolutely! That was a big part of the reason why we wanted this to be a comedic podcast. Queer stories and experiences are often told in a serious and sad manner, when there’s so much laughter in our lives that gets ignored. Laughter is a great way to heal and signals that it’s OK to have these experiences and experience a range of feelings as a result.
Q. How do you think you could ensure that your podcast remains accessible to marginalized, less-privileged communities belonging to a range of demographics – who may find it difficult to relate to the typically elite, Western ideas discussed during episodes?
We bring in a different guest each week to ensure that it’s not just our perspective and experience being reflected in each episode, and we also include listener questions from around the world so that we can address what’s on their minds as well. Sarah and I are always trying our best to check our privilege, acknowledging that our experience as cis gay women has been easier than most. Besides that, we literally want to keep the podcast accessible by not joining any exclusive or subscription based service where people would have to pay money to listen to our regular episodes.
Q. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as the producers of Dyking Out?
Being a self-produced podcast is hard. It takes a lot of time and money to put out quality episodes every single week while engaging with our listeners as much as possible. By the time you do all the things you need to do, you have very little time left over for monetization and growth initiatives. I had to quit my full-time job, that I actually didn’t mind working, in order to keep up with both the podcast and my standup comedy.
Q. Do you feel a sense of responsibility whilst using humour to tackle social issues? How do you navigate the (occasionally) blurred lines of good humour, and offensive humour?
For sure. We do our best to make it obvious when we’re joking, and the general rule of thumb is to never punch down. But of course sometimes that fails us when we think we’re making a light-hearted joke and a listener takes offense to it. We never want to make anyone feel bad, and have accepted that even though it’s not our intention, it’s going to happen occasionally. Some of the criticism we get is extremely valid, while other times it’s obvious that the person just wants something to be angry about or wants to police your self-expression.
Q. What do you think makes a good ‘dykon’ (dyke icon)?
For starters, someone who doesn’t defend their friendship with George W. Bush. Generally, it’s someone who is highly-visible, and live their best life. They don’t need to be an outspoken advocate for the community (though that’s always a plus), they just need to exemplify the merits of unapologetically being your most authentic self.
Q. How was Margaret Cho – the collaborator/ casual acquaintance, different from Margaret Cho – the influential comedian– if at all?
Off-stage, she’s very chill and gracious, where on stage she brings a lot more energy and is more confrontational with her audience. Either way, she’s just so naturally funny.
Q. Did you have any preconceived notions about her before you met – which later fell apart? Or did you, perhaps, have any hunches about what she’d be like in person – which eventually turned out to be absolutely correct?
Because we’ve listened to her on podcasts before, our expectations were very in-line with how the experience turned out. She’s just super cool.
Q. Was your mothers’ support crucial in reaching the mental space you are in now? Is there anything about your parent’s reactions, or attitudes towards your sexuality – that you’d like to change, in hindsight?
We’re both a lot closer to our moms than we are with our dads, so yes, had they not been so accepting and supportive, it would have been somewhat devastating. As a child, you expect your mom to love you unconditionally, and any sign of the contrary can be very traumatic. Speaking for myself, I still think my mom has a ways to go with being more open and accepting of the spectrum of gender expression. Had I been more butch presenting, I think it would have been a lot harder for her to accept and that’s not okay.
Q. What advice would you give to mothers of queer children?
Trust that your children know what is best for them in terms of who they love, how they love, and how they express their gender. Create a safe environment for them to be able to talk about being queer with you because many will be afraid of making you uncomfortable or upset.
Q. It’s a well-known fact that race and culture influence experiences and manifestations of queerness in LGBTQ individuals. Did you notice any culturally-influenced differences, between your queer stories – as American comedians, and Margaret Cho’s queer story – as a Korean-American comedian?
Margaret spoke about Koreans wanting things to be either this or that, gay or straight, so the concept of bisexuality doesn’t sit well with them. Though Americans are still pretty bad at understanding and accepting bisexuality as well, but perhaps for different reasons.
Q. “I really shine in an institution.”
Margaret Cho’s surprisingly positive experience at rehab made me wonder if the reason, rehabilitation centres offer a sense of comfort to their inhabitants – is because of the presence of stability and security, it brings to their lives. As queer individuals, we’re too often driven by a sense of uncertainty and instability, which is why, institutions are a convenient way out. How do you think the real world could mimic the secure atmosphere of rehabilitation centres – in order to build a safe space for queer individuals? Do you think it’s possible to build a rehab-like world? Would it even be beneficial – or just bizarre and dystopian?
A rehab-like world doesn’t seem feasible because while it might work for some, others would no doubt find it suffocating. I think there are some things from rehab that could be helpful if they were more regularly occurring in the real world. We could all benefit from regular socialization, being vulnerable with each other about our struggles, and rooting for each other to succeed in our goals. I think in the queer community, we could all be checking in with each other more often to make sure people are doing okay.
Q. What was something you learnt from your episode with Margaret Cho?
We learned that she’s now single! But we also learned that her parent’s feelings regarding her queerness were more complicated and nuanced than one might think.
So curl up in your PJ’s, with a steaming mug of hot chocolate by your side – as you binge on episode after episode of wonderfully queer (and absolutely hilarious) discussions, pertinent to the LGBTQ world.
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