Throwing Shade podcasters Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi queer up the Internet… and now also Dallas
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
It’s the morning after their first live show of a new tour, and Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson are jazzed. It was a sell-out — the first on a weeks-long, cross-country road show. It’s not that they haven’t performed live before, but their main gig — as co-hosts of the popular podcast Throwing Shade — is done in a studio, without the benefit of an audience.
And their own style of comic commentary, wherein they rail against the news of the day especially about close-to-the-heart liberal causes “relevant to women and gays,” as their motto goes, benefits from live interaction and instantaneous feedback. Indeed, what fuels a lot their humor is the “yes/and” format of the best improv sketches … even when things seem like they are about to go off the rails.
“Well, we trained at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in L.A., and that’s what’s drawn people to the podcast — ‘I’m gonna agree with you no matter what you say’ [shtick],” says Safi.
“We know mistakes are gifts, so why not make fun of them?” adds Gibson. “I think it’s a Southern thing too — Bryan has a kind of brassy you’re not-getting-away-with-nuthin’ attitude.”
That hold-your-feet-to-the-fire sticktoitiveness has served the podcast well, where once a week, the duo riff on the latest news stories with their unique, opinionated spins. Fully a third of each show, which can run as long as 90 minutes, comprises Safi and Gibson expressing indignation and resentment at right-wing homophobes, brain-dead politicians and hypocritical pundits. It’s serious opinion-comedy for those who don’t care about the Kardashians or what Real Housewife is getting divorced this week.
“The thing is, the stuff Bryan and I talk about [isn’t all fluff],” Gibson says. “Some of pop culture needs to be laughed at, but there’s so many terrible things happening now I like to use it as only a small distraction. When [I consume] pop culture, I am looking at it as how women are being treated. I try to tread lightly unless it deserves to be treated more serious. I think there’s an unfairness that’s heavily skewed against women.”
It’s a good fit for the openly gay Safi because, “the marginalization is the same,” Gibson says. “You can’t really say there are women’s issues and [a different set of] LGBT issues, because there is definitely an overlap. And that’s sort of the reason why gay people and straight women get along.”
“It certainly is a mix of pop culture and politics,” says Safi. “We’re definitely not news readers. I always feel like we make good points but we wanna get there the dumbest way possible. I do think we have been really good that if we fuck up really badly we apologize. We don’t have researchers. But when we delve into our deeper issues, it is a conversation.”
“I read about six blogs a day for women’s issues and I go to the New York Times. Hard copies! We read newspapers!” Gibson says.
“Yea, we’re definitely the smartest people at brunch,” Safi adds.
And some of the savviest. Gibson was just nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on the Funny Or Die web-spoof Gay of Thrones. And Safi was part of one of last year’s most magnificent national hoaxes: The Will Ferrell-Kristen Wiig deadpan parody of Lifetime movies A Deadly Adoption … which ran as an actual Lifetime movie with no explanation. (“It was incredible — such a crazy experience to be in a meta-serious movie,” Safi says. “The reaction to it was exactly what they wanted — people loved it and people hated it. I liked that my character’s relationship with Kristen Wiig is solely based on coffee… At one point I said, ‘I cannot believe we are talking about organic food again.’”)
And together they will be venturing into new waters starting in January, when Throwing Shade expands from podcast to television… perhaps one of the first podcasts to make such a leap.
“TVLand came to us because they really loved our podcast,” Gibson says. “We want it to be like a John Oliver meets Amy Schumer. It will be topical but some segments will be more evergreen. It will sort of be the pinnacle of Throwing Shade.”
But until then, there’s still the tour and all that entails. Their current itinerary will take them from California across to the East Coast and up to Canada. But their three Texas shows — just-done Austin, Dallas on Aug. 26 and Houston on Aug. 27 — are a homecoming for the twosome: Safi is a native of El Paso, and Gibson grew up in the Houston area, and they bring a certain Lone Star spirit to their comedy. Gibson and Safi may be in California, but they are of Texas. But homecomings aren’t always pleasant, as any survivor of a Thanksgiving family reunion can attest.
“Houston is the most stressful city for me on the tour, because I have a lot of family there,” Gibson says. “I just get nervous, even though I think of Houston as the armpit of Texas.”
“Don’t put that in,” Safi quickly says. “We’re still trying to sell tickets. But really, Texas in general is the scariest part of the tour — not because of the people, who are wonderful, but because you wanna perform good for Mama.” (Safi’s family was mostly coming to the Austin show, meaning Dallas may be the least stressful of the local stops.)
“The live show is more of a standup — we don’t sit down as if we are recording, but we [perform]. About 80 percent is planned and written in advance, with some improv,” says Safi. “We kinda talk personally and integrate stuff that happens in town and anything exciting during that day.”
“And we do some live crank calls!” shouts Gibson, recalling a recurring gimmick from the podcast. “Crank calling is such a primal thing. We’re not mean, but we do call people, like organizations that aren’t cool to ladies and gays… you know … people who we don’t love.”
But who couldn’t love these two?
Listen to the Throwing Shade podcast weekly, available on iTunes and other platforms.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.