Black Issues, LGBT Issues, Women’s Issues! Throwing the Read Crossover!?
Can You Handle It?
That’s right people, StickyKeys here again abusing my powers of journalistic reach, but I’m doing it to benefit us all! I listen to a lot of podcasts. From sci-fi audio dramas and insightful interview programs to improv comedy shows, my tastes run the gamut. So color me surprised when I ran into two great tastes that would taste so great together: Throwing Shade and The Read! Whether it’s called Throwing the Read or Reading Shade, I don’t care, I just need it to happen!
Okay, okay, let me get off my soapbox and explain what I’m talking about.
Started in 2011, Throwing Shade is a podcast that focuses on Women Issues! LGBT Issues! People Issues! (Can you handle it?). Hosted by “Feminasty” Erin Gibson and “Homosensual” Bryan Safi, the show mixes serious political topics with irreverent off-the-cuff comedy resulting in an effective way to both inform and entertain the masses.
Erin Gibson (author of Feminasty: The Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death) offers an unapologetically feminist view that bars no holds, nor suffers any fools. In a world that is burning and the ones in control have given up, Gibson acts as a flaming hot fire extinguisher, ready to put out the fire as messily as possible. And it’s what we all need. To know when our current administration does something heinous against mankind (or more often than not, womankind, lgbtkind or person of color-kind) that we’re not alone and we’re not crazy is a very big comfort that she delivers weekly. And if you don’t feel the same, she demands that you get on board or at least take the first steps to figuring it out. Tolerance will NOT be tolerated. Wrong and right are not up for discussion; you know what’s right and she demands that you acknowledge it in profanity-laced rants meant to inspire your inner justice warrior.
Emmy Award winner Bryan Safi is just as amped up, often acting in counterpart to Gibson while shedding light on LGBT issues. He delivers important news, but also serves as a salve not to Gibson, but for her. They’ve known each other for a long time and the chemistry between them is evident. Safi knows implicitly when to ramp Gibson up and when to temporarily distract with a joke or improv opportunity. They both came up at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in LA and worked together on other projects before the podcast.
Safi’s contribution is bolstered by his openness. Raised in Texas, his experience as a young man struggling with his homosexuality is one that is as unfortunate as it is inspirational. He has a natural empathy and often times gives value to differing points of view. This isn’t to say that Gibson doesn’t possess this empathy, but she’s got a healthy dose of “over it” that offers a bright contrast to Safi’s diplomacy.
It all works so well together! I was aware of Throwing Shade, but didn’t really pay attention to it until they moved from Maximum Fun to Earwolf and would guest on some of their sister shows for promotion. I still wasn’t sure about jumping into the show, but they started a spin-off series called Throwing Shade: Deeper Shade which were long form interviews. The first guest was Paul F. Tompkins and I immediately knew these were my people.
The more I listened, the more I found myself wondering: What would Kid Fury say to this? Ooh, how many hours would Crissles and Erin spend talking about this topic? Whether it be “hot tops” or “shoes”, both shows tackle subjects in a way that shows an obvious symmetry that’s just begging to come together in perfect harmony.
In March of 2013 I heard talk of a new black culture podcast starring YouTube vlogger Kid Fury (famous for “Shit Black Gays Say”) and his friend Crissle West. Together they host The Read, a podcast full of Black Excellence, hot tops (and cold bottoms), listener letters and at the end, the titular “Read”. A read is basically taking someone (or an administration of someones) to task for being “out of pocket” or “terrible”. It’s getting them together in a call for civic responsibility or to “act right”.
And it’s everything! Crissle has an aptitude for knowledge and analyzing nonsense to its most base level and then disseminating that information into something we can all understand. She likes to joke that she has no feelings and has ice water in her veins, but she really possesses the same capacity for empathy as Gibson does, and much in the same way. She’ll feel for you until you give her a reason not to, and then it’s time to get you together.
Kid Fury adds a quick-witted charisma that really accentuates the chemistry between the two. Before the show, the two hadn’t known each other for too long, but met at a house party about a year or so prior. What we initially saw from them was two people who were great, being great together. As the years have gone by, we’ve seen the cohesiveness in their friendship grow as they support each other fully. They give us small peeks into their lives and they often put into action the same advice they give.
Listener Letters is another stand out of the show. Listeners write in with sometimes the craziest messages (and I’ll admit, most are crazy because they are way too relatable!) and give good-hearted yet biting advice. One familiar phrase ended up sparking a revolution. Fans have purchased merchandise and accessories to encourage their friends to “Break Up with Him” as it’s become such a common saying in response to most of the relationship advice. That said, they are fair. Even when the letters are wild, Kid Fury and Crissle answer with sincerity and kindness and sometimes they even learn something themselves at the end of the day.
Listener Letters have their own sort of spin-off in Crissles’ Couch, a segment dedicated to destigmatizing mental health concerns and specifically offers advice for queer people and people of color. West stresses that she’s not a professional herself and is only sharing her experiences, hoping they’ll help others. With her confessions, other listeners who are professionals will oftentimes write in with advice, resources and corrections.
It’s the corrections, or rather, the response to correction that really connect the shows for me. It’s one thing to be strong-willed, but without humility that will turns into stubbornness and stubbornness into ignorance. There have been instances on both The Read and Throwing Shade where listeners will send in corrections and they are not only received graciously but often acknowledged on air and you can see the difference in the coming episodes.
The admittance of being undereducated or merely ignorant on a point of view of a situation is a trait that is severely lacking in a landscape where pointing the finger is preferred over introspection. The acknowledgement along with the promise of self-education is what makes the hosts accessible and human and gives a great example of how to act when we, ourselves, mess up.
With Kid Fury and Crissle both being queer, black hosts, the diversity is pretty built in. They talk about women, LGBT (and are especially tuned into the needs and experiences of trans black women, the greatest victims of hate within the community), and black issues comfortably and without preamble.
Gibson and Safi also do a great job. Their guests are always extremely diverse, but ultimately their audience seems to play to a certain demographic: Woke White Folks. This isn’t a bad thing, and to their credit, Erin and Bryan have never made me feel uncomfortable when they discussed race issues (many times they dismiss their opinions because they don’t have the experience, I’d like to see a slight change in that, though it is preferred to “LET ME TELL YOU BROWN PEOPLE!”, so you know… small miracles), and I do think they have a fair amount of representation when it comes to their stories.
It’s just… as I mentioned before, I’d avoided Throwing Shade, and not because I knew anything of the show, but because at the time, as a black woman I was very wary of dealing with white people in marginalized spaces. I’ve been the victim of racism, misogyny and body shaming from white gays and especially have been in a place of being talked down to by white gay men who claim to advocate for me while also telling me to sit down and let them handle things. Yes, this isn’t a universal experience or indicative of ALL white gays, but at the time it happened more than I was comfortable with (which, let’s be real… more than once), and it left a sour taste in my mouth.
At that point, if I was going to pay attention it had to be really stand out in a positive way. Paul F. Tompkins was a name I knew as an ally and he’s championed the exposure of several comedians of color and LGBT talent despite criticism. I knew if he was on board, then these Throwing Shade folks were probably on the right side of history. I gave the show a chance and I’m so glad I did. I immediately binged the last two years of the podcast (that’s how I do!), and have never been disappointed. Which is why I want this crossover!
As disenfranchised minorities in this country, we live in a time where allies are survival tools. Knowledge is power and we’re stronger when we can come together and learn. The Read and Throwing Shade represent millions of listeners who are fed up with the status quo. It’s an empowering experience to ask someone if they listen to Throwing Shade or The Read and hear YES! Proving that someone out there gets it, or is trying to.
So let’s make Throwing the Read happen! How? I don’t know – both are so busy – but I’m sure there’s a way they can be in the same place at the same time with someone recording! In the meantime, make sure you’re listening to both and tweet out some love!
Throwing Shade is currently on tour with dates along the east coast. Check out throwingshade.com for more information. Listen to new eps of the podcast on Earwolf every Thursday and alternating eps of Throwing Shade: Deeper Shade and Throwing Shade: Groceries (a real treat!) during the week.
The Read can be found every Tuesday wherever you listen to podcasts and their TV show debuted on FuseTV. It will air on Fridays at 11pm. Find their upcoming events on thisistheread.com.
ps. A Quick Note on Throwing Shade and diversity.
While searching for pics for this piece, I ran across a TV Guide article taking the show to task for its lack of diversity. Because hindsight is 20/20, we know the vision for the Throwing Shade TV Show on TV Land was battled from the very start. The podcast always has guests who are women, queer, or people of color (sometimes all three at once!). I don’t have any issue in that regard. My issue has to come with the reporting of stories affecting people of color.
I touched on it above, but I feel when Throwing Shade does touch on issues affecting POC, it sometimes feels rushed. The excuse of “well I’m not educated on this subject I don’t feel comfortable speaking on it” has been used and while in theory it’s passable, it also showcases a degree of privilege.
I grew up in Nebraska where I was many of my peers’ first experience with a black person. And I’m not talking kindergarten, but rather high school. White people didn’t seem to notice us until we were “suddenly” in the way. The opposite is true for people of color in this country. We grow up learning everything about white people; it saturates our media, our news, our schools.
The choice to opt-out of the conversation by saying “well that’s not my lane” is a privilege that allows the opportunity to lessen the impact and exposure to issues affecting real people. If you’re not educated on a matter, learn. Having an opinion isn’t bad; forcing that opinion onto others, or using that opinion to overshadow someone with the experience is.
It makes it feel like they don’t care, but I know from listening to several eps, they do. This just feels like a blindspot. I challenge Gibson and Safi to talk about more subjects affecting people of color and then sharing the learning process they took to shape they’re opinions. I give this observation with love, because they’ve already done so much more than others. They excel in every other level of diversity and I know they can do more and really continue to advocate for the unheard.
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