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Today is Monday, June 6. There are 121 days until my next Disney cruise. In case this email is too long, a favorite episode of one of my favorite shows here, how to become a rapper here, the scariest true crime of all time here.
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Laura Cathcart Robbins
Describe the show in 10 words or less.
Each guest shares an intimate, vulnerable story about feeling “othered”.
Tell us about your essay and what made you think, “this should be a podcast.”
I wrote about my experience of being the only Black person at a 600-person event for Huffpo and the article went viral. Afterward, I received hundreds of messages and emails from people who connected with feeling alone in a room full of people. Until I received those messages, I’d thought I might do a podcast where I interviewed Black people about their “Only One” experiences. After reading them all, I made up my mind to tell those stories as well.
How have you changed as a podcaster since you started The Only One in the Room?
At first, we chose to go after guests with name recognition and a high social media follower-count. Now, at almost 3-million overall downloads, we simply get to curate truly riveting and meaningful stories regardless of who they are. I’ve also learned (the hard way) to get to the meat of the interview earlier in the show. No one wants to listen to thirty minutes of “interview foreplay” before hearing the title story.
How has the show changed?
I think we have more fun now that we’re not trying so hard to increase listenership. We’re really able to concentrate on delivering consistent, engaging, quality interviews.
What do you hope The Only One in the Room does for people?
Oh, so many things. I hope it allows people to feel less alone. I hope it creates a community for folks who thought they had none. I want our listeners to walk away from each episode feeling as though they’d just walked in someone else’s shoes. And always, I’m hoping that by telling everyone's Only One stories, people of the dominant culture will hear them and become more aware of what it’s like to be a minority - especially here in America.
What’s a stand-out episode people shouldn’t miss?
Like choosing a favorite child isn’t it? We just re-released one of my all-time favorites, Sofia Rose, The Only Fat, Over-Forty, Latina Pornstar In The Room. Others include, my discussion about white privilege with actor Jon Cryer and my interview with Robert Chelsea who was the first African American to receive a full face transplant.
What’s the secret to a good interview?
A pre-interview! I do one over Zoom with all of my guests. It allows us to bond prior to the interview and gives us time to nail down their Only One story.
What’s the secret to a good pre-interview?
Taking careful notes and keeping it brief so the guest doesn’t feel like it’s too much of a time suck.
Any advice on how smaller shows can grow?
Once you’ve invested in making sure that your show is a quality product, with regard to audio, Youtube, website etc. I would invest in a marketing campaign to grow your numbers and set the table for more of those sponsorship dollars. We’ve had great success with platforms such as Player FM and on Spotify.
Do you think most people have an “only one in the room” story?
I believe that EVERYONE has an Only One story. I get such a thrill from helping people discover theirs.
If you were going to start a new podcast—don’t worry about the logistics or whether or not anyone would listen, what would it be?
Lately I’ve been fantasizing about starting a podcast for women of a certain age. We are a culture obsessed with youth and everywhere I look, women my age (57) are opting for botox, filler and plastic surgery in the hopes of remaining youthful looking. I’d like to talk about that honestly. Not in a judgmental way (who am I to judge, I get botox twice a year), but in an exploratory way. Like this whole “gray pride” movement (which I love, but am not ready to do yet) and find out the answers to questions like, “statistically, are women who do nothing to themselves dating less than women who seek out cosmetic ''help?”
Three specific pieces of advice for new podcasters, please.
Invest in quality audio equipment, it makes such a difference. Get to know other podcasters, collab and cross promote with them whenever possible. Take good care of your guests, they might bring you other guests!
Anything I didn’t ask you that you want to talk about?
Shout out my boyfriend, producer and co-host, Scott Slaughter (who I call Hon). Without him there would be no The Only One In The Room.
✨Enter your podcast in the Podcast Partnership Database here.
✨On Podcast Marketing Magic, an issue dedicated to getting featured in podcast apps.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
The inventive Imaginary Advice’s Ross Sutherland released You Are Ant, an episode that’s part talking tape (complete with the chime noise you’ll remember from your childhood) and choose your own adventure novel, which sounds impossible, but Ross Sutherland is able to bring to life storytelling structure that has never been tested before, and it works. He makes you the main character, a child with a journal that contains disturbing stories heading home, and takes you on a whirlwind of an adventure that finishes in a masterful twist that I won’t give away. This is one of my favorite Imaginary Advice stories in a long time, and that’s saying a lot. If you haven’t picked up this show yet, here’s a good place to start. Or listen to my favorite episode on my podcast Feed the Queue, where it was featured.
⚡️News from Sounds Profitable⚡️
In Sounds Profitable, Bryan Barletta announced the first ever Sounds Profitable Business Leaders Summit, in collaboration with Podcast Movement on Tuesday, August 23rd, in Dallas, Texas. Read here. Listen here.
🎙️Mark Grist is an ex-teacher, poet, rapper & battle rapper based in the UK and Mark Can’t Rap is the very personal story of how he got there, from a 39-year-old who didn’t know how to write a rap lyric to someone who has picked up tons of awards for his rap videos online. As he vulnerably takes us through all of his awkward lessons and instructive interviews with some of the world’s greatest emcees, we see him evolve into someone who can actually rap, learning how to sound confident, how to write lines and let them breathe and say them with conviction, why he’s doing this in the first place, and what it’s teaching him about himself. Season two turns into a pandemic podcast, and something I’m not sure we’re all ready to listen to just yet. But it’s interesting to hear Mark struggle through his loneliness and connect with people through music, talking to people like Chali 2na and Ghostface Killah (via Cameo) about why they rap and what Mark needs to think about as a white man entering a Black space. His mission also seems to be to introduce rap to people in a new way, celebrating its connection to words and high-brown nature. The series is produced by Ross Sutherland, and it feels very Ross Sutherlandy. Special attention is paid to the sound production, and the storytelling is funny, honest, and oddly inspiriting. Listen here.
🎙️Just dropped: the second season of Reclaimed, which tells the story of Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmet Till’s mother, who activated the civil rights movement after she insisted on opening Emmet’s casket to the public and shared images of his body after he was murdered. The first episode stirs up the conversations so many Black mothers have to have with their sons—how do you give your son, who only knows love, a crash course on racial hatred and the dangers of being Black? There is a tiny detail about Mamie packing Emmet a lunch for his trip to Mississippi—chicken, cake, and treats, the same lunch her mom made for her when she traveled South—that made me want to cry. This simple, caring gesture that all moms would do, made without any idea of what would happen to her son. Listen here.
🎙️There are few crime shows that make me perk up when an episode is dropped, and Crime Show is one of them. Each story is so much more than a “white woman missing, family murdered, scandalscandal fill in the blank.” They’re people-focused stories with twists and turns and plots I haven’t encountered anywhere else. A Lion with No Teeth was pretty fantastic. It focuses on a Supreme Court decision that states that prisons must provide incarcerated people with necessary medical care, but a sneaky Texas prison in Huntsville found a loophole that challenges what constitutes “necessary medical care.” David Ford was denied dentures—he was in constant pain and unable to eat. Possibly inspired by a comic book villain, the prison would blend entire trays of food so that meals didn’t need to be chewed. This crime story puts the spotlight on our prison system. I am so fascinated by these stories, feel so invested in them. But I am truly getting sick of them. Listen here.
🎙️The cover of the seventh season of Slow Burn, which is hosted by Susan Matthews and explores the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, is a photo of a woman who seems to be carefree, the shot is taken from below, she’s wearing sunglasses staring into the distance. It’s a photo of Shirley Wheeler, who in 1970 at age 22-year-old, became the face of the abortion movement when she got an illegal abortion in Florida and was arrested and charged with manslaughter when she refused to reveal where she got it, making her the first American woman ever held criminally responsible for getting an abortion. Episode one shares Shirley’s mostly forgotten but pivotal story. She was sentenced to a probation with terms that forced her to either marry her boyfriend or get out of Florida, a twist that was so shocking I had to check the date of her story. This is scarier than any true crime story—it’s a story of a horror so recent and imminent. And based on the fact I had never heard the name Shirley Wheeler before, it’s a story that needs to be told. Listen here.
🎙️Tim Miller is a search-and-rescuer in Dickinson, Texas who has helped track down more than 300 missing people, but for 38 years, he’s been unable to find his daughter. When we join him for the first season of Vigilante, he thinks he’s found her, and has convinced host Allie Conti to join him on his vigilante ride. Allie gets into the mind of Tim and his singular obsession with the case—from the people he’s falsely accused in the past, to the current girlfriend he’s put in the crosshairs of a possible serial killer. It’s a missing persons story with a strong protagonist, and one that directly involves the narrator. Allie is worried that she might be the latest in the list of people whose lives have been turned upsidedown by being tied to the case. This show is complex and well-plotted—I’m curious. Listen here.
🎙️I listened to The Constant’s Shipwreckless for the second time (it sort-of already aired 2018) because ship disasters is one of my kinks. (It’s about how an uptick in shipwrecks in the late 1800s taught a valuable lesson about insurance and immoral hazard. Trust me it’s interesting! Mark Chrisler makes everything feel like a wild roller coaster! ) I got to the end, where Mark points out an interesting parallel between these skyrocketing shipwrecks and our recent tsunami of mass shootings, and I had to stop what I was doing (which was chopping a squash with a huge knife, it was dangerous!) These spikes happen not because the activity literally becomes more dangerous, it is due to the systems in place. How differently I listened this time, and I think I could listen again. Listen three times here.
🎙️I don’t listen to every episode of Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, but when I do I make sure it’s one about animals. Listening to Jonathan shriek with delight as he learns about their behavior is a treat in itself. To kick off pride month, he interviewed Queer Ducks (and Other Animals) author Eliot Schrefer about queer animal behavior, and it’s full of interesting fucking stories and emotional facts about what we share with animals (other than just fucking.) It ends up being a conversation about how we misidentify animals and people, and why none of it matters, and identity of ourselves and the animals we share the planet with. Listen here.
🎙️Lauren, here. Writing about Normal Gossip again. I just realized I love this show so much because it’s not even about gossip, it’s just a goddam glorious storytelling show that captures odd details that could never be made up. They come straight from real life—and are so quirky they would never be greenlighted for a Hollywood film, but should be. These stories are not what you get to experience in any other media format. Each episode, I find myself wanting to google all the characters. Listen here.
🎙️Greetings from Somewhere, a boisterous, curious travel show hosted by Zach Mack, dropped a new minisode with a seriously clever, meta trailer. At first you think it’s a new show called Somewhere FM, your favorite road trip radio show, which I thought was a great idea, but then Zach snaps in to say that wait…Greetings from Somewhere will be back for season two! For season one, Zach sent us audio postcards from Joshua Tree to Burning Man and Mount Rushmore to give us a sense of the place with interviews and immersive sound. I hope you didn’t miss my favorite episode on Disney World, which featured Very Amusing’s Carlyle Wisel! (I have quoted Carlye’s “Disney adults are more evolved” line more times than is necessary.) If the trailer is any indication of how much fun season two will be, I’m excited. Listen here.
🎙️This year marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th year as Queen, and in a morbid yet practical way, the British royal establishment is anticipating her death to ready Prince Charles’ stepping in, something Charles has been waiting to do for 73 years. But Elizabeth is popular, he is not. The monarchy is antiquated, is it time for a rebrand? Will Charles’ ideas be accepted by his family, his country, and the world? For Born to Rule, NBC’s Keir Simmons is getting juicy stuff from insiders who have been anticipating this moment forever, mapping out what might happen when Queen Elizabeth dies. It’s a moment I don’t think we could possibly be ready for. Brace yourselves and listen here.
🎙️If you fell in love with Laura Krantz’s deep investigation into the unknown on her show Wild Thing—fist she tackled Big Foot, then UFOs—you might be surprised to hear that the new season is covering the history and science of atomic energy. We may know more about nuclear energy than Big Foot, but its history is full of mystery. The series kicks off with the barely-known meltdown of the SL-1 nuclear reactor at a federal research facility in Idaho sixty years ago, a story full of rumors about love triangles, emotional instability and insubordination. All we know is that an explosion killed three men, contaminated and sickened rescue personnel, and then exposed thousands of citizens in the nearby towns to a cloud of radioactive gasses. This story is personal—it occurred in the desert of Idaho, just forty-five minutes outside Laura’s hometown of Idaho Falls. She’s going back with curiosity and energy to track the realities of atomic energy today and our fascination with it. This season of Wild Thing has a strong sense of place and lots of enthusiasm for the unknown. Listen here.
🎙️I don’t know what is going on with Armchair Expert—I thought Dax Shephard hosted it, but it seems there is this Umbrella series hosted by a woman and a man with a New Zealand accent. I’m sure I could figure it out, but I don’t care. They had an episode about Disney adults which made me nervous—these things always make me nervous. I always brace myself to be reminded that as a Disney adult, I’m a freak of nature and possibly a pedophile and what trauma did I experience as a child? But the woman and Kiwi investigate what it means to be a Disney adult without bias, and find that Disney adults are onto something. I even learned some things I didn’t know, like about Disney’s Society of Explorers and Adventurers. (Who’s the Disney lunatic NOW?) It’s so easy to mock Disney—it’s much harder to appreciate it for the magic that some people find in it. Listen here.
🎙️I have passed The Slocum Disaster Memorial in Tompkins Square Park hundreds? of times without stopping to consider what it was for, and Radio Diaries has the story, and an interview with the oldest living survivor. In 1904, Adella Wotherspoon was a baby, aboard a steamship called the General Slocum with her mother and sisters (and more than 1,300 residents of the Lower East Side) when it caught fire and sank. More than 1,000 people died, making it New York worst disaster in terms of loss of life until September 11th. Adella died in 1904, so it feels special to have her harrowing survival story, full of horrific details that give us the historical context of New York City at the turn of the century, and leave Adella with a unsolved mystery—how did she and her mother survive? (Her sisters did not.) Mandatory listening for New Yorkers. Listen here.
🎙️On Podcrushed, Penn Badgley, along with co-hosts Nava Kavelin and Sophie Ansari, read listener’s middle school stories set to a dramatic soundscape that are painfully cringeworthy and specific yet universal. This is a subject that is rich for storytelling, and the podcast production that accompanies the stories is icing on the cake. What follows the listener story is an interview with a celeb (like Drew Barrymore) and it ends up kind of resembling a straight up celeb-interview that I could actually do without. If you like hearing stories in the style of Normal Gossip, which I do, you’ll enjoy hearing the listener stories at the beginning. I would be happy if the show was just that. I think there is a trend of celebs having good podcast ideas that end up just being fancy celeb issues, which isn’t necessary. Focus on good stories and storytellers (Laura mentions this above) instead of big names. Listen to Podcrushed here.
🎙️I love you!
This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Heidi Bennett, the creator/producer/host of the Vibrant Visionaries Podcast. She has an eclectic work history leading bands, managing award-winning coffee houses, and providing performance coaching for multi-hyphenate creative professionals. Since 2016 she's enjoyed creating shows that help listeners banish burnout and boost creativity, while diving deep into the creative process with incredible guests from a wide range of disciplines in art and entertainment. She loves creating a warm, welcoming community for the wonderfully weird.
The app you use to listen: Downcast
What speed do you listen to podcasts? 1x
How do you discover new shows? Recommendations I hear on podcasts, guests of podcasts, friends, and the podcast communities I'm in including Pod People, Movies By Minutes, and Lady Pod Squad.
One show you love that everybody loves. How Did This Get Made?
One show you love that most people don't know about. Radaptations. A hilarious and thought-provoking indie podcast co-hosted by sisters Ginny and Bridget examining films and the books they were based on.
Anything else you want to say..Last year I started a YouTube channel to challenge myself to create in front of the camera, and share my favorite recipes, eclectic restaurants, and vintage cookbooks! If you'd like to check out the podcast and Youtube channel, join the fun at VibrantVisionaries.com. You might notice in my podcast queue - I still hold out hope that Kumail will re-start the X-Files Files.