December 15, 2015
by Catherine McCormick
Canadian feminist and comedian Lauren Mitchell hosts Hazlitt’s newest podcast, Cavern of Secrets. I had the opportunity to interview my pal and fellow comedian about her new podcast that gives women space to “talk about themselves without feeling guilty.”
Catherine McCormick: How is this podcast different from Trust Issues, your podcast about Drake? And is TI on hiatus indefinitely?
Lauren Mitchell: Trust Issues is def its own special little thing. People were always so incredulous about it: “How long can you talk about Drake?” Like, a lot actually. I mean, I think Cavern will have a pop culture bent that allows me to get into some real shit with the guests, which is essentially what [Trust Issues co-host] Rawiya [Kameir] and I always did with Trust Issues. Rawiya is living in NYC, so that makes the logistics a little more difficult, so we are on hiatus for the time being.
CM: What was the genesis of Cavern of Secrets—was this a project you pitched or something conceived by Hazlitt, or something in between?
LM: Well, I’ve known [Cavern of Secret’s producer] Anshuman Iddamsetty online and off for about a year, and he had reached out to Rawiya and me to say he really enjoyed Trust Issues. He mentioned to me casually that if I had any ideas he would love to hear them and possibly collaborate. Since I am a comedian, by law you have to have like, a dozen podcast ideas on deck at all times; I sent him a proposal and we went from there (the rest of this story involves a lot of back and forth, but the ending is: Cavern of Secrets).
CM: If you were to write a manifesto on the podcast, what would your stated motives and goals be?
LM: The motive is this (I wrote it for the Hazlitt site): I was sick of hearing women I respected being interviewed in the same fashion every time: “What is it like to be a woman doing x?” How boring! I want to hear women talk about themselves without feeling guilty. I want to hear women talk about the process around their art. I want to hear more about the ways we comfort and protect each other, the reasons we disagree or protect ourselves from each other. Women! We are multifaceted, real, interesting, and flawed.
In terms of goals, I mean, I just want to prove that hearing women talk about their lives and processes is as interesting as Marc Maron talking about his cats and his failed relationships.
CM: What podcasts or podcast tropes are you really into right now? What ones are you completely done with?
LM: I have to admit, since I started a job where I am on the phone all the time, I don’t listen to as many podcasts as I once did. But there are really great ones: #GYALCAST, Call Chelsea Peretti, The Crimson Wave, Two Brown Girls, and on and on. Mainly I’m just done with listening to comedy podcasts about the lives of male comedians where they talk about women in a way that makes me want to pull my hair out.
CM: How does your feminism impact your approach to comedy? What about podcasting? Do you think that either of these spheres would be harder or easier to navigate if you were more “apolitical”?
LM: I think that because I’m a feminist, feminism comes out in my comedy, on the podcast, in everything I do really. I remember back when I was first doing comedy, having a convo with a male comedian who was like, “I think it puts you at a disadvantage to label yourself as a ‘feminist comic.’” I said to him, “I’m a feminist and a comic, so I’m a feminist comic—even if I just call myself a comic, my comedy is intrinsically linked with my feminism.” Even if one of my jokes isn’t like “feminism is this and that and boom punchline,” all my jokes are still inherently feminist, if that makes sense. And same with the podcast.
CM: In your interview with Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson in Episode 1, you two talked a bit about how young women are perceived in the context of art and creative spheres. When you were Tavi’s age or younger, what did you think your adult creative life would look like? Did you have an outlet or were you frustrated by lack of opportunities?
LM: Man, being a teen girl is wild, eh? When I was a teen I thought of myself totally as a fan. I never saw myself in the “creator” role, even though I grew up surrounded by strong women who made art and crafts and who wrote and did all sorts of shit. But I was like, I can’t make music, I’m not a writer, I can’t draw a nice stick figure, but I love to consume art and be moved by it, so I always saw that as my role. So when I was a teen, I never envisioned living what has ended up to be a pretty creative adulthood.
I can’t even imagine sixteen-year-old Lauren being like, “I’m funny, I should try stand up.” Like, I was part of the drama club but I was a very supportive member who did admin work and backstage stuff, which seems pretty nuts if you know me and know what a ham I am. I LOVE being in front of an audience, but it was never something that made sense in high school.
CM: Dream guests? Dream merch? Have you had any interesting dreams lately?
LM: Dream guests: Carly Rae Jepsen, Chelsea Peretti, Jessica Williams, Mindy Kaling
Dream merch: a jaunty hat and an ashtray
Dreams: buddy, I have been watching too much Antiques Roadshow and I am having a weird amount of Antiques Roadshow themed dreams. I’m eighty.
CM: Closing remarks?
LM: Um, thanks for interviewing me?? I LOVE YOU??? ADOPT ME?????? (dear reader, Catherine has v cute dogs and a lovely fiancée and I think I would make a great addition to their family as their grown adult daughter).
Catherine McCormick is a queer feminist writer, performer, and noted difficult woman.
Photo by Derek O’Donnell