Behind-the-Scenes with Kathy Tu and Tobin Low

You have an easy rapport on the podcast. Were you longtime friends before you came up with the idea for Nancy ? Have you argued over the show yet?!

Kathy : It's hard to believe that I haven't known Tobin my entire life, because I frequently feel like I have (in a good way). We met at the Transom Story Workshop a few years ago and have been as inseparable as two friends who live on opposite coasts can be. Tobin likes to say we've been in a never ending gchat. In fact, the other day I was telling a coworker that Tobin and I were going on a vacation together after the season was over, and the coworker said, "Oh, you guys are REALLY friends!" Yeah. Yeah we are.

Tobin : We genuinely were friends before working on the show, which I think helped us discover our dynamic as co-hosts. One thing that we've been very conscious of is the danger of melding a real life relationship with a work relationship. In that vein, we're very conscious of how those two are different, and how we can keep them separate. I think that little bit of mental separation helps us keep our sanity.

Do you remember the conversation when the idea for Nancy first came up?

Tobin : Kathy and I always knew we wanted to work with each other on some kind of project. Since we're both queer, the idea for the show came pretty organically out of discussions where we'd talk about what kinds of stories we wanted to hear more of in the podcasting world. But also, we both had full time jobs, and making a show on our own seemed basically unachievable. We eventually got fed up with putting it off for so long and decided to go for it and make the show in our spare time. As luck would have it, about a week after we committed to the idea, WNYC Studios announced the Podcast Accelerator.

As part of the Podcast Accelerator, you won the opportunity to create a pilot. How tough was it to create the sound of Nancy , and how has it evolved from pilot to podcast?

Kathy : We got some great advice from Jad Abumrad of Radiolab to try as many things as we can, and only keep the stuff that we really loved. So we tried a bunch of different story styles and segments to figure out what the show sounded like. It's very time and energy intensive, especially because Tobin and I were both working full time while we were piloting the show.

Tobin : I found the most challenging part to be narrowing down what material would go into the pilot. We had so many stories and ideas we wanted to cover if we were to get a full season (and beyond), but deciding which of those stories would give the best sense of what the show could be moving forward was difficult. Ultimately, it made sense to tell our own stories in the pilot because we were trying to get WNYC Studios to buy into both the show and us as hosts.

Kathy : And in taking the pilot to podcast, the biggest challenge, at least to me, was finding my host voice. I didn't intend to be a co-host when we submitted our show to the Podcast Accelerator, but in the piloting process, we discovered that Tobin and my friendship could really anchor the show. So I jumped in, and it's been a process trying to overcome my anxiety about being on mic and figuring out how Tobin and I sound together. Our producer, Matt Collette, and editor, Jenny Lawton, are the first to tell us we don't sound like humans anymore. We're really #blessed to have the support that we do. Anna Sale of Death, Sex & Money has basically become our hosting mentor.

As you say, the show is for everyone "because everyone is a bit gay." Who do you imagine is listening and how much do you feel you need to explain in terms of slang, LGBTQ history, pop culture?

Kathy : During the piloting process, Tobin and I zeroed in on who our ideal listener was, and we aimed to make the show for that hypothetical person. But along the way, you also have to make sure the show is accessible for anyone who's curious, whether or not they're LGBTQ. So, we tend to try to find a balance of what needs definition and what doesn't.

I'd also point out that those in the LGBTQ community may not necessarily know a whole lot about each other. Even though we're all under the same category, sometimes we need to explain things just to understand each other.

Tobin : I think a lot of times this idea of an "ideal listener" boils down to the question of "what would I listen to?" Kathy and I are both people of color, we're both queer, and I think that influences a lot of what we put into the show. So we generally start from that place, and then broaden out to try and include other folks who might just be plain curious about what we're talking about on the show.

As we do this interview, you've released four episodes that run the gamut from light-hearted to heartbreaking to a reported piece with Buzzfeed. I'm enjoying the variety and surprise. How do you decide what's good subject matter for Nancy?

Kathy : A lot of our stories come out of what Tobin and I are interested in, as well as what we hear other people talking about. We're really looking for personal stories from people, especially ones where someone is currently in the middle of figuring something out. Giving people the room to speak directly from their personal experiences is an important part of the show. So I guess that is the guiding principle of how we pick our stories.

Tobin : With these first couple episodes, we wanted them to be very different from each other to cast a wide net of what a Nancy episode could be - we like having the flexibility of stretching the format of the show to what kinds of content we want to make. That being said, I'll echo Kathy in saying that we tend to be attracted to stories where people are in the process of defining (or redefining) themselves.

For Episode #1, how did having a microphone change the conversation - if at all - with your parents? Do you think you'll continue to include them, or other family members in future episodes?

Tobin : Kathy probably has more to say about this than I do - I think you can hear in the episode that my mom and dad are very comfortable being themselves. Though I will say, any time I have a mic in my hand and I'm recording an interview with someone, I try to think to myself, "What question would you regret not asking?" And that takes on a whole new meaning when you're interviewing your parents.

Kathy : Having a microphone in the conversation between my mom and me made me feel a lot more confident than if I had done it without the mic. Not only because there was a physical thing between us, but I felt like I was able to ask the questions that I needed, and say the things I needed to say, because I was on a mission with my recording. Having a mic does give you a certain level of confidence in most recording situations, and I fully embraced that in recording my mom. As for whether or not my family will appear in future episodes...time will tell. I really have no idea at this point.

If/when the podcast world has dozens of LGBTQ podcasts, what do you hope will set Nancy apart?

Tobin : First of all, there SHOULD be dozens of LGBTQ podcasts. There is room for so many more at the table. As far as what will set us apart, my hope is that Nancy listeners aren't just buying into the subject matter of the show, but our perspective as hosts. We work hard to make Nancy feel like being invited to a conversation between close friends, and I'd like to think that it's part of the appeal of listening each week.

Kathy : The name! Our sparkling personalities. Look, if things get drastic, we'll probably get married or something. Just kidding. What Tobin said.