Over the past 6 years The Guilty Feminist has grown into a podcasting juggernaut, producing engaging episodes week in, week out while building a loyal live audience. We spoke to host, Deborah Frances-White, about pivoting to online recording, the podcasts that inspire her and her dreams of returning to the Royal Albert Hall. From Issue #013 of the magazine, this is The Gospel According To… Deborah Frances-White.
What’s the elevator pitch??
The Guilty Feminist is a podcast about our noble goals as 21st century feminists and our hypocrisies and insecurities, which undermine those goals.
Why podcasting? What is it about the format that appeals to you?
It’s radio that nobody stops you making. It’s very difficult for anyone to get a TV or radio show but especially difficult for a woman in Britain. The normal channels are often closed down to us. Podcasting was a revelation because you can find and build your own audience. You can say what you want, when you want.
What‘s the secret to being a good podcast host?
I think I was one of the first hosts to say, “I don’t know if I’m any good at this (in my case feminism) but I want to get better. Do you want to learn with me?” Before that it tended to be experts or people with opinions coming at you with status (which is great too!) I think the appeal of my show is it’s confessional but also we’re trying to build muscle together. Overall it’s making the audience feel they’re with you and part of the gang. Before the pandemic we always had a live audience. Comedians are funnier with audiences – or at least I am – so I miss that part but it there is an intimacy to talking to your guests over zoom and making your listeners feel close.
Which podcasts or podcast hosts inspire you?
How have you found podding during the pandemic?
Well the good thing is you can have international guests. The bad thing is I miss my audience and being close enough to touch my co-pilots and guests. It’s given me some good “I’m a feminist buts…” because new situations give you new material. For example… I’m a feminist but the first Thursday after the first lockdown I came out at 8pm to applaud my waxer.
Having created a hugely successful live show, what’s the trick to producing a podcast that’s engaging to both the live audience and the listener at home? I think making the audience feel part of your gang, your team, your army is always the thing. Leaning into the mic to tell them something intimate. Laughing with a friend. Really reacting with emotion to what you’re hearing from your guest – rather than giving it the low steady, never-ruffled tones of Radio 4.
Which episode or episodes of The Guilty Feminist mean the most to you?
Nice Girls Don’t was revelatory for me. The story Cal Wilson told. The things we shared that were real and shocking. The hysterical nature of Celia Pacquola’s stand up and the audacity of my audience challenge. It was a breakthrough episode. I learned we can really switch gears and the audience will be right there with us. Also Raising Feminist Boys. Sindhu Vee is magnificent and Jarlath Regan talking about his son was very moving. My challenge was to go into a school and talk to boys about feminism which gave me some incredible material. Both funny and revelatory to me and therefore, I hope, to my audience. Playing The Royal Albert Hall was one of the greatest nights of my – or anyone’s – life. I’ll never forget it. We opened with Cell Block Tango. Ridiculous. The cast was wild. The audience were beside themselves. That’s a two part episode and I’ll never ever get over doing that. Who knows when we’ll be allowed to again?
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring podcaster, what would it be?
What are you dying to say that you don’t hear anyone else saying? Ideally something other people are too scared to say. As long as it’s not undermining anyone else’s humanity or identity – that’s the thing you should say. Don’t worry about the size of your audience. Worry about how much they care about your show. A small loyal audience is a wonderful thing. Take care of them. Also edit, edit, edit. Keep it moving. Edit out ums and ahs and “the Zoom isn’t working”. It might seem funny or cute in the moment but you’ll leave the audience skipping through or switching off. Also try to get it out at the same time every week or fortnight or whatever you’ve promised. Makes a big difference if you’re reliable. I’ve got Tom Salinsky to do all that so I’m lucky. If you’re not good at it, find someone who wants to be part of a team and pay them if you can afford to.
Finally, what are your current favourite podcasts?
David Tennant Does a Podcast is very good. Also GrownUpLand on BBC Sounds – I created and exec produced that so I’m biased but the talent – Sophie Duker, Heidi Regan and Ned Sedgwick are amazing. Also listen to archive episodes with Mae Martin and Bisha K Ali who’ve gone on to huge success. Brilliant funny, insightful stuff. Best Pick – the film podcast about Oscar winning films from Tom Salinsky, Jessica Regan and John Dorney is so well researched and full of joy. How to Citizen with Baratunde Thurston is a must-listen. Talk Art with Robert Diament and Russell Tovey is gorgeous. Brown Girls Do It Too, Have You Heard George’s Podcast and Griefcast are all top drawer. Finally Wheel of Misfortune with Alison Spittle & Fern Brady. So funny I once had to turn it off before a TV appearance because my make-up artist and I were laughing too much to do eyeliner.