It’s 2020, and I feel like I can admit I’m a podcast addict. With a show for every niche interest in every field — news to comedy, true crime to sports and entertainment — it’s hard not to be. The luxury of walking to class with Sarah Koenig’s Serial did not exist 10 years ago, but now it’s routine.
It seems like every comedian, Instagram influencer and B-list reality TV star has one now. Your neighbor probably podcasts, too. Sometimes, as someone under thirty who does not talk about my “totally relatable” problems into a microphone, I feel like I am in the minority.
Lifestyle and dating shows are doing especially well nowadays. Many of these podcasts are run by twenty-somethings, for twenty-somethings and rely on fans to send in questions or topics, and many focus on love and dating.
Some are meant to be humorous, like Call Her Daddy, a Barstool Sports-brand podcast hosted by Alexandra Cooper and Sofia Franklyn. The show follows their lives as 20-somethings in New York City, and the two offer advice about love, sex and relationships.
Others, such as Gals on the Go and Thick & Thin, are more earnest than their comedian counterparts, and their audiences are too. They tend to address “adulting” struggles and problems typical for women in their early twenties, but they also sometimes dive into topics like careers, love and mental health, often with unusual authority.
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But the problem with people in their early twenties giving life advice is that they haven’t really lived yet. Sure, they are absolutely successful and should be proud of what they have built by such a young age. But they have not experienced nearly enough to guide thousands of impressionable listeners.
Thick & Thin host Katy Bellotte recently quit her first post-college job at L’Oreal, explaining in an episode that she just didn’t see herself there anymore. Instead, she’s pursuing her many passion projects and side hustles full-time.
I am incredibly jealous that Bellotte, at 24, has the kind of life where she can enact this change and still live alone in one of the world’s most expensive cities. She urges her audience to take similar risks and says that if you keep waiting for “the right time” to do something like this, it will never come.
There is definitely a lot of truth to this, but it feels more like fantasy than reality. Maybe I am just not as blindly confident as Bellotte, but it would be reckless of me to follow that advice. Instead of feeling fulfilled, I’d probably just be sad — and bankrupt.
Comedian-hosted podcasts consistently outshine the more sincere ones in this area. They don’t take themselves too seriously and often answer questions with outrageous suggestions or stories that are clearly filled with sarcasm and satire. And, most importantly, they contextualize their advice.
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For example, on Call Her Daddy, Cooper and Franklyn explain how to cheat without getting caught, hack into your partner’s phone and get away with other behavior that is absent from any remotely healthy relationship. The two have even gone so far as to tell women to consider themselves “just a hole.”
But they also loudly claim their title as a comedy podcast and recommend in clear terms that listeners look elsewhere for healthy, professional advice. There’s no doubt that these two are, in fact, not qualified to help you get your life together.
Sincere advice podcasters either need to follow their lead or prove that they’re qualified to give dating advice as a single 23-year-old or job advice as a career YouTuber.
So, listeners be wary. Podcasts often feel personal, like the hosts are your friends talking about personal problems. Listen for the laughs and the “there’s no way this is real” stories, but approach any tips or advice with skepticism. Remember, the hosts we idolize are just normal people — and the best ones admit they’re figuring out their lives right along with us.