Comedian Chris Gethard started a podcast a few years ago with the simple premise he would tweet out a phone number, answer a random call, and have an hour-long conversation with the individual on the the other end of the line.
Since those conversations first started in 2016, Gethard has talked to a woman who discovered her friend murdered someone, a caller whose husband cheated for years with her best friend, a puppet master, a woman in a harem, a person who spends their spare time dressed as a pirate, a man obsessed with Groundhog Day, and a guy with a laugh like a clown horn.
These are just a few of the amazing life stories you hear on “Beautiful/Anonymous,” which celebrates its 250th episode on Tuesday.
“I’m just really proud of the [show’s] spectrum because I think even the darkest [episodes], you always see at least a handful of comments from people who have been through something similar,” Gethard told CNN in a recent interview. “I think even the darkest ones provide a little bit of people feeling less alone and less isolated, like there’s a bigger world out there that they get to hear a little bit about.”
Though at first Gethard did not screen his callers, he eventually realized he needed help to ensure subject matter variety and improve audio connections.
“While it led to a lot of episodes that kind of went in a lot of surprising directions, what we found was it also led to a lot of situations where people would be calling with like horrific phone connections or I’d be sitting there, like, ‘are you standing in a hurricane?’ Gethard laughed.
But he does not overproduce the show, Gethard said, he just seeks to offer people a platform to discuss a broad spectrum of life experiences in their own words.
“If you listen to the first handful of episodes, that very much feels like [I’m] a therapist. And my own therapist actually stepped in and told me like, ‘Hey, you’re not trained to giving people advice, let alone, when there’s like a hundred thousand people listening to it,” Gethard recalled. “That actually made me realize, okay, I don’t need to try to solve a person’s problem. That was an eye opening conversation. I might be a comedian by trade — and I do think we managed to find at least a couple of laughs, even in the darkest episode — but my priority can’t be getting the joke out.”
What he will do, Gethard said, is step in if the person sounds nervous or has lost their train of thought.
“Let me step in here and make a joke so they can take a breath and feel more comfortable or need a second recover,” he explained.
“I have this really unique job that I never expected where I have this perspective to remember that everybody and anybody I may meet on the street deserves some empathy, some attention and some assumption,” Gethard said. “That’s the thing the show has given me, is it has trained me to just assume that the individuals that I come into contact with are layered interesting people with opinions and life experiences.”