Since its inception, YouTube’s promise was to democratize how people created and distributed videos. The next big filmmaker, musician, comedian, etc., could now come from anywhere, and the price of entry for creators and audiences was nonexistent. Nearly a decade-and-a-half later, that promise has obviously been a little compromised, just as a new challenger has risen as a thorough, intellectual and intimate alternative.
It goes without saying that people consume podcasts like water nowadays. If you make the effort, your favorite podcast hosts could be your constant companions all day. Two of the creators who now straddle the line between what YouTube and podcasting have to offer are the talented multi-hyphenates Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin. The comedy partners, New York Times best-selling authors (for the YA novel I Have Everyone But You whose sequel, Please Send Help, arrives in July), and hosts of the hugely popular YouTube channel Just Between Us, have now expended their flagship project into a podcast of the same name for Stitcher.
“We used to do sketches on the channel,” says Raskin. “So that was different—doing scripted content… The podcast, I feel, is a lot more fulfilling in that we’re able to take a deep dive into topics and interview guests each episode but not make it just about the guest.”
“I feel like it’s allowed us to share more with our audience, actually,” adds Dunn. “On YouTube there’s a certain amount of ‘paying attention vs. losing people,’ so I feel like it’s been a cool way for people to get to know us more. There have been comments in the past like ‘I wish this was longer! I wish this was a podcast!’”
Since debuting in March, Just Between Us has already made a significant splash on the iTunes charts, porting over much of the duo’s existing fanbase. The format of their videos—offbeat games, pieces of thoughtful advice, and candid conversations about friendship, adulthood, sex, politics and everything else—now has even more room to breathe, and the intimacy of the form is beneficial in its own way as well.
For example, in a recent episode featuring comedian and actor Jon Gabrus, the walls between the self-admitted acquaintances fell down faster and more thoroughly than a video would likely allow for. “It helps with comfort that no one can see you,” says Dunn. “You’re just talking into a microphone and you kind of forget, you feel like you’re with your friends. And also we share a lot. We’re very open. So I think that helps people feel that they can just say stuff to us, which is nice.”
The new incarnation of Just Between Us also allows Dunn and Raskin to even more deliberately start conversations about progressive and sexual politics, which they’ve been on the vanguard of for years already. “We have the added benefit that we’re coming into it with a preexisting audience,” says Raskin. “So we already have people who are going to listen to us rant and rave about women’s rights, and the 2020 election, and gun control, and all the stuff we talk about five minutes after we talk about your cheating boyfriend.”
“It’s nice to have female voices in the podcast space,” says Dunn, referencing the overwhelming male pool of podcasters that have traditionally dominated the field. “I think we’re also very opinionated women, and we don’t necessarily have backgrounds that make us role models. But we get to be more honest in a way that’s more intimate between us and [our audience].”
But the exposure to Raskin and Dunn’s politics has apparently—and somewhat surprisingly—not been for everyone. “Either people love it and are super into it, or somehow they’ve managed to watch us on YouTube and not realize that we’re liberal,” says Raskin. “And they’re now very angry… Because of the format of the show, each episode involves a level of politics that [the YouTube channel] doesn’t.” This kind of reaction might be concerning to another podcast, but not to this one. “We’re proud of that,” Raskin adds.
For the rest of the show’s equally proud fanbase, the existence of a Just Between Us podcast finally gives them the ability to walk around with Dunn and Raskin all day, specifically soaking up the counsel that the two freely offer up, and which they’re always seeking to improve. “I think it’s just empathy,” Raskin says. “When I was younger I saw everything very black-and-white, so every situation fell into one of two camps. Now I try to give more nuanced answers… and come at it from a place of compassion, which I think is huge.
Dunn is inclined to agree. “Sharing our own personal experiences has been great because it allows us to not be condescending,” she says. “We’re fuck-ups. We’re never going to come at advice being like ‘no, I’m perfect and here’s what I did and here’s what I would do.’”
Ultimately, neither Dunn nor Raskin are interested in approaching what they do in a moralistic way, and judging from the reaction to Just Between Us thus far, that’s exactly what people are looking for.
Listen to Just Between Us on Stitcher.
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and comedian. You’d be doing him a real solid by following him on Twitter @gr8h8m_t3chl3r or on Instagram @obvious_new_yorker. A real solid.