The podcasters: Longtime friends Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger (who is also a staff writer at Jezebel, which, like The A.V. Club is owned by Univision) host Who? Weekly, a biweekly podcast that bills itself as “everything you need to know about the celebrities you don’t.” There’s a reason why every episode title ends with a question mark: Each episode focuses on a number of non-celebrities whose sponsored Instagram posts or lifestyle blogs or vague tweets have launched them to the covers of tabloids. A combination of news updates, recurring segments (like show favorite, “What’s Rita Ora Up To?” or games like “I Don’t Know Her,” which asks whether or not certain A-Listers—a.k.a. Thems—know about Whos), guests, interviews, and call-ins, Who? Weekly is a hilarious must-listen for pop culture fanatics interested in the more shameless side of the industry.
Who? Weekly is also going on tour this fall; see dates and venues here.
The A.V. Club: Why did you pick this episode?
Lindsey Weber: I wanted to pick an episode that was representative of our early episodes, because that was when the show was coming together in its most organic form. We hadn’t really figured out what we wanted to do yet. We had a loose structure, and we would kind of riff off that, but we didn’t really have any way that we wanted to play games yet, and everything was kind of just coming to us as we thought of it. This is the eighth episode ever. This was really early on, and we didn’t really know if the show was good. It ends up being charming, but for us, it was very nerve-wracking. We didn’t know how long we were going to do the show because if it’s not good, why would we continue to do it?
Bobby Finger: Lindsey and I have started and stopped enough things to know we should never be too confident that something will be long-lasting.
AVC: Who? Weekly started as a newsletter, right?
BF: It was a weekly newsletter, yeah.
LW: Basically, we chased trends. We love to chase internet trends. When newsletters were really popular, people were using them as blogs. We had wanted to do a newsletter, and this was the concept we chose, which is interesting because Who? Weekly was originally super visual.
BF: We always had a complementary Who? Weekly cover.
LW: All the jokes were Photoshop jokes. Those were easy for us and we’d do them and they’d be really funny and we’d write stuff because we’re, first and foremost, writers. We were very uneasy to turn it into a podcast at first because it’s hard to see your concept jump mediums. We weren’t fully convinced by episode eight. I think we’re still not fully convinced.
AVC: Were there jokes carried over from the initial newsletter? Like Rita?
BF: Rita wasn’t a part of the newletter’s DNA the way she is a part of the show’s DNA. We made stray Rita jokes in the original newsletter. We put her in the corner a lot with a question mark.
LW: She was always a character to us in our Who? Weekly narrative. “What’s Rita Up To?” was the only segment we launched.
BF: We thought, “Oh, podcasts… what do podcasts have? Oh, segments. What’s a recurring segment we could do? Oh, Rita. She’s always in the news.” It felt very easy. When we were starting the podcast, we were grasping for things that were easy that we would have fun with.
LW: The other reason I chose this episode is because we were still figuring out the Whos, like who the people were that we were going to cover and whether we’d be covering the same people over and over again. And we didn’t want to do the latter because it felt boring. Having Rita as a joke is one thing, but covering Chloë Grace Moretz every episode was never going to happen. We had to change it up and find different types of people. And then we started to worry whether or not there were enough of these types of people, and of course there are.
BF: Of course there are. That’s the point of the Whos: There’s always another one.
LW: So when we found Eva Amurri Martino—or, really, when she found us—she’s Susan Sarandon’s daughter, but she’s also her own force of nature. She wrote this blog post all about her ex-nanny.
AVC: I don’t know why she’s one of the more memorable minor Who characters to me, but I feel like I always remember this crazy story of hers.
BF: Crazy, and there’s absolutely no reason for her to share the story on her blog.
LW: Absolutely no reason.
BF: On her lifestyle blog! “I’m gonna teach you how to make a cute hors d’oeuvre plate, and I’m gonna teach you how to organize your things, and you’ll never believe what my ex-nanny sexted to my husband so I fucking fired her.”
LW: But to be fair, I had never heard of her blog until the nanny incident.
BF: It’s representative of good Who content, because it’s scandalous, it’s immediately exciting, and it’s all self-imposed. This story had no business getting out. No one would have discovered the story until she spoke about it on her blog. She wanted the coverage.
LW: We always try—and sometimes we fail—and talk about celebrities who want to be talked about. We try not to gossip about people who don’t want gossip talked about them. We do fail sometimes, obviously, because we’re so excited about something sometimes that we just want to talk about it, but for the most part, the journey of a Who is that they’re seeking press, and that’s what we love about them. It’s also good-natured, mostly. Even this nanny story, she loves telling this story.
BF: We try to be guilt-free with all of this.
LW: The last reason I chose this is because it was the first time we played the “I Don’t Know Her” game that we should play more often. It was one of the games that helped to explain what the show was.
AVC: It’s the most deranged version of six degrees of separation.
LW: And it’s improv-based, and it uses your own creativity in combination with your knowledge about celebrities. There’s a fun fan-fiction version of the people we talk about on our podcast, which I sometimes find more fun than the real people. It’s a game for the real pop culture fans who are deranged enough to have their own imaginations of what the inner lives of celebrities are.
AVC: Why’d you pick this interview of the ones you’ve done? They’ve been a newer part of this second year of the podcast.
LW: They are new. We wanted to do them, but not make them a regular feature because then we’d have to find people regularly and that is really difficult. We never want people we have on the show to think we’re making fun of them. We want them to feel in on it.
BF: Spencer was a perfect first guest.
LW: Spencer was the No. 1 person we wanted to talk to because it felt like he had thought about his fame in a way that we thought about it, too. He’s self-aware enough to take a step back and look at it and talk about it. The main thing about Spencer is that when you listen back to that interview, he charmed us so fully, and I accept everything he says completely. I’m so impressed by him, because he’s a manipulator in every sense of the word.
BF: I’m not mad about it at all.
LW: It’s perfect. He put us at ease to ask him the type of questions we wanted to ask him. That’s the sign of a good interview subject. And he had been doing this for years.
BF: “I love being a Who, absolutely, let’s talk about it. I call the paparazzi.”
LW: It was also important for us because it was the first time anything we did on the podcast was aggregated to the tabloids, which was truly the snake eating its own tail.
BF: He talked about how he pitched the idea for Keeping Up With The Kardashians and that Kris [Jenner] took it and ran.
LW: And who knows if these things are even true.
BF: And he told the story about selling photos of the Olsen twins to tabloids.
LW: I believe that. What’s fun is that we have listeners who work for People and Us Weekly and tabloids who enjoy the show and understand it’s done out of love, and they play along with us. But then they used our content for their content.
BF: We love it.
LW: It was special for us.
AVC: An interesting thing that the podcast has done that the Spencer interview plays into is also dissecting the culture of all of those tabloids magazines, and how People is different from Us Weekly is different from some other aggregated blog. They all have their different ways of describing and talking about these people.
BF: And it was one thing for us to say those things on our show, but it was another thing for Spencer to confirm them. He had worked with all of these publications and understood how to play them better than anyone.
LW: We had talked to him about how he was out of the news after Celebrity Big Brother and why he and Heidi had done that, and then a month later, they’re pregnant and all over the news again. It’s lucky we got to talk to him right in between those two things because they’ve been milking the hell out of the pregnancy, and they will milk the hell out of the baby because that’s what they do. It shows how you can go from being cared about to not being cared about depending on how you position yourself and what you give to the tabloids. What’s kind of a bummer when you start doing interviews is starting with your best one.
BF: One day we’ll get Chrissy Teigen.
LW: Chrissy is our big fish.
BF: The only person we absolutely do not want on the show is Rita Ora.
AVC: No Rita?
LW: We get that question a lot! The answer is no. Never.
BF: And that’s not an insult to her. We’re certain that she would get it and have a really good time with it. Rita would be fun, but it would ruin the joke. It would break the fourth wall.
LW: “Never meet your idols.” I don’t wanna know Rita, because we have more fun with the image of Rita that she projects than the real Rita. That’s what celebrity does to you. And Rita would understand that.
BF: Having said that, I’d love for her to listen to the show.
LW: I wanted to do a “Who’s There?” because it was a part of the podcast that came along later. It was born out of the unexpected thing, which was that the people calling in were so fucking beautiful and perfect.
AVC: How did that start?
BF: It stemmed from people tweeting at us. Once people were listening to show, they’d tweet at us, “Who is this person?” And then we’d answer them, but then we kept getting tweets asking us who people are.
LW: I hated it.
BF: We realized we could open up a hotline, and it wasn’t until we actually opened up the hotline and made the number and immediately started getting calls that we realized it was something.
LW: The hotline became calling in to ask questions, a tip line. Some people just call to say what’s up, which is my favorite thing. I grew up listening to radio and loving call-ins. Shout out WEEI, which is the call-in Boston sports station that my dad left on 24/7 in his office. Any time I would talk to him, I would hear that show going on in the background, these weird Boston people calling in. It’s always been endearing to me.
BF: It’s been particularly great because it turns the podcast into a dialogue. We love getting commentary, but we love getting corrections. It allows us to be wrong.
LW: It gives us more permission to be wrong because people have the agency to let us know.
BF: They call, they correct us, they feel satisfied.
LW: It makes them feel part of it, and they are a part of it. After we launched “Who’s There?” the community of the podcast really started. The Facebook group came from that. People could hear other fans out there and want to connect with them, which has now gotten away from us in a nice way.
BF: The other great thing about calls is that we can only learn about so many Whos. We don’t have infinite time or awareness. When Wholigans call in and bring up Whos we’ve never heard of, it’s unbelievable. It’s so great to have someone mention someone completely outside our field of vision. If we hadn’t opened up the line of communication, we wouldn’t cover a lot of the people we cover now.
AVC: There’s a part of this episode I wanted to ask about before the Watsky call, which is the Dan Stevens call. Because I feel like there’s a small percentage of the podcast where you get Whos who are not necessarily Whos by your standards, but celebrities who don’t have instant name recognition.
LW: That’s something we grapple with. Technically, a Who isn’t someone you don’t know. It’s someone with very specific characteristics like wanting to get press and who take specific actions like selling garbage and writing lifestyle blogs.
BF: Technically a Who should be an active participant in their own promotion. Dan Stevens doesn’t qualify.
LW: So sometimes we get calls with people asking who someone is. It’s not often by their own hand. It’s because someone like Dan Stevens was in the biggest movie of the spring, and he was the star, and no one knew who he was, really.
BF: And he co-starred with Emma Watson, one of the most famous actresses.
LW: We sometimes get caught up in topical stories because we also love pop culture, so we both want to talk about Dan Stevens in The Guest. But I think we fail to say that someone like Dan Stevens isn’t really a Who; he’s just a guy.
AVC: Or a lowercase who.
BF: And if we get enough calls about a particular person, like Dan Stevens, we do feel like we have to address it.
LW: That’s true. There’s a thin line.
AVC: But then you also have someone like Watsky.
LW: That call is pretty emblematic of the kind of thought process that a lot of the callers seem to go through. The calls are often stories about a small, niche thing. I love when people say to me that they like the call-in episodes the best. You know what, I agree with that. I do, too. They’re way funnier than us on every single level when given that framework of absurd crap to call us about.
AVC: There’s no reason to know about that Watsky song.
LW: No reason.
BF: “Fuck you if you only like a car for its paint job—”
AVC: You play the song, like, five times in the last minute of that episode.
LW & BF [in unison]: It’s so bad.
LW: It’s absurd because you think it’s going to be one kind of song, and then what it is reveals itself.
BF: It was an incredible call.
LW: We just have our own gossip hotline now where people literally cater news to us. Imagine people out there you don’t know knowing what you’re into and then sending you that stuff! That’s amazing. It’s such a gift to have.
BF: And you know, Rita was us. We brought Rita to the show. But now we have this Tim Daly/Tyne Daly joke. That originated with a caller, but it’s a part of the show now. We love both Tim and Tyne Daly, because this caller called in and told a very funny story about Tyne Daly at the Women’s March, and then Tim Daly broke both his legs the same week.
LW: And there is something so inherently hilarious about Tim and Tyne Daly being this brother-sister duo in Hollywood.
BF: It’s a relief as the hosts of the podcast, recording the episodes and editing the episodes ourselves, that we don’t have to worry too much about sustainability. It can be anxiety-inducing. We wonder how long we can do this.
LW: We’re doing two episodes a week.
BF: To know that callers will bring us new people or new topics or questions is a relief from a creative standpoint. It’s hard to get the equivalent of writer’s block for podcasts because we have this whole community of people who want nothing more than to give us more to talk about. We have a really good time. I had worried we would burn out, but it’s really fun. I just want to talk about Julianne Hough for two hours.
LW: Hopefully we’re deranged enough that we’ll enjoy this forever.