By Emily Echevarria
Comedian Erin McGathy’s podcast, “This Feels Terrible,” feels far from its titular pessimism.
The relationship/sex/love/heartbreak-focused show vacillates from tender to goofy to slightly uncomfortable with plenty of feelings in between, but the way it glories in heartsickness and hard feelings is decidedly jovial. The podcast is consistently filled with fascinating stories from a charming host, with her fellow comedians and friends sitting for interviews that can be both hilarious and brutal in their raw honesty — subjects as personal as the host’s own divorce are fair game.
McGathy launched her show “This Feels Terrible” in the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in 2010 before creating the podcast in 2012. She continues to perform live shows and is currently touring the country.
This Friday, McGathy brings “This Feels Terrible” to Pensacola for a performance at Odaiba. She says the live show includes some aspects of its podcast format but also offers an entertaining evening for those unfamiliar with the project.
A week out from her Pensacola date, McGathy took some time to talk with SANDSpaper as she drove across Texas en route to an Austin performance.
SANDS: Do you know anything about Pensacola, or have you ever been here before?
Erin McGathy: I have. My family’s from northern Florida — from Freeport, which is like two and a half, three hours from Pensacola, or actually, I think, maybe just an hour and a half. I forget. I lived in Orlando as a kid and we definitely went to Pensacola a few times. The whole reason behind doing a show in Pensacola is because it’s close to my meemaw and my cousin’s house. I’ll see them and then do the show there.
SANDS: Oh, cool, that’s awesome. What can people expect from the live show if they don’t listen to the podcast? Is it very much like the experience of the podcast?
Erin McGathy: No, it’s a blend. The people who listen to the podcast will appreciate that I still have some elements of the podcast like an interview about love and relationships, but then also it serves as its own standalone live show with storytelling and some audience interaction type things and just different segments. They get almost a kind of a variety show about feelings, would be a good way to describe it. We’ve done three so far on the tour and there have been people in each audience who don’t actually listen to the podcast that have enjoyed the show. It’s very much like a loose show and it definitely depends on, like, the vibe of the room, like, what ends up happening, but so far they’ve all been super fun shows.
And the Pensacola show I’m excited about it because it will probably be pretty intimate and so that one I’m curious to see what will happen in that show. I know kind of what’s going to happen.
SANDS: So you’ll have guests that you’re interviewing at that show?
Erin McGathy: I will, yeah.
SANDS: Can you say who it will be or is it a surprise.
Erin McGathy: It’s a surprise.
SANDS: It’s interesting that you used the word intimate because while I was listening to the podcast it just struck me as blaringly intimate. Do you have a place where you draw the line as far as what you’re sharing on the podcast and shows?
Erin McGathy: Yeah, yeah, of course. I have many lines even though it may not seem like I do. I definitely am careful about what information I’m sharing about other people or, like, other people’s stories. I try to, if I’m telling a story of my own, like, past romantic experiences, I try to speak exclusively from my own emotional experience and not from, like, a ‘blame-y’ standpoint at all. And I’m in a relationship now and I’m not wanting to be super open about all of the intricacies of that relationship because I’d like to experience it on my own without airing every part of it.
It’s a very intimate podcast but the live show is less so, like there’s still the intimacy of the show but it’s less of a quiet intimacy, and it’s more of a live show. What I’m saying is the audience doesn’t feel uncomfortable that they’re watching a super intimate conversation. The first of the live shows is up already in Los Angeles and that’s a pretty good idea of what happens in the show.
SANDS: With the kind of honesty that you have about your feelings in the show, are you kind of an over-sharer or is that something you just do as part of the show?
Erin McGathy: No, I wouldn’t call myself an over-sharer. I am very serious about being honest about how I feel. The sharing of my feelings happened kind of accidentally because I was doing a comedy show five or six years ago and I didn’t have anything prepared. My friend had a guitar and I made just, like, a list of a bunch of things that I was really ashamed of that I had done over the last year or two years, like mostly stuff with dating and drinking and those things combined and just, like, embarrassing sex things. I was like, ‘Well, I don’t have anything and so I need to sacrifice some pride here.’ And I did that and, surprisingly, it went really well and I didn’t get punished for it and then I also felt kind of relieved of all that shame. And also it wasn’t that shameful and after the show people were like, “Oh my God, I totally have done that.” That was very freeing and that’s why in my show and when I do live comedy in general, it’s always coming from a place of just emotional honesty. I’m not really an observational comedian except when it comes to observing the way that I feel and deal with things, which is often five minutes after I do something or feel a certain way, I’m able to have perspective about it and that’s kind of what I talk about onstage. And “This Feels Terrible” is a reflection of that in show form.
This tour has been really fun because every city is different and people talk about their feelings differently in every city. Obviously, Pensacola is much different from Portland or San Francisco and so we’ll probably be exploring that.
So, yeah, I’m not an over-sharer but I am very honest about things. Like sometimes I say things that I know upset people onstage. Like, “Oh, I can’t believe that she mentioned that she did this or went through this or felt this way,” but I’m happy to challenge audiences a little bit.
SANDS: Have you ever felt like you revealed too much either on a show or the podcast?
Erin McGathy: I think so. Yeah, I’m trying to think of an example…
SANDS: So you can re-reveal it.
Erin McGathy: [Laughing] Yeah, in the years that I’ve done the podcast, I’ve literally never been punished for sharing too much. I know I have felt like I’ve shared too much. In my marriage, in my last relationship, I do regret talking about that so openly as everything was happening, because it created kind of a separation in my own brain from what was actually happening, but I don’t actually really regret anything. The only thing I regret is not being open about certain things and then having to backtrack and be more open about them later.
SANDS: So, changing gears, what are your favorite podcasts to listen to, or do you listen to podcasts?
Erin McGathy: Oh yeah, I love podcasts. Right now, I’m listening to Adam Buxton’s podcast. He’s an English comedian and radio broadcaster. I really love his show a lot, the way that he puts it together. I listen to “Throwing Shade.” It’s a weekly current events podcast about feminist issues and gay issues, and it’s hosted by two friends of mine and it’s really irreverent and silly and great. I love it a lot. What else? Obviously, “RadioLab” and “This American Life.” “Savage Love.”
SANDS: Of your own podcast, what are some of your favorite episodes or what episodes would you suggest people start with if they haven’t listened to it?
Erin McGathy: That’s a hard question. The most recent podcast that’s out, I really like a lot, which is very representative of this live show I’m doing. With past episodes, it’s hard to pick a favorite, and I keep on getting this question and I really should have a favorite. It seems like if you like storytelling, the Jeff Davis episode is very good. There’s kind of a more serious episode with my best friend Kimber Hall. I had Marc Maron on my podcast. If people are fans of “Community” there’s Gillian Jacobs. On the podcast you can listen to, I have a recording of my wedding ceremony and then the episode directly after that is my episode coming back after getting divorced, so if people are into looking at car accidents, stuff like that, that might be a good direction to go in.
SANDS: That was actually one of the ones I listened to. I listened to the first one, and then the Derek Waters one, and then I did all this research and realized how the story kind of ends up.
Erin McGathy: Yeah, it’s a whole journey.
SANDS: Where can people look out for you in the future?
Erin McGathy: I’m going to be in a show called “HarmonQuest” on [NBC’s subscription streaming channel] Seeso coming out on July 14th and the first episode is available on Amazon. And after this I’m going to Scotland for a month, so that doesn’t really pertain to your readers, but the Seeso thing is a good show that’s happening that I’m in.
SANDS: Do you have anything else you want to say about what’s coming up or what’s in store for Pensacola?
Erin McGathy: I would say that it’s going to be a very unique show and it’s worth going to for that reason. It’s going to be something different that doesn’t usually happen around Pensacola. It’s an unusual show everywhere really, not just specific to Pensacola. People should go to it out of curiosity and see what happens. And we’ll all hang out after. It’ll be very fun.