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May 28, 2018 | by  | in Podcasts | [ssba]

Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Terrible, Thanks for Asking is pretty much how I was feeling on Sunday evening as I sat, laptop perched uneasily on my knee, wallowing in the realisation that I had a podcast article to write in a very small window of time. After briefly reflecting on why exactly I had chosen to squander my weekend away doing pretty much nothing, I decided that now would be an appropriate time to review a podcast dedicated to when things are kind of shit.

The good news, is that Terrible, Thanks for Asking is a pretty decent podcast. The bad news, is that a lot of sad, difficult, and shitty things had to happen for it to exist. Let me explain. In 2015, Nora McIrney’s husband died from a brain tumour. Her father passed away and she miscarried her second baby in the same week. She found herself alone, stricken with grief and carrying the responsibility of raising a young child as a single mother. When people asked her if she was “okay”, the obvious answer was “of course not”, but she would respond with “I’m fine”. Nora McIrney was tired of small talk, and so her podcast (and her charity, and the book she wrote) was born.

Each episode of Terrible, Thanks for Asking features a different person with a different story. They are all people who have faced some type of hardship, adversity, pain, or loss. It’s hard to describe the series in a general way because each episode is a unique listening experience. You are welcomed into the world of the interviewee, and it is different each time. There’s Patricia, who in the episode “Witness”, talks about her decision to leave the Mormon church, and in doing so leave her friends, family and life behind. In “Transformation”, you hear the story of Carver and Mimi, their transformation from friends to partners, their journey to healthier lifestyles, Carver’s transition, and Mimi’s recovery from a nearly debilitating accident. There’s Chris, who shares his story of living with a disability in “The Gold and the Broken Bits”, and the unwarranted pity that comes with it.

McIrney interjects, elaborates and asks questions at times, but the podcast is really about the guests. That’s the best part about it, hearing individuals talk about their experience, tell their story in their own words. This is where podcast as a medium is unbeatable — there’s the intimacy of having someone else literally be, through your earphones, the voice in your head. The lack of visuals makes it impossible to pass judgement based on appearance, there’s an ease to just sitting back and listening. It feels like the right way to hear these stories.
Unfortunately, briefly naming these individuals does not at all do justice to their stories. And Terrible, Thanks for Asking offers so much more than stories; it provides a wonderful insight into these individuals for all they are. McIrney illustrates that people are more than their grief, more than their tragedy, more than the adversity they face — but also recognises how these factors have shaped their lives.
Perhaps surprisingly, this podcast has a lightness and a sense of humour in it. McIrney doesn’t tiptoe around topics, or mince words. She laughs easily and encourages you to do the same. Yes, these are predominantly sad stories. The people you hear have hard, awkward, and painful experiences to share, but at the end of it all I don’t find myself feeling low or jaded. Hearing their voices — hearing guests laugh, talk, reminisce, and chat, I am instead left in awe of human resilience.


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