One of my research pieces for Experiment 1 is the podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People (Beautiful/Anonymous). I started listening to Beautiful/Anonymous because I was a fan of Chris Gethard, the show’s creator and host. Each week, an anonymous caller engages in an hour-long phone call with Gethard, in which they tell him stories that range from melancholy to uplifting, all of which are deeply personal. Although this podcast is often more earnest than what is expected from a comedian, I think that this project aligns well with his body of work. Although most commonly showcased on TV in The Chris Gethard Show and his HBO special Career Suicide, Gethard has written three books and a handful of articles. Through all mediums he aims to celebrate the humor in hardships and the value of resilience, most frequently using his own life experiences as the research that fuels his work. Beautiful/Anonymous seems to be the exception to this, as Gethard lets the caller he is speaking to provide the story that he interacts with.
Since Gethard creates across so many different formats, his publishing process seems to vary greatly. For his TV show, Gethard had to come up with content that would garner ratings while appeasing the network that produced it. Ultimately this lead to him being dropped by two networks. In this case, both audience members and network executives held control over his content, as they ultimately dictated the success and longevity of his show. Gethard’s three books seem to have taken a conventional route for publishing novels, although he was presumably granted fewer restrictions in terms of content due to his established position as a comedian, and personal rather than serious academic subject matter. Finally, Beautiful/Anonymous is published by multiple podcast distributors, including iTunes and Spotify. These companies can control whether his episodes are appropriate for consumption and representation, which in turn likely impose some constraints on how provocative his work can get. Additionally, the podcast receives monetary support from sponsors, whom Gethard likely also needs to tailor his work to satisfy in order to generate revenue from this work. It seems like Gethard makes money from all of the aforementioned endeavors, partly due to his consistent fanbase and also from the originality of his work.