New from Stitcher, Just Between Us is a brand new podcast created by comedians Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, “co-dependent” best friends with professional expertise in everything from “being bad at money” to “walking fast.” You may be thinking, “but Kelli, this is already a thing,” and you would be right; the podcast is something like a continuation of the wildly successful Just Between Us Youtube channel Dunn and Raskin started nearly five years ago. I was not familiar with the channel until recently, but Just Between Us has over 730,000 subscribers, which just goes to show you that I don’t really know anything about Youtube.
Like the Youtube channel, Just Between Us (The Podcast) is primarily an exploration of female friendship. Unlike the Youtube channel, where Raskin and Dunn often play heightened versions of themselves, the podcast is very real — or, perhaps better put in their show opener: “brutally honest.” And with just four episodes under their belt, Raskin and Dunn have more than delivered on their tagline’s promise.
Also, I’m going to call them Gaby and Allison from here on out, because using their last names feels too stodgy and academic and that seems patently wrong when discussing a show like this one.
To give you a brief rundown of the podcast’s format: Just Between Us is a weekly comedy variety show divided into regular segments, one of which always features a special guest of some kind. The theme varies from episode to episode, but generally speaking, the show sets out to explore tough topics through mostly-friendly discussion. Over the course of an hour or so, Allison and Gaby will answer advice questions from listeners, grill their special guests about work, confidence, and relationships, and discuss any number of topics (or Topix, as they emphasize the segment is spelled), from body image to the concept of failure.
They also play some pretty wild games in a section called “Hypotheticals,” wherein Allison poses a situation and Gaby (and the guest-of-the-week) have to answer how they would deal with this situation. For example, in “Would You Stay With This Cheater,” Allison presents a very specific invented cheating scenario and asks… would you stay with this cheater? During these games, Allison plays God, so no matter how the person playing answers, the decision they make will always be wrong (ie: Oh, you don’t want to stay that cheater? That’s too bad. They were your soul mate).
As stated, the podcast is brand new, so I’m sure things will change as things develop further, but as it stands the format seems pretty straight-forward. Obviously, a show like this can be really great or really terrible depending on its hosts. Luckily, Gaby and Allison are made for this — and apparently for each other. The dynamic of their friendship is what elevates this show, and although I wasn’t very familiar with them before I started listening, it didn’t take long for me to start to understand their personalities, and to care what they have to say.
From what I understand of the Youtube channel, Gaby and Allison have always presented themselves as an “odd couple” with an opposites attract sort of friendship. Gaby, self-professed Bicon (bisexual icon), has played the free-spirited, sex-positive feminist in contrast to Allison’s straight, uptight, and somewhat more measured persona. In real life, the two still basically fit into those roles, with the main change being that Allison has loosened up a little over the years. While they hold similar morals and core values (how could you be best friends with someone if you didn’t?), they disagree about almost everything else. This makes for a lot of entertaining back-and-forth, and listening to their banter makes me feel like I’m in on their friendship, for better or for worse.
I want to emphasize the things about this show that make it different from other interview/variety hour type shows I’ve listened to in the past. So far, what I’ve described probably sounds pretty run-of-the-mill, but this podcast has already blown my mind twice because of the places it was willing to go.
On Episode 3, they bring on guest Dan De Lorenzo, who we learn at the beginning of the hour is Allison’s ex-boyfriend. As a listener, I assumed that wasn’t going to be too relevant to their conversation — he probably had some other area of expertise and his past relationship with Allison would be little more than the connection that brought him on to talk about other things — but no. Their entire conversation with Dan was about his relationship with Allison. What went wrong, how and why it failed, how they’ve been able to stay in touch — and whether or not that has been healthy for either of them. At one point, Allison says that the only reason she was able to have him on the show today is because about three months ago, she finally stopped thinking that they were going to get back together.
This is where that “brutal honesty” I mentioned comes in. Gaby and Allison are not afraid to say exactly what they’re thinking or feeling, and they even invite situations (like having an ex on the show) that will force uncomfortable truths out of everyone involved.
The ultimate example of this comes during their most recent episode, “The Fight.” For each introduction, Gaby and Allison typically ask each other how they’re doing — but this time, Allison opens the episode by admitting that she is not doing well, because she is very angry with Gaby right now. The conversation that plays out between them is painful to listen to. It’s clear that this is the first time they’re even discussing the issue at hand, and the fight escalates from the seemingly innocuous addressing of a concern to a legitimately stressful argument that makes the listener worry for the state of their friendship.
Of course, Gaby and Allison have fought before, and they will fight again. They’re best friends who work together. This would drive any friendship to the edge, especially between two people who disagree about so many things. What I find very comforting about this is the way they manage to fall back into their routine, clearly impacted by the conversation but not enough so to ruin the show; they’re able to compartmentalize because they know that even if they’re fighting right now, they won’t always be. It’s how, I supposed, a marriage is supposed to work—but better, because friendship is the best.
I love that this show not only presents me with a very real and very beautiful female friendship to enjoy, but also delves into the complexities of that friendship. Nothing is perfect, not even the things that we think ought to be — from our bodies to our careers, from our sex lives to our longest and most intimate friendships. I can’t wait to hear more from these women, and I very much encourage you to check out Just Between Us, which is available wherever you get your podcasts.