WNYC Studios’ Nancy podcast co-hosts Kathy Tu and Tobin Low are queer and here in Boston. Their show focuses on sharing lived experiences from the LGBTQ+ community. We chatted with them about queer media representation, NASA and cold pasta ahead of their upcoming live show at the Museum of Science on Wednesday, Oct. 17.
Congrats on launching your fourth season! What are your favorite episodes from past seasons and which episodes are you most excited about from season four?
Kathy Tu: I love the Golden Girls episode. It meant so much to me thinking about that show and the role that show has played in my life. For our current season, we only have two so far, and I loved my first episode [“Closest I Get”], which is about Katie Herzig, [a musician who] meant a lot to me when I was in Boston in law school.
Tobin Low: We had an episode called “Here’s What It’s Like,” which was an intergenerational conversation between two queer men who both are HIV positive. It was just them honestly sharing their experiences. I really loved that episode and what it accomplished … I did the first episode of our new season, and it’s about a friend of mine and his dad and kidney donations, an awkward relationship between a father and a son and all these things. I had a lot of fun working on it.
As LGBTQ+ media representation grows, I often think about who the content is actually being made for, whether it’s introducing queerness to mainstream audiences — like Queer Eye — or more geared toward engaging the community. To me, Nancy feels like the conversations queer people have when they’re alone. Where do you fit along that spectrum of intention?
Tu: We’ve always wanted to make the show for queer people, made by queer people. I would say that our intention has always been to make the show, not just sound like, but generally be a show for the queer community.
Low: You know when you throw a stone in water, there’s like the impact point and then there’s sort of these rings, these ripples that come out of it. If I were to think about where we throw the stone and where we want it to land, it’s definitely stories for and by queer people. But then you get this effect of ripples where the next ring out is people who maybe aren’t necessarily part of the community but are curious. And then maybe people who are coming to it completely cold but might be intrigued by the story. I think we’ve found, with our audience that we have a very specific landing point, but it grows out from there.
With each new season, you launch collaborations with listeners. What’s your vision for this season’s “I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You…” project?
Low: A lot of this came out of us talking about, “Okay, what’s a common theme in the stories that we do?” and a lot of the common thread is people who are in some kind of relationship together, either they’re family or friends or romantic or whatever. There’s a conversation that they have been needing to have that could completely change the nature of their relationship, like it could bring them closer or resolve something. Those are stories that we’ve done that our listeners have really loved from us. The project really grew out of “I bet you if we opened this up, our listeners would want to share these kinds of stories with us and have a space to talk about the things they had been meaning to share with people in their lives in an effort to get closer to them.”
In your most recent episode, “Closest I Get,” there’s a turning point where Katie Herzig is just beginning to reconsider her orientation. She says, “maybe the sadness was suddenly I have this thing that was kind of a secret and I’d never had a secret.” Do you think there’s something inherently queer about leaving things unspoken?
Tu: That’s hard. I guess that kind of depends on the environment you’re in. But then again for [Herzig] she was in a very liberal environment … I don’t think [there is], but it happens to be that way, doesn’t it?
Low: I actually would disagree and say I do think that there’s something — maybe not inherently queer, but inherently universal in the queer experience — because we do all have to come out, not necessarily out loud but even just to ourselves. So there’s a process that you go through where there might be a truth that is sort of rising up in you, but either to yourself or other people, you don’t immediately acknowledge it. What that does to you, what that process is and what that journey is, I feel like every queer person has had that.
Tu: That is definitely a similar experience. I guess maybe I’m thinking, like, ideally it shouldn’t have to be a secret.
Low: Right. But where we are now…
Tu: But yeah, in this society, I guess we’re kinda forced to live in it. [Laughs.]
Can you tell us anything about what you have planned for the live show?
Tu: I decided to harass NASA. [Both laugh.] Because it’s at the Museum of Science, and science is a thing that’s always scared me. I was thinking what about science does not scare me, and the thing that everybody loves is NASA, me included. Even though I wasn’t really into space as a kid I think NASA itself is really cool. So I’m gonna bring some audio of NASA scientists and some random questions I’ve asked them. Queer scientists!
Low: The other thing we’re excited about is that our producer Matt Collette has been working on this story about Question 3 in Massachusetts. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about Question 3, what it all means, what the bigger implications are because it’s such an important issue.
Aside from the show, are you doing anything fun while you’re in town?
Tu: I was gonna try to go to this place that’s near Fenway that’s just a hole in the wall, crappy Italian place and get pasta. I’m not going to eat it immediately. I’m gonna leave it overnight in the fridge and it’s gonna be delicious in the morning … It just tastes better for some reason.
Low: This is like how my partner and I have been meaning to have a cold pizza brunch where we get pizza, put it in the fridge and then the next morning everyone comes over.
Tu: Sounds great. Can’t wait for the invite, Tobin!