adio Dispatch is a daily political podcast, hosted by siblings John and Molly Knefel. Although their background is in comedy, they’ve built up some serious writing credits with outlets such as RollingStone.com, The Nation, Feministing and more. We talked to Molly about their work, the role of comedy in politics, and how they manage to co-exist in what some might regard as two very different worlds.
For people who have never heard of you, introduce yourself and the project.
My name is Molly Knefel, and I’m a teaching artist and writer. My brother John and I have been cohosts and creators of our podcast, Radio Dispatch, since 2010. Back then, we were writing and performing comedy together, and it started as a kind of blend of comedy and politics. Since then, we’ve both gotten much more focused on leftist politics, organizing and activism, and that’s what Radio Dispatch talks about every day.
What made you decide to do a podcast?
John and I were already working together making whatever we could make on our own. We did a web series called John and Molly Get Along, we ran a monthly comedy show, and we both did stand-up both individually and together. When we got the opportunity to do a podcast with BTR, our host station, it made sense. It felt like we had spent our whole lives practicing talking to each other, talking about the news, and making jokes to cope with it.
You’re almost a decade into this thing! How has podcasting changed since you started in 2010, and how does it feel to be doing a daily show for so long?
I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for 8 years. Who would have thought podcasting would be one of the most stable things in my life? To be fair, when we started, we were only 2 days a week, then we gradually built up, but we’ve been daily since 2013, I think. It’s changed a lot. Back then, if someone asked what I did and I used the word “podcast,” it was still kind of a novelty. Now, the joke about podcasts is that literally everyone has one. The nice thing about doing ours for so long is that we’ve built up a really wonderful community of lefties that we hear from regularly and feel really connected to. The goal isn’t to be famous, it’s to provide a space that feels mutually helpful for everyone, where people can write to us about what they’re thinking about, what they’re working on, and what they’re worried about. Especially since the election, the podcast feels particularly important—we now think of it more like a gathering place than a performance.
You and John come from comedy, which for some people might seem very unrelated to the world of progressive politics. How do you meld those two worlds together?
We aren’t super jokey and we never have been, even when we were doing comedy. It’s more like we’re goofs. We try to deal with talking about really stressful things by goofing around. We were hosting a viewing party on election night, but it was impossible to laugh that night. And the next day. It took us about 3 or 4 shows till we were able to laugh about anything after that, but we use humor more as a coping mechanism than anything. And we come from the school of “punching up”—we’ve always believed that jokes are about targets, and it’s comedy’s responsibility to make jokes directed at worthy targets. In our eyes, those with the most power are always the most worthy targets.
What role does print play in your journalistic work?
We’ve both written for various print publications, which is so much fun and has a very different feel than writing for the internet. The internet was so important to my writing career because it was a way for me to find a platform when no one really had any reason to publish me. But as a writer, print feels like the ideal medium, and it feels really special when I’m writing something for print.
What’s next for Radio Dispatch?
We both have several jobs in addition to Radio Dispatch, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but it’s really important to us to keep the show going even when one of us has something else going on. For example, I just had a baby, and John kept the show up by himself for a month. Now, I record the show every morning with the baby strapped to my chest. So that’s next, I guess—a new Baby Cohost!
How can people keep up with your work outside of the podcast?
I tweet my work and my thoughts and sometimes pictures of my new baby from @mollyknefel. Go for the political content, stay for the baby content.
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