Nancy! An Interview with Kathy Tu and Tobin Low

Nancy! An Interview with Kathy Tu and Tobin Low

Illustrated by Danie Drankwalter.

Illustrated by Danie Drankwalter.

Tobin Low and Kathy Tu are the hosts of Nancy WNYC Studios’ LGBTQ-themed show about how we define ourselves and the journey we take to get there. Find Kathy on Twitter @_ktu, and Tobin @tobinlow.

First of all, I love Nancy and your dynamic! Please tell us a bit about how you met and what motivated you to start the podcast.

We met at a radio training program on Cape Cod called the Transom Story Workshop. We saw each other blossom as radio producers and sort of latched on to each other after graduation. Even though we were on separate coasts—New York and Los Angeles—we knew we wanted to make something together. So we took the parts of us that we were interested in—our queerness and our love of narrative storytelling—and decided that is what our podcast will be about.

How would you sell the show to someone who isn't familiar with Nancy?

Nancy is an LGBTQ show for anyone who has questioned their identity. We tell stories about people in the process of figuring it all out, and along the way we laugh and cry and then laugh again.

When applying to WNYC Studios’ podcast accelerator, what was your elevator pitch? How has the mission of the show changed throughout the whole process?

Originally we had named the show “Gaydio,” so our elevator pitch was essentially: it’s exactly what it sounds like. We thought it was pretty clear. Turns out, there was a much larger conversation that needed to happen in terms of figuring out the identity of the show. We went through iterations of what the show could sound like, but the mission of the show has stayed consistent throughout the process: We want give space for queer folks tell their stories, and we think we’ve stayed true to that mission.

Is it challenging to keep your conversations feeling fresh and authentic through all the production and direction?

Sometimes we have to tell our stories to each other so many times it feels like they’ve lost all meaning (all in the name of production quality), but we focus a lot of our time on making sure that the stories we tell are as authentic as possible. We got good advice early on to try and continually remind ourselves what it is about a certain story or interview that initially excited us, and that can help a lot later on in the process when you’ve heard something a million times.

The coming out episode was such a lovely way to open the show. How do you determine the episode structure and overall arc?

Figuring out the arc of an episode is kind of like planning out a multi-course meal. We have a set of stories and interviews that we develop at the same time, and then we start to figure out what pairs well together. We generally like it if every episode has a wide range of emotions, so using the arc of an episode to get at that is something we think about a lot.

What's been a highlight of creating the show so far?

 One of the biggest highlights is any time a queer person reaches out to us to say that the show feels like it was made for them. We are so, so thrilled that Nancy hits people in such a personal way. Also, we got to create a Golden Girls episode, so there’s that.

Do you find it difficult to make a podcast that services both those inside and outside of the queer community? Do you feel like you need to dumb things down for those not as well-versed in queer culture?

We don’t necessarily think of it as “dumbing things down” for people who are not queer, or may not understand what’s going on. It’s definitely a balancing act — our first priority is to make stories for a queer audience, but we also want to try to be as inclusive as we can. One thing that helps us out is the immense diversity within the queer community — we don’t necessarily all understand each other, so a lot of our stories come from this place of wanting to learn more. It’s important to acknowledge that no one is absolutely versed in all aspects of queer culture.

Are there any topics you absolutely don't want to cover?

I think we’re reluctant to put things in a “never” category. We spend a lot more time thinking about the aspects of queerness that we DO want to talk about, and what kinds of qualities we want to prioritize in a story for Nancy. We tend to be attracted to stories where someone is in a moment of defining themselves, or at least trying to figure out how they define themselves.

What themes and topics are you hoping to cover in the future?

Oh gosh, there is so much we want to cover. Our listeners have suggested a lot of great topics and themes to cover—asexuality, bisexuality, religion, STEM, etc.—and we want to get to as many of them as possible. Our usual fine print is that because we’re mainly a narrative show, we have to wait for the right story to come along for us to turn those stories into a Nancy story, so it can take a bit of time. We’re really trying, though, and obviously if anyone out there has a story they want to pitch us, send us a message!

What are you working on outside of the show?

We’re currently working on a thing called a “personal life.” Frequently we see each other all day at the office and then on the weekends as well that we sometimes forget to socialize with other people who are important to us. So that’s our project for next season, a “personal life.”

Have you noticed any positive trends in media representation of LGBTQ+ individuals and culture?

In the past few years, there has definitely been a positive trend in media representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States, but not enough. We’re both really excited any time we see brown queer folks being given the space to tell their stories.

What can people do to best be allies to the queer community?

Listen. Listen and then act. There are a lot of people out there, queer folks and allies alike, who need to have some hard conversations with their family and friends about the injustices in this country. And we think it’s important for people to have those conversations as often as they can. 

What's some other queer media you're enjoying?

We’re huge fans of the podcasts The Heart, Making Queer HistoryFood 4 Thot, and HomogroundKathy also really likes to peruse Autostraddle.

Everyone Is Gay works to improve the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) youth using a three-pronged approach: providing honest advice to these youth while keeping them laughing; talking to students in an effort to create caring, compassionate school environments; and working with families & educators of LGBTQIA kids to help foster an ongoing dialogue and deeper understanding.

Everyone Is Gay works to improve the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) youth using a three-pronged approach: providing honest advice to these youth while keeping them laughing; talking to students in an effort to create caring, compassionate school environments; and working with families & educators of LGBTQIA kids to help foster an ongoing dialogue and deeper understanding.

Gay Men's Health Crisis is the world’s first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. GMHC fights to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected.

Gay Men's Health Crisis is the world’s first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. GMHC fights to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected.

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