Maia Miller-Lewis delves into ‘All About Eve’, a podcast providing a witty, insightful exploration into women’s issues.
I will admit, I was a little confused when I started listening to ‘All About Eve’. Described as a podcast where ‘two women tell you about two other women you should know about’, the premise seemed pretty straight forward. I was pleasantly surprised that the presenters, Julia and Anna, chose to talk about two women in Episode One that I had only heard about in passing. What I was not expecting, however, was the rhythm and tone of the conversation. Due to its description, I had been expecting a sort of love child between Late Night Woman’s House (the saucier version of the classic), and The Guilty Feminist. What I got was fifty-six minutes charged with acerbically quick wit, an absurdist, more down-to-earth High-Low, on steroids.
The first episode explores the lives of Aggie Underwood, a journalist and newspaper editor, and her relative counterpart Eartha Kitt, a woman who can only be described as a polymathic performer. Neither women had the easiest start in life. Both were moved from relative to relative, exploited and abandoned; Eartha didn’t even know her own birthday.
Listening to these women’s stories, it would be easy to get bogged down and mourn the pain both must have gone through, especially during their early years. But that is not what this podcast is about. It is about highlighting and celebrating what these women achieved despite everything that was thrown at them.The relatable nature of the two presenters is what enables this form. Other than the bibliographic nature of the show, there is no formality to the conversation. It’s free flowing. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine myself having a similar conversation with a girlfriend, sat in my living room making our way through a bottle of wine, lost in a Wikipedia worm-hole. Despite this being a thoroughly entertaining format, it can be hard to follow what the presenters are saying. At points, I felt I was simultaneously in the room with them, but also trying to keep up with what they were saying from the back of a lecture hall where the microphone kept cutting out.
Indeed, the pace of the pod is quick, it is easy to confuse personal anecdote for a fact about Aggie. However, rather than being a detraction, the subversive nature of the pod’s rhythm drew me further in. The interlude where the identification of the fact that Aggie had to share tights with her sister, for example, prompts a certain presenter to recollect her own tale of having to wear someone else’s pants while starring in a school play (ironically called Immoral Practices). It was a masterful demonstration of how to relate your own experience to that of someone you admire, regardless of how trivial the link is.
Despite our best efforts, it can be hard to accurately judge the quality of female humour. This is ultimately the fault of the media, parroting the narrative that women comedians just happen to fall into either of two brackets: self-deprecating or sexually-debasing. What Julia and Anna manage to do is transcend these labels, not by discarding them but by incorporating both themes into their dialogue. ‘Cliff- he really knows how to blow that glass’, is a personal favourite line.
Irrespective of the fact that the title directly alludes to female strength and smarts, the podcast is defined by a subtle feminism, one that doesn’t feel the need to shout or assert its dominance. There are nods to important debates, notably the disparity in the treatment of mothers and fathers juggling domestic and professional environments. They are so intricately interwoven within the fabric narrative of the narrative, however, that no one, not even the staunchest Manist could call issue bating.
Eager to start Episode Two, this podcast both informs and entertains. Indeed, the minute after I finished listening, I automatically Googled both women to learn more. I look forward to discovering more women that, really, I should already know about!
Artwork by Laura Stewart-Liberty.