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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Miss Spoken – Fangirls Forever and HDTGM

Once upon a time, I was a social media manager and I was known to say, “I hate when people make rules about how to use social media and I hate when people don’t follow my rules.” It’s fair to say that the same is true for fandoms. I hate when people make rules about how to be a fan and I hate it when people don’t follow my rules.

I will never ask you to name three songs by the band on the t-shirt you’re wearing, nor will I ask you to time travel with me to the first time you heard the band.

Actually, I’m lying.

If you come on my podcast, I will ask you both of the questions. And I’ll want to know where you bought that particular t-shirt, how you picked it and whether or not you’ve ever traveled to see the band we’re talking about.

If it’s not a band, I’ll ask all the same questions about your obscure love or unfathomably popular favorite thing, because I’ve finally thawed my cold, dead, deeply cynical Generation X heart and I can only stay thawed through hearing your story of fandoms.

My cold GenX heart began to thaw on September 25th, 2015. The date the original cast recording of Hamilton the Musical dropped.

I was hooked.

From the cast recording to seeing the original cast in New York to season tickets to Broadway in Chicago to London’s West End. Through Hamilton, I suddenly understood following a football team and all of the team members. I knew when cast members were changing productions, who had moved on to Hollywood, who was moving on to new Broadway shows and who was caught cheating on their fiancé slash fellow Hamilton cast when a video from a Las Vegas strip club showed up on Instagram stories.  

In my life of being a fangirl…. Hamilton the Musical walked, so the podcast How Did This Get Made could run.

In 2016, I was preparing the the Thanksgiving launch of the Gilmore Girls reboot on Netflix. I turned to the Gilmore Guys, one of the OG TV Show Rewatch podcasts, and there was a guest named Jason Mantzoukas. This grown-ass man who was obsessed with Stars Hollow intrigued me, so I followed him to a few podcast interviews before subscribing to his own podcast – How Did This Get Made.

Like I said, I hate when people make rules about how to be a fan and I hate it when people don’t follow my rules. Here are my 5 simple rules for being a fan of How Did This Get Made – a podcast about bad movies hosted by Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael

Rule Number One: You don’t have to watch the movie

I firmly believe that you don’t have to watch terrible movies twice a month to keep up with this podcast. The chemistry, the tangents, the hot takes on wigs and costumes – I rarely need to have seen the movie to enjoy an episode.

Unless…. you are going to a live show. 

Then it is 100% required to watch the movie and, also, prepare a question to ask during the audience Q&A towards the end of the show. You never know when you might raise your hand like Hermione Grainger and be asked by Paul Scheer to say your name in your best Dom Toretto impression. For all the times that I’ve gone to a live show with a prepared question (ahem… four in Los Angeles and 6 in Chicago), I’ve only been called on for a question twice and only one made it to the final edit of a released episode. All of my other live show shenanigans have been for the people in the room. 

Rule Number Two: Don’t Be Creepy

In 2018, at a four-show run at the Athenaum theater on Southport, Jason Mantzoukas was pandering to Chicago for our food and fine coffee. He said how much he’d enjoyed Stumptown coffee.

Stumptown is not Chicago coffee.

Yes, fine, it is served in Chicago, but it is not Chicago coffee.

I very calmly and pedantically, curated and shipped a Chicago coffee gift box to the Earwolf PO Box and waited patiently for a mini-episode when Paul would open the gift box and apologize for his friend and coworker’s mistake.

That was… too much. It wasn’t creepy, but it was… a lot. 

To my credit, I have never been so drunk that I propositioned Zouks on mic thinking it would be the thing that made him perceive me and love me back.

Rule Number Three: Allow How Did This Get Made to open doors

In the same way that Gilmore Girls led me to Jason Mantzoukas and HDTGM; Zouks and HDTGM led me to the Doughboys (a podcast about fast food with a private discord server that I pay to be a member of. In fact, my fellow doughmies were the first people I told that I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021).

Zouks and HDTGM led me to Nicole Byer. First she was a guest on an episode, then I followed her to NailedIt and her podcast Why Won’t You Date Me. And her podcast Best Friends. And her podcast Newcomers. And her sitcom Grand Crew. And her costar from Grand Crew, Carl Tart, is coming as the guest to the Doughboys live show at the Riv in June.

Zouks and HDTGM led me to Whomp It Up, which in turn led me to Jessica St. Clair and full circle to her podcast with June Diane Raphael. 

Through their podcast, The Deep Dive, Jessica St. Clair has modeled what it can be like to recover from breast cancer treatments. Jessica gave me permission to never go to an MRI sober. Ativan is our friend.

June Diane once said, “the weight you gained during cancer treatment was what your body needed to survive.” I never expected two thin, blond women in Hollywood to help me transition from active breast cancer treatment into survivorship and to help me feel better in the body I was left with. 

Rule Number Four: Interacting with the hosts isn’t an audition

I am a failed stand-up comic, but I still think I’m funny and still want the rush of a crowd laughing at a joke I’ve written. Yes, I do partake in shenanigans at live shows, but always in the role of the straight man to the comedy trio on stage. My goal is to say no more than I’ve been asked to say. Do no more than I’ve posted on social media that I would do. And deliver something that the hosts can heighten and get their own laughs.

What have I done to try to be Costello to Jason, June and Paul’s Abbott?

I have made a custom shirt for almost every HDTGM live show that I’ve gone to. I take a photo, tag Paul in a tweet and hope the shirt catches his eye and a comment during the show. My once VERY elaborate shirts have simmered down over the years and I have the design constraints at Strange Cargo to thank for that. Except for this Halloween when I printed a movie poster onto a 6 foot vinyl banner and wore that as a costume to a live show.

In my ultimate act of custom t-shirt shenanigans, I once ironed 8-inch Yellow Letters onto a black t-shirt and it simply said Don’t Touch Zouks. Maybe I haven’t been clear, Jason Mantzoukas is my number one Hollywood crush and my longest lasting Hollywood crush. Am I embarrassed by how much I’ve learned about him over the course of the last seven years? A bit.

The most important thing to know about Jason Mantzoukas is DON’T TOUCH JASON MANTZOUKAS. He was a germaphobe before COVID normalized germaphobia. Because he is best known for characters that are pure ID like Rafi from the League or DEREK from The Good Place, people think he wants to be tackled on the street or on stage for a wild selfie.

He does not.

I took a photo of my newest shirt, tagged Paul Scheer and offered to act as a security guard should things at the Chicago Theater get out of hand that night.

Before Q&A, Paul asked the sold-out crowd, “is Leah here?” I waved my hands and stood up. He looked at the front of my shirt and said, “No, not you.” Then I turned around and he said, “Yes, you. Come on up.”

I looked around and had to choose between climbing over 50 people to get to the stairs or just… climb on stage without stairs. I chose the latter. I stepped on a chair and flopped myself onto the stage, then stood guard by Jason Mantzoukas.

I stood onstage in front of the biggest audience that ever laughed at one of my jokes and never said a word.

Everyone that night followed my fifth and final rule for being a fan of How Did This Get Made – Don’t Touch Zouks.

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