Sitting at The Oak over the most delicious looking fried chicken sandwich and cider, comedian and co-host of the podcast Hot Takes with Hot Dykes (HTWHD) Clara Pluton is talking to me about their feelings regarding standup comedy. Specifically, about the tension between the difficulty of performing for an audience and being absolutely obsessed with standing before one, telling jokes.
“It’s so hard and mind-boggling and numbing. You want to put your head against the wall because it doesn’t make sense and then it [also] makes so much sense,” says Pluton. “It’s a constant challenge.”
Sitting between us is Val Nigro—fellow standup comedian, the other half of HTWHD, and Pluton’s girlfriend—who nods in agreement. “It’s such a mindfreak.”
“It’s such a mindfreak,” echoes Pluton.
I stop them. Mindfreak? As in the reality show on A&E featuring beguiling and corny street magician Criss Angel that ran from 2005 to 2010? As in “mindfuck”?
They both erupt in laughter. Yes, like Criss Angel Mindfreak, yes, like “mindfuck,” yes, hosting their podcast on a radio station has made them more cautious of their language, yes, how could you not be totally obsessed with a mid-2000’s reality show featuring the most self-serious magician imaginable? The jokes practically write themselves.
“My Instagram handle used to be @realcrissangel; I’m obsessed with him,” Pluton says. “We’re tapped into the collective unconscious,” jokes Nigro.
Their podcast reflects this weird cultural reference bag and jocular (but vulnerable) dynamic. I like listening and pretending I’m on the floor in a friend’s living room, stoned, my head laying in someone’s lap, taking in the couple’s fast-moving conversation.
Hot Takes with Hot Dykes is a radio show/podcast that airs live on Hollow Earth Radio every other Monday from 7 to 9 p.m. It's then uploaded to the internet in podcast form. The show's hosts—Pluton and Nigro—gently guide the ship fortnightly, leading discussions on pertinent, queer-ish topics like the horrifically scary Cats trailer and how to own your past mistakes on social media.
Generally, the episodes are split into three segments: "Rants & Raves" (where Pluton and Nigro discuss things that frustrated and uplifted them that week), a main body topic (they recently spent a chunk of time talking about the "sexually fluid" dating show, Are You the One?), and Queerstory (highlighting an important, queer historical figure that might have been overlooked by the mainstream).
The opening jingle advertises its hosts as being “real-life lesbian lovers,” which is true. Originally from New Jersey, Nigro has been living in Seattle for 10 years and doing comedy for five. She met Pluton, a Chicago area native, two and half years ago during an open mic at The Comedy Nest, a “womxn-focused” comedy show, which Pluton now produces.
Nigro told me the couple had an “instant familiarity” with one another. A year into their relationship, they started HTWHD as a way to explore topics and personal histories they felt they didn't have time or space for in their standup.
“You work at a natural foods co-op, you’re taking a job away from a lesbian, first of all,” retorts Nigro on the podcast. The couple then veers off into a twenty-minute conversation about the pitfalls and prejudices of Western medicine and science.
The “pod” features a varied array of guests chosen by Pluton and Nigro. They’re clear that the guest seat isn’t designated solely for dykes. “Anyone who is influential in their personal queer community is someone that we're interested in, whether you identify as a fag, as a dyke, it doesn't fucking matter,” Pluton told me.
I first tuned in back in January to listen to Seattle drag queen Cucci Binaca talk about being a competitive athlete in high school and her path to drag. They bring on other local guests like comedians El Sanchez and Graham Downing and astrologer poet Elissa Ball. But sometimes bigger guests like J.D. Samson even make an appearance on the show. Pluton called that “the worst fucking interview of all time.” It was by phone. I get it.
I asked the couple if there was any hesitancy about centering their relationship in front of an anonymous audience. “Well, opening up parts of your relationship to people you don't know is the most lesbian thing you can do,” said Pluton without hesitation. "We're part of a time-honored tradition of oversharing that we would like to walk boldly within.”
Hot Takes with Hot Dykes airs every first and third Monday of the month on Hollow Earth Radio, KHUH 104.9 FM. You can listen to past episodes here.