When standup comic Corinne Fisher’s boyfriend waited for her to buy his lunch at Panera Bread and then promptly dumped her, her heartbreak became oddly fortunate. It inspired the idea for the podcast Guys We Fucked, which she hosts with her comedy partner, Krystyna Hutchinson. With the subtitle “The Anti Slut-Shaming podcast,” episodes of GWF focus on sex as well as relationships, as they seek to — above all — normalize the expression of female desire and put slut shaming, uh, for lack of a better term, to bed.
And audiences have responded to their frankness with enthusiasm. Fisher and Hutchinson have since taken their podcast on tour, received countless emails seeking advice, and even done a TED Talk. But tomorrow marks a completely new endeavor for the duo as their first book, F*cked: Being Sexually Explorative and Self-Confident in a World That’s Screwed, is released from HarperCollins. It includes their takes on what it’s like when your boyfriend’s ex is a gorgeous porn star, Corinne’s mom’s advice on not caring about others’ opinions of you, and the history of the demonization of female sexuality.
I talked with Fisher and Hutchinson over the phone about their debut as authors, what they’ve learned from their podcast, and getting tired of talking about sex.
How did you two get started as comedy partners?
Krystyna Hutchinson: I met Corinne when I interned at a talent management company where she worked.
Corinne Fisher: I was doing UCB and this regular storytelling show. And Krystyna invited me to her standup show and I was like, “She’s really talented.” I’d been reading a lot of books on how to “make it,” and they said that you should have a main gig and a side gig. And people at UCB were encouraging me to do standup instead of improv. So I got into standup and I asked Krystyna if she wanted to navigate the scene together, because it’s more fun with a friend — and also if she wanted to work on a side project. And that was our comedy duo, Sorry About Last Night, which has kind of become our main project.
KH: Yeah, the side piece became the main dish. [laughter] Your side gig is just for fun but that ends up being successful because you’re not stressing about it so much.
Clearly you’ve had a huge response to your podcast, and the book really seems to complement it. What was it that made you realize a book would be a good way to reach new audiences?
KH: I think I realized it in the middle of writing the book. People had been approaching us about a book since we started the podcast, but we didn’t have anything to say at that moment, so we said no. We just wanted to do the podcast. So the book coming out now is perfect timing because now we have something to say. On the podcast I’m usually just spouting whatever off the top of my head, but when you sit down and think about it and then have to edit it multiple times, you go deeper and deeper. And then it’s like, “Oh shit, I’m revealing a lot more than I ever have on the podcast.”
CF: Dan Savage always says when he gets the question, “How do you know when you’re capable to giving advice?” – he says that when you start getting asked for advice, that’s when you know you’re capable of giving it. And that’s how I feel about the book.
What was the process of writing the book like?
CF: Hard. I love writing. It’s always been my personal sense of vacation. But when you’re writing a book, there’s so many other things involved than just writing. With anything artistic, you wish you could just do the artistic part and leave the bullshit to everyone else. But we were dealing with editing, with legal. I’d love to just write whatever I want and say, “No one’s ever gonna read this, but at least I got it off my chest.” But instead you have to write things about people and then contact them even if you’re not using their name. I had to contact my ex-boyfriend and show him every single thing I wrote about him. Legally he had to read all of it. He was very kind about it. This was his opportunity to clap back, because the podcast was sort of a clap to him. So he could have clapped back and been like, “You can’t write this about me.” Then I would have had to be like, “Hi HarperCollins, I don’t have a book.” But he actually said, “You could have been a lot meaner, so thank you.” [laughter]
What kind of research did you have to do to be able to write the book — on shame, on the history of masturbation, and of course on breaking down the various misconceptions about sex?
CF: We are very lucky because my best friend is coincidentally getting a PhD in sexual psychology, so we had access to a database that a regular person wouldn’t have. It had specific articles and research done only in the field of sexual psychology that we were able to scan through. I was very tempted to just read research studies forever and not actually get anything done. But I’m glad, because I like to back up feelings with facts. And that’s especially great when it came to dispelling misconceptions about sex.
And that was great. I was reading it thinking, “This is academic almost.”
CF: Can you write that as a review? [laughter]
KH: We’re academic AF. I’ll take it.
Has the podcast merged with your individual standup sets at all? And how do they influence each other?
KH: Doing the podcast has certainly made me a lot better at standup. My crowd work used to be bad. I was afraid to be mean to people. And now I’m more fearless with crowd work.
CF: I stopped talking about sex and relationships in my standup altogether. A couple years ago, if you’d seen my act, I talked a lot about sex. My current set has maybe one dick joke? But I actually started a monthly show with my friend Katie Hannigan called The Comedienne Project where we don’t allow comics to talk about sex, dating, or relationships in their sets. We both realized we had so many dating and sex jokes, so we wanted to see if we could do a full set without them. And we did it, but goddamn it, it was hard. But it set my mind to think about what I think is funny outside of me fucking up with guys.
You just answered one of my questions. I was going to ask if you get bored of talking about sex.
KH: I don’t get tired of it, but a lot of our fan base is here in New York. People will recognize us and start telling us about their sex problems immediately. A girl on the L train is telling me her recent herpes diagnosis before she even tells me her name.
Do you think being a comedy podcast allows guests and audience members to be more vulnerable with you and to talk about things they might not otherwise?
KH: Yeah. I think with both feminism and sex you need to add in a sense of humor to make them digestible to the average person. What always turned me off about conversations about sex before doing the podcast was that they were always stale and clinical. I think a lot of people assume Corinne and I have crazy sex all day, but we’re actually pretty “normal.” I think one of the things people respond to is that we’re really open about how bad we are at sex sometimes.
CF: We’re just pretty normal. I’m from Jersey, Krystyna’s from Philly. I’m sure lot of people who listen to the podcast are like, “Oh, Corinne reminds me of” some person in their life. It’s easier to talk to people when you don’t feel like they’re above you. Because a lot of information is provided in a way that’s either very academic, or — and this maybe isn’t very kind, but — by someone that’s a little weird, a little creepy. And I think since it’s a comedy podcast, we’re able to ask these very direct questions in a way that’s funny and that doesn’t come across as just rude or mean. And we can be more honest that way.
What was different for you between doing the podcast and doing the book in terms of vulnerability or openness?
KH: I would write down a thought or an observation I’ve made on the podcast and ask myself, “Well, why am I saying this? Why do I think this?” And I’d just dig deeper into my thoughts. And there were unexpected things. My mom wrote an excerpt, and as I was thinking about how to complement what she wrote, I realized my mom never would have told me that she was sexually assaulted as a kid if it weren’t for Guys We Fucked – which blows my mind because I kept the name of the podcast from her for two and a half years. She wasn’t a happy camper when I did tell her, but she sat with it. You know what turned it around? When she saw the emails we were getting. I think that made her see that, oh, people are being helped by this. It isn’t just some salacious thing just for the sake of being vulgar.
What’s one of the more surprising things you’ve learned from writing the book and recording your podcast?
KH: One of the major things that surprised me, just based off our inbox — and this isn’t a statistic, it’s just what I’m reading from people — it seems to me like 80% of the population around the world has been molested or raped or experienced some type of sexual assault, and a lot of those people have never told anyone. I feel so dumb for being naive to this, but I had no idea how many people have been sexually assaulted. It is a lot.
CF: It’s the same answer for me. But I don’t think it’s because [either of us] is naive. It’s because we live in a culture where it’s only recently been talked about. You see how many women have to come forward for us to believe that one guy did it. Harvey Weinstein’s been fucking molesting people since 1979! Hopefully an environment will be created where women are seen equally and not just as pieces of ass and tits. And then we won’t have to worry about whether coming forward will ruin our career.
KH: Basically, our mission is to prove that women are not just ass and tits. [laughter]
Last question: Why do you think Americans have so much shame surrounding sex?
CF: It starts with a poor sexual education system. In other countries, kids start very slowly learning about sex from kindergarten onward. Here, we don’t even talk about it at all until maybe the sixth grade.
KH: Sex is treated so weirdly in America. We’re obsessed with it and yet if you bring it up or you like it, you’re a whore. Mostly if you’re a woman, but sometimes if you’re a man.
Photo by Dee Guerreros.
Erica Lies is a writer and comedian. Her work has appeared in Bitch, The Hairpin, and Paste Magazine, and her humor writing has run in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and National Lampoon.