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Since March 2005, barely a year after the term “podcast” was even introduced to describe downloadable audio, Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili have hosted Keith and the Girl, the show where, quite simply, “Keith and his ex-girlfriend talk shit.”
Like The Howard Stern Show, from which KATG draws both its tone and structure (or rather, its lack thereof), the podcast is legendary among comedy nerds for being about nothing but bullshit. In most episodes, Malley and Khalili bring in guests and proceed to ask them intrusive (“How much sex have you been having?”) or banal questions about the week’s news. Sometimes, they just sit around and whine about the miseries of party clowning, getting heckled, or cheating at board games.
Keith, whose restrictive religious upbringing resulted in an aggressively foul mouth, typically holds court as the resident bon vivant. Chemda (who is known mononymously to fans) acts as his Robin Quivers–like foil and conscience, though she, too, can be roguish when it makes for good listening. Even their hyperactive theme song — “Hey all you assholes, come and listen to us!” — is comically obscene. But for the cult of fans that sustains KATG and its 25-plus spinoff series through VIP fan-club subscriptions, book sales, and a mountain of merch, neither the formlessness nor the inevitable vulgarity are problems. In fact, audiences have come to count on the hosts’ complete uninhibitedness and independence from mainstream broadcasting standards.
While KATG never reached the blockbuster popularity of other shows, Malley and Khalili are revered among fellow podcasters as the form’s Nichols and May, pioneers capable of taking audiences through divorces, open-heart surgeries, and career changes with unequaled levels of bleeding-heart intimacy and bawdy cleverness. After 15-plus years, they have become the ultimate long-distance runners, world champions with a stream of exhausted former rivals, and podcasting’s (un)disputed GOATs.
But with so few laurels, there’s little to rest on. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, new episodes were still recorded and released almost every day from their shared Astoria studio. With more than 3,430 episodes produced so far, KATG claims to have “the most episodes ever released” of any comedy podcast, an ever-expanding — and increasingly intimidating — sea of content.
The trouble with such longevity is that it’s easy to think of the podcast like Parisians think of the Eiffel Tower: “It has always been there, it will always be there, and I can therefore visit anytime I want to.” But if KATG really is the Paris of podcasts, then episode 3138, “Man on the Moon - Part 1,” is its Eiffel Tower, a masterwork of comic engineering that any interested visitor should see. It is also, at three hours and 38 minutes long, an epic too gargantuan to describe succinctly.
Edited and released first as an exclusive for VIP members in 2019 and presented to the public for the first time here, “Man on the Moon - Part 1” is the first in a five-part series compiled from dozens of chronological KATG interviews about what are known as “the Dad Emails.” Over the course of a year, Malley masqueraded as his ex-wife, Cathryn, in order to catfish his own father, a married former priest living in rural Pennsylvania. As he tells comedians Rojo Perez and Tone Bell, the first two of 36 guests in the series, Keith got the idea when Father Malley betrayed him by writing to Cat behind his back two years after Keith’s divorce:
“Hi, I hope that all is going well with you. Don’t mean to be exceedingly nosy, but what happened between you and Keith? Your former father-in-law.”
When Keith introduces this news, Chemda yells, “Your father’s a fucking creep!” and “Everything he does is sexual, but he calls it God!” Perez and Bell share in her shock, but immediately see the comedic possibilities. “Man, this explains a lot about you,” Perez jokes to Malley. Bell responds: “That means he’s been up late tossin’ and turnin’ about this. ‘I gotta uncork this bottle!’”
Both incensed and amused by his dad’s flagrant disregard for his son’s privacy, Malley asks his guests for suggestions on how he should respond: Should he shame his dad? Ignore him? Just let it go? Ultimately, it’s Perez who convinces Malley to ask his ex-wife if he can impersonate her and suss out his father’s true intentions. Keith then reveals to the next guest, Paul Hooper, that Cat has shockingly authorized him to pretend to be her, as a gift for his 45th birthday.
Under the email address “firstname.lastname@example.org,” Keith uses his newfound identity to pump his dad for information about Cat, Chemda, his current girlfriend Kyle Ocasio, and his gay brother Mark. Father Malley naïvely plays along, revealing a slew of disturbing revelations to his dumbfounded son, including that he attended a state college, had a secret six-year crisis of faith, and considered leaving Keith’s mother for a millionaire he met on a cruise ship.
He also, particularly to Chemda’s disgust, transitions from innocent questioning into what sounds like flirting with Fake Cat. “You are extremely pretty,” he says in one email. In another, he insists that the “86” part of Fake Cat’s email address is a poorly veiled sexual reference. Perhaps most egregiously, he suggests that she break up Ocasio and Malley, because Ocasio has children from a previous marriage, and it’s therefore not a “done deal.”
In brief clips, Mike Cannon, Matt Bachus, Shuli Egar, Mike Coscarelli, Graham Elwood, Ron Placone, and Christian Finnegan all commend Keith for his sheer ballsiness while daring him to take things further. Finnegan encourages him not to “give up on a solid bit,” Stern Show regular Egar suggests that Fake Cat respond that she’s “into piss” and “getting punched in the stomach,” and Coscarelli advocates for slipping the words “clit” and “cock” — forbidden terms in Keith’s religious childhood — into seemingly innocent emails. And with more than a hint of mischievousness, Chemda begs Keith to call his dad “yummy daddy” and to flirt back, hard.
But as the emails threaten to spill over into some weird form of sexting, the guests become more equivocal. Shelton Lindsay and Robin Virginie are rendered speechless when the older Malley starts serenading Fake Cat with (misremembered) Cat Stevens lyrics. Lindsay even predicts that “as someone who has received a lot of them,” Keith needs to “prepare to receive dick pics” from his own dad. Both excited and grossed out by that possibility, Malley turns the thread over to Chemda, who embraces the Fake Cat role with aplomb in the final segment:
“Father Malley - I have a confession: Ever since we’ve been talking, I’ve started to attend Sunday Mass. I wanted to connect with the spirituality that you bring up. Well, I fell in love. Not only reconnected love with God, but with a man — this time with an even older man. A man of God. A man who has been good to me. A man who has been emailing kind thoughts and loving help in my time of need. A man who is … taken. I am overwhelmed by emotion and lust, and not sure what to do with my feelings. Embarrassingly yours, Cathryn.”
Periel Aschenbrand, the 14th and final guest, is so shaken by this that she refuses to play along. “You guys are fucked up,” she says. “Your dad is obviously troubled, and you guys are fucking with him.” But Malley shrugs Aschenbrand off. “I’m good with that,” he laughs.
Undeterred, Aschenbrand tries to get them to consider leaving the older man alone and to pursue therapy or self-help instead. In the midst of her pleas, another email comes in. At first, it sounds like Father Malley is finally ready to end his secret exchange with his son’s ex-wife and let her down easy. Then come his final words to her: “You make an old man’s libido jingle.”
Besides being easily the most upsetting comedy-podcast cliffhanger of all time, that sentence is a keen reminder of how far Khalili and Malley are willing to go push one another toward the big laugh. It’s also a fitting end to a groundbreakingly grotesque episode stuffed with 14 on-point comedians and two hosts at the peak of their riffing powers (even after 15-plus years of broadcasting, shockingly). Most importantly, though, the ending raises a key question: Is Keith willing to sext his own dad, for cOmEdY? Alas, only Part 2 holds the answer to that.
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