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Scuffing Up The Gossip, With Kelsey McKinney

12:49 PM EDT on April 13, 2023

Luka Doncic smiling, kind of, for the camera before an early April Mavericks game against the Bulls in which he did not play.
Tim Heitman/Getty Images

I have never met someone and thought to myself that they seem "like someone who'd be a good podcast host." I have met many people who probably would be or currently are good podcast hosts, and in fact currently work with several, but that strikes me as a strange way to assess a person. If you had a conversation with someone and enjoyed the experience you might think that the person was charming, or easy to talk to, or a good listener, or just had an endearingly off-center brain, or some combination of those. Those are traits that good podcast hosts have, but they are also just the things that people like about likable people. In retrospect, that would probably have been a good place to start when the culture started minting podcast hosts. Instead it was mostly "people whose diction suggests that they are currently wearing glasses."

Anyway, I cannot claim any prescience where Kelsey McKinney is concerned. She's fun to talk to, and her concept for a podcast about other people's gossip seemed like a very clear winner to me from the start, but no one—including people much more astute and plugged into this sort of thing than me—knows what is going to work or why. That said, she did turn out to be a great podcast host, and the podcast that she hosts, Normal Gossip, was an instant hit and is now an absolute blockbuster. It returned for its fourth season last week, and their upcoming national tour was announced just yesterday; in New York, they're playing the same grand old space where I saw Yo La Tengo perform some years ago. I probably do not need to tell you that Kelsey is also a delightful podcast guest, if only because you can hear as much for yourself.

Like Drew and also like me, Kelsey did not plan on doing podcast-related stuff for business or pleasure, and also like us she now finds that doing that is a big part of her work life. We talked about Normal Gossip a bit—if you've heard Kelsey's previous appearances on the pod, you know that it is a lot of work—and about the show's success and how to respond to people who think they know you because you host a podcast they like, but also none of that is anything that any of us are really very comfortable talking about, and so it didn't last very long.

And so, sooner than later, we were doing our usual stuff. We talked to Kelsey about her experience of relocating to Philadelphia and adopting the dark arts of Philly Sports Fandom, and about the liberated fandom lifestyle in general. We collaborated on a plan that would, through just a few comparatively easy roster moves, turn the hilariously curdled Dallas Mavericks into the NBA version of the collection of miscreant dead-enders that fill out the cast of William Friedkin's Sorcerer. With the play-in tournament still shambling forward, we snuck in a quick-and-dirty and extremely abbreviated Hater's Guide to the rest of the NBA Playoffs. It had been a minute since Drew and I had talked about sports, and Kelsey now barely gets to talk about them at all, and while I would not say that any of us did an especially rigorous job of it, it was nice to have Kelsey on hand to speculate about what actually happened vis-a-vis Jaylen Brown's mysterious and potentially very disruptive gardening injury.

At that point, there was nothing left to do but The Dumb Stuff. And so the backstretch of the episode is an unusually thoughtful consideration of the career, legacy, and Texas-related valence of Roy Williams The Wide Receiver, and a brief and futile attempt on my part to stick up for Limas Sweed, and the requisite rant from Kelsey about the shitty University of Texas quarterbacks she has endured. The Funbag offered us the opportunity to consider the importance of fight songs for professional sports teams, which let Kelsey tell a story about a dueling trombone experience related to the Eagles. We talked about silly sports to get into later in one's life, which let us speak our truths about getting into ski jumping. I fantasized about dying playing Slamball as a middle-aged man. Drew did a Martin Short imitation, and that was that. Can you build an entire podcast out of hosts? I will leave that answer up to you.

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