How True Crime and Comedy Can Actually Work

            I’ve been listening to the podcast My Favorite Murder for a while now. I’ve always been a fan of documentary or true crime styled media, but MFM stands out as a podcast that can blur the boundaries of humor and horror without crossing the line of becoming insensitive. It’s a testament to the intelligent, sensitive comedy of Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, the hosts, that a true crime comedy podcast can actually function.

            While the stories of Mary Vincent and Franklin Delano Floyd are interesting and complex in their own right, much of the success of this podcast came from the personalities of the hosts themselves. The structure is such that Georgia and Karen spend a good chunk of time, between twenty to forty minutes an episode, informally talking and catching up with each other and the audience. As a listener it feels as if you’re being allowed in to a conversation. This informality helps later on when Georgia and Karen make larger, substantial arguments about safety, mental health, or the legal system. It is much easier to accept or internalize these arguments coming from a conversation you feel as if you’re a part of, rather than a distant, disembodied voice.

            The hosts are able to utilize decorum to navigate between humor and very sensitive subject matter. Georgia and Karen are adept at picking the right places to insert their humor—at the beginnings of episodes, or interspersed as moments of levity. They are extremely careful not to judge, make fun of, or belittle the experiences of the victims. This builds their ethos as hosts; I can say from personal experience that I kept coming back to this podcast not just for the stories, but because I knew the people telling it would be thoughtful and genuine. As Karen told the horrific story of Mary Vincent, a survivor who was assaulted and nearly killed, Georgia makes the same pained, sympathetic noises I would make if I was part of the conversation. It both humanizes Mary Vincent, giving her story more weight, and allows the hosts themselves to become real people rather than voices through my phone speaker.

            Georgia and Karen are experts at building their ethos, to the point it feels unintentional. It’s the reason MFM has so many listeners and a devoted community. It also allows them to make genuine change through their listeners, such as advocated for therapy and mental health, or, in this particular episode, showcasing the flaws that need fixing in a prison system that allowed a rapist and attempted murderer to go free after eight years but imprisons people for longer on nonviolent drug charges. The podcast works because it is not a spectacle of violence, but feels full of genuine human emotion—and that’s a testament that their rhetoric is working well.

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