Handsome podcast review: Dry wit, glorious self-deprecation and creative brain explosions

Comedians Fortune Feimster, Tig Notaro and Mae Martin conquer the potentially dicey three-friends-chatting format

Handsome: hosts Fortune Feimster, Tig Notaro and Mae Martin

“Chattin’ with friends on the Handsome pod, chattin’ with friends on the Handsome pod. Cheers!” So goes this podcast’s opening jingle, a catchy, harmonic number capturing something essential about this warm, queer audio delight. More than 40 episodes in, Handsome is as bright and jaunty as its barbershop-quartet jingle and as pleasing to the ear as the rattle of ice that ends it.

Handsome convenes three funny queer people, all of whom are well known actors and comedians. We have Fortune Feimster, who brings a throaty North Carolina drawl and a zany sweetness to the mix, the Canadian Mae Martin, with their voracious appetites and wild thought ricochets, and the Mississippian Tig Notaro, in charge of real talk and bedtimes. The trio dropped the first Handsome episode last summer, and it has been a slow-burning delight ever since, as they recline fully into the format and each other.

As for that format, we’re back in three-friends-chatting terrain, which can be a dicey proposition. If you want to be freewheeling in the audio world, you’ve got to be funny, and your audience has to want to spend a lot of time in your company. But who wouldn’t want to hang with these handsome folk? Notaro’s dry wit, Feimster’s gloriously self-deprecating stories and Martin’s creative brain explosions somehow gel as charming and winningly real.

To add a whisper of structure to every 60-minute-ish meander, each episode also includes a question from one of their myriad celebrity friends. When might the United States get a woman president, asks Kenan Thompson. What would the hosts’ superpowers be if they could choose is what Neil Patrick Harris wants to know. Jennifer Aniston is curious about whether a medium or psychic has ever blown their minds. These questions tee up fresh conversational directions and philosophising – Martin’s chosen superpower turns out to be a really large vocabulary; Feimster wants the ability to suck up trash from the ocean through the use of her hand and a shlurpy sound effect – but also allow the hosts to talk about their lives and professional struggles in a way that’s both genuine and often hilarious.


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Handsome has its tropes: we regularly get Mae Facts, which turn out to be things Martin googles in preparation for a conversational lull on a podcast or a date, deemed factual because they were sourced from lists of facts on the internet. (Examples: A crocodile dung bath is “very toning for the skin”, and one in five Americans claims to have seen a ghost.) And there’s a running list of things the trio plan to tackle together, including hosting Saturday Night Live, taking to the stage drunk, and dining at an American cheesecake-making restaurant chain.

It’s diverting chatter that meanders in unexpected and entertaining ways and that also offers a lens on queer life in the US through the individual experiences of its affable hosts. Notaro explains how she and her wife had to come out to their sons after it became clear the boys had no idea their parents were gay; Feimster talks about her first failed attempts to attend a pride parade; Martin introduces the other two to foam parties and Hocus Pocus sex dreams.

The draw, really, is the growing synergy between three charmers who have formed a kind of Handsome family: Notaro’s the long-suffering mom, rolling her eyes at the wayward youth and refusing to understand any pop-culture references; Martin is the acting-out teen showing up hungover and mooting a make-out session with their own clone; and Fortune plays the sweet auntie who glues it all together with her fuzzy embrace. If handsome is as handsome does, they don’t get much better looking than this one.

Fiona McCann

Fiona McCann, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer, journalist and cohost of the We Can’t Print This podcast