I don’t think the show is trash by any means, but there are a lot of podcasts out there, so I’m like, “Why The Cookout?” – Chase Kassidy, The Cookout
When he sits behind the mic, there are very few lines Chase Kassidy won’t cross and very little he won’t discuss.
One week, he and the guests on his Charlotte-based podcast may debate whether black people should use the N-word. The next, they could mull a question that’s polarized men and women for ages: does size really matter?
One episode is rife with ‘90s nostalgia and geekdom. Another is a transparent discussion about mental illness among people struggling with depression, addiction and suicide.
For the past year, Kassidy, 33, has provided a forum for topics both silly and serious on The Cookout, a podcast he started a few months after surgeons treated a 4-millimeter aneurysm in his brain.
“When I first started doing it, it was just something to take my mind off what I was dealing with,” he says. “I told myself I would give it a year.”
That year has been meteoric. Since starting The Cookout, Kassidy has produced 43 episodes that have drawn more than 12,000 listens. The podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud and iHeartRadio. It’s building a generous following in Charlotte but has also reached people as far as the United Kingdom and Australia.
Kassidy will celebrate The Cookout’s one-year anniversary with his first live show Jan. 26 at NoDa@28th Creative Art Studios. Tickets are $12.
“I don’t think the show is trash by any means, but there are a lot of podcasts out there, so I’m like, ‘why The Cookout?’” Kassidy says of the show’s popularity. “Then, at the same time, I’m like, ‘Well, why the hell not?’”
Ingredients at the cookout
The show’s premise is simple: Kassidy hosts each episode, which features a rotating cast of his friends gathering at the “family table.” There, they broach an array of topics that include sex, love and relationships; gender roles; religion; marriage; and issues affecting the LGBTQ community (Kassidy calls himself a “flaming homosexual.”).
Episode titles are scintillating, often pulled from something a guest says on the show. “Milk of Magnesia” (ep. 15); “She Got Timbs On?” (ep. 23); and “PUT IT IN ME BRO” (ep. 18) are classic examples.
Some episodes fit a genre. For example, when he draws a blank with topics but records the show anyway, Kassidy calls it a “Seinfeld episode.” He and his guests talk about anything and everything without a specific theme in mind.
For his “just the girls” episodes, Kassidy invites his gay friends to take a deep dive into dating and romance. Memorable moments from one of those episodes include:
“Bottoms don’t get enough credit…the best tops have been bottoms.”
“Hellen Keller would’ve known he was gay. He was lispy. It was like letting air out of a balloon.”
And, “I don’t mean to be cliché, but there’s always a rainbow at the end of the storm and that’s where the ‘it gets better’ part does come in. You can be at rock bottom, but at least you can’t go any lower.”
“I’ve heard from my listeners that the one thing that makes the show super relatable for people is the transparency of it all,” Kassidy says. “I like having difficult conversations on this show. I love those times when we have those talks where not everybody agrees.”
Don’t conflate Kassidy’ success with ease. Managing a podcast is hard, but he’s learned some lessons along the way.
- It’s a commitment: Kassidy spends 20 hours a week working on his podcast. That includes creating episode topics, casting guests, outlining questions and editing each episode once it’s recorded. He does all this on top of his day job – a full-time gig in financial services.
- Timing is everything: A typical Cookout episode runs for an hour and a half. Because studio time is limited, Kassidy has to balance keeping time with keeping conversation flowing.
- People are tricky: Coordinating guest schedules is no easy feat. Kassidy records the show on Sundays. Sometimes, guests back out and he has to scramble to find a replacement. Holidays are tricky, too. Last Mother’s Day, it didn’t occur to him that guests he wanted for a particular episode would be unavailable that day. He planned far ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas, recording two episodes in one week to ensure he had content.Laughter is medicine: Kassidy infuses levity into the show, even when topics are weighty. Kassidy and most of his guests are naturally funny people.
- It’s costly: The Cookout doesn’t make Kassidy money – not yet, anyway. Unless a generous sponsor steps in, he pays for his own studio time. He’s seeking sizable sponsorship deals: “I am insanely poor right now, but it’s worth it.”
- RSS feeds get you far: Kassidy copied and pasted his RSS feed into iTunes and other sites so his podcast could be available there. Yeah, it was that easy.
- So does transparency: Be yourself, says Kassidy: “People feel it through their headphones.”
Perhaps the most profound lesson of all: “We are very much alike,” he says.
Kassidy’ guests are not monolithic. They’re black and white. Gay and straight. Men and women. And yet, “we all have the same problems, the same ups and downs,” he says. “There’s not a whole lot that separates people.” And that’s why the show resonates, Kassidy says. The show feels like the name implies — a cookout, where family meet, talk, connect.
Before The Cookout, “I felt alone. Super alone,” Kassidy says. “Then, I did my mental health episode and realized I’m not.”
Still hungry? Take a few more bites.
Dig into more of The Cookout: IG | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud
And, mix it up with writer Jonathan McFadden.
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