Podcast Icon Sarah Marshall Talks Performance & Healing Ahead Of Her Montreal Show

"It feels like the end of summer camp."

Staff Writer
Jamie Loftus, Sarah Marshall and Caroline Kendrick pose after their Detroit show.

Jamie Loftus, Sarah Marshall and Caroline Kendrick pose after their Detroit show.

Stepping from writing into podcasting wasn't Sarah Marshall's original plan, but she's since come to believe that "the medium that ends up working for your vision might not be the one that you ever predicted."

Marshall will be back in Montreal for the first time in a decade for the last stop of a live tour for her podcast, You're Wrong About, a project her early-career writer self couldn't have imagined.

You're Wrong About tracks the truth about maligned figures and confused public narratives. It often focuses on women and how the popular stories around them can often obscure more interesting realities. The show was formed in collaboration, which Marshall says is "always going to help you develop your work and to find ways of working that you couldn't necessarily have found alone."

Marshall's favourite episode of the podcast is a tie between a deep-dive into the Stepford Wives, which she says "is kind of the only episode I've done that really has kind of a theory behind it," and an episode dedicated to sharing listeners' stories around abortion.

"I feel like in the debates, and the legal war over abortion, [...] it's easy to lose sight of what the thing is and what it's about. And so having a collection of testimonies from people talking about their different experiences of abortion felt really important to me," she explained.

"The healing power of performance"

Touring with co-hosts like Jamie Loftus and musician Caroline Kendrick has been much different than recording a show at home, Marshall told me over the phone from her hotel room in Boston.

"When you record an episode, you say it the best you can and then have to move on," she explained. "And in this case, it's more pinning [down] and talking and fine-tuning the thing night by night, which is really nice."

Each live show involves Marshall and a co-host (in Montreal, podcaster and writer Jamie Loftus), each presenting a topic to dive into, before ending with what Marshall termed "a big finish."

"The goal is to make it worth everyone leaving their houses," she told me, "which I think is a fairly high bar."

But the shows are rising to the occasion, and not just for the audience: Marshall says they're reviving her long-lost love of the stage.

"Doing these shows has kind of reminded me of the healing power of performance," she said, "and how I feel like that was something that I denied myself, for whatever reason, in adulthood until now."

A "very emotional" ending

Marshall did theatre growing up and "really loved it," but says she felt discouraged by a certain cultural pressure to succeed. The common wisdom to either "be excellent at something or don't bother" is "really wounding all of us," she told me.

"I hope that more people get to kind of come back in adulthood to something that they didn't know they miss as much as they do."

This discovery is part of why coming to the end of the series of live shows "feels very emotional" for Marshall.

"It feels like the end of summer camp," she explained. "Being at this point in my career, it just feels to me like confirmation that there are a lot of people with meaningful ideas that they deserve to share. There are so many more ideas like mine out there that I want to see in the world."

Finding inspiration in community

Marshall's ideas haven't always garnered the audience she'd hoped for. Her first pitches, including impassioned essays about Tonya Harding, were rejected by many editors before she found her place in the realm of podcasting.

Marshall co-founded and initially co-hosted You're Wrong About with writer Michael Hobbes, who persuaded her that her ideas were perfect for the medium. After Hobbes' amicable departure from the show, Marshall found herself with a platform for continuing to highlight the stories and ideas she'd always found fascinating.

To share her passion live, and to find the humour in it all, is what has made touring so rewarding. "Once you're in a room, laughing with people, then something inside of you opens up, and it makes it easier to actually be in a heartfelt place," Marshall said.

"Seeing the audience and kind of feeling a connection with them in each of these places [has] made the idea of who we're doing these for a lot more real to me."

The final show on You're Wrong About's tour will take place on May 18 at Théatre Fairmount. Tickets are available here.

Willa Holt
Staff Writer
Willa Holt is a Staff Writer for MTL Blog, often found covering weird and wonderful real estate and local politics from her home base in Montreal.