Podcasts You Should Know: Courtney Act and Vanity Kiki from Down Under on Brenda, Call Me!
If you can’t get enough of best friend kikis, drag queens, and Australian accents, have we got the podcast for you. On the new podcast, Brenda, Call Me!, global superstar, singer, performer, activist and RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Artist, advocate and performer, Courtney Act and Vanity, of Wigs by Vanity fame talk about a wide variety of topics and, from the political to the downright silly, no topic is off-limits.
Courtney and Vanity met at the infamous Sydney drag nightclub, Stonewall, and Vanity took the 18-year-old under her wing. “I didn’t have the heart to tell her to f* off. I was like ‘come on, let me show you the way child.’” So was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that is now a podcast show. Listening to the show is like eavesdropping on two of your BFFs with lots of laughs – and you might even learn a thing or two.
We caught up with Courtney and Vanity and talked to them about the new show and more in our exclusive interview.
How have you been doing during COVID?
Courtney: I started the first day of lockdown in Los Angeles, I arrived on the 17th of March, not quite knowing how the world would unfold over the coming months. I sort of got stuck in LA, despite it being one of my homes. Then, I went across to London in June and spent the year there and then came back to Australia on New Year’s Eve where we are relatively COVID-free. 2020 is an all but a distant memory, which I hope is a little bit of hope for everyone who is not currently living a COVID-free life. It will end, and life will go on.
Vanity: Initially it was hard when we learned the supply chain for our business was broken, but we assessed and pivoted and ended up launching a really successful new range of products. I’ve also had a lot of fun building up a rather extensive Barbie collection. I do have to say how fortunate I feel as I know Covid has not been so kind to many people.
What was the inspiration for “Brenda, Call Me!”?
Courtney: Vanity and I have been friends for 20 years and there’s a lot of friendship podcasts out there and, even though I think it’s weird that people just want to hear us cackling away, it seems that they do because every week the number have been growing exponentially, which is amazing. So, really, it was just about capturing our friendship on the airwaves.
Vanity: It was literally just me and Courtney having a conversation on the phone, which we’ve done for over 20 years. (mainly because we’ve usually been on opposite sides of the world). And we thought that it would make a good podcast because we’re so interesting that everyone would love to hear us talk about. well. nothing… Haha
How do you choose what topics talk about?
Courtney: We have a little chat during the week, we’ll send each other messages, “Brenda, call me!” and decide what to talk about. A lot of it so far has been childhood, Mardi Gras, things that influenced us as queer people and how they formed our experiences as adults.
Vanity: We have a Zoom meeting with a team of wonderful producers and editors, and we all brainstorm until we come up with things we think are funny or interesting that Courtney and I can then expand and talk about. It’s important that our conversation is authentic.
What do you enjoy talking about the most?
Courtney: I just love getting to spend time with Vanity and exploring the facets of our brains. We kind of do it anyway when we’re not being recorded but I just really love getting to hang out and chat and I love that other people do all of the heavy lifting. They do the editing, make it sound good and make it all happen.
Vanity: The fun stuff mostly! I let Courtney do all the heavy lifting while I finger through the glossys and look pretty.
Have you ever been surprised by something you heard or discussed on the show?
Courtney: Umm…I mean, I think we pretty much know everything about each other, although Vanity did start wearing high heels out of drag on this week’s episode, which was surprising because high heels aren’t comfortable. I don’t think I would wear them voluntarily. I’ll wear a very gay shoe, but not a heel if I don’t have to.
Vanity: Not yet, no. But it’s early days.
What has been your favorite episode to record?
Courtney: I think every episode gets more fun and more fun, so I’d say the latest episode. The first one was fun, but then I think we just really hit a rhythm. I just really love deep diving into things a little further each week. We discussed Polari, which is a lost gay anti-language that existed in the UK in the first half of the last century and became popularized on a BBC radio show in the 1960s. It’s a language gay men specifically would speak –especially effeminate gay men who struggled to hide their queerness – would speak in public so they could talk freely without being arrested. I love that we’re bringing back our Polari word of the week and this bit of gay culture, this secret part of gay culture that not many people know about.
Vanity: I think episode two (Yellow rubber gloves should do the trick) because unlike the first episode which was recorded over three sessions. This one was recorded all at once and it felt like we were making a real podcast, and we were in Nova studios, and I felt just like Kate Ritchie.
Who has been your favorite podcast guest?
Courtney: We haven’t had any yet.
Vanity: We haven’t had one yet, but we have a few names floating around and I’m really excited for (almost) all of them! Hah
Who’s your dream “get” as a guest?
Vanity: Cher. No explanation needed.
How has doing this podcast changed you?
Courtney: It’s just really fun to have that structure of going somewhere every week and doing something and having a focus. In a 2020 that was all over the shop, it’s nice to feel that sort of structure – and also to spend quality time with my BFF each week.
Vanity: I mean I’ve been in the entertainment industry for a long time, but usually behind the scenes so this is my first time officially out the front as the talent which is really fabulous; but also like they say, “with great power comes great responsibility.” And I’m learning that you can’t really have an off day, and that I shouldn’t post drunk on Instagram… as often as I used too.
What other podcasts do you listen to?Courtney: I listen to a lot of newsy, science ones. “Science Versus” I love. I love The New York Times’ “The Daily”, “1619”, NPR’s “Up First”, “Race Chaser”. I do love listening to “The Signal” on ABC Australia. Oh, “Making Gay History”, that’s probably one people would be interested in. It’s a US podcast. A guy [Eric Marcus] wrote a book called Making Gay History and had all of these cassette interviews from the late 80s and he turned them into a podcast format and there’s just some gems in there. Hearing Sylvia Rivera or Marsha P. Johnson, Larry Kramer, even Ellen DeGeneres. One of my favorite [interviews] is with a woman who was a secretary at RKO Pictures in the 1940s. Her boss told her to “look busy but don’t read or don’t knit,” so she started typing a newsletter for other gay gals even though she’d never met any other gay gals before. She would write 10 copies of each newsletter and she would keep them for when she met gay women and she would hand them to them and sort of spread the good word. It brought a tear to my eye.
Vanity: I love “Race Chaser” with Willam and Alaska, I also think “Making Gay History” is really interesting, and you know “The Daily” from The New York Times… just so I’m not completely oblivious to the news.
What do you think the future holds for you?
Courtney: Disease, destruction, civil war and, ultimately, death.
Vanity: MONEY! Haha, I’m kidding. Honestly, I just hope the future holds stability. I just think you know, in these current climes and times it’s always nice to have simple achievable goals, and stability is something I’m working really hard at for myself and our business.
“Brenda, Call Me!” is available on the Nova Podcast Network, with new episodes launching every Thursday. Episodes are available at https://omny.fm/shows/brenda-call-me/ or wherever you get your podcasts.
Keep up with Courtney on her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. See all of Vanity’s gorgeous creations on the Wigs by Vanity site and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.