Podcaster Bobbi Althoff Explains Her Deadpan Persona and Those ‘Nepo Baby’ Accusations: ‘I Work Hard and It Didn’t Come Easy’

Bobbi Althoff feels misunderstood.

That’s why when we talk on the phone about the second season of “The Really Good” podcast, which has so far featured interviews with Bobby Lee, Michael Cera and Wiz Khalifa, she’s eager to clear the air.

Althoff is not a “nepo baby” or “industry plant.” She doesn’t hate everyone she interviews. And, perhaps most importantly, she’s not a bitch. In fact, she’s actually very nice  — something I can attest to after just a few minutes on the phone with her.

“100% of my guests so far have been in on the joke,” she says to me from her Los Angeles home, clearly frustrated by the swarms of people who don’t seem to understand that her rude persona is a character she puts on for the podcast. “It’s so funny to watch people who think that I blindside my guests with it. They know full well what they’re getting themselves into and we have normal conversations before we start. And then it’s just like, ‘Action!’ and we’re both very aware that we’re acting and it’s entertainment for people.”

The strategy of taking on a deadpan, laconic persona for interviews isn’t entirely new. Zach Galifianakis’ online series “Between Two Ferns,” which ran episodes from 2008 to 2018, saw the comedian trade barbs and insults with stars such as Natalie Portman, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and even former President Barack Obama.

Now, popular series such as Amelia Dimoldenberg’s “Chicken Shop Date” and Ziwe Fumudoh’s “Ziwe” follow a similar premise: place a famous person in a specifically peculiar situation (say, a hole-in-the-wall fried chicken restaurant) and ask them a barrage of questions. The result can be painfully awkward as hosts of this sort forgo a conventional style of interviewing for unstructured conversations that can veer between friendly banter and intense interrogations. Unlike Jimmy Fallon, if a joke isn’t funny, they won’t force a laugh. For these shows, the awkwardness is the point.

Althoff says she didn’t watch any of these shows until after she started her own podcast and people began drawing comparisons. Instead, it was the dry comedy of shows like “The Office” and “Modern Family” that served as her inspiration.

Despite its growing popularity, however, this novel interview style still leaves many viewers frustrated, annoyed and just overall confused — at least, when Althoff does it. Some have criticized her for wasting the coveted time she’s secured with A-list celebrities by not doing her research or asking “real questions,” particularly concerning the many Black rappers she’s had on such as Drake and Tyga. Others, she points out, don’t seem to understand that her deadpan persona is an alter ego, the same one she began on TikTok nearly four years ago. And, of course, there are those that do understand the bit and just don’t think it’s that funny.

Also amongst the noise are a slew of conspiracy theories to explain how a 25 year-old mommy blogger (yes, she began on TikTok sharing wholesome videos with her husband and two kids) got the attention of Drake, secured interviews with some of the most press-shy people in the industry and became one of the most talked-about people on in the internet — all, seemingly, overnight.

“A lot of people assumed I was a nepo baby which is fine because it makes sense,” she says. “It’s like, ‘How do you get this big break without having people in your family, or something, that are helping you?’ But I just wanted to be like, ‘No, I’m not’ because this was actually hard work. And it didn’t come overnight for me. I actually have been working on this for three years now and I’ve been working since I was 16 years old. I’m very grateful and very lucky but I also do work hard at what I do and it didn’t come easy by any means.”

But despite – or, in a way, because of — the hate, her podcast has racked up millions of views since her first episode arrived eight months ago. Her interview with Drake had more than 10 million views before it got taken down. Now, her most popular episode is with Tyga, which currently has more than 5 million views. It didn’t take long for the industry to take notice: She was almost immediately signed to WME and now has a team of people helping her produce the second season of her podcast, which released its first episode three weeks ago.

Althoff says that for people who are used to seeing these untouchable figures on red carpets and highly produced late-night shows, it’s refreshing to see them forced into uncomfortable positions. The show offers guests an opportunity to showcase a sense of humor and personality that they may not be able to communicate through their own online presences — especially for non-comedian guests like Bobby Flay or Mark Cuban.

“I think it resonates because you see the people I’m interviewing in such a different light and it’s a place where they get to have fun with it too, so it’s just entertainment,” she says. “It’s not like you’re going into watching it trying to find the answers to the questions you’ve been dying to know. Instead, you’re going into it like you’re watching a TV show. It’s just fun to watch celebrities in different elements that you’re not used to seeing.”

“A lot of people when they watch my interviews are like, ‘Why do I love this person so much now?’” Althoff continues. One person who comes to mind is J. Balvin, a crowd-favorite, who was one of her most prepared guests (although she says every interviewee has watched clips of her show and “is fully prepared to deal with the character version of me.”)

“But J. Balvin did his homework,” she recalls. “He had done so much research and was really excited. He kind of turned the table on me and was doing the character back to me and it was really fun.”

Althoff has taken some of the criticism to heart, though, and did come into the second season with a strategy shift. “I definitely am trying with this season to help people see that this is just a character,” she says. “My goal is just helping people understand the real me and the character and that it’s just acting, which is ultimately what I’m interested in.”

Althoff now does planned activities with her guests in order to infuse more energy into the newer episodes. “It’s not so much a sit-down interview anymore but more of us just having fun together,” she says. So far, she’s painted water-color portraits with Rainn Wilson, played tennis with Bobby Lee and took a trip to Las Vegas to have a cook-off with Bobby Flay.

As for what’s next for Althoff beyond the podcast, she doesn’t know yet. “I kind of just go with the flow, but I would love to see myself on TV or in a movie or something, even if it’s as an extra, I don’t care.”

And for the haters? Althoff knows they aren’t going anywhere but makes sure to remind herself that they’re judging her online character, and not the real her. “I just respond to people’s assumptions with humor and lean into it,” she says.

The answer to the hate, like most things in her life, remains the same: “Make a joke out of it.”

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