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Photo by Phil Provencio
Keith and The Girl

BY TAMMY SCILEPPI

If you’re a comedy nerd and a podcast junkie, then you’re probably hooked on Queens’ funniest dynamic duo, Keith and The Girl (KATG), who have recorded one of the longest-running podcasts in history from their Astoria studio, since launching back in 2005. 

Having the most podcast episodes ever released, Keith Malley and Chemda became famous for their valuable contributions to the popular movement, and now, these podcast pioneers are celebrating their 15th anniversary.

“Our show is important to us, and that affects the listeners and guests,” Malley explained. “We don’t have to book popular guests on the show. We are not forced into speaking about any subjects, and we don’t have to watch our language for anyone. So, anyone we have on the show, every subject that comes up, and all the conversations that arise, are because we are genuinely interested in the guest and the topics.”

Years later, the former lovers are still dishing and laughing about a variety of interesting topics, while sharing almost every detail of their personal lives — no matter how intimate or awkward — with their growing audience, and loyal fans just can’t get enough. And no topic is off limits: from rocky relationships, sex and abortion to comedy stuff, politics and the news of the day. 

Past guests include Marc Maron, Doug Stanhope, Gilbert Gottfried, Phoebe Robinson, Ilana Glazer, Adam Conover, Franchesca Ramsey, Kevin McDonald, Eugene Mirman, Tom Scharpling, Hannibal Buress, Andrew W.K. and many others. Recent comedians include Kevin Allison, Ophira Eisenberg and Shuli Egar.

QNS caught up with KATG, who recently moved to a new studio in LIC, to find out what makes them tick. One thing is clear: Hilarity is an important ingredient in their secret sauce. And here’s a fun fact: Some of their groupies have been getting KATG tattoos!

QNS: So, why did you decide to press record?

Chemda: I didn’t decide. I said “no” to Keith when he asked me to be his co-host. He was already openly speaking about his life in his un-official blog. He was at ease with being open about taboo topics. But once we started podcasting, sharing my life became intoxicating. Speaking about my life openly was such a change from my secretive, old-school Middle Eastern background. It was relieving.

Keith: Everything that I go through, someone else has gone through. I realized it’s silly to be embarrassed by normal, everyday situations. The world is more tolerable when people speak openly.

QNS: Why has KATG made waves in the world of podcasting?

Chemda: We love being the place that people can share real stories that are told with emotion, openness and humor. We have been told that our audience, for example, learned more about the LGBTQIA community through our guests and my relationship with an ex who came out as transgender on Keith and The Girl. When I spoke openly about my football-sized tumor and open-heart surgery from diagnosis to recovery, people wrote in about it, helping them go through their own diagnoses and their family members’ illnesses. When we talk about why we both have rocky relationships with our families and that that’s OK; people said it helped them see their family for who they truly are, which helped them know better how to interact with them.

Keith: And guests have mentioned they got a bigger response after being on our show than from their late-night set. They seem to like the conversation in our studio where we can laugh at serious situations but also not shy away from serious thoughts. Some have spoken about their traumas for the first time in their lives while on the show.

QNS: What does the show mean to you?

Chemda: Keith always says that if he wins the lotto he wouldn’t do anything, including podcasting. But every time we take some time off, he accumulates thoughts and stories that he seems to NEED to release on the show. I think it’s therapeutic for him. It certainly is for me. Because of the show, we keep getting a better sense of ourselves individually. That’s always fun. Share some highlights with readers.

Keith: We love our New Yorkers, and we love people with a full worldview that are constantly evolving. We also love the comedy veterans/legends when they get open about topics no one else seems to be talking about. Like when we talked to (millionaire) Gilbert Gottfried about all the ways he finds to get free food, drink, anything. Is he more excited about the item or that he’s getting away with something? Spoiler: It’s so that he gets away with something. And then we find out why. What’s the story behind Bob’s Burgers’ Eugene Mirman’s six years in special education? How does Broad City’s Ilana Glazer secretly act in public to help fight antisemitism? Why does Marc Maron think that hosting a show like Fear Factor is a bigger sell-out move than a famous comedian stealing jokes? That these established names are willing to get personal and otherwise taboo is literal music to our ears.

QNS: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

Chemda: I love going to comedy bar shows around the city. My (and my boyfriend’s) favorite is Too Many Cooks (booked by Luisa Diez), and biking to meet with people for some coffee, or walking around the city.

Keith: If it’s in Queens, I’m doin’ it, baby! My town, my secrets!

QNS: What advice would you give new podcasters?

Chemda: Listen to podcasts. Figure out what you like and hate about them. Pick a topic that you’d LOVE to talk about for hours. Someone likes what you like.

QNS: So, what’s your backstory?

Keith: We met at an open mic on the Lower East Side, called Surf Reality. The host would allow people to perform anything for six minutes as long as you didn’t set the place on fire. There was no cigarette smoking, but often there would be a joint being passed through the makeshift theater in the living room of the proprietor.

Chemda: Every Sunday, you would see anything from Maron, Todd Barry, Jim Gaffigan, Dave Chappelle, Jeff Ross and many other big-name comics to someone getting completely naked and reading the poetry they wrote in their period blood. It was a blast!

Keith: When the show started, we were dating and living with each other. We’ve since broken up, married other people and divorced those people, and we are now both dating people we love. We both agree that if it wasn’t for our baby (KATG show), we probably wouldn’t have stayed in touch, but we’re glad we did. The podcast makes our life and our relationship better.

Listen to KATG on your favorite podcast player.

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