Taking Your Podcast from the Studio to the Stage

Gaby Dunn and Alison Raskin, Photo by Robyn Van Swank
Gaby Dunn and Alison Raskin, Photo by Robyn Van Swank

The hosts of Just Between Us share the behind-the-scenes scoop on their summer tour.

Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin are pals and creative partners whose projects include New York Times bestsellers, pilots, and the advice podcast Just Between Us. This summer, they took their podcast on the road, embarking on a four-city tour where they recorded live episodes. We asked them for advice on taking a podcast from the studio to the stage—whether on a multi-city tour or at a local comedy club.

Make sure your venues are equipped for live performance.

Dunn and Raskin's tour was split between comedy clubs and music clubs, both of which had live-performance setups at the ready, so a lot of the big details—such as finding PA systems and microphones—were already squared away. But the pair still had to bring some gear in order to properly record each episode. "We got a hard drive and some different stuff that [the venues] needed, and then the venues recorded the files for us," says Raskin.

Think about where your equipment—stage and recording—should go.

"Usually for podcasts, I see a lot of setups where they just have a table, and then everyone's sitting at the table," says Raskin. "We had one place that had set it up like that, because that was its standard setup for podcasts. But we kind of wanted to sit on stools and have the mics be taller, and then have our guests on a stool in the middle so you could see all of our bodies, rather than just kind of being behind the table. That, to us, gave it more of a 'show' feeling." Dunn adds, "There are moments where someone would get up to demonstrate something where there was just more flexibility."

"The only thing I would do differently is mic the audience next time, because it's a little hard to hear them laugh," says Raskin, "and I love validation. I would have put a mic toward the audience, just to catch their laughter."

Realize the differences between what works in a studio versus in front of an audience.

Whether a podcast is comedic or serious, having an audience can alter the dynamic. "It's definitely a very different experience to do the podcast live," says Raskin.

Dunn and Raskin both have a lot of experience performing comedy, which helped them navigate the transition from studio to stage easily. "The main difference between recording live and recording in studio was that we're very aware [Please Send Help] is a comedy podcast," says Dunn. "Sometimes, in the studio, we get more serious for longer, and then we'll edit. But with the live audience, [our mind-set] was very much, 'Okay, let's keep this going. Let's keep this quick, let's keep this fun and funny.' And there was definitely, I think, more of a leaning-on-the-comedy part of it than we do when we're just in studio."

If you're booking guests, make sure they also know what they might be in for.

The comfort with live audiences extends to any guests you might bring along for interviews or scripted spots. "I think sometimes guests feel more comfortable in a room than they do on stage," says Dunn. "When you're booking guests, think about who is able to also perform on stage." Regardless of a guest’s experience with audiences, it’s always a good idea to schedule a run-through earlier in the day to prepare everyone for the big event.

Get a feel for the live podcast experience by going to see other live shows.

"If you have a podcast and you want to do a live show," says Dunn, "go see a few other live shows, just to get a sense of the difference [between being in a studio and on a stage]." Take note of the similarities and differences in terms of set-up and equipment and pay special attention to how the hosts interact with the audience.

Bring along merch.

In addition to their books, Dunn and Raskin sell a fair amount of merch on their site—T-shirts, stickers, posters. To give fans souvenirs of the evening—and increase Dunn and Raskin's own revenue—they brought those items on the road with them, and made sure they were well-stocked at each stop of the tour.

Don't assume that releasing multiple live episodes back-to-back is the best plan.

"We don't want four episodes in a row of live shows, just because it's a different feel than the normal podcast," says Raskin. "We've released one already—the Philadelphia stop—and we're going to be releasing Chicago soon*. Another one of them will be a bonus episode, which is behind our paywall." (The fourth episode was recorded, but won't be released.)

Don't overexpose yourself.

Dunn and Raskin don't anticipate touring for about six months, maybe longer. "It takes a lot of money to go out on the road," says Raskin. "For [touring] to be profitable for us, we need to build the podcast up a bit more and wait, so that if we go back to some of the same spots, people still come. It's a risky business to do the live shows. It was super fun, but I think we just need to be cognizant of [the risk] and kind of cautious going forward."

—Maura Johnston

    • The Chicago episode of Just Between Us was released on September 4th, 2019.*