Bobbi Althoff doesn’t want you to take her seriously.
Althoff hosts The Really Good Podcast. The phrase “really good” isn’t an earnest declaration of quality, but rather the summation of Althoff’s brand of perpetually detached, flat-affect daring: Go ahead and tell her it’s not “really good.” She would never claim the talk show is rigorous, researched, or anything but awkward. The podcast, like the character Althoff is playing on it, is supposed to be ironically pleasant enough.
But, like, only if you get it.
The Really Good Podcast’s subscriber numbers and Althoff’s profile rose over the past few months after the 26-year-old TikToker, once known for mom content, switched mediums and landed an interview with the press-averse Drake in July 2023. Adding to the lore was the fact that Althoff scored the life-changing conversation via a series of Instagram DMs. While the interview did happen, the episode was ultimately deleted in August with no further official explanation from Althoff or the rapper as to why.
Since then, Althoff has parlayed that interview and her style — unfazed, dry, bored in an ironic way — into more episodes featuring guests like Mark Cuban, Maluma, Lil Yachty, and Shaq to the tune of hundreds of thousands of views. She asks her interview subjects what they wear, how they live, and what they like to eat, but doesn’t seem that interested in what they have to say. She meets most of them with deadpan sarcasm and silence, making her guests live in the discomfort of whatever they just revealed.
But it’s Althoff’s recent interview with rapper Offset that has brought her back into the mainstream conversation. Unlike previous guests, Offset took charge of the conversation, flipping the tables on Althoff and dragging her mercilessly, at one point comparing her to unsalted chicken meat.
It raised the question of just why Althoff is so popular and why she’s been so successful. It calls into question Althoff’s persona and what exactly people are laughing at. In many ways, it was a really good podcast, but perhaps not in the way Althoff intended.
What Bobbi Althoff’s whole deal is
If you look through Althoff’s videos on YouTube and dig into the comments section — the place for people who have the strongest opinions and the most time on their hands — the replies have a common theme. Her biggest fans like these videos because they believe Althoff is providing something more irreverent than regular celebrity interviews. To her followers, Althoff’s interviews upend what these conversations are supposed to be, and in turn unsettle the famous people who know exactly how they are supposed to act — generally.
Most celebrity interviews and profiles — on talk shows or in entertainment magazines — just serve as publicity for whatever an actor or musician is working on next. There’s a slew of expected questions and pre-prepped answers that don’t really tell an audience anything except when a new movie is coming out or how to preorder an album. Look at any press tour and you’ll see answers repeated over and over in competing publications.
Althoff doesn’t really allow for that.
Watching and listening to her feels like someone brought to life Olivia Mossbacher — the mean white teenage girl played by Sydney Sweeney on the first season of HBO’s White Lotus — or as my editor insists, like NBC figured out how to combine Parks and Recreation’s April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) with The Office’s Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer). She doesn’t like to make eye contact. Her arms are seemingly always crossed. Whether she’s saying something cutting, something hilarious, or something to indicate genuine interest, there’s no emotion in her crispy, deep-fried voice. It all conjures up a vibe that she’d rather be anywhere else than interviewing this extremely famous person.
When this works, it leads to some fun.
In the episode with singer Jason Derulo, Althoff uses her deliberate awkwardness as an avenue through which to ask Derulo about the shirt he’s wearing. They’re both dressed casually. Derulo is wearing a tangerine cutoff tank and a pair of shorts but can’t name the designer.
“Do you not buy your clothes?” she asks. She looks like she’s about to pounce, as much as Althoff can look like someone who would actually pounce. “I was just wondering if you have someone who’s like, ‘Here’s your shirt for today.’”
“A lot of days, like, I get a lot of different options laid out,” Derulo replies. “But then, you know, I’ll like pick an option.”
“Okay, just hard work,” Althoff smirks, eliciting an awkward sighing laugh from Derulo.
Derulo looks like he’s going to the gym, and this interview appears as casual as can be. But the truth is that there’s someone else in charge of going to the store and buying Derulo’s casual clothes. That person, or someone else on the payroll, then picked out a series of clothes to suit this interview, and Derulo chose from that assortment. Apparently, according to Derulo, this happens on a lot of days of his existence. That means when we see Derulo in his media appearances, out and about in paparazzi photos, or even the days when we don’t see Derulo and he’s just living, there’s likely someone who picked out his outfits.
This revelation is a small detail and came from gentle ribbing, but it brings into focus how constructed Derulo’s image is. Whether it’s asking Charlie Puth about whether his team prepared him for a hurricane, interrogating Shaq about how he couldn’t travel with his private chef, or grilling Lil Yachty about his $90,000 veneers, Althoff has a way of bringing into focus how starkly different the way celebrities live life — and think about money — is from regular humans.
Despite the many assurances that they are just like us, celebrities aren’t. The fun of Althoff’s show is having these very rich and famous people acknowledge that themselves and, often, laugh at the gulf between our lives and theirs.
Bobbi Althoff didn’t invent the deadpan interview (and hasn’t really improved it)
Althoff’s success isn’t a total surprise. The type of purposefully uncomfortable style she’s implementing has been done and critically lauded before. Althoff has drawn comparisons to Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns, Diana Morgan as Philomena Cunk on Cunk on Earth, and Amelia Dimoldenberg on Chicken Shop Date, but with less charm and skill.
Another particularly potent comparison is comedian Ziwe. The writer and talk show host rose to fame by asking controversial, semi-famous white women like Caroline Calloway, Alison Roman, and Rose McGowan impossibly uncomfortable questions about race, like if white people should get cookies for being allies, and if they could name five Asian people in all of history.
Ziwe landed a satirical talk show on Showtime, where she continued to roast her guests while also calling into question broader issues of how beauty, race, and money operate in the world.
“Can you tell us how white boy summer is different from the past 400 summers in American history?” Ziwe asks Chet Haze, a white rapper who sometimes has a Jamaican accent and is also Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s son.
“I guess not. I don’t know. I think it started with me getting a fresh-ass haircut and I was feeling myself,” Haze replies, likely failing to recognize Ziwe’s barb about oppression, or possibly fully understanding the joke and proceeding to talk about his haircut anyway.
The tension and humor that Ziwe — who is also playing a satirical version of herself — is able to create in that interview with Haze works because she’s done her work and seems genuinely interested in what Haze has to say, even if it’s extreme.
The comedy of asking Haze about oppression and white boy summer works because it comes partly at Ziwe’s expense. She’s earnestly asking Haze — someone who has never claimed to be a spokesperson for race and inequality nor is revered as one — an absurd question. The same goes for Galifianakis asking Justin Bieber about why he thinks Anne Frank is a Belieber, or Morgan as Cunk asking historians whose renaissance is better: Beyoncé’s or the European artistic movement of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Satire works because there’s an awareness of the absurdity. It’s sharp and considered, with something larger to say about celebrity, history, money, race, or whatever the satirist has taken aim at.
Each episode, Ziwe’s, Morgan’s, and Galifianakis’s characters are, for the sake of the bit, genuinely engaged in their guests but also find a way to stay true to the satire. They’re hitting the beats we expect but adapting it to the situation.
In its weakest moments, Althoff’s sardonic boredom has no deeper level to it, nothing beyond its vapidity. Althoff said herself that she is unprepared and doesn’t research, which doesn’t make for the hardest-hitting interviews. It raises the question of exactly how long she can keep this all going (Althoff has live shows scheduled later in theaters this year). If all she has to offer is general disinterest, what’s the difference if Althoff is interviewing Offset or Drake or Maluma or Charlie Puth? At some point, all these interviews bleed into one another, making them harder to distinguish and more similar to the same-same celebrity interviews her fans loathe.
How Offset changed Bobbi Althoff’s show
While Althoff’s interviews have gotten hundreds of thousands of views, it was her interview with rapper Offset that aimed a mainstream spotlight on the podcaster. On the September 28 episode, Althoff employed a riff on Offset’s clothes — asking him why he chose his outfit (boots, shorts, and a leather jacket) — not unlike she did with Derulo. Offset had a different response.
“Because you’re not gonna do it,” Offset replies to her. “I dress the way that you won’t dress because you don’t get it, you don’t get the language, you don’t get it.”
A few seconds later, Althoff replies: “I feel like you maybe are insecure about that question. because you answered very defensively. I was trying to understand; you don’t have to be so mean.”
He then explains to her that people who dress like Althoff — whose style Offset describes as 36-year-old mom — don’t get the idea of personal style. He turns the tables on Althoff, asking her, essentially, if she picked out her outfit and why she put it together that way for an interview with him. “Why would you go 2000s tank with the open button-up?” he says. “You put that together. It’s just not all the way together.”
Among other barbs exchanged — Offset not knowing who she is, Offset telling Althoff not to make fun of his finances, Offset telling Althoff her legs and ankles are ashy, Offset telling Althoff that she is like an unseasoned piece of chicken — Offset roasts Althoff’s interview style.
“Hell nah,” he tells her when asked if he would recommend going on the podcast to his friends. He then goes in on Althoff’s deadpan voice and lack of enthusiasm. “You should be Siri. Deadass. No playing shit. You should hit Apple and be like, ‘Yo, it’s 2023. It’s time for the new Siri voice.’ You could apply for that shit and they’re gonna give it to you. And that’s gonna be more money.”
“You should go write new music,” she volleys back.
“Steve Jobs. ‘Hey Steve,’” Offset continues his joke.
Althoff’s episode with Offset has over 2.2 million views on YouTube, significantly more than her recent videos with Maluma, Derulo, J. Balvin, Shaq, and Puth (her video views peaked after the Drake interview in July). Since the episode aired, Offset has maintained that there’s no hard feelings between the two, that it was a positive experience, and talked about how it was all in jest.
While it might have been fun for both parties, Althoff’s lack of playfulness and quickness in that Offset installment brought attention to her podcast style. It even had some questioning her fame.
Critics called her mediocre and a bad host, and said her schtick was tired. Others compared her to the aforementioned hosts, noting how she was passing off a poorer version of that style of interview. Some critics pointed out that the Offset interview highlighted that Althoff’s humor tends to play on the fact that she’s a white woman who’s uncomfortable in Black spaces and purposely uninterested around Black people and people of color:
I’m being so serious right now when I ask, why is she always near Black folk?— @ImaniBarbarin@disabled.social (@Imani_Barbarin) October 1, 2023
Is that the only way her “humor” works? https://t.co/tse44Eux4F
That critique raises the question of what people find so funny about Althoff and who exactly finds it funny. Is Althoff asking these very famous celebrities questions about their very expensive, out-of-touch lives inherently funny? Or is the comedy in the implicit notion of how uncomfortable Black culture makes this white woman? Do her interviews with Charlie Puth and Mark Cuban get as many clicks as Shaq or Offset? (They do not.)
Althoff has maintained that the person she is on her podcast is a character, that the Bobbi Althoff on the air is not who the real Bobbi Althoff is, and that her biggest critics don’t fully understand her.
“I’m very insecure, and the character that I’ve created is made up of my biggest insecurities. I’ve just made her into someone who’s proud of who she is,” Althoff told Cosmopolitan in an interview this summer. She also explained that the celebrities she has on know that they’re interacting with that character Althoff has created.
“I’ve always been so embarrassed about being socially awkward. Now, I’ve exaggerated that and made it even worse for this character. It’s a fun way to take control of this thing that’s been horrible for me my whole life,” Althoff continued.
Perhaps Althoff is really committed to this bit, which includes ironic displeasure at talking to people of color, Black rappers especially. Maybe her biggest critics just don’t get that Althoff is making a joke about white women’s self-importance, if that’s her intention.
But she’s not made a convincing argument that she’s skillfully executing that satire. Her jokes, especially in the Offset interview, float on one level — that this specific Caucasian woman is rude and disinterested — never threatening to be anything more substantial. Althoff’s failure isn’t that she’s rude or disinterested, but that she’s incapable of challenging her audience beyond that.