By: Emma Lin and Naia Williams
Disclaimer: Before reading further, we encourage you to watch the 2007 documentary, Crazy Love, and listen to episode thirty-nine of the podcast True Crime Obsessed, which also has the same title, in order to fully understand our analysis.
Podcasts dealing with dark topics such as crime are often serious, emotional, and encourage listeners to be active in the true crime community. However, True Crime Obsessed is not your typical true crime podcast. According to its hosts, Patrick Hinds and Gillian Pensavalle, the show was created to be a comedy podcast that “recaps your favorite true crime documentaries with humor, sass, and heart.” We beg to differ. This podcast lacks in all departments but perhaps the most laughable part of their description is that the podcast has “heart.” In reality, it is utterly heartless.
The 2007 documentary titled Crazy Love follows the horrific 1959 lye attack of Linda Riss orchestrated by her possessive and crazed former lover/future husband, Burt Pugach. This documentary is truly full of unexpected twists and turns that entertain the audience, despite being entertainment, the documentary’s focus is still a crime. A crime that rendered a young woman blind and with no other choice but to turn to the man responsible for her physical and emotional trauma for support and protection. However, the hosts of True Crime Obsessed do not see it as such, instead they see it as a chance to use this series of horrific events and the suffering of the victim as material for their “comedy.”
Episode thirty-nine opens with the chipmunk-like, squeaky laughter of the oddly cheery hosts. This laughter spans the entire first five minutes of the podcast. However, their fits of giggles do not end there. Throughout the entire podcast the hosts choose to spend a majority of their time poking fun at the appearances of any and all people interviewed in the documentary; no one escapes the hosts’ savage scrutiny. If any appearances were to be made fun of you would think they would focus on the preparator of the crime, but it is Linda, the victim of the attack, who is dealt the brunt of their criticism. One of the first things the hosts have to say about her is “Well… Linda.. comes onto screen in that wig, sunglasses, and those eyebrows…” only to follow it by obnoxious and uncontrollable laughter. This outright bullying of Linda continues as Gillian rants on and on about the “shit wig,” even going as far as to ask: “How do you think she picks out her wigs?” Of all the things to comment on, whether it be about either the crime itself or the way the documentary was shot, why spend time debating and questioning who Linda is trusting with her appearance? Repeatedly honing in on a person’s appearance is just a cheap shot to try to get their audience to laugh.Their over exaggerated laughter is a poor attempt at garnering even a small chuckle from their audience. To the hosts, excessive laughter makes their content ten times funnier when in actuality it just makes them ten times more obnoxious.
If you are able to wade through the copious amount of forced laughter and questionable banter, you will discover that Patrick and Gillian really have nothing original to say. To make up for this fact and to extend the run time of the podcast, they use soundbites from the documentary every chance they get, no matter if there is a need for it or not. For example, when describing Linda’s appearance before the lye attack, Gillian almost quotes both Linda’s friend, Rita, and then Linda’s cousin verbatim on how beautiful she was, even imitating their New York accents. Immediately after this they clip in the original audio from that moment in the documentary. What was the point of this? Their audience already knows that Linda was thought to have been very beautiful in her youth. This, however, isn’t the only instance of repetitive soundbite use. Another example is when the hosts are describing the lengths Burt would go to such lengths to woo Linda such as playing the song Linda every time she walked into his nightclub. They then play audio clips of each person singing a verse of the song. You could argue that they were just trying to get their point across, but it had nothing else to add to their dialogue. With the number of superfluous soundbites used, their audience would be better off watching the documentary themselves.
True Crime Obsessed is a perfect model that avid True Crime listeners can use to answer the question: Does comedy belong in the True Crime genre? The hosts toe the line between outright offensive and slightly humorous. We ask our readers: Is there anything to be gained from this “comedic” angle? Or are the hosts using others’ tragedies to piggy-back off of to gain an ounce of fame?