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In a roomful of podcasters, Chemda Khalili is a gravitational force.
As she steps down from the dais at the Los Angeles Podcast Festival’s “Getting Started in Podcasting” panel discussion, she’s mobbed before reaching the second row of folding chairs. The predominantly male crowd clutches caffeinated beverages, unconsciously uniformed in horn rims and blue plaid button-downs. “What you said about podcasting being a lifestyle,” one gasps, “I loved that. It’s true. So true!”
“We’ve got a half-hour,” Keith Malley, who earlier moderated the “Getting a Job in Podcasting” panel, warns from the doorway.
Khalili begs her admirers’ pardon and hustles with Malley, her co-host on the podcast Keith and the Girl, down the crowded Sofitel Beverly Hills hallway. It’s the second consecutive year Khalili, 39, and Malley, 40, have been invited to the three-day marathon of live shows, networking, and tech talk. Of the 34 podcasts represented at the festival — including WTF With Marc Maron, Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy, and This Week With Larry Miller — Keith and the Girl is the only show that is based in New York. Including panels like the one Khalili just finished, the duo have already guested on five “Podfest” events. And they’ve only got fifteen minutes to prepare in their quiet hotel room for their own live taping.
As they try to navigate their way upstairs, the two are swarmed by comedians who insist on meeting up later that night at the hotel bar mixer. Wide-eyed, far-from-home fans holler in-joke greeting “Party!” Khalili and Malley laugh and reply, “Super party!” Fellow podcasters nod in silent, grateful acknowledgement. After all, ten years ago the pair helped pioneer the ever-expanding digital-audio medium for which the festival is named. Anonymous on the street, here Khalili and Malley are gods.
Past KATG guests include musician and Village Voice columnist Andrew W.K., Saturday Night Live‘s Sasheer Zamata, Bob’s Burgers son Eugene Mirman, a pre–Bill Cosby scandal Hannibal Buress, late Last Comic Standing judge Greg Giraldo, and, on August 10, 2009, in what was his first podcast appearance, Marc Maron. The former Air America radio host launched his WTF, now the focal point of semi-fictional IFC series Maron, three weeks later.
“You guys got me started to begin with,” he enthused on the pair’s 2012 WTF episode. “You were the original podcast people.”
“Audioblogging” and “internet radio” precursors date back to the Eighties, but the recording and uploading of independent, episodic programming gained traction in 2004 as broadband connections accelerated download speeds and MP3 players stored and unobtrusively played back audio files in the car, at the gym, and aboard airplanes. Today, pop-culture podcasts, financial podcasts, political podcasts, sports podcasts, and science and technology podcasts populate the landscape. Some educate; others provide pure entertainment. At least 115,000 exist in the English language alone. Last fall the New York Times pegged the number of global podcast listeners at 40 million.
Early breakouts included One America Committee’s John Edwards Podcast and the Guardian newspaper’s Ricky Gervais Show. In July 2013 the independent Commonplace Books’ bimonthly Welcome to Night Vale, a series of fictionalized paranormal news reports, became the most downloaded iTunes podcast at 150,000 a week. NPR’s true-crime series Serial amassed a million listeners one month after its October 2014 debut.
In the comedy realm, podcasts promise direct listener connection and, compared to traditional broadcasting, less content restriction. For someone like former Loveline and The Man Show co-host Adam Carolla, whose Adam Carolla Show set a 2011 Guinness World Record with nearly 60 million total downloads, autonomy remains paramount.
Further down the food chain, lesser-known comedians joke that practically mandatory podcasts bring in little if any money and serve primarily to galvanize fans to attend tour dates or purchase the next stand-up release. For Khalili and Malley, the podcast is the product. Through VIP membership, merchandise sales, and advertising, Keith and the Girl revenue pays its co-hosts’ salaries plus rent on a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens, that they had converted into a professional studio. Three full-time employees and a handful of freelancers also receive a slice of the pie.
On March 7, Khalili and Malley threw a tenth-anniversary party at East Village bar and subterranean venue One and One. Now closing in on 2,500 episodes — by their estimation, more than any other podcast — the early adapters’ “Web radio” talk show debuted in 2005, before the word “podcast” even existed. A decade in, they live-stream hour-plus episodes five days a week, average a million downloads a month, boast more than 36,000 forum members, and say they know of at least 141 KATG tattoos.
“I actually have slides of different tattoos their fans have gotten that I use in presentations to advertisers,” says Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn, a network hosting more than 10,000 shows. “You want to talk about a call to action? Their interaction with their listeners even from their earliest days has led to the single most loyal audience I know of.”
KATG traffic relies on a consistently high-quality product rather than on star wattage. Khalili books guests with engrossing stories and personalities, and the co-hosts know each other inside and out. Whether discussing news, sports, movies, or their daily lives, they’re open, quick-witted, and honest, often to the point of discomfort. They coax the same out of guests and listeners. Like Howard Stern, Khalili and Malley created a world of diverse characters and a community of ardent fans.
“They were better than anything on radio. They were better than any other podcast,” 23-year-old intern-turned–KATG employee and regular Danny Hatch recalls of discovering the show as a teenager in Oklahoma. “They were the funniest and the most raw and real.”
Echoes Lauren Hennessy, a recurring guest whose own show, Bottoms Up, launched on the KATG podcast network in 2011: “When the mic’s on they’re amped-up versions of themselves, but it’s always them.”
Upstairs in their hotel room, Khalili and Malley hunch over the nightstand between their two beds, tapping phones and brainstorming anecdotes for their imminent Podfest live taping. They speak in a clipped shorthand honed from spending five or six days a week for more than ten years collaborating on a shared passion.
“So we’ll tell a story first,” Malley begins, scribbling. “Southwest Airlines no assigned seating?”
“That guy volunteered to sit in the middle and I thought I was going to die?” Khalili offers.
“Yeah, yeah…then your selfie.”
“…and the baby…I might have audio from the stewardess.”
“Are we doing the crackhead story?”
“Yeah, the crackhead story. And the horse-sounds when they land?”
“Oh, what was the first one? ‘Whoooa!‘ Yeah, the ‘whoa!’ scared the shit out of me.”
“And then crazy people driving…”
Five minutes later they’re onstage. Khalili had double-checked their guests’ introductory credits; Malley changed from a polo to his trademark sleeveless T. They descended to a 175-capacity banquet room peppered with fans wearing shirts bearing KATG‘s stick-figures logo: an explosion of dark curls atop a triangular purple dress beside what appears to be a two-by-four plank with a bald head hoisting a beer mug. Khalili grabs a mic and sings KATG‘s helium-pitched theme: “Hey all you assholes, come and listen to us/It’s the Keith and the Girl show!”
“Thank you very much, everybody!” Malley welcomes, bounding to his seat. “It’s good to be here. We came on Southwest Airlines. I don’t know if you’re fans of it or not; we are not used to assigned seating…”
Malley characterizes his hometown of Somerset, Pennsylvania — a rural outpost nearer the Maryland border than Pittsburgh — as “a step above Little House on the Prairie.” His father, a former priest, taught science at the Catholic high school before alternating stints as a magician, truck driver, Wendy’s manager, Amway salesman, insurance salesman, and limo/hearse salesman. His mother managed a clothing store and a hair salon between raising five children.
At home, unwelcome questions and opinions were met with hours of chores — cleaning, painting, building shelves, a roof, a chimney, even two different porches. When there were no worthwhile projects to be completed, the Malley kids were made to dig holes.
“We never left the house,” Malley remembers. “You weren’t going to go out, but it wasn’t even a question of if you wanted to go out. You just wouldn’t.”
Though he was a bright student, no school subjects or extracurricular activities appealed to him. “I was one of the kids that had potential, but everything bored me, which later became known as ADD.” Despite being voted class clown, Malley says he had little self-confidence. “I didn’t know how to talk to anybody normally.” Listening to glam rock in his dark bedroom and discovering Andrew Dice Clay’s Day the Laughter Died, Part II ushered in a completely new way of thinking.
The former altar boy says that he never masturbated until age eighteen and that his faith began faltering in earnest upon receiving his first blowjob. As he reasoned, “There’s no way a God in charge wouldn’t want me to feel this way!” His father, finding no other explanation for Malley’s rebellious nature than Satanic possession, threatened exorcism.
He moved to an apartment nearby that same year, 1993. Strapped for cash, Malley was caught passing eight bad checks totaling $2,000, which he’d used to pay for pizza and video games. He spent two months in jail, where he says he bunked with a child molester and a murderer and discovered how to make crack, hot-wire cars, and light cigarettes off electrical outlets. After his release he joined the Army and was sent to military school in Monterey, California, followed by a year in the 198th Infantry Brigade in Fort Benning, Georgia. The only life lessons he absorbed as an enlistee were how to shoot and drink.
Out of the Army and back in Somerset at age 22, Malley began writing an autobiography and worried for his future. “I knew I had to get out,” he says. “If I stayed in my stagnant hometown I’d feel stymied and unfulfilled until the day I died. Typically you went to school, maybe you went to college, but you stayed in town. When I go back now, I recognize the name of every store from someone I went to school with. Everyone married each other and stayed.”
Malley arrived in New York via Greyhound bus the evening of August 30, 1996, with the vague plan of getting into acting. He teetered for years between hostels, temporary apartments, and homelessness. He was mugged at gunpoint at Grand Army Plaza. While living at a Spanish Harlem hostel, he stored his belongings with a cocaine-addicted co-worker who later disappeared with Malley’s computer and the only copy of his still-in-progress memoir — his life’s work up to that point.
Writing always took precedence over waiting tables, temping, and going on “one or maybe two auditions.” Working with sketch and improv groups scratched the itch to vent his aggression onstage, but Malley hated compromising around others’ schedules and creative impulses. One day, while living on the Lower East Side, he passed a sign advertising an open-mic night at Surf Reality. His first solo stand-up performance, for five people at 3 a.m., was not about craftsmanship. It was emotional release.
From 1993 to 2003, Allen Street’s 65-capacity Surf Reality served as an anything-goes incubator for Amy Poehler’s Upright Citizens Brigade, Dave Chappelle, and the New York alternative comedy scene as a whole. Sundays, actor/poet/anti-cabaret-law crusader Francis “Faceboy” Hall encouraged experimental performers of all stripes to make the most of their eight allotted minutes. Shows lasted from 7 p.m. to around 4 a.m., or whenever everyone who paid their $3 had taken their turn onstage. Malley would drop multiple fake names (Johnny Boombots, Big Dick Clit) into the bucket from which the performance order was drawn. The first nom de guerre to be selected was the name he assumed, performing stand-up as early and in front of as many people as possible. Yet despite the hour or attendance, he took his weekly set seriously: “I treated it like it was Madison Square Garden even though it was two in the morning in front of three people only there because it was cold outside.” Artists half-assing valuable stage time and slagging the venue or crowd remain pet peeves today.
On April 15, 2004 — his 30th birthday and the one-year anniversary of his first open mic — Malley took the next logical career step, recording his debut comedy album, Coming of Age, at the now-defunct Baggot Inn. The catalyst: encouragement from a Persian-Jewish vocalist and fellow Surf Reality devotee named Chemda Khalili.
The Khalilis emigrated from Israel to Briarwood, Queens, when Chemda was four. Her Iranian father and Iraqi mother were lenient and progressive by her grandparents’ standards, but in the melting pot to which they’d relocated, they remained strongly conservative. Khalili understood they sought to provide a better life for her and her two brothers, but today likens her upbringing to brainwashing.
Her parents expected her to speak Hebrew, attend “Jew Camp,” and behave in proper, ladylike fashion to attract a suitable husband. Following the family’s move from Briarwood to Jamaica, Queens, around age ten, she tried to personify a typical boy-crazy teenager while still respecting their wishes. But though she refrained from drinking and drugs, her parents still disapproved of her dancing and vegetarianism.
“I had opportunities to go on family vacations with my best friend, but my parents said no until later in my teens because it was not age-appropriate to leave for a length of time without parents,” she says. “When my younger brother had the opportunity at age twelve, he was able to go because ‘boys are different.’ ”
When the time came to apply to colleges, her mother told her not to bother with “sleepover” schools that would require her to live on campus. “She wasn’t comfortable with me living in dorms,” she says.
Khalili ultimately selected Queens College but dropped out her third semester and, at age 21, moved out of her parents’ house, settling in the Lower East Side. Her parents didn’t take the news well, “furious that their daughter would be looked at like a slut for leaving her family home without a husband,” she says, stressing the double standard that still existed between her and her brothers. “When my brothers moved out, my mom helped them find their places and went shopping with them for the things they needed for their apartments.”
A pre-gentrified Lower East Side provided cheap rent, convenient rollerblading, and a haven for the artistically minded — like Khalili. But the neighborhood also had its downsides. In Khalili’s case, those came in the form of a crack-addict roommate who terrorized her into fleeing overnight with only her TV, VCR, and some clothes.
By this point, Khalili had her sights set on becoming a singer. In addition to a steady gig as a party clown, she performed regularly with a diverse array of acts including Dr. Israel (reggae), Mighty Dub Katz (house), Conjure One (world), Dreadtone International (dubstep), and Voodoolulu (trip-hop). Yet even as Chemda toured the U.S., Canada, and Europe, her mother still demanded she stop the nonsense, get married, and have a baby. “I’m always criticized,” says Khalili. “They’re never proud of what I do.”
A co-worker tipped her off to Surf Reality’s Sunday mics, where she sang, grew to love the nuances of live comedy, and learned — from a guy who did backflips off a table, a lady who got naked and tried to lay an egg (which ended up cracking inside her), and a woman who traced the image of a penis with her own menstrual blood — how to express herself freely and fearlessly.
“The rules were you can’t set shit on fire or smoke tobacco, but people were onstage taking off their clothes, they were reading poetry, they were making me laugh,” Khalili says. “I was meeting people I would have never met.” One was future “Roastmaster General” Jeffrey Ross, with whom she would perform years later on Comedy Central. Another was a lightning-fast loudmouth comic named Keith Malley. Bonding over their conservative religious upbringings, Khalili and Malley began dating in 2004.
“We made each other laugh,” says Malley. Determined to forge their own artistic paths, “It felt like we had each other’s back.”
Both had computer-savvy brothers who talked to them about a new technology that might help promote their music and comedy online. Around the couple’s one-year anniversary, they began recording half-hour KATG episodes in their shared two-bedroom apartment in Flushing. Within a month they’d graduated to one-hour shows five days a week. Their Surf Reality buddies came on as guests, and in turn recommended them to others.
For the first time he could remember, Malley seemed to have found his niche. “I wasn’t as motivated as I should have been about life, period,” he says. “But nothing grabbed me like podcasting.”
Though authors, scientists, and storytellers added variety to the show, comedians proved the most forthcoming as guests. “They aren’t embarrassed about what’s going on in their lives,” Malley muses. “We’re all guessing. We’re all doing the same dumb things. They realize we’re all going through the same dopey shit and none of us know what we’re doing, so they’re open. We like open people. For the most part those people happen to be comedians. I think our community is so rabid because there’s vulnerability.”
An audience was there from the beginning, both as listeners and as catalysts for advancing the show as a business. Within a month fans were already writing in, wanting to contribute financially. “They asked us how to donate, so then we set up donations,” Khalili explains. “Then fans wanted T-shirts, so we got T-shirts. They said, ‘We’d love to meet you guys,’ so we started doing live shows.”
Khalili likens the experience to a college education, partying with the community at night, then getting up and going to class each day. The couple learned how to sell themselves, how to express themselves, how to get faster and sharper. Says Khalili: “Podcasting made me find myself.”
The more success they enjoyed, the more hours KATG demanded. Eventually, they were forced to make a decision: keep the show going with no guaranteed income versus paying the bills with regular jobs. For Khalili, her work as a clown was reliable, while Malley earned money any way he could. At different times he worked as a rock DJ, a baker, a foot model, a telemarketer, a nurse’s aide, a staffer at a child-casting agency, an assistant to a greeting-card maker, a night guard at the American Bible Society, a sperm donator, a toy store manager, and, thanks to Khalili, a reluctant birthday-party entertainer.
Ultimately, they chose the show, replacing their regular paychecks with a terrifying, nerve-racking pressure to succeed. They weren’t motivated by striking it rich. Just keeping KATG alive took priority over all other financial and personal commitments.
A break came in 2009 when Random House dangled a book deal, which, the following year, resulted in the publication of What Do We Do Now? Keith and the Girl’s Smart Answers to Your Stupid Relationship Questions. The deal contained a clause stipulating that they remain a couple for at least a year following publication. They giggled, signed the contract without hesitation, and threw themselves a fake wedding reception. The book was a success, requiring a second printing in its second week of release. Their relationship, however, was a different story.
After five years together, their on-air partnership was stronger than ever, but in real life, communication was beginning to break down. As a couple, Khalili and Malley were drifting apart. Says Khalili, “The relationship needed me to keep its emotional stability, and when I hit a wall and needed Keith to help facilitate that aspect, we both learned that that challenge was too great.” Eventually, they realized they would better relate to each other if they went their separate ways.
One day, without hysteria or tears, they made it official. “Are we broken up?” “Yes.” They recorded a perfectly normal KATG episode an hour later.
“It’s fair to say that breaking up made us nervous about continuing the show,” says Khalili. “We didn’t want to quit. For the first few months after we broke up with each other, we would ask the other person, ‘You still like doing this with me?’ And even when we were mad, sad, and whatever else people who break up go through, the answer was always ‘You are the best co-host for me.’ ”
It would be another eighteen months, per their book contract, before friends, family, and fans ever knew they had split.
On January 25, as Mayor Bill de Blasio winds down a Sunday press conference warning of a “crippling and potentially historic blizzard,” KATG‘s homepage counts down the minutes, then final seconds, until their annual marathon show. Khalili, her flu-ridden system already coursing with Vicks, B-12, and fish oil, is arranging cough drops and ginger. Malley double-checks a stash of eyedrops, deodorant, underwear, and Percocet for a recently busted knee. For the next 57 hours, more than 60 guests are scheduled to filter in and out of the studio, but with Winter Storm Juno shutting down subways and streets, cancellations are mounting.
Despite illness, injury, and #snowpocalypse, the annual Keith and the Girl marathon continues as planned. The longest of the six previous editions lasted 76 hours; one even included a fan’s on-air proposal. 2015’s Kickstarter-funded marathon runs 3 p.m. Sunday to 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, and they have to fill every last minute with gripping content.
“I didn’t get any stress-dreams this time,” Khalili notes up top. “I look forward to these things, but right before, I start getting anxiety. I dream there’s a guest there and I have nothing to ask them. Zero. Not ‘How was your day?’ Not ‘Tell me about your childhood.’ Not one question comes up, and I’m just panicking. You’re in another room because it’s your turn to sleep or something, and I am just bombing.”
Comedian Mehran Khaghani ricochets in at the eighteen-minute mark. “How are you guys doing?” he exclaims. “I’m so happy to be here!”
“You know it’s not the middle of the night,” Khalili mock-shushes. “We’re not trying to stay awake. This is just the beginning.”
The three chat about the recent New York transplant’s new weekly show at Union Hall, then Khaghani presents a gift.
“I’ve considered what it is you’re doing, and I’m giving to you, if you want to use it, a military-grade awake pill.”
“You brought us crack?” Khalili hoots.
It’s not an actual amphetamine, Khaghani explains — merely a brain trick mimicking eight hours of restful sleep. “Fighter pilots swear by it,” he assures, proffering two apiece. Khaghani watches Malley seize his instantly. “Are you taking one now?”
“I’m taking ’em both, bro!”
As blizzard-preparedness reaches its frenzied peak, hours before the worst of the storm is expected to make landfall, the KATG marathon is still going. Khalili coughs so much she pees her pants. Malley chews his lips so badly during a fitful Percocet nap that they swell painfully. At one point Lauren Hennessy cuts comic Mike Guild’s hair for lack of anything better to do. Not once during the 57 hours does the feedback from the show’s fans, who banter along with the hosts and guests in online forums, call out a boring or subpar patch.
“It was really kind of fun broadcasting through something that shut down New York City, and just keeping afloat with dick jokes and anything we can do to keep things interesting,” Danny Hatch, who stole a few winks in the studio closet, says of this year’s marathon. “Cabin fever made it a lot more raw and silly and ridiculous.”
Video streaming, live chat, instant-feedback submissions, and apps for both iPhone and Android can glitch or seem excessive, but few if any podcasts provide more fan interactivity. To reach every potential listener, Khalili and Malley offer every possible point of entry. Their business thrives on hustle and exploration, flexibility and feedback.
Donations, KATG affiliate links, and ad copy form only the tip of the revenue iceberg. Starting in 2011, Malley and Khalili began offering paid VIP subscriptions, giving members access to back-catalog episodes, videos, and a half-dozen spin-off podcasts, including Hatch’s That’s the Show With Danny and Hennessy’s Bottoms Up. Alongside traditional merch and Malley’s stand-up releases, there’s the duo’s 2014 enhanced e-book The Ultimate Podcasting Guide, offering how-to regarding conceptualization, equipment, audience cultivation, and monetization.
Khalili and Malley have recorded live shows in Tel Aviv, London, Toronto, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Dallas. November’s New York Comedy Festival includes multiple KATG-affiliated shows. Each April fans from as far as the U.K., Asia, and Australia attend KATG Week, a series of NYC shows, parties and meetups anchored by Malley’s annual birthday recordings.
The full calendar of activity is a lifestyle, as Khalili emphasized at Podfest, that never slows. KATG has incorporated into its shows the co-hosts’ tales of real-world hirings, firings, money troubles, parental chaos, relationship drama, travel fiascoes, apartment relocations, only-in–New York experiences, health concerns, fallings-out, burnt bridges, and disappointments and victories both minor and major. Their life is their show, and the show is their life.
Khalili and Malley answer to no boss, FCC restrictions, or creative parameters whatsoever. For better or worse, KATG rests on their shoulders alone. If they’re in a bad or lazy mood, sick, injured, or stuck in a snowstorm, the only choice is to keep going.
“If we can’t continue this, it just doesn’t get continued,” Khalili says. “It’s not just a job that you’ve lost. It’s your career. There’s always a lot at stake.”
Lauren Hennessy knew the shit was about to go down. Logging in to the KATG forums under a pseudonym, she saw the shock and confusion. Fans wrote that they were crying, that they didn’t know how to deal, that it was just like their parents’ divorce all over again.
The first time she appeared on the show, the actress says, “the response was amazing. Everyone was like, ‘Holy fuck, we love Lauren! She’s so awesome!’ I was welcomed into an automatic family.”
This particular Friday afternoon, the vibe was decidedly “Fuck, we hate Lauren!”
Hennessy grew up in a Maui paradise terrified, as her minister father taught, that she was doomed to hell for being gay. She voluntarily attended conversion therapy at Nyack Christian College in New York. In 2004 the New York Post‘s Page Six and the National Enquirer outed Hennessy and her then-live-in girlfriend, actress Heather Matarazzo, after the two attended a party together. When she came out to her father, it was the first time she remembers having seen him cry.
Khalili and Hennessy met at a 2009 table read for INTAR Theatre musical Viva Patshiva. They became close friends, and Hennessy was soon a fixture in the KATG universe. “I knew she was going to be a person who was in my life forever,” Hennessy says of Khalili. At that time, Khalili and Malley were broken up, but, bound by the clause in their book deal, they hadn’t revealed the news to anyone. In Hennessy’s eyes — as in those of KATG‘s fans — Khalili and Malley were a committed couple.
Eventually, Khalili and Hennessy began sleeping together, which, Khalili recalls, surprised them both — especially because Hennessy was unaware the couple had split. “It took awhile before I admitted to Lauren that Keith and I were actually broken up [and] had been broken up this whole time,” Khalili says.
The two became romantically involved, but the secrecy and guilt and stress of keeping up appearances became overwhelming. Khalili and Malley begged Random House to be released from their contract; pleased with the initial sales, the publisher acquiesced. When KATG spilled the full story in May 2010, Hennessy bore the brunt of the fan backlash. Forum members compared her to Yoko Ono and even voiced death wishes.
“We had to remind them that we’d been doing the show a year and a half while we weren’t together,” Khalili says. “Nothing happened to your show. Everything’s fine.”
The revelations continued. At the outset of her and Khalili’s relationship, Hennessy privately confessed to having long felt like a male within a female body. In January 2011 Hennessy spontaneously came out on KATG as transgender; he has no immediate plans to medically transition.
A year later, in February 2012, Malley got engaged to Cathryn Lavery, a KATG fan whom he’d met four years earlier while taping an episode of the show in London. They married in June 2013 and adopted a maltipoo named Hugsy Malone.
Humpback whales surface in the bay as the sun sets over uninhabited Kahoolawe Island to the west. Hennessy’s father invites the three dozen guests on the grassy point to be seated. It’s February 2015 and the group of friends and family have gathered in Maui to see Khalili and Hennessy married.
“You have had to struggle through the many definitions of love but none that seemed to really fit who you are,” he tells the couple. “And so you’ve come up with your own definition of love.” The couple exchange puzzle-piece rings of Hennessy’s design. Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” rises above the waves.
Ten years’ passage saw uncertainty and change for Malley, Khalili, and their spouses. Professional and personal dreams evolved and expanded into realities no longer resembling their original form. KATG comes to mind when Hennessy’s father says, “The two of you understand the struggle and difficulty of love. It carries with it a certain price tag. But it carries as well an undeniable satisfaction and an everlasting joy.”
Podcasting’s next decade anticipates more efficient monetization and entertainment conglomerates inching DIY shows in increasingly mainstream directions. While other podcasters catch up with their predecessors, Khalili and Malley continue exploring new terrain. Says Khalili, “There’s always something to do. It’s just that we have to take it one thing at a time as we grow.” For Malley the goal is simply “more ears, eyes, hearts, everything.”
Malley records his twelfth album in as many years April 15 at Williamsburg’s Livestream Public. Per tradition, it’s also his only stand-up show of the year, the material for which he tends to procrastinate writing until a few weeks out. “Comedians get offended that I call myself a comedian,” he says. “What do I give a fuck? They think I’m cheating the system when I get a crowd, but I had to earn the crowd coming out the same way they did.”
Additional writing projects and a community camping weekend are in the works, and KATG launches its first national tour this fall, which will be filmed for an upcoming documentary. It’s a whole new undertaking and learning experience, but Khalili and Malley had never done a lot of things before inventing an entire industry, either. The route is hazy and the destinations tentative. As they’ve done their entire lives, forging their own path remains the only way they’ll get where they’re going.