Just about a week after Lizz Winstead, comedian and co-creator of "The Daily Show," appeared as a guest on the Tit for Tat podcast, she was in Cleveland for the RNC and an event with Lady Parts Justice, a group of comedians and writers using their particular skillsets to fight for women's rights. In the middle of the madness though, she took time out of her busy schedule to reconnect with the team behind Tit for Tat and take them to dinner. It's a high compliment for the environment and conversation they've created in just a year with the program.
"We hear all the time that this or that celebrity or figure doesn't do podcasts, and then we get them," says Thomas, one of the co-hosts. "And then they tweet at us or tell us afterward that they had a great time. Now we've got guests asking us to come to Nashville or Los Angeles to meet them in person."
The show is only 17 episodes into its short but vibrant existence. It was a team effort of sorts and a common sensibility that brought the trio together. There's Veranda L'Ni, the tallest drag queen in Cleveland (clocking in at seven feet-tall); Thomas, the gay co-host; and then Producer Kenny, the straight foil. "I've known Kenny forever – we grew up together – and because a lot of radio shows used to have gay producers, we thought it'd be fun to flip the script and have a straight guy."
Thomas had also known Veranda for years, working on charity events together, and they'd talked about doing... something, for a very long time. The show, eventually, became a natural outlet for those conversations. Thomas had a background living and working in New York and some connections that meant it wouldn't be hard to mine his friendships for reality stars and celebrity guests. The guests really were a dedicated angle from the start, and back in the summer of August 2015, when Tit for Tat launched, they'd ask and ask and get some yesses and some nos. Now, they have guests coming to them. Recently, they've chatted with Margaret Cho, Lisa Lamapanelli, Frank DeCaro, country singer Ty Herndon, and New York Times bestselling author Christopher Rice. If it seems like an odd mix, that's by design. Each member of the team comes up with a dream list of sorts, and by product of their different interests and backgrounds, the roster is a mixed bag.
"We try to be as diverse as possible," says L'Ni. "We've had straight, gay and lesbian guests and people of all colors across the board. And knowing the conversation is coming from the perspective of a drag queen, a gay man and a straight man, we're all chatting and bringing something different to the table. I listen to the morning shows, like Elvis Durant, and you have six people but they're all bringing something very specific to contribute. We try to parse that out amongst ourselves so there's a dynamic."
Though the podcast is, obviously, based in Cleveland – and Kenny makes sure local bands are featured on each episode (All Dinosaurs was on the Winstead edition) – the audience locally pales in comparison to the national and international reach. It's a credit to and byproduct of the format and guests.
"We get emails from Syria, Japan, Egypt... places where you probably could get in trouble for listening to the show. That blows my mind," says Thomas about the audience. "And we have a big gay audience but we're reminded that we have a straight audience that loves us too. So you might have this preconceived notion that it's going to be EDM and club music, but then you have punk metal and then you're reminded there are a ton of gay people who love metal. We all bring something different and so does the audience and that's why it stays fresh."
"We just have fun," says Kenny. "We love our Titty Tats – that's what we call our fans – and in the process, we've gotten to know each other so much better and the conversations that happen, it just comes from us naturally just enjoying each other's company."
"There are episodes where I can't even talk because I'm laughing so hard," Thomas chimes in.
At the heart, it's all Cleveland, no matter the reach.
"Cleveland is fantastic," says L'Ni. "There is so much diversity here and to pull all of that into the fold is amazing. I'm out and about and I get a ton of people asking about the show. Even though we don't get a ton of local emails, there's a ton of local feedback, and worldwide feedback too. It's just so amazing to me. I never thought in a million years this little podcast from Cleveland would be getting this type of response."