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Gaby Dunn And Allison Raskin On Female Friendships, Mental Health, And Dating: BUST Interview

by Kat McQuade

Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin are paving the way for female comedians on the Internet. Starting out as fan favorites on BuzzFeed, in 2015 the comedy duo left the company to start their own popular YouTube channel Just Between Us (JBU). The channel was an instant hit with its advice show format and numerous skits in which the two portray exaggerated versions of themselves. In each episode, they discuss topics including feminism, friendship, LGBT issues, and dating. 

Both women are hilarious, but as they’ve been moving forward with their careers, they’ve moved past their exaggerated personas. In the past few years, Raskin and Dunn have written two books together (the sequel to I Hate Everyone But You, titled Please Send Help, will be released this July), released their own podcasts (Dunn’s Bad With Money and Raskin’s Gossip), and continued to create new videos for JBU. The channel has been a trailblazer for the YouTube comedy scene with its honest yet hilarious advice on issues young millennials face today. Boasting nearly 730,000 subscribers, Raskin and Dunn have definitely established themselves on the platform.

This spring, the duo decided to transition JBU to the world of podcasting, to great success. The show is an hour long rather than ten- to fifteen-minute YouTube videos. Through the podcast, Raskin and Dunn have been able to dive even deeper into topics such as feminism and LGBT culture. Over the phone, we discussed podcasting, mental health, friendships, feminism, dating, and how to deal with creepy guys on the subway.

So I just want to start off the interview by saying I’ve been watching JBU since I was about fifteen years old and it was-

Gaby: Oh my god! 

[Laughing] Yeah! It was a really formative part of my teenage-hood, and I still watch the show. I’ve met a lot of other people around my age who’ve experienced the same thing with your channel. I think it’s really rare that there are women like you who share their mistakes and aren’t really afraid to say what they think. I was just wondering, how does it feel to know that you’ve been such great role models for young women, especially teenage girls, throughout your career? 

Allison: I mean, that’s probably the best part of everything we do. The day before yesterday, a girl came up to me and said that I helped her get through high school. I think the goal with the content we make is you know, obviously, we want to make people laugh, but we also want to talk about stuff that matters and kind of shine the light that life’s not perfect and that we’re all sort of a work in progress. 

G: When I was in high school, I was a big fan of things. I mean I still am, but I was a huge fangirl. I just loved, loved things. I loved movies, loved comics, loved celebrities, so I always wanted to be that for someone else, especially as a queer person. There were so few queer role models when I was growing up. To hear kids say, “you helped me realize I was bisexual” or that I could be that for somebody when people were that for me is exactly what I wanted. It’s like, be the thing that you needed when you were a kid, and I think that we really have that in our minds when we make stuff. 

I’d like to ask you about the podcast. It’s been really great and both of you have experience in podcasting, so what’s it been like transitioning JBU to an hour-long podcast format versus the shorter YouTube videos? 

A: I think the podcast is really exciting and satisfying because we can really dive into more topics. It feels like a natural progression for where we’re going. And also as our audience grows up, like you, I think that podcasts are a really amazing avenue and medium and [it’s] like when you discover a fun secret. Also, it’s just like fun to be a radio host—

G: [laughing]

A: —wearing headphones. 

I love the little music to the international question. That’s really great.  

A: Oh, I continue to just be so jazzed every time I get to sing to that. 

G: Yeah, this is your dream come true that there’s a backing vocal to international questions.

A: I wanna be Frasier, but with music. [Laughing]

G: [Laughing] So Frasier is the only radio host that you know?

A: Yeah! 

G: Yeah, I think we are Frasier. It’s a call-in show, he gives advice. We definitely are the female Frasier. 

A: Thank you!

G: Yeah, I think people feel more intimate with podcasts. We’re in your earbuds. We’re with you. When you’re driving, hopefully, you’re not watching a YouTube video, but if you’re listening to a podcast we’re in your car, we’re in your kitchen when you’re cooking…it’s just for me, when I listen to podcasts. It feels more intimate. I like that with JBU the podcast that it’s longer, so people are able to be with us longer, we’re able to get more nuance on stuff, and it’s more of an intimate connection to the fanbase. 

I completely agree. Would you say that there’s a lot more freedom in podcasting than there is on YouTube? 

G: Oh yeah! YouTube de-monetizes queer content and a lot of times you have to bleep curse words on YouTube. I’ve heard of people getting less advertising because of saying “fuck” or whatever on YouTube. A lot my favorite channels, I see them censoring curse words, which never used to happen. [With] the podcast, we’re way more able to say what we want and get into the topics we want and obviously not censor things. Which is so great. YouTube sort of got up its own butthole, I think, like in terms of like, “well, we need to please Google,” or whatever, and [podcasting] hasn’t reached that place yet.  

A: We’re able to make money doing whatever we want to do, whereas before we were had all these controlled advertisers for certain content. 

In your first podcast, you mention YouTube is a young man’s game. What’s it been like catering to a slightly different audience in podcasting? You mention having a spirited reaction from listeners—do you feel like you’re trying to cater to a wider audience?  

A: I don’t know. I think we’ve always just sort of made the content we want to make and hope people like it. If anything, in the podcast we’re completely ourselves. For the first few years [on YouTube] we were sort of more like characters and now we don’t feel the need to be as “odd couple-y” or bickering as much about stuff. We’re more like how we actually think and sometimes we think the same thing, which is great. And maybe not so great that’s the truth. And I don’t know yet if we reach audiences outside of our fanbase, but that’s definitely the hope. As our audience gets older they’re starting to go to work, they’re commuting now and a podcast works for that sort of thing. And I hope as we grow that everyone is growing with us.  

I really love the podcast. What’s so great is that you continue to be so open about your personal lives. Is it difficult to be so candid and open about your personal lives in such a public format? 

G: No, I think I have a real problem where I just don’t have shame or something. I can’t shut up. I forget what I said, so like people will [go]: “oh my god, you talked about this really personal thing,” and I’ll just be like “did I?” Like, I can’t remember. I have a weird disconnect where I forget that people saw it.

A: [Laughing]

G: When I meet fans and they know a lot about me, I’m sort of like, “how did you know that?” And they’re like, “you said it.” And I’m like, “oh.” But that’s maybe what it takes. Maybe that’s what you need to have in order to make stuff because if I was hemming and hawing over everything I said I don’t know if I would ever say anything. You know, it’s just like who cares. 

A: I just kinda say whatever I want to say, and then later I get in trouble with people in my life. 

G: [laughing] Yeah. Very relatable. [Also], my whole thing is that if you didn’t want to be talked about, you should’ve behaved better. 

On top of being so open about your personal lives, both of you are super outspoken about mental health and your own experiences with mental health issues. At the same time, you both have very busy lives and are constantly creating content. How do you juggle taking care of your mental health and having such a busy career in the entertainment industry?  

A: It’s been a journey [laughing]. I think part of growing up is figuring out what self-care you need and what’s good for you. I guess I’m really not that busy, or I just forget that I am [laughing]. It’s really important you get sleep and exercise and you’re eating right. When you’re busier, it’s harder to do, but I think if you get in a routine of taking care of yourself then you always make that a priority.  

G: I’m sort of new [to mental health self-care]. I’m diagnosed with bipolar too, a little bit later in life. Allison’s had more time being aware of herself than I have.  

A: I know. Like 26 years.

G: Yeah, exactly. You’re a little bit more of an expert. In the last 3 years [I’m] being like, “I should probably take care of this.” I’m a bit more new to this game and I try to work out. That’s the thing I do now is working out even though I hate it. But that’s sort of the only time my brain is off, probably because I’m so focused on the pain [of exercising].

What would you suggest to people in terms of taking care of themselves when they’re in a bad mental state?

G: Working out is huge, sleep is huge, although sometimes, if you feel like crap, just get up and put a full face of makeup on or get really dressed up if you don’t wear makeup. Wear like, a gown or something. On the days that I feel like shit I get so dressed up and people go, “wow, you look amazing” and then you’re like “yeah, it’s because I feel like garbage on the inside.” 

A: The other thing I’d say is [practicing] positive thinking and just being nice to yourself. You know, you have to be your biggest fan. And you have to just kind of reprimand yourself if you start doing negative talk. Ask your friends to not let you get away with that. My dad, when I would start [negative talk], he would say “don’t say that about yourself,” “you love you,” [and] “you wouldn’t be saying that about another person.” That’s the kind of thing you always depend on. It doesn’t matter where you are but it’s always just you and your brain, figuring out a good relationship with [your head] is huge. 

You two are such close friends, and that’s so apparent through all the content you make. I think that female friendships are one of the most important things in the world for women and they’re highly underrated. How have female friendships affected your lives in a positive way? 

A: Oh, I think in everything. I think a lot of people are getting married a lot later in life, so your friends become your family for a lot of your 20s and into your 30s. Having people there that aren’t just family [is important], because family can mean obligations. Whereas when you really connect with a friend and you’re really there for each other and you’re there by choice, it carries a little bit more. I think that you really have to make sure that you’re maintaining [friendships] and putting the work into them because when they’re good and healthy they give you back so much love. I just don’t know what I’d do without my female friendships. I’d be at home a lot more.

G: Yeah, I’ve had a lot of trouble with female friendships as a queer person because I was never sure what was flirting and what was friendship. Allison taught me a lot about the give and take of opening up to someone and letting them open up to you. Being vulnerable, asking how someone is, things like that. I think that’s the sort of gentleness of female friendships that changed how I interact with everybody. Even if they disagree with you, or make different choices than you would make, [before] I’d go “well, I have nothing to talk about with that girl.” [But] you actually do, you actually have more in common than probably not in common. I think we’re socialized to [go], “well, but we’re just so different, we dress different, and come from different places or whatever,” but that’s actually just the socialization and patriarchy talking. It keeps women apart. It’s been nice to just actively go after female friendships and be like: “no, no! That’s wrong.” 

A: I definitely used to compare myself to other women and be jealous of other women and now I’m just like “let’s all rise up together!”

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You two give really great advice and I was wondering if I could ask you guys for some. I know that Allison loves hypothetical scenarios

A: [laughing] 

‘Cause this one sounds like a hypothetical scenario, but it happened to me this morning on the subway. 

A: Oh, I can’t wait to hear this.

I had this really creepy guy just staring me down on the subway, he was picking his nose and muttering to himself and he was hunched over, and his pants were falling down. I’m not really sure if y’all have an answer to this, but what would you do in a situation like that? 

G: Oh, well, is this a typical Monday in New York?

Yeah [laughing]. 

A: I try to avoid eye contact and move away if possible.

G: You know what’s messed up? Is literally as women we are so conditioned for that kind of thing to happen, that I think that [these kind of things] happen like once a day and I forget about it. Like, it’s so weird. Something like that [and] a guy would be like “whoa, that was insane what just happened,” and I’d be like, “what, that? That every-day-of-my-life situation?” The subway is a cesspool. 

A: Yeah. I guess you could make a ton of money and never have to take the subway again. 

G: Awww! I get on the subway still! I love the subway! 

A: I’m trying to give good advice, Gaby.

G: Okay! I’m sorry! It’s not good advice. But I just want to let everyone know I’m a man of the people.  

A: Oh okay, we all know that. 

G: [singing] Concrete jungle where dreams are made of!

Gaby, I actually have a really quick question for you. So back in December, it was announced you’re writing your first comic book, Bury the Lede. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about what the book’s about and what that transition from writing articles, short skits, and novels to comic books is like?

G: Sure! The book is called Bury the Lede and it’s a graphic novel and it comes out in October and it’s from Boom Studios! and I’ve been describing it as a queer Hannibal Lecter story. It’s about a young journalist in Boston who becomes entangled with a woman who’s in jail for murdering her family and they have a bit of a sexual têt-á-têt. I wrote it based on my experiences as a reporter in Boston. It wasn’t that interesting. I made it more interesting. It’s based on a lot of things that I’ve witnessed as an intern at the Boston Globe and things that happened to other people that were more interesting than things that happened to me. It’s very queer, it’s not comedy, it’s gory, it’s crime, it’s thriller, psychological… and it’s probably my favorite thing that I have coming up in terms of me doing something different […] because It’s so visual. I’m not drawing it obviously, someone more talented than me is, but I love seeing what she’s come up with, just turning in the pages and seeing someone’s visual idea of my writing – I’m always so blown away. I watch a lot of drama and a lot of crime, so I [thought], “if I have that background and I have that interest why not try to diversify and try to write crime and gore because I do enjoy watching and reading that.” I think graphic novels are perfect for that dramatic, scary type of story. I think it’s sort of along the lines of Hannibal and Killing Eve.

That sounds awesome. While we’re on the topic of writing, I did want to ask you about Please Send Help. I really enjoyed I Hate Everyone But You. It has such great characters and their friendship was so honest. What was it like returning to these characters and working on writing a novel together? What made you want to write a sequel to it? 

A: I think that we always saw it as a trilogy and a series of the girls kind of growing up together [during] that time in life when everything completely changes… it was exciting to get back to them. It’s interesting because they’re these past versions of ourselves, so trying to remember how we were different back then versus now. It was just really interesting and fun to return to them and see where they’re going to be and where they need to be.

I wanted to ask you for advice on dating. So now I’m dating, doing the whole Tinder bullshit thing, and it’s hell. What advice would you give to women who are struggling on the dating scene right now, especially those who are in their early 20s?

A: I think the biggest thing is just to be yourself and if the person doesn’t like that, then they’re not meant for you. It took me a really long time to realize that I was trying to fit into the mold of what I thought was desirable.

Whenever I go to people for advice and I’ll go, “ugh, nothing’s working out,” they’ll say “you’re not dressing right, you’re not putting on enough makeup.”  

A: Yeah, so I wouldn’t ask that person for advice. 

G: I just heard something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, which is if someone is attracted to you, it’s not really your business why. Everyone’s attracted to different things and drawn to different personality types and drawn to different things about people. This sort of idea that everyone has to meet a standard in order to date – it’s just not true. I think of all the weird shit that I’m attracted to that [I] wouldn’t really be able to explain. Whatever weird stuff has happened in a person’s life that’s led them being into you is really none of your business [laughing]. 

A: That is so funny! 

G: Yeah and also you can’t manipulate it, you can’t trick it. 

A: You can’t force attraction and I think that this idea if you just change yourself everything will work out is so horrible. 

What’s coming up for you guys in terms of the podcast?

G: We have a bunch of really awesome guests lined up already. We’re allowed to tease guests right?

A: I have no idea. I don’t know exactly what we’re allowed to talk about, but yeah we’re going to have 32 episodes which is really cool!  

Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin can both be found on social media, and you can preorder their upcoming book, Please Send Help. Dunn’s companion book to Bad With Money, Bad With Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together, is out now. You can find Just Between Us, Gossip, and Bad With Money anywhere podcasts are available.

Image Credit: Robyn Van Swank 

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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