As I saw the announcement on Facebook, I clicked as fast as I possibly could. My absolute favorite podcast, “Pod Save America,” was doing a live show in Philadelphia on October 26. After I filled out the form for tickets, I got an email saying “You should hear from us within 5–7 business days. If you have not heard from us by 5:00 p.m. on October 25th, that will mean that unfortunately, we have been unable to fulfill your ticket request.” That email came on September 25, and I didn’t get another email for 5–7 days; I didn’t even get an email by 5:00 p.m. on October 25th. I got the email that I snagged tickets for the show at 11:09 p.m. the day before.
When the email swooshed into my inbox, I was beyond excited. I texted the friend that I was going with that we had been given the tickets, and she was shocked. It was so last–minute that is seemed surreal. One of the things the email emphasized was wearing merchandise, so I made sure to give my second shirt to my friend to wear to the theater. As I went to bed the night before, I was so giddy with excitement that I hard a hard time falling asleep.
The entire next day I could not stop thinking about the live show. I was so nervous about getting a good seat that my friend and I got these about 40 minutes before check–in began. When we got to the venue, The 23rd Street Armory, we were far from the first ones in line. While we waited to get into the venue, they made us put our phones into locked pouches, so we couldn’t access them during the show. Security also scanned us with metal detectors twice before letting us go into the building.
After we got into the Amory, I saw the set. It was smaller than I expected, but it felt intimate, like they would be talking directly to us. We waited in a line to be put into chairs and the person who was seating people looked at my friend and me up and down, and place us in the front row, at eye–level with the stage. We speculated it was because we were young, female, and proudly wearing our "Friend of The Pod" shirts.
I took my seat, then gawked as I saw the hosts of the podcast, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor, and Dan Pfeiffer, walking backstage. These were people I'd been listening to for two years, and I was about to see them in real life for the first time. Before the show started Akilah Hughes warmed up the audience a bit. Then she and a person working on the show had us make noises that they could use if necessary. They included heavy applause, light applause, heavy laughter, light laughter, and anger.
The live show itself was entirely surreal, it was the people that had been talking into my ear, right in front of my face. Weirdly, it wasn’t what I had imagined at all, but I guess a live show for HBO is different than a podcast. The show was short, but that time constraint was not under their control. It felt a bit more forced than normal, like the normally spontaneous banter between the hosts was partially scripted. I also felt that five people on stage—they had Simone Sanders as an additional host—was too many and people were talking over each other a bit, so the normal number of 2–3 people hosting the podcast works better.
Despite the flaws of the show, I had the most amazing time. I got to hear the people who I so dearly admire and aspire to be talk about politics. The main topics of the conversation were the recent sending of pipe bombs to prominent Democrats, that bringing civility back to politics is the responsibility of the Republicans, and the messages Democrats should be sending leading up to midterms. It is the kind of conversation that I needed to hear before the elections, to remind me that the best way to be is to spend your time is motivating others to vote.
They also interviewed Democratic candidate for the House in PA–06, Chrissy Houlahan, where she talked about what she wants to do for the district and started the joke that ran throughout the show to “prove Lovett wrong.” Lovett had previously made comments saying that mobilizing Pennsylvania to vote blue isn't possible, but Houlahan provided evidence otherwise—Pennsylvania volunteers, she said, have already knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors. They ended the show with a game with an audience member, who happened to be wearing a “prove Lovett wrong” shirt. The game was about Republicans going back on their promise to protect pre–existing conditions, a perfect cap to an evening all about how Democrats need to prevail.
At the end of the pod, I rushed to the stage and shook the hands of Tommy, Dan, and Lovett. After the live show was over and I walked outside, I still could not believe what had happened, and I’m not sure I still do.