I have a confession to make. I can lie no more. It must be known.
I am a murderino.
What, you say? You've never heard that word? Well, okay, the Oxford dictionary doesn't seem to know about it either. But the dictionary definition should read:
Murderino. Noun. Person with a borderline obsessive interest in true crime, and the specific nature and details of disturbing murders.
I've always been a murderino. I remember being riveted as a kid by true crime shows like Unsolved Mysteries. I researched the Manson murders. I devoured In Cold Blood. I always sort of thought I must be a little bit weird. But then I started listening to the My Favorite Murder podcast this spring, and I realized I'm not alone.
In fact, murderinos are everywhere.
My Favorite Murder launched in January. It's hosted by two California comedians and fellow murderinos, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. In every episode, the girls pick a real murder they're intrigued by, and talk about it for an hour.
The show has been a sleeper hit. It's currently the #1 comedy (yes, comedy) podcast on iTunes, outranking heavyweights like Marc Maron's WTF and NPR's Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me. It's been hovering around the #10 spot overall, above Fresh Air, TEDTalks, and Planet Money. It has spawned a loyal following of rabid listeners who churn out fan art, share their hometown murders, and proselytize about the show.
I guess this success shouldn't be surprising considering the recent surge in popularity of all things true crime (particularly Serial and Making a Murderer). But many true-crime hits are highbrow examples of impact-seeking investigative storytelling. My Favorite Murder is… not.
My Favorite Murder is low-brow and proud. Production value? What production value? The show is recorded in Georgia's living room, with her cats (which have become the show's unofficial mascots) meowing in the background. It's also not particularly plot driven or, for that matter, fact driven. When Karen and Georgia talk about their favorite murders, they're usually reading directly from a Wikipedia page and adding their own quippy commentary. Accuracy isn't really their thing. As Karen said in episode 15: "Have I mentioned that this is just a podcast and if you need to know factual shit, go ahead and log on to CNN.com?"
So, why listen? In short: This show is hilarious.
A quick example of the kind of humor My Favorite Murder serves up can be found in this video of the show's first ever live taping. Guest Dave Anthony has chosen to talk about the Trailside Killer, or David Carpenter, who is known for murdering women on hiking trails in California. Anthony has just finished detailing the gruesome killings and is explaining how Carpenter got caught. Start at 47:45 and listen through to about 48:20 for the best laughs. Lots of NSFW language, by the way.
In another episode, the girls hear the story of a woman who found out a murderer had been lurking in the woods near her house. The solution, as suggested by Georgia in a deadpan: "Chop down all the woods. Am I wrong?"
The playful humor carries through to the show's catchphrase, which gets repeated at the end of every episode as a kind of murderino mantra: "Stay sexy, don't get murdered."
My Favorite Murder regularly has me in stitches, laughing so hard I'm crying. Which is weird, right? It's a show about murder. Real lives that have been lost at the hands of deranged psychopaths.
Murder is awful and scary. But here's the thing: It's also really common. We all know people are killing other people all the time, and that we, too, could be murdered, but we have to carry on living our lives without being paralyzed by fear.
And how do we do this? By talking about murder, when it happens, obsessively and informally with family and friends. Maybe we do this over dinner or drinks. Maybe in online forums. Wherever we do it, we don't always care about the facts of the story or who was where at what specific time. We want to indulge in the horror of it — become engrossed in the awful details, shake our heads in disbelief, and ultimately look for parallels in our own lives.
This, by the way, doesn't make us morbid. It's simply human nature. Scott Bonn, a criminology professor at Drew University and author of Why We Love Serial Killers, wrote at Time that our love of true crime isn't about a fascination with death. Instead, he says, "serial killers tantalize people much like traffic accidents, trainwrecks, or natural disasters. … The actions of a serial killer may be horrible to behold but much of the public simply cannot look away due to the spectacle."
Georgia, one of the hosts of MFM, has said numerous times on the show that she suffers from anxiety, insomnia, and a lifelong fear of actually being murdered herself. For her, it seems talking about murder is a coping mechanism. And indeed, mental health experts say the best way to overcome your fears is to first identify them, and then talk about them.
But the other way to deal with the many horrifying brutalities of life is to laugh. Looking at murder through the lens of humor lets us acknowledge it without becoming utterly, terribly depressed by it. This is what My Favorite Murder gives us permission to do. As Karen says, "Life is as horrifyingly frightening as it is hilarious."
And there's something else this show does, which is spread awareness about how to stay sexy while not getting murdered, especially if you're a woman. One of the show's quotes that resonated most with listeners was "F--k politeness." In other words, you do not have to do something that makes you uncomfortable just to appease another person. Don't open your door for a stranger. Don't stop to give directions. Don't offer someone a ride. Trust your instincts. And listeners have been writing in to the show, sharing stories of how they may have narrowly escaped a shady situation thanks to just such advice.
There's a lot of awful people out there, no doubt. And sure, you could be strangled in your sleep by an intruder tonight. But that's the brutal truth of life: Anything can happen. We can't live in fear forever. The best you can do is take precautions, trust your instincts, and laugh as often as you can.
Stay sexy, murderinos.