Tired of feeling outraged by misogyny? Julia Davis and Vicki Pepperdine’s satirical advice podcast Dear Joan and Jericha will let you laugh at it, instead.
The last time I regularly laughed uncontrollably in public while listening to a podcast was in 2015, when I was introduced to the first series of My Dad Wrote a Porno. I spent much of that autumn trying to suppress hysterical giggles on public transport – which often led to squeaking noises escaping through my nose, attracting suspicious looks from fellow passengers – and suddenly barking with laughter as I walked down the street, making passers-by jump out of their skin. I looked like a lunatic, but I was extremely happy.
Since then, I’ve found plenty of podcasts I love – I am a podcast fiend – but none that make me laugh so often and so hard that my eyes regularly fill up with tears. Until recently, when a friend sent me a link to Dear Joan and Jericha, the new ‘advice’ podcast by comedians Vicki Pepperdine and Julia Davis.
Pepperdine and Davis are titans of dark British satirical comedy: Davis made her name playing a narcissistic sociopath in BBC Three comedy Nighty Night (which she also wrote), while Pepperdine was BAFTA-nominated for her role in the NHS-set sitcom Getting On alongside Jo Brand. In Dear Joan and Jericha, they play Joan Damry and Jericha Domain, two agony aunts and self-professed “everywomen” who “have between them worked in the fields of life coaching, female sexual health, psycho-genital counselling and sports journalism”.
At first, Joan and Jericha sound quite lovely, if a little dull. It’s possible to imagine hearing their soothing, mellow, cosy voices on the radio in your mum’s kitchen: think Lorraine Kelly and Jane Garvey chit-chatting and chuckling about holidays and haircuts, and you’re almost there.
But once each episode gets underway, and Joan and Jericha start reading out letters from their (fictional) listeners, things take a turn for the surreal. Because it turns out that Joan and Jericha are horrible: cruel, judgemental, relentless body-shamers who are explicably fond of telling women that they probably have life-threatening diseases.
They are also as quick to praise men as they are ready to attack women, a recurring theme deployed to hilarious effect. When a woman called Beatrice writes in in episode one to say she’s lost sexual interest in her overweight husband, attaching a photo of herself, they tear her appearance to shreds.
“I mean, she’s got nothing on her – she’s got no boobs, no hips,” says Jericha. “What’s there to bang, for want of a better expression?” She adds: “If you’re going to leave food on the plate, then he’s going to finish it. It’s maths!”
“With that thin physique you look like the type of woman who’d suffer from migraines, I would imagine,” Joan continues sagely. “And with that in mind, you’re likely to have a stroke any day.”
Not every letter sent to Joan and Jericha concerns heterosexual relationship dynamics. But this habit of theirs – insulting women while defending men, all in the same chatty, convivial tones – is a thread that runs throughout the series, as is their startlingly graphic and unremittingly terrible sex advice. Women are regularly scolded for questioning the actions of men, even when those men are comically awful. In episode three, ‘Pat Jones from Kent’ writes in to complain that her husband only wants to have sex by kicking her in the vagina, while he looks at the rugby results on his phone.
Essentially, Joan and Jericha tell Pat Jones to get over herself. Women, says Joan, have been conditioned by “romantic books and films” to think that sex should be a “very close, soul-entwining experience. When in fact, most men would rather not look at you.”
“I say good on him,” says Jericha. “Good for him for spicing it up in the bedroom, and I’m sorry to hear that Pat Jones from Kent isn’t a bit more broadminded. Goodness me, Pat!”
The questions posed to Joan and Jericha are often farcical, and their answers always devolve into absurdly filthy musings that you’re unlikely to hear on your local radio station anytime soon. But the reason the podcast makes for such bitingly good satire is that it taps into a grimly familiar cultural phenomenon. The women who write into Dear Joan and Jericha are almost always told to buck up their ideas (be open to anything in bed! Don’t nag your husband! Maintain a slim figure, but not too slim! Dress well! Don’t have children too late!). The men who feature in their letters, in contrast, are excused and even lusted after, no matter how grotesque they are.
In other words, listening to Dear Joan and Jericha is like seeing real-world attitudes towards women reflected in a circus hall of mirrors: warped and outsized, but still absolutely recognisable. And at a time when one could easily spend 24 hours a day feeling outraged at sexism and misogyny, it’s a relief to just be able to laugh at it until tears roll down your face.
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