The podcast “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People” begins each episode with their staple catchphrase: “One phone call, one hour, no names, no holds barred.” Hosted by comedian Chris Gethard, “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People” is a podcast that allows listeners from all walks of life to find authenticity and community. On a weekly basis, Gethard randomly enters the studio and tweets a phone number for people to call. The randomly selected caller is at the center of the conversation and can discuss whatever they choose. The show has no established schedule, no queue, and hardly any vetting, for producers simply ensure that the phone connection is clear. Each episode is barely edited aside from bleeping out identifying details about the caller. This allows for listeners to experience another person’s story entirely in their own words.
Among the many participants, the podcast includes an exhausted customer service employee, a mother awaiting life or death test outcomes for her daughter, a sex toy designer, a former monk, a young woman about to turn herself in to the police for a serious crime, and over 100 others. The episodes range from deep and heavy to humorous and light-hearted, providing a wide range of emotions for the listener to experience. Gethard’s laid-back yet interested approach appears to make it easier for the participant to open up and veer away from surface-level conversation. This approach makes the listener feel as though they are overhearing a conversation between two friends rather than two strangers.
In one particular episode, the caller is a person who is deaf and uses a sign language translator to communicate with Gethard. The caller shared how he engaged with podcasts, a typically audio-based experience, by reading the transcripts. Gethard noted this as being one of his most memorable episodes, as he truly believed the conversation embodied a glimpse of how it feels to walk in another’s shoes.
To sit in the space of a stranger and listen to the ugly, beautiful, and average parts of their story is a truly thought-provoking experience. I recommend “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People” because it echoes the value of every person and their story. . In addition to this, the active listening skills that Gethard demonstrates is another reason why this podcast is so valuable. He adds his own insights without decentering the caller and actively tries to understand what they are saying as best as he can. The caller, regardless of how absurd the conversation becomes, is talked to as an equal whose words contain purpose and meaning. As shared by the comedian himself, “I do my best to help and offer thoughts and advice, but I’m no therapist. I’m just a guy who is very willing to listen and who hopes that things turn out ok,” Gethard explained.