Lindsay Mullan on truth, improv and quality control

I’m here with Lindsay Mullan. Usually my interviews are in a local establishment, but today we’re in your house!
Yeah! We’re in my apartment. In my living room. Welcome!

Thank you! Let’s get right into it. You just launched a podcast on The Sonar Network. It’s called Truths Be Told. Tell me about it!
Yes! I’m very excited. It’s a storytelling comedy podcast. It’s sort of in the same vein as This American Life, but I’m nothing like Ira Glass [laughs]. We’re very different personas. Each week I have a theme and all the stories on the episode revolve around that theme. All the stories are brought by my guests whom I pick. They’re all true stories from their lives. There’s a better press release version of this somewhere [laughs]. But yeah, that’s how it works.

Truths Be Told Podcast

What kinds of themes are you exploring?
The first week was behind the curtain of show business. It was all performers telling stories of things like that horrible audition they had or a crazy thing that happened on stage or the moment they realized they loved acting. I also did an episode around the theme of “cringe”, like embarrassing “I can’t believe I said or did that” types of stories. I’m hoping to tackle topics like heartbreak, loss of innocence, childhood injuries, um… oh, I want to do an episode about twins and bring in sets of twins. Mostly the show is about highlighting that the truth is not just “stranger than fiction” like they say, but also more interesting. Everyone has a good story.

I like that concept for a podcast. Real life stories lend themselves well to podcasting.
Yeah, I mean, think of any good party you’ve been to. It was probably centred on good conversation.

So, you take those conversations and make them into a podcast.
Yeah! Essentially. But also, I do a lot of quality control. I notice some comedy podcasts are just people talking, going off on tangents. Sometimes I get bored or mad and I skip ahead. So, my goal for this podcast was to create something where we can have all the fun details of the story but also get to the point quickly.

Do you edit the episodes yourself?
Yes. I’m obsessed with editing it. I really try to control the quality. I vet all the stories before they come on the podcast. I call my guests on the phone and make them tell me their story first.

That’s a good idea. You never know what’s going to happen in the recording studio.
I mean, I like improv moments. I come from an improv background. But I’ve realized that improv is the best when it has slight controls put on it.

Yeah, I think a lot of art is that way.
Yeah! You don’t need to have it be completely “anything goes”. You have to sometimes have little limitations so that your art can be the best it can be. A little bit guided. But still improvised. I still think the show is quite off-the-cuff.

Lindsay Mullan ImprovI think it’s so interesting that you’re such a stickler for editing but you come from an improv background which is obviously very in-the-moment. How does your improv impact your podcast?
When I trained in Calgary, the style I was trained in was Keith Johnstone’s style. He’s very much about truth. And I think that’s really influenced my show. Like, a lot of the time if I ask someone, for example, “Do you have a hook-up story? I’m doing an episode on the theme of one night stands.”, they’ll reply with “No, I only have normal hook-up stories. Nothing crazy ever happened…” But, why do they assume I want something crazy? I think it’s great if you have a story where you just had a romantic night and you never saw each other again. And you tell me what it was like and how you felt. That’s interesting enough to me! My improv style has always been about normal people in extraordinary circumstances. I’m not really one to make improv that’s really weird or out there. I like narrative improv. So, that really influences my style on the show.

Do you listen to podcasts?
I do! My favourite one is My Favourite Murder. I listen to it twice a week and I’m hooked on it. I’ve seen them live. Their chemistry is great, but when they get to the story, that’s when I get really excited. I like This American Life, of course. I also recently got into Armchair Expert which is Dax Shepard’s podcast. I used to listen to WTF with Marc Maron. He’s interesting to me because he’s so neurotic and he lets all of his most annoying traits come through on his show and there’s something really lovable about that.

Well, you love truth!
[Laughs] Yeah, so it makes sense!

Why a podcast and not a video series?
I did a video series years ago. The show was called Between the Sheets with Lindsay. And I was in pyjamas. All my guests were in pyjamas. This was in, like, 2011. It was a YouTube series. There were a lot of great episodes, but no one really watched it. I put a lot of work into it and I was kind of crushed that no one was into it. And then, I remember thinking of getting into podcasts and I thought, “What’s the point?” I had the same style and aesthetic and no one wanted me back then, why would they want me now? But, I realized the audiences that listen to podcasts are completely different from audiences watching YouTube. Video blogs force you to stop what you’re doing and watch them but people don’t have the time. I listen to podcasts while I’m cleaning, while I’m on my bike en route somewhere. I’m always doing something. That’s why people will listen to an hour of a podcast whereas they’ll turn a video off after 30 seconds

between-the-sheets-promo

Yeah. Podcasts are such an intimate experience because of that. You’re listening while you’re commuting or taking a bath. It becomes a part of your daily life.
Yeah, that’s a good point. It becomes almost like a family member. There’s a familiar comfort to it. So, I realized that with the show and I thought, “You know what? This might actually find an audience!”

Your launch went very well! You were featured on iTunes New & Noteworthy on your first day, which is huge!
I was! That was no fluke at all. It took a lot of work and promotion. Of course, I want people to listen to this podcast because they like it. Not just because they want to support me.

Of course.
So, you grew up in Alberta. Why did you move to Toronto?
I moved here at 21 to pursue acting. I mean, I already did theatre school in Alberta and I was already doing professional plays there, but I wanted to be in film and television and you can’t really do that out there in a big way. So, I moved out here, not really knowing anybody. The choice was either Toronto or Vancouver. But Vancouver doesn’t have as big of an improv/comedy scene. And I wouldn’t be able to handle the rain.

Are you still doing improv?
Yeah, all the time!

Are you on a team?
No, not on a team. I did Second City main stage so I took a bit of a break after that because I was doing improv almost every night for about a year. 6 nights a week, but it’s 8 shows per week because Fridays and Saturdays are 2 shows. So, it was a LOT of improv. I took a tiny break for a few weeks. But, I jumped back in and now I do improv a few times a month.

Awesome. Let’s move on to my unrelated questions.
When was the last time you couldn’t stop laughing?
Oh, wow. My boyfriend always makes me laugh. He’s also a comedian. Um, the other day I farted and he heard it and it made me laugh. I don’t set the bar very high for what makes me laugh. I think that may have been the last time. You can print that.

You don’t care if people know that you fart?
Yeah, I fart and then I laugh at it because I trap my boyfriend there in the sheets [laughs].

If I say close your eyes and go to your happy place, where do you go?
Aw, that’s a good one. I like a bedroom with the window open and the sun coming in. And you can hear birds.

Is it morning?
Yeah.

In the summer?
Yeah. And everything’s clean.

And the curtain is blowing.
Yeah, the curtain blowing is definitely part of the imagery. Just a simple, fresh, clean slate. Don’t know what’s going to happen in the day.

If you could wade through a pool of something that isn’t water, what would you choose?
Hm, I want something thick and viscous. Like pudding.

That’s what Scott Thrower said!
Yeah! And not just for the eating part. I only think this because whenever I use a Lush bath bomb or something it creates some kind of jelly and it’s fun to play with. Or sand! You know that feeling when you’re moving sand through your fingers? Those are my two answers.

Ok. There are two kinds of people in this world. What are they?
Some people try to control the situation and some people give up power to the situation. That’s a big improv one. It applies to everything in life, actually. You’re either trying to control the thing or letting it control you.

True. That’s definitely something I deal with all the time. Trying to balance those two aspects of myself.
Okay, last question! If you had a question for me, what would it be?
Why are podcasts and interviewing people about podcasts important to you?

Well, I love podcasts. So part of it is out of passion. And I think right now is a really cool time for podcasts because, even though the growth has been there for years, it feels like it’s exploding right now. Advertising is picking up more on podcasting. I see a lot more activity. I see so many more podcasts being launched. Also, it’s important for me personally to learn more about the scene in Toronto. It’s my hometown!
Do you think we have anything that makes our podcasts unique in Toronto? Have you noticed any trends specific to us?

Toronto is really big on improv. That’s not to say that there isn’t improv everywhere, but I think Toronto nurtures that part of its arts scene. Also, a lot of Toronto shows are about building community, fostering community. That’s a big theme here.
Yeah, it’s very community-based. I’ve noticed that. That’s great!

Well, we’ve reached the end. Let’s plug stuff! What do you want the people to know about?

I have a performance coming up of my new burlesque show, “Tease”. It’s one night only! August 8th at 9:30pm at Bad Dog Theatre.

Subscribe to Truths Be Told on any podcast app!
Check out LindsayMullan.com for info on past projects.
Instagram: @lindsomullo

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