True Crime podcasts have become very popular thanks to Serial. People who had only heard the “P” word bandied about by friends were suddenly very eager to download the Podcast app, starting with Serial and then branching out to Sword and Scale, Criminal, Generation Why and then later, to My Favorite Murder which offers a humorous take on true crime and recently climbed the iTunes charts in the comedy category. Slightly before the debut of My Favorite Murder, which is hosted by two female comedians, two other female comedians started the podcast White Wine True Crime, informally dishing about the cases that have caught their attention and honing in on details to offer funny commentary. Their names are Kari Martin and Caitlin Cutt and they met through the California comedy circuit, Kari (40) initially admiring Caitlin’s talent from afar, befriending her on Facebook and realizing they had a morbid fascination and a love of Riesling in common. For their show, the two invite guests for discussion about the cases that have long fascinated Dateline and 48 Hours viewers. In fact, Dateline’s Josh Mankiewicz (who Kari and Caitlin lovingly call “Manks”) was recently a guest and will be back to discuss Jonbenet Ramsey, quite a coup for two ladies who record from a home kitchen.
Because they are in LA and I am in NJ, I was not able to visit them in person and share a bottle of Chenin Blanc, but I did speak to the two ladies by phone.
“Caitlin was in a stand-up contest 5 years ago and I randomly went with another comedian to this show,” reflects Kari about how the two met, “She was so funny and I was wondering what it would be like to be her friend. She ended up winning. Afterwards, when I found her on Facebook, I let her know she did such a good job and then we saw each other around doing comedy. I’m 40 going on 16 and she’s 30 going on 85 because she’s been through so much to give her perspective. Our styles are different, but we began talking about how much we loved drinking white wine and how we were both obsessed with Dateline, the ID Discovery channel...and we said ‘how great would it be if we had a podcast!’ We both can’t help noticing how silly and campy some of the reenactment shows are and we joke around, but we never make fun of the crime itself - of course we take that seriously! But just like the true crime shows on TV, we thought packaging the discussion into a podcast could help make it more digestible and we could have some fun as well. We go off on tangents, we are not a serious podcast, but there are plenty of really serious true crime podcasts already out there if that’s what you want.”
I ask how each of them got interested in true crime. Caitlin says that the Jonbenet Ramsey case was one that intrigued her at a young age. “ I was home sick a lot and would watch Unsolved Mysteries. Something about the Jonbenet case scared me. I would also watch shows about older cold cases on TV and when the ID Discovery channel launched, I was..like...in Heaven.”
Kari explains that her mother was very into the true crime genre and that was the one thing they had in common and bonded over. “I watched Unsolved Mysteries as well and also read books about the Zodiac Killer and the Night Stalker while I was in college. I wondered: What makes somebody like that? The books really show you their backgrounds - why did they kill? why LA? when i found ID Discovery i fell in love.”
I tell the ladies that as a Gen X-er, like many in my cohort, the intense coverage of the OJ Simpson car chase and subsequent televised trial was what got me hooked on true crime and inspired me to watch Dateline, 48 hours and the like. I remember my father being on the computer, engrossed in some sort of programming, while I gave him a play by play on the famous football star’s case.
“I was really young when the Menendez brothers’ trial was going on,” adds Caitlin, “It was such a creepy case and my mom wanted us to turn off the TV, but then a couple of hours later, we would be watching Unsolved Mysteries.”
Kari actually has some very intriguing as well as very gross true crime history in her own family. It is incredibly bizarre. She even recounted the tale to White Wine True Crime listeners: “ My aunt through marriage tried to murder my uncle when he was going in for open heart surgery. One day she’s on the phone with my mom talking about the upcoming surgery and the next day on the news at 4, my mom sees my aunt’s mugshot. When my uncle got out of surgery, an alarm went off for his IV. My aunt had 3 vials of fecal matter - poop! - that was set to go in his IV. After sharing this story on the podcast, one of our listeners found the 911 recording and it’s the best. We played it on the show! My uncle had to go back under because he had septic poisoning..he survived, she got arrested and only served one year for ‘attempted murder’ and guess what? They’re back together now! They had to go to counseling. There’s been so much intrigue there: Why did she decide to do that after 30 years of marriage AND pick poop? whose was is? The whole story is crazy and comical. If you look up the name Rosemary Vogel, you’ll see her picture and the caption ‘Epic Fail.’”
I am mystified by this story and even more so by the fact that Kari’s uncle is still married to the woman who tried to kill him. Caitlin says: “The thing about it though...as crazy as it is, there are so many of these shows where we see how people DO stay together after domestic abuse. It’s weird that he stayed with her, but this is a pattern we see a lot.”
”It’s poop water under the bridge,” quips Kari, who adds that her family is no longer in contact with these relatives.
“What case are you guys obsessed with trying to solve at the moment?” I ask the ladies.
“The real estate agent in North Carolina!” says Caitlin, “The one who trapped that woman in a..crater... I am fixated on who took over the boyfriend’s Facebook account. How many other people did this guy kill? How did he make the leap from ‘I’m gonna shoot people’ to keeping someone in a tanker on his property. And his mom is defending him and minimizing the severity of what he did. It’s insane.”
“Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing,” Kari remarks. She’s really going to bat for her son. She even says that what he did to a 14 year old girl is really not that bad because he walked the girl home...I mean, this mom’s rationale is....”
“This mom has not fully accepted things and we watched a documentary about Aileen Wuornos and also saw how her mom tries to make justifications and tries to disassociate,” says Caitlin, “She talks about how Aileen had a frank (breech) birth and is trying to figure out if that may have caused her behavior. She’s definitely a product of her environment and she had a very hard life.”
Kari and Caitlin have a much smaller following than the very popular My Favorite Murder, which listeners compare it to, but they say they love having a personal touch and being able to respond to the fans that write to them. They jokingly describe their podcast as “Dateline meets Real Housewives meets Vanderpump Rules.” Caitlin even talks about meeting up with fans for drinks, a brave move (in my opinion) when you host a show that focuses on crime.
She says that she does her best work at happy hour, tweeting to potential guests of the show. She was ecstatic when Josh Mankiewicz, who had never heard of the comedians or ever guested on a podcast, tweeted back right away. The women say that until he actually showed up, they weren’t sure who was going to step out of the car.
“He gets out of his convertible, this gracious guy and gives us Dateline hats and we just loved him,” Kari relates, “He's not a drinker so we drank the two bottles ourselves, but he loves to chat and he loves to get into stories and he stayed for another hour and a half after we finished recording.
“Yeah, we went out with him afterwards with his wife,” chimes in Caitlin. I ask if the two would approach my true crime crush Keith Morrison to which Caitlin replies “I’d be scared to ask anyone else. I don’t want Josh to think we're cheating on him!”
Speaking to Kari and Caitlin makes me want to fly out to California, drive to Caitlin’s house and have my own white wine session with them in the kitchen. There are so many interesting cases to dissect and discuss. They admit that they can be silly and are “not for everybody,” that some people love them and some people (ironically) wish they were dead. They’ve read the reviews that are not entirely positive.
Both have day jobs in marketing and their time for comedy is mainly channeled through podcasting. They are also working on another true crime show called Pretty Scary for subscribers of the podcast Unpopular Opinion. Their most enduring quality as podcast hosts to me is their humility and authenticity.
“You need to be gracious and have no illusions,” says Kari “We are in a kitchen and not a studio when you hear us talking. We came together because we both have this interest and we made each other laugh. We are always happy and surprised to hear people are listening and we forget about that sometimes when we’re recording because we’re engrossed in conversation with our guests. The magic really comes out of the informality. We swear, we get things wrong and there are a lot of people out there who are a lot like us. For many, this is a much easier way to ingest all of this murder information that people can’t help wanting to know more about.”
For more information about the podcast, see http://whitewinetruecrime.com/.