Summer's Surprising Hit Podcast: My Favorite Murder

07/21/2016 12:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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("There was never any discussion as to whether or not comedy would be involved," says Georgia Hardstark, (above left with co-host Karen Kilgariff), "We just wanted to discuss true crime the way we did over lunch, and we just happen to enjoy making each other laugh, so it was always a part of it. I think humor is a lot of people's way to take away the fear and anxiety of a thing that scares the shit out of you. That's definitely our angle.")

Psssst... Hey, you. Yes, you. You're not alone and you needn't be ashamed. There are others out there watching Dateline, 20/20 and back-to-back episodes of Snapped. Ignore your husband as he raves "This isn't normal" and retreats to the other room to watch a History piece on trains, then curses loudly because the TV's set to ID Discovery. With shows like How Not to Kill Your Husband and Wives with Knives, you may want to cower in the corner, but don't!

I'll stop whispering now. There is a new podcast, hosted by comedians Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, and it's all about true crime. It is unabashedly for the folks who would rather stay home Saturday nights and watch 48 Hours, some of whom suffer through bouts of anxiety despite it, but most of all, it is for those of us who can embrace who we are -- whether that includes the fear-plagued neurotic, the kooky comedian or the amateur sleuth -- and laugh at ourselves. Co-host Georgia will tell you that murder terrifies her, that the podcast has helped to ease her anxiety at times and at others, has brought it on hard core. She is open about her experiences in therapy and wanting to hide in her car rather than come to Karen's place to record one night. For the most part though, both of these lovely ladies who are easy on the ears, have the armor of fantastic humor as their brave front. Each episode begins with Karen's beautiful voice singing, "My favorite murder..."

If you stopped reading because you found this creepy, it's totally your loss. My Favorite Murder was rated No. 1 podcast on iTunes in the "comedy" category for a reason. Recorded in California, the show has listeners far and wide including those who comment regularly on its Facebook page (for a new podcast, it boasts an impressive 22,968 members) from England and Scotland. While statistics point to the average true crime viewer as being female, there are (seemingly normal) men who listen to MFM. Having spent significant time perusing the Facebook page, I can tell you that all of these people have been behaving themselves and seem incredibly cool. Of course, psychopaths know how to lurk and stay under the radar, but the weirdos I've come across are part of other groups (particularly political ones) and (fingers crossed) not this one.

Callum McEwan of Dundee, Scotland says: "As a true crime fan, the idea of a comedy podcast that covered the subject matter really intrigued me so I started listening and fell in love with it. My first impression was that it was an unusual spin on such a dark matter, but something I really enjoyed as I have a dark sense of humor. I recommended it to my sister and she is now a massive fan. What stands out to me is the conversational tone. It reminds me of how I would speak about murders with my friends. Sometimes the facts aren't 100% but it's more the story behind those facts that I find fascinating."

Another listener who I connected with is Charlie Smith of Bristol, England. You could tell early on through the Facebook page that he has a lot of personality through his posts. He writes to me:

"I first got into the podcast fairly early in its run. I'd been listening to the second season of Serial and was underwhelmed by it, so went in search of other true crime podcasts. I just happened upon MFM and downloaded a couple of episodes not knowing at all what it would be like. At first it was a little bit strange, I was thinking to myself 'are these women making fun of these murders?' but I carried on with it and began to realize that their sense of humor is always aimed directly at themselves and they're actually deeply sympathetic and affected by these crimes. They're also quite political at times -- and angry, which I greatly enjoy! Karen and Georgia are two of the most likable hosts I've ever heard on a podcast. They seem to genuinely love each other's company and talking about this morbid shared fascination with murder. Part of what makes MFM so compelling is that the hosts are so warm and likable that it feels like you're hanging out with friends when you listen to them. It's a dark subject matter but it's treated very respectfully and somehow Georgia and Karen manage to feed that morbid curiosity we all share, but in a way that never forgets the consequences of violence."

Female listeners, my sister and I among them, have many things to say, but what they're most in love with is the candor about fear and neuroses, the curiosity that comes with true crime and how Georgia and Karen can relate to feeling like the "odd ones out" at parties for their shared fascination. They both acknowledge that it has always felt like something that is taboo.

"For me, I like the idea of feeling like I'm involved in the conversation about the case," says Stacey Wertman of Waterloo, Ontario. "So many times I'll want to add something to a podcast about a detail they leave out. With Georgia and Karen, they leave no stone unturned yet have a great dialogue between them. I often find myself laughing out loud or saying 'Thank you!! See?! I'm not the only nut job out there.' Georgia will also talk about her anxiety which has helped mine. Karen will talk about her own insecurities. It is so refreshing to hear the human side of them".

NYC-based journalist Allie Beck also relates that she has found her people.

"Listening to Karen and Georgia is like sitting in a room with my friends," she says, "The way they talk is so familiar and casual, it immediately relaxes you as a listener -- even though they're discussing really dark stuff.

What I love about them is that they're totally genuine. They're not two girls pretending to be super cool. They're open about anxiety and depression and they're honest about their fears surrounding rape, murder, kidnapping, etc. They're terrified of those things just like the rest of us! Somehow diving into the subject helps diffuse the pain of it. It might be a weird way to desensitize ourselves from a nasty world, but, it helps! I love that they share hometown murders, too. It reminds us that these horrors are all around us and that coping mechanisms are necessary -- whether that means distancing yourself from the subject or listening to two girls laugh about murders they thought were interesting.

I also love that they're completely honest about their feelings when they tell a story. Sometimes it's gory and graphic. Other times it's disturbing and sad. It's a comedy podcast, but they never try too hard to be funny."

When I finally have the chance to catch up with Georgia herself, I ask what it was like to be listed as No. 1 in the iTunes comedy category a few weeks back: "That was insanely exciting. It blew my mind," she writes in an email, copying in co-host Karen. "We were guests on the (popular) Cracked podcast with Jack O'Brian and MFM rose quickly on the chart. It helps that people hear one episode, then listen to the entire back catalog and tell their true crime-obsessed friends about it. When listeners tell us that they feel like they're hanging out with their best friends, it makes me so happy."

My Favorite Murder is a podcast of Feral Audio, http://www.feralaudio.com/. Georgia and Karen aim to have a new episode for listeners each weekend. So, embrace who you are (there are thousands just like you. Stop feeling bashful). All you have to do is download the Podcast app on your phone and start listening -- with headphones. Nobody needs to know and the Facebook group is a private one.

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(An item sold on Etsy, inspired by Georgia and Karen's motto expressed at the end of each episode)