I think someone told me to listen to this. Remind me what it’s about.
“Dear Joan and Jericha” is a satirical podcast from British comedians Julia Davis (Joan) and Vicki Pepperdine (Jericha), who play agony aunts with an intriguingly diverse background in “life coaching, female sexual health, psycho-genital counselling and sports journalism”. Over the course of eight 20-minute episodes they administer absurd, filthy and downright rude advice in response to people’s personal dilemmas.
Joan and Jericha’s soothing yet authoritative voices may be reminiscent of presenters on BBC’s “Woman’s Hour”, but their views are more akin to Jordan Peterson’s. When “Sheila from Coventry” writes in to complain that her husband has given her a voucher for a facelift for her birthday (and told her that if she doesn’t get the procedure done he’ll leave her for the woman he used to sleep with while she was having chemotherapy), Joan and Jericha tell her she doesn’t know how lucky she is. Any self-respecting woman who lets her appearance go downhill as they age is “not being fair” on their poor guy. He may be balding, he may be “technically overweight” – but he is a man. And men have “physical needs”, you know?
When they do get a letter from a man their delight is palpable. “Jed from Guildford” says he recently left his wife for a younger woman, that his ex is being a “real bitch” about the fact he only wants to see his children once a month, and that he sometimes wishes she were dead. Joan and Jericha rejoice. “Well, there’s a man with a little bit of spunk about him.” “Yes, finally someone’s got a little bit of get up and go.” And the kids? “Why not see them once every six months, or once a year? That’s enough to be a Dad.”
Why do men always have to be the butt of the jokes?
Actually, the thing that makes “Dear Joan and Jericha” so interesting is its recognition that women aren’t blameless when it comes to society’s sexism problem. Remember last year’s Daily Mail headline, “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!”? The article it accompanied, on Theresa May’s meeting with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, which included such acute lines of political analysis as “Sturgeon’s shorter but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty”, was written not by a unreconstructed male hack, but by a female one, Sarah Vine (for, it should be said, a mostly female readership). But you don’t have to go to MailOnline for women-on-women sexism. From families, to friendship groups, to offices, to Mumsnet, women are judged by other women for being too thin, too fat, ageing, not ageing, having kids, not having kids, working, not working…you get the idea.
“Joan and Jericha” takes this ingrained sexism and runs with it. Women are told that their breasts look like “mangled socks”, that they’ve left it too late to have children (women over 35 risk having “little wrinkly old-aged babies” with “claw-y old nails that you can see pushing through the baby booties”) and that they’re “on a bit of a power trip” if they complain about their philandering partners. Every episode strikes uncomfortably close to home, reminding the listener of all the ugly things that have been said to them in real life, and some of the even uglier things they’ve probably once thought. But mostly, it’s just really, really funny. And filthy.
Just how filthy, exactly?
If you have kids, absolutely do not listen to it while they are in the room unless you are happy to foot some therapy bills for many years to come. Speaking of feet, you may not ever be able to look at anyone’s in the same way again after an truly disgusting letter from “Pat Jones in Kent” complaining about a husband who Joan and Jericha lavish praise on for “spicing things up in the bedroom.” The only way this bloke likes to have sex is by kicking his wife in the vagina with his athlete’s-foot ridden feet while reading the rugby results on his phone. Pat gets admonished for not being “a bit more broad-minded” and sternly reminded, “most men would rather not look at you.” If you thought “My Dad Wrote a Porno” was extreme, you’re not going to know what’s hit you.
What do reviewers have to say?
The Guardian’s reviewer called it “totally unique and one of the most cringe-inducing comedy podcasts yet.” Stylist’s said listening to it was “like seeing real-world attitudes towards women reflected in a circus hall of mirrors: warped and outsized, but still absolutely recognisable.” A review on Refinery 29 pointed out that Davis and Pepperdine seem to be having the most extraordinary amount of fun: “You sense the comedians are seriously close to losing their poise as they push each other into the realms of deviant lunacy to see who will break first.” Occasionally you can hear Pepperdine or Davis stifle a giggle – something you might have to do if you listen on your commute. As one Mumsnet user warns, “it’s definitely not one for public transport”.
What else have Julia Davis and Vicki Pepperdine done?
Pepperdine has appeared in more than 50 television shows, including the brilliant “Getting On”, which she co-wrote, somehow managing to get belly laughs out of the ups and downs of life on an NHS geriatric ward. Julia Davis’s career is similarly illustrious – she has appeared in shows like “I’m Alan Partridge”, “Nathan Barley” and “Gavin & Stacey”. Her big success was “Nighty Night”, an extremely dark comedy she created and starred in, about a sociopathic suburban beautician. In 2016 both Davis and Pepperdine starred in the acclaimed “Camping” (which Davis wrote), about a group of friends who go on a disastrous holiday in Devon.
Lena Dunham enjoyed “Camping” so much that she decided, with fellow “Girls” writer Jenni Konner, to make an American version. The series, starring Jennifer Garner and David Tennant, premieres on October 14th on HBO. Keep an eye out for it. Just like “Dear Joan and Jericha”, it manages to extract hilarity from the grimy depths of human nature.