How 2 Almost-Strangers Formed a Booming Creative Partnership, and the Podcast 'Guys We F*cked'
'When you know, you know.'
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Entrepreneurship: It's full of rejection, hard-to-reach customers and, especially at the beginning, almost no money. The same can be said of comedy -- except there, the customers might actively heckle you, too. Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher know about all of it. They're the hosts of a podcast called Guys We Fucked, an "anti-slut-shaming" comedy show about sexuality and feminism. They riff on topics like the benefits and drawbacks of thong underwear and what to do when your fiancé reveals himself to be a secret cross-dresser -- but beneath the lighthearted banter is a serious message, and a more serious business.
Hutchinson, 30, and Fisher, 32, started their partnership in 2010, with the creation of a live comedy show for poor twentysomethings. Today, they've built a massive audience and a lucrative career with frequent tour dates in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada; more than a million subscribers to their weekly podcast; a Girls recap web series; parody music videos; and a book, F*CKED: Being Sexually Explorative and Self-Confident in a World That's Screwed. Here's how they used their empathetic and unabashedly honest voices to turn a little stage show into a feminist comedy empire.
Your first project together was a show called Sorry About Last night, in 2010. How did you guys pair up?
Hutchinson: I first met Corinne when I interned for the talent management company where she worked. I had my first stand-up set approaching, so I sent her an invite -- and she came. Afterwards, she messaged me and asked if I'd be interested in working as a comedy duo. Not long after that, we met up for a brainstorming session and created our live show.
Wait, you decided to jump into a creative partnership after watching a single stand-up set?
Fisher: It sounds psycho. But when you know, you know. I have a good eye. I cast Amy Schumer in my student film in college. But since it's the entertainment business, you also need three things: someone funny, someone who will do the work and someone who is good-looking.
Hutchinson: Here I am!
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You both sound super confident. Did you always have that same bravado?
Hutchinson: I was like, "I'm gonna make it in comedy and it'll be great!" And when Corinne messaged me I was like "Hell, yeah!" But I knew it would be a long road.
Fisher: I knew that I was meant to be creative, but I needed the health insurance. I spent five years as assistant to a talent manager. I was working in a business where I helped other creative people achieve their dreams. That's a terrible place to be -- working for Lin Manuel Miranda when he was creating Hamilton. You see the magic happening around you and you think, I'm wasting my life.
So how did you get out of that rut?
Fisher: I was in the wrong job. At the talent agency, I was working 60-plus hours a week, killing myself, and making about $27,000 a year. After Krystyna and I started working together, I had a breakdown at the office, quit and got a job as a receptionist at a day spa. It was the best decision. People think of the "day job" as sucking your soul, but you need a job that lets you do the thing you really want to do. Unlike the talent agency, I didn't burn myself out at the spa.
Hutchinson: My parents consistently asked me about my backup plan, and I said I didn't want one. Stand-up is demanding and exhausting. It's a really high hill to climb, so you have to be focused. You can't have a day job that requires a shitload of responsibility.
Fisher: A good day job is the kind that you don't think about when you leave work.
So you were doing your stress-free day jobs and putting all your creative energy into creating your comedic partnership, Sorry About Last Night. How did you go about building your audience?
Fisher: Initially our audience was anyone who had six dollars and wanted to see a comedy show in an attic in New York City. We realized that there are young people who are thirsty for entertainment but don't have the money for a Broadway show.
Hutchinson: We created an immersive experience that actually starred the audience. We'd invite an audience member onstage to tell a story about how someone did them wrong, but the caveat was that you'd have to have that person's phone number. Then we'd prank-call that person. It was about being truthful but not mean. We're not in middle school.
Fisher: Three years later we started Guys We Fucked. I remember when we had 5,000 listeners per episode. I couldn't believe that many people were listening to us. Today, we have a much larger audience, but we're still actively trying to widen our reach. We use the live show to get people sold on us. We always encourage our audiences to bring their friend, mom or boyfriend. Those people who didn't really know us then go home and download the podcast because we didn't phone it in at the live show.
Hutchinson: At first it was just word of mouth. That's huge. Today, we're more strategic. We worked with a publicist for first time last year. And we went on Joe Rogan's podcast, because he has a different audience than we do.
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When you started out, were just trying to make people laugh or were you already thinking about building a brand?
Fisher: From our very first meeting together in the doll factory, we thought about branding. Everything under our umbrella should have certain look and feel. We're anti-slut-shaming. That means being totally honest about who we are and what we do.
Hutchinson: Like interviewing the guys we've fucked. Our brand is basically that hedonism of being young and free in your early 20s. We've written comedy about kicking out a roommate or shitting in your purse. Of course, now that we're in our early 30s, we don't shit in our purses anymore. But our brand still embodies that invincibility.
Fisher: For example, I thought I would become Ari from Entourage. But it wasn't easy. We started the podcast in December 2013, three years after we launched the live show. I was working at the day spa, living in an apartment in Harlem with mice crawling on my pillow. My first week living there I killed 15 mice.
Hutchinson: I was an assistant to a real estate agent. I was making $35,000 a year, enough to pay rent and take the subway and occasionally buy a sandwich. But I couldn't pay my student loans. My boyfriend paid every time we ordered delivery. When we started experiencing success with Guys We Fucked, I said, "Can we please do sponsored ads, because I am so fucking broke!"
It must have been exciting to realize that you could make money from the podcast.
Fisher: I always thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but I wasn't eager to do ads. We have a really rare bond with listeners, and the second you come across as full of shit, it's like Fuck you. If someone sells me garbage where I turn to navigate a difficult relationship with my boyfriend, I won't trust them. So we said no tobacco, or alcohol or shitty weight-loss drugs.
Hutchinson: I mean, we may use those things…
Fisher: But we don't need to force them down your throat.
Hutchinson: Our first advertiser was a leggings brand called Poprageous. We made a thousand dollars. I'd never even heard of a thousand dollars.
Fisher: By April 2016, we had almost a million subscribers and an average of 80,000 to 100,000 downloads an episode. That guaranteed us $3,500 each month in ads.
Hutchinson: Now I had enough to pay rent. My rent wasn't a lot, because I'd turned a one-bedroom into a three-bedroom. By that point, I was working a corporate gig at WeWork, scanning papers and stuff. I quit my job. It was the best day of my life. I cried. The quitting of the day job is a monumental feat.
Fisher: I waited a little longer to quit -- until August 2016.
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Now that you are full-fledged entrepreneurs, do you find that the business side of your work ever conflicts with the creative side?
Fisher: Every fucking day of my life. When you're poor and starving is when you're doing the purest shit that you love. Then you start getting paid and there are other people who have things at stake, and little by little, it chips away at your pure creativity. Every day, I struggle with how to make money and grow my career while never losing sight of who I am.
Hutchinson: We've had so many TV shows come at us since the beginning of the podcast. We don't want to be on TV just to be on TV. Reality TV bullshit isn't part of our brand.
Fisher: We're anti-slut-shaming, and sometimes that conflicts with the "business" of our comedy. We were doing a live show, and the guy interviewing us started trashing Amy Schumer for being fat. I was so infuriated. I called him on it and I walked out in middle of the interview. To walk out in front of a live audience is weird and awkward.
Hutchinson: You don't want to walk out on fans. But I was very supportive of that walkout.
Fisher: You have to follow your gut, especially in the entertainment industry. If something doesn't feel right, you don't do it.
What's your advice for aspiring artists who are trying to turn their art into a business?
Fisher: Consistency. That's true if you're running a show, a web series or a podcast. You have to decide at the top how often will it come out, when will it come out and stick to a schedule. Otherwise, you cannot build a fan base. I love the Impractical Jokers. They're on True TV every Thursday night at 10. But imagine if I turned on TV and they weren't on.
Hutchinson: Basically, don't be lazy. Lazy art is a waste of my time and an insult to existence. Find your niche—your hobby, outlook on life or political belief—and then have the backbone to stick to it.
Fisher: You need to have a fucking clear idea of what you're going for, other than "I'm funny and people want to hear me," because they don't. But most of all, you don't need to have a safety net. Everyone says you need that to be successful, and I can't disagree more. Without a safety net, you don't have the option to fail.