Food 4 Thot, a new podcast from writers Tommy Pico, Fran Tirado, Dennis Norris II, and Joe Osmundson, was almost (maybe) called Thot Catalogue. They ultimately demurred: it “would have probably got us into legal trouble,” they explain. It’s not really a loss: I couldn’t think of a better name for a roundtable discussion of Fire Island and Fire Island, Moby Dick and dicks. They deliver, as they advertise it, a “delectable meal of brain food and junk food.”
Thrown together at the Tin House Writers’ Workshop in Oregon, writer and scientist Osmundson, fiction writer and former figure skater Norris, poet (and author the forthcoming collection Nature Poem) Pico, and fiction writer (as well as associate editor of Hello Mr.) Tirado instantly clicked. A few episodes into Food 4 Thot, that chemistry continues to pop and fizz in surprising and delightful ways. Brooklyn Magazine spoke with the group—sometimes collectively, sometimes not—via email about friendship, literature, memes, and “the pursuit of shade.” Pour yourself a glass of rosé, and get to subscribing.
How did you meet?
All: Within like 20 minutes of being at the conference, we found each other at a campus of thousands because, IDK, we just gravitate to queer energies? At such a huge, predominantly white event, it felt like we had found a safe, microcommunity to debrief with after each day and just roll our eyes and get each other’s one minute man havin’ jokes. No one had to be brought up to speed on the humor. No one had to be trained. No one needed parenthesis. No one needed translation.
Joe: I saw the three of them, and they’d already met. Fran was wearing high-waisted jeans, Tommy was in a tank top, Dennis in booty shorts. I just knew that I would either make them my friends or that they’d destroy me. Little did I know that both would happen, and so quickly.
Dennis: It’s fine. We needed a lite bright to complete the rainbow!
What’s the origin story of this podcast?
All: At Tin House, we would spend every night with rosé in hand, gabbing about boys, books, and butts in what would be the prehistoric episodes of Food 4 Thot. The conversations were so easy, and could vacillate between idiotic jokes, thotty kiss-and-tells, heartbreak stories, and book recommendations. They were a place where we could be ourselves without censorship, where we had permission to talk about Mariah Carey and Judith Butler in the same sentence. This felt like a homecoming in a way, and it was odd to find it so quickly with strangers and in a space—at a writing workshop—that wasn’t explicitly queer or brown. So few media outlets out there allow for slutty stories alongside literature, especially ones conscious of brown voices. These conversations for us were cathartic, healing. When we got back to New York, we kept meeting for rosé regularly, almost like therapy, until one of us said finally said, “Hey, this should be a podcast.”
Tommy: It was me, I said it. The glory is all mine.
What about this medium is interesting to you?
All: Well, aside from the fact that we all have oh-so-sultry speaking voices, we are all vrrrrrry good at storytelling. Podcasting seemed like a natural fit for the way we like to cut into each other’s stories with commentary, jokes, hisses, boos, standing ovations, threats to throw wine or turn over a table. We wanted to be able to use a medium where we could each prepare but also riff off one another, a mix of text and improvisation. Something oral (har har) made sense, and we decided that being on camera would be too stressful, and so radio is where we landed. It’s such an accessible media that requires vigor but not perfection. Once we all got together and in front of a microphone, we were addicted.
Legit question: how is your graphic design game so on point? It is so on point.
All: Fran is a literal witch and knows like every creative homosexual in Brooklyn. He brought on Art Director Ben Wagner to create the visual identity for the podcast, making all our branding, icons, website, and newsletter. He worked with National Geographic photographer Michael George who shot all our visual assets and portraits. They listened to our dummy episodes and just kinda “got it.” The result is a lot of pink and a lot of fruit.
What are you reading now that you love? What are you reading now that you hate?
All: We are all doing a little Food 4 Thot book club of sorts and reading Zadie Smith’s Swing Time for the penultimate episode of season one, dropping on Sunday, May 14th.
Other than that, Fran is LOVING Black Wave by Michelle Tea, Italo Calvino’s Seven Memos, and Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé.
Tommy loved Hardly War by Don Mee Choi and Blackacre by Monica Youn.
Joe had his life changed by Sharon Olds’ new book, Odes, can’t get over Danez Smith’s [Insert] Boy, reread and devoured Alexander Chee’s harrowingly beautiful Edinburgh, and is slipping in light, Oprah-style reading for our time like Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism.
Dennis isn’t reading right now. He’s just playing Moonlight on loop and crying into a pint of cookies n’ cream and a bottle of chardonnay. Kidding! He’s getting his entire life reading Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, and The Mothers by Britt Bennett.
Things we read and hated? All, unanimously, that one HuffPo article pathologizing gay men’s mental health issues. Also anything covering that new Logo show Fire Island.
What is the best kind of trash?
Tommy: Whatever makes you bust a gut, clutch your pearls, and whirling dervishes your head clean off at the same time.
What do you love about rosé?
Fran: The fact that it makes us all feel (almost) like carefree white women. #squadgoals
What is your favorite meme?
All: The patron meme of our show is a combination of “I don’t know her” by Mariah Carey and Rihanna leaving clubs with wine glasses.
What is your least favorite question to be asked?
“What are you?” “What’s your nationality?” “Have you always known you were gay?” “What do your tattoos ‘mean?’” “Are you a top or a bottom?” “Wait, all gay guys don’t do both?” “What do you ‘do’? “What’s your writing like?” “What do you write about?” “Will you read this poem I wrote?” “Did you know my great grandmother was part Cherokee?”
Joe, what kind of scientist are you?
Tommy: Butt doctor
Joe: Hardy harr, Tommy’s got the best / worst jokes. I’m a researcher working at the intersection (this is insufferable already isn’t it?) of microbiology, biophysics, and molecular biology. My postdoctoral research is on the mechanisms that cells use to copy their DNA every time they divide such that each daughter cell has an error free copy of the genome (all the cell’s DNA and genes). Mistakes in this process are mutations, and mutations tend to cause cancer. We fuck up the process in yeast cells, collect fucked-up DNA intermediates from cells, and sequence them on a robot to sort of figure out how the process works, and how it breaks down.
Dennis, what kind of figure skater were you?
Tommy: Butt doctor
Dennis: Tommy likes to use that as a placeholder because he’s always looking for a good butt doctor. Anyway, I was a men’s singles skater. I started skating when I was fourteen and progressed really quickly in the sport, and because I was relatively tall, and a guy, a lot of skating Moms would ask me to do pairs or ice dance with their daughters. I would always tell those mothers very directly, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t start figure skating at 14 so that I could share the spotlight with some girl.” Skating allowed me to come full-throttle into my queen-hood. And remember: this is the sport that gave us Tonya and Nancy, so my antics were pretty run-of-the-mill.
So much of the point of Food 4 Thot seems to be the admixture—or lack of boundaries between—”low” and “high” brow conversations: sex stories + literature recommendations, Bieber singles on Spotify + a history of Eartha Kitt. Why mix all these things up? Or rather, why do we separate them? Why is it important to let it all out?
Joe: For us, that’s precisely the point. It’s political, and queer, to refuse to compartmentalize ourselves, and our work, and to refuse to abide by the norms of respectability politics. We’re sluts, and we’re smart AF, and we know about pop culture, and we all write good shit, and we will call you outside by your name if you deserve it. I think you see this as themes in Tommy’s and my writing as well, where all of it—the good, bad, ugly, the hook ups, and the historical oppression—goes on the page.
Dennis: It’s also just more human. We all have these thoughts, these feelings, and these experiences. I remember that once during junior seminar in college we spent time generating contemporary euphemisms for “orgasm” in response to reading Ulysses. And why not? Sex, lust, the high and low brow, all of these are critical to the human experience. The real error, or construction, at least according to my thinking, is the impulse to separate, or compartmentalize, any aspect of ourselves from any other. Like, why? What is the point?
If you had to write a Food 4 Thot constitution, what would be the preamble?
All: We the Thots of the Resistance, in Order to form a more perfect crew, establish short shorts, insure domestic backrooms, provide for the common clap back, promote dismantling white supremacy, and secure the Blessings of Beyoncé to ourselves and our posterior, do establish this Constitution of the United Thots of America. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men ain’t shit; that thots are endowed by Sade certain unalienable rights; that among these are wine, creativity, and the pursuit of shade.
Photos courtesy of Food 4 Thot’s Facebook