By Cass Hyde
Photography by Mandee Johnson and Joseph Schwartz
In less than two years, My Favorite Murder has moved from first episode to worldwide cult following.
Each week, LA-based hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark tell each other true crime story, signing off saying ‘Stay Sexy, Don’t Get Murdered’. The podcast, however, is far from a detail true crime expose. Karen and Georgia spend the first half of the episode chatting about anything and everything other than murder.
Since its launch, the podcast has been high up on the iTunes Comedy Podcasts charts, gaining half a million downloads per episode. The podcasts’ hardcore fans, known as Murderinos, have taken the show to their hearts, making everything from fan art of Georgia’s cats to merch from lines from the show. Some even get tattoos.
Murderinos are also invited to share the own “hometown murder” stories, which are retold by Karen and Georgia in their own ‘minisodes’.
Now, the podcast is touring all over the world with the pair telling true crime stories from each location they visit. A Manchester date, at the Albert Hall, quickly sold out.
We spoke to Manchester-based fans of the podcast about the show and true crime in general.
It seems common for people to first hear about My Favorite Murder from word of mouth.
Robyn Gee, a 23-year-old MMU art history student from Rossendale, got her bug for true crime from her step mom.
“My stepmum was super into true crime when I was younger and there were a lot of true crime books around the house. As I got older, I started doing research and watching true crime documentaries, then my mum showed me her obsession and it kinda just grew from there,” she said.
Jess Lewis, a 30-year-old netball coach from Stalybridge, first heard the podcast from her sister. “I was out running with my sister, Helen, and she said ‘Oh, I’ve heard this podcast. I think you’d really like it. It’s called My Favorite Murder. I said alright, and didn’t think anything of it. But then she sent me the link and I’ve been hooked since then.”
Naomi Newman, a 32-year-old science administrator from Trafford, had the podcast recommended to her by a friend.
She said: “I’ve got a good friend whose super into true crime, to a very extreme extent. She found this whole world of true crime podcasts, which was primarily led with My Favorite Murder as the absolute pinnacle of things. She kept recommending it and I was like ‘Yeah, I’ll get round to it at some point”, and then did and lost hours of my life.'”
When asked why they enjoyed the podcast so much, the same answer kept coming back – Karen and Georgia.
“I like their relationship”, said Naomi. “I like how they talk about 1200 different things that aren’t anything to do with murder. I know some people get really annoyed at that, but I could listen to them talk about anything. I just think it’s just an honest and true depiction of female friendship.”
Jess explains why she thinks the dynamic works so well: “Karen is a really good storyteller. She’s very to the point, whereas Georgia tells you how she’s feeling. Georgia is the reactor, but Karen is the better story teller. I think that’s why it works well”.
Laughing, she adds, “Usually, I’m feeling what Georgia’s feeling”.
It seems obvious that true crime fans like the subject partly because of the sense of mystery, with unsolved cases, such as the Zodiac Killer and JonBenét Ramsey, generating hundreds of books, documentaries and podcasts.
Another reason why people are interested in true crime may seem less obvious. A 2010 study published by Social Psychological and Personality Science found that more women are fans of true crime than men. The potential reasons for this are many, with one of the them being that many women can relate to the violence against women and to the victims themselves.
“I think one of the reasons the podcast is particularly appealing to women, is that even if you don’t acknowledge it in your day to day life, there is a potential looming threat over your entire existence”, said Naomi.
“The fear of violence in our day-to-day lives of women. Even if you are not directly in fear of it, it is built into you.
“Don’t walk in the park after dark, that’s not safe to do!” You’ll probably be fine is the reality of it, but you might not be. So, for women, the podcast is a funny way of looking at this.”
Another reason for this is that many podcasts give advice about how to potentially get out of situations involved in true crime. One of My Favorite Murder’s most popular quotes is “Fuck Politeness”, meaning you shouldn’t be afraid to potentially be rude to someone and go with your gut if a situation doesn’t feel right. Jess elaborates on this idea.
“I like how they talk about instinct and how instinct and tell you a lot about a person, and quite a lot of the time, you’re right. When it comes to true crime, I love it when you have a police officer who goes “This doesn’t feel right” and then goes and investigates that and how things can be developed for there. That’s what I love about true crime”.
The community that has built up around the podcast has become a huge part its appeal. Facebook groups has been set up all over the world for fellow Murderinos to discuss the podcast, hometown murders and true crime cases as they happen. The My Favorite Murder Podcast Facebook group has nearly 170,000 members. Even the much smaller UK-based group, MFM Great Britain, has nearly 1,400 members.
Jess explained why these groups are important: “I think it’s really nice that people have been able to get in contact. They’ve able to help people to feel part of something where you feel you can talk about these things without being looked at funny.”
“It’s weird when you hear people in the main group when they talk about your hometown murder”, adds Robyn. “They could be Americans chatting about this murder that just happens to be in your tiny little village. It’s just strange to me.”
Meanwhile, Naomi thinks people build their own small communities around the podcast. “It’s very much a thing that I’ve gone to friends, ‘This is a great podcast. You should listen to this!’ and mostly women, although there are a couple of men, who get super enthused about it. Nobody likes it a bit. You’re either totally on board or you’re totally not.”
Although, for many, true crime is a taboo subject, some have family and friends who they can share this macabre interest with. Jess talks about the podcast with her sisters.
She said: “I have four sisters and three of them are pretty cool about stuff like this, so we just don’t mention it in front of the other one. Three of us live quite close together, so we talk about it quite a lot, since is really nice. We’ll go out for a run together and we’ll just be chatting away.”
Robyn, on the other hand, shares her passion for My Favorite Murder with her step mum.
“I’ll tell her about an episode I’ve listened to and she’ll tell me about an episode she’s listened to. We’ll span further than My Favorite Murder and I’ll tell her about Last Podcast On The Left [another popular true crime based comedy podcast]. She listens to them whilst she knits.”
With Karen and Georgia performing a live date in Manchester at the Albert Hall in May, this is not only a chance for murderinos to see the pair. It’s also a chance to see other fans of the podcast.
Naomi thinks it will be interesting to see people in the same place. “Obviously, at the moment, it’s very much online, certainly for Manchester. I have a friend in London who have been to some of the murderinos meetups and she’s loved it. She’s said it’s just a group of, again, mostly women, who just get together and cackle and talk about cats and murder”.
Jess, meanwhile, feels that people enjoy the live shows for different reasons. “I think some of it is actually to meet other people. So other people in the community can meet other murderinos, but also just to be a part of it. It’s also to show Georgia and Karen that we appreciate what they’re doing and to hear their perspective, an American perspective, on our crimes”.
“This is something I enjoy listening to in my own kitchen, it would be great to listen to in person”, Naomi adds. “I think I would go see Karen and Georgia even if I didn’t think anyone else was going to be there, I’d still be signed up. This is gonna to be a hilarious evening.”