A Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Anonymous

Chris Gethard
11 min readMay 2, 2019

In 2016, I started a podcast where the premise was I’d tweet out a phone number and talk to whomever called for a full hour straight. I forfeited the ability to hang up. I figured it would be a funny podcast where I’d get prank called by weirdos.

Instead, this project has transformed my life by becoming a weekly tribute to empathy, openness, and honesty. People have shared their lives, one by one, in a way that truly makes me feel like the world is a smaller place, and that people are people, and that everyone has a story worth telling. Some people share experiences as mundane as “I am currently walking around in the aisles of a Target” or “I am currently on a SEPTA train outside of Philadelphia”. Others share stories as deep and complex as, “I was sucked into a mysterious religious cult and managed to escape” or “I am watching a relative of mine who has Alzheimer’s degrade and want to share the experience.”

It can be anything on any given day. It transforms constantly. Even I don’t know what I’m getting into at the beginning of the episodes, and quite often the callers wind up sharing things they didn’t expect to tell me either.

I love it.

I’m also trying to be less self-deprecating about my work moving forward, less apologetic, so I’ll just put this out there: I think the show is great, and I think a lot of people who love it say that it makes them feel like a more well-rounded human. That means the world to me.

This ties into one of the things I’m most proud of with the show: People tell their stories in their own words. The show is not pre-produced. It’s barely edited (usually we only bleep names or remove identifying details). You can hear about peoples’ lives from their own perspective. I know for a fact that some people have heard from other types of people for the very first time on my show. People who have never in real life sat down to talk with a trans person, an illegal immigrant, a disabled person, and yes, even a proud Donald Trump voter — they’ve heard them explain their lives and experiences via this show.

I think that’s pretty cool. On my best days I think the show crosses over into actually being something important. Like most of my work, it has a healthy cult following but isn’t viewed as being in the full…

Chris Gethard

I'm a comedian, podcaster, author, former TV host, character actor, New Jersey enthusiast, and proud dad.