Sarah Marshall of You're Wrong About talks media frenzies, Flashdance, and more | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sarah Marshall of You're Wrong About talks media frenzies, Turner's iced tea, Flashdance, and more

click to enlarge Sarah Marshall of You're Wrong About talks media frenzies, Turner's iced tea, Flashdance, and more
Photo: Christina Bodznick
Sarah Marshall of You're Wrong About
Everything you think you know about pop culture is probably false or, at the very least, skewed. That’s the gist of You're Wrong About, a popular podcast that its co-host and co-creator, Sarah Marshall, describes as being about “misremembered stuff from history.” This covers a wide range of topics, from the idea that Yoko Ono broke up The Beatles to the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit that, for years, provided late-night talk show hosts with lazy joke fodder.

Despite the variety, Marshall admits that there are some key players. “I feel like if we were to name the main characters of You're Wrong About, it would be bimbos, Ronald Reagan, Satan, and Nancy Grace,” Marshall tells Pittsburgh City Paper.

Marshall and her sometimes co-host, Jamie Loftus, will visit Pittsburgh during a live podcast tour that has already taken them to several cities. Taking place on Wed., May 3 at Mr. Smalls Theatre, the Pittsburgh stop will, as Marshall puts it, cover a few topics, one of them likely exploring “the concept of the bimbo.”

Since the tour began in March, Marshall, who is based in her hometown of Portland, Ore., says they have kept to a “rotating menu of like a few topics that we're kind of alternating and trying to keep fresh.”

“And so we so far have talked about Nancy Reagan, Bonnie and Clyde, and Auntie Anne from Auntie Anne's Pretzels,” she says, the latter referring to the soft pretzel company that, for decades, has fed mall shoppers.

The tour continues what Marshall and her various co-hosts — including journalist Michael Hobbes, who originally pitched the podcast — have been working on for years. This includes a painstaking, multi-episode, play-by-play look at the O.J. Simpson trial, and the life and tragic death of Princess Diana. All of this is done with equal parts research, thoughtfulness, and humor.

As Marshall explains, the podcast gave her an outlet to do what she had tried to accomplish through a Ph.D. program, before realizing that academia was not the right path for her.

“I was always super interested in media frenzies,” she says. This especially applies to the massive attention paid to the women at the center of 1990s scandals, including Amy Fisher, Lorena Bobbitt, Monica Lewinsky, and Anita Hill.

Most prominent among them, at least to Marshall, is a fellow Portlander who, in 1994, rocked the Olympics figure skating world.

“I was aware of the Tonya Harding situation when I was a little kid in Portland, and it was like, suddenly the nation was looking at us,” she says. “And there's something that has always fascinated me about when the eye of the nation turns to like one particular person or one particular household and how it seems like it can't do anything but destroy them. Especially in these cases of young women kind of picked up by the tornado of the media in the ‘90s.”

She believes this constant, predatory media coverage came to an exhausting head with the Trump administration.

“It was almost like everyone in the ‘90s got what they were asking for in a monkey's paw kind of a way,” she says. “There really was enough media for a 24-hour news cycle. There really was a baby trapped in the bottom of a well, and it was democracy. It was like, finally, a four-year-long emergency, the thing that we created all this media for.”

The upcoming show marks a sort-of homecoming for Marshall, a proclaimed Pittsburgh fan and regular visitor who loves the city for two main reasons, the first being her longtime friend, local author Candace Opper.

“And also Flashdance, which I've been watching since I was 13,” she continues, referring to the hit 1983 film shot and set in Pittsburgh. Marshall calls the story about a welder who dreams of becoming a professional dancer a “totally absurd movie that I think just has this weird magic all its own.” It recently returned to theaters in celebration of its 40th anniversary.

“Whenever I visit, usually once per visit, I'm like, you know what? I’m driving over a bridge, headed towards Downtown — gotta put on that Flashdance music,” she adds.

Much like Flashdance, music will play a fairly large part in the You’re Wrong About Mr. Smalls show, which Marshall describes as a “kind of a musical vaudevillian experience.”

Mostly, Marshall looks forward to being in the same room with You’re Wrong About fans and the “stony-faced, unlaughing boyfriends” they dragged along. She also looks forward to being back in the city she has visited multiple times over the better part of a decade.

“I recorded a lot of, especially early, episodes of the show while visiting Pittsburgh,” she adds. “I feel like it's a city that has a really special place in my heart. And, therefore, I feel like the show has been fueled by Herr’s chips and Turner's iced tea. I hope people throw chips at me. I think that's like a very safe thing to throw at a person.”
An Evening With You're Wrong About featuring Sarah Marshall. 8 p.m. Doors at 7 p.m. Mr. Smalls Theatre. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. Sold out online, tickets available at the door.

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