Like true crime? Don’t forget to grab your tickets to Death Becomes Us, our true crime festival! It will be in D.C. from November 8-10, 2019.
Whenever I interview more than one person of the same gender I always dread transcribing the interview because I have to differentiate between two possibly similar sounding voices. It’s a nightmare. This didn’t happen with the Small Town Dicks interview because one voice is pretty well-known. Yeardley Smith is the voice of Lisa Simpson and that’s the last time this will be mentioned because Yeardley Smith and Zibby Allen, along with identical twin detectives Dan and Dave, are bringing the world one of the most fascinating true crime podcasts I’ve heard in a while. The third season drops TODAY and I could not be happier. Zibby and Yeardley are so invested in learning about true crime from Dan and Dave and various other law enforcement officers that even the most casual of fans will be hooked. Plus you can never go wrong with a podcast that has its own drink, the Crime-a-rita.
Brightest Young Things: Why true crime?
Zibby Allen: I can tell you that the Nancy Drew series got me hooked.
BYT: I had them all…the hardcover books. I got them because my grandmother kept them from my mother growing up.
ZA: I still have the hard copies of them!
[Yeardley joins the conversation]
Yeardley Smith: Hi!
BYT: I was just asking Zibby if she remembered what got her interested in true crime and she said the Nancy Drew books.
ZA: Specifically The Hidden Staircase was my #1 favorite and I still have it. Um..K…Yeardley…by the way Yeardley and I call each other Kitty so I almost called her Kitty then I got all formal and felt weird.
BYT: That’s okay! We’re gonna play this real fast and real loose. We can say bad words because this is the Internet and we have that kind of freedom. I do want to tell you really quick how much I love the podcast. I burned through the first two seasons and I put September 21 on my calendar like a crazy person. And normally I don’t do this (though I did it with Rob Lowe) but I even Tweeted at you guys that one of the detectives you’ve had on the podcast sounds exactly like Dermot Mulroney and once I heard that I couldn’t unhear it. There are worse people to picture talking about murder.
ZA: Oh yeah! You’re talking about Detective Scott. I remember when you Tweeted that and I was like “Oh my Gosh, that’s so true!”
BYT: Back to the question at hand, why true crime? Yeardley do you remember what got you interested in true crime?
YS: I think I used to also read some Nancy Drew though admittedly I was not an avid reader as a kid. I think the bigger thing for me was I was always, this is gonna sound so bad, I was always fascinated by evil. I was such a good kid that I thought “What is it that’s different about you, from me.” And there but go the grace of God go all of this. Because I was such a good kid I didn’t understand people who would willfully do horrible things, anything from robbery to murder. I didn’t understand how you could do that and then sleep at night. And so I was absolutely 100% invested in the good guys winning and even though in true crime the good guys don’t always win I still always want them to.
BYT: And that’s something I like about your podcast, or something I think is so fascinating, is when you hear the recorded interviews of the people who have committed these crimes. One episode in particular that stands out is the gentleman who murdered his ex-girlfriend after he checked her cell phone and saw that she had been communicating with another man. He beat her to death with a baseball bat. The interview you guys played of him immediately after the fact…and how calm he was is something I’m so interested in.
YS: He was so indifferent. It was though he was talking about crashing his car into the garage door or something.
ZA: That’s why it’s so great having the detectives there because we’re so shocked by that and they made a really good point. The detectives say the event already happened so the adrenaline dump occurred and people are exhausted. The detectives also explained that almost always the suspects fall asleep in the interview room because they are so physically and mentally exhausted by it and there is almost this calm numbness. It’s so not like what we usually see in episodic TV shows where the subject gets so riled up talking about how he killed his mom. They are usually more even keeled which is haunting.
BYT: Dan and Dave are the identical twin detectives on the podcast. One is responsible for working sex crimes and the other homicide. It’s their job to walk down this dark path. Is there something about their jobs that has been shocking to learn? Because again, I’ll use your podcast as an example, I remember having this epiphany when they were talking about the goofy loop in terms of how cops react to these situations. What I learned because of your podcast are the deep psychological affects this job has on them.
YS: Dan and Dave have said several times that it’s not a job, it’s a calling. The only really effective police officer is if you’re drawn to it, there’s nothing else you want to do. It’s such a hard life that you have to be absolutely dead certain this is your calling. I think for me I’m just surprised that you can witness the worst of humanity, even go towards it every single day, and do that again and again and again every single day. It’s just a very specific, unusual kind of human being.
ZA: I think being this up close in gritty detail to what a day in the life of a cop or someone in law enforcement looks like has really humanized that job, for me. For lack of a better way of putting it I am recognizing and I’m blown away by how these people, the detectives, have figured out how to show up for their job every single day and still do their lives. I have a lot of reverence for what that takes in terms of navigating and maintaining a personal life. Yeardley and I ask every single guest what they do with all this when you go home. One thing that seems to be through and through is how much they rely on each other as a family because they have this shared bond over this thing that you just can’t talk about at dinner parties. Also gallows humor feels really important for them to offset the disgust and the pain of what they see.
BYT: You guys are very good at occasionally getting a little bit of a joke in. There’s one episode that was deeply upsetting…a lot of people always think of murder when they think of true crime but that’s not all of course. You also have episodes about sex crimes which is very sad because those usually involve children. It’s almost worse, in a way. There was an episode of a case like that and the way they were able to get this guy is they had photographic evidence of something, and the gentleman had an identifying mole on this body. When you heard that Zibby said “So there was a mole in the case?” And Yeardley you went, under your breath “Zibby!” It was so nice because to get that laugh in because that is something you have to have or you will go crazy.
ZA: And that’s something we’ve developed too. We rely on that moment of levity.
BYT: You have a very well-researched show. How do you normally get your information?
YS: We used to get redacted files before we would record an episode but that became quite cumbersome so we decided to just listen to our guests knowing nothing about the case then filing our FOIA’s and inserting information.
ZA: Certainly we’ll get details, every now and again the detectives will bring redacted cases and give them to us after the fact so we can make sure we’re right on about certain details that really matter. What’s remarkable is they remember details about each and every one of their cases even if they’re 12 years gone because they stick with you and they spent sometimes years working on these cases. They usually bring their own paperwork to reference and make sure they’re telling an accurate story. We did figure out pretty quickly that hearing them for the first time was really important because we represent the audience’s ears so we don’t do a whole lot of research ahead of time.
BYT: Obviously true crime is wildly popular. Do you guys have a theory as to why that’s the case?
YS: There is so much coming at you every single day and a lot of it is bad, if you’re reading the news. At the end of the day I think people have a strong sense of justice and they want the good guys to win. They don’t want to learn that the people that they trusted are corrupt or are closet serial killers. I think that was much more in the hypothetical ether before the Internet started to bombard us with every little granular piece of information it could get its hands on.
ZA: I think true crime has always been a subject of fascination certainly because one, it’s a really safe way to observe the worst of humanity and also because I think our nature tends to enjoy a puzzle. To Yeardley’s point now that there’s this information overload there’s this sort of participatory component which makes us feel like we’re that much closer to it. There’s this ability to exchange information and gather information that wasn’t really around, even 5 years ago but certainly 10 years ago. I think the phenomenon of Serial and Making a Murderer sparked people to have these “Who’s right, who’s wrong,” conversations. It just kind of exploded and people started talking on all these platforms. It feels like you can get more involved. You don’t just have to be a bystander.
BYT: I’ve learned a lot of cop lingo while listening to the podcast. Things like goofy loop which is something your mind does after trauma, you kind of shut down or frequent flyer which is someone police arrest often. Maybe you could do some sort of A-Z thing for us. Are there any fun, well fun sounds bad because this is crime, terminology you’ve heard?
YS: DRT is dead right there.
BYT: Oh God.
ZA: It’s so funny because we could put a list together. We played this game once where the detectives give us their frequently used acronyms and we tried to guess what they are.
BYT: You should do that at the festival to bring that gallows humor to the show.
YS: Yeah, that would be fun!