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🎤 Interview: Anita Flores
ANITA FLORES is a podcast producer at Earwolf and has produced and starred in videos for Buzzfeed and Univision. She's performed stand up and storytelling all over New York City and hosts two podcasts. That's right, TWO! CareTalkers explores the world of caretaking and I’m Listening focuses on different themes and pivotal moments from the show Frasier. You can follow her on Twitter/Insta @anitajewtina.
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The written version of this audio below has been edited and condensed for clarity, more so than the audio, which was was a rough edit in Descript in case folks wanted to listen (yes, you may hear Anita’s spouse in the background in the latter part of the recording).
But you should listen to learn more about: the shows Anita has produced on including what her favorite episode is, her thoughts on an episode idea of CareTalkers that she is unsure will ever see the light of day, and hear more of her rapid fire…that I guess wasn’t so rapid then?!
Oh yeah, and Anita is a friend of mine of over 10 years…so go enjoy that audio.
To start, can you share a little about your journey into storytelling, both comedy and hosting / producing?
Back in 2007, I was interested in getting into comedy and at the time in New York we had the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, so I started trying to get into classes there. I did a sketch writing class and wasn't great at; I didn't really make my deadlines of writing sketches. It was hard.
And then I took some improv classes and did not like those because I like to plan ahead, and improv, you just gotta be ready for anything. So then, I took a storytelling class and that was something I really enjoyed. And so once I took some classes, I was doing storytelling all over New York. And at a certain point I wanted to try and translate that to something I could maintain because especially, you know, post-2020, getting out there and doing shows and stuff, everything is just very high pressure right now of like, ‘oh, if I do this show and there's only two people and I get COVID, like, was it worth it?’
And so, you know, I've always had a love of comedy and on the professional side of things, as I was doing storytelling shows, I was also kind of developing my career as a video producer–which for a time was great, but also frustrating because, you know, well, we're going through it right now…I was part of many layoffs.
And at one point I was working as a video producer for a Democratic superPAC, and at this time I decided I wanted to try podcasting. This was like 2017/2018, and I think for me, the best thing I did was not overthink it because I thought if I wanna do a podcast and I wanna have this creative outlet, it's gotta be something I really love.
So I picked the show Frasier. I decided to do a TV podcast about a show that I've seen many times. And I genuinely think that starting that Frasier podcast, which was truly just for fun, is what got me my current professional job, as a podcast producer at Earwolf.
I was getting frustrated with just sort of, what was available to me in New York to be a video producer. And it was just like a lot of kinds of content that I wasn't feeling passionate about. And like at the time, a lot of comedy platforms were just getting sunsetted, just disappearing. And so I decided maybe if I can do podcasting for fun, can I do it for my career?
Basically it was like I started out doing storytelling on the stage, and then after years of that, I think I've now kind of transitioned to storytelling, via podcasting, whether it be professionally, but also in my spare time on like passion podcasts.
Has your experience as a comedian helped inform your hosting or producing work?
Absolutely. I would say because I did a healthy amount of performing. I was also just always a comedy fan. So even when I wasn't performing, I liked volunteering at festivals. I volunteered at the Eugene Merman Comedy Festival, the Janelle James Comedy Festival, just so I could be around comedians that I like. I also started producing shows that I would host.
I think that part of me has stayed, even though I'm not always out performing or going to shows all the time. So I would say all of my skills as a live show producer and as a person who's just used to booking my own shows, I think really helped me as a comedy podcast producer now where I actively book comedians and other performers for podcasts that I work on. And I also feel like I'm still pretty aware of like, who maybe might like to make a podcast. I genuinely think that my background as a performer and a live show producer have helped me transition to doing that stuff, but for work. So yes, definitely informed how I work.
Let’s about CareTalkers. How did this show come about?
At least nine years ago, my dad had to have life-saving heart surgery and he kind of just started declining after that. And I'm an only child and my parents are divorced, and basically I was just kind of thrown into being a long-distance caregiver because my dad lives in Connecticut and I live in New York.
And I just was thinking about the fact that, you know, there's this entire huge chunk of people all over the world who are dealing with suddenly being given this responsibility of taking care of someone else. And I had already started my podcast about Frasier, and in my opinion, once you start a podcast, it gets much easier to start thinking of ideas for other podcasts.
For me, that's how it worked. So then I really start thinking about this would be a something to do. It seems like maybe there are things from my own experiences as a new caregiver that I could share with other people. But I also felt a little bit lost because it's just a brand new world to me.
There's just like a lot, I don't know; all I know is my own experience with my dad. And I told this to my friend Jessica Johnson. And then I ended up at a party with her and her husband who I went to college with, and Jessica said, “You know, I remember you told me about your podcast idea. I want you to meet my friend Sandrine Etienne, who similarly wants to do a podcast.”
And so Sandrine and I met. Sandrine is an amazing woman. She's a social worker in New York, and we had this conversation where she basically was like, I would like to do a podcast from my end of things of being a social worker and, what I'm exposed to, and all the issues that come with that. And also she does caregiving for her mom.
And so the two of us together became friends and podcasters together and started this podcast called CareTalkers. So it was a really beautiful moment like being introduced on this rooftop at a party in Queens. That was like at least three or four years ago.
There are people who will read this interview who don’t work in podcasting who may want to start their own show. What have you observed about working with a co-host who does not have a journalism or audio background?
Well, I would say what's great is that Sandrine comes from such a completely different career background than me, and not to mention, her job is to care about other people. So I think she brings this warmth… For me because I was a video producer–and now podcast producer–who has a comedic background, sometimes I wanna just like be funny and it can be hard for me to just…or I would say in the past it was harder for me to just be comfortable with things not being funny. Because you know, the reality is there's a lot of tough stuff that comes with caregiving and watching a loved one be in decline.
And so, I think because of her background and just who she is, she is able to just be extremely genuine. And I don't necessarily have to worry that when we work together or host together, that she's ever being like phony or putting on some kind of facade. She's just being who she is.
And because other people when I was starting out with my job were so helpful and open to me and patient, I feel like it made me happy to be able to help Sandrine, like kind of introduce her to the world of podcasting and the things you might do to prep for an interview and things like that.
Because if all the same kinds of people are doing podcasts, that's so boring to me. It's like, the more people that can get into podcasting that don't have the background, the better because the more experiences you're gonna hear about that you would never hear before.
And so I think that's what's exciting. She's very open to learning and the fact that she's juggling her job and being a caregiver to her mom and to her toddler and also wants to, do a podcast is amazing to me. It gives me hope if I ever decide to have a child, you know, that I'll be able to do it all.
But yeah, I think it's really nice. It's a nice balance we give to each other. Like she reminds me to maybe not try and overproduce myself or each other and not necessarily worry too much about, is this funny or is this too sad? And try and just be genuine and open.
On CareTalkers you all have talked about so many things in the ecosystem of care work, such as health insurance, support groups, mental health, even funeral planning. How do you and Sandrine come up with your episode ideas?
In general, when we're coming up with ideas, I love to make a spreadsheet because on my end things tend to just pop into my head and then I just need to write them down. We'll have brainstorms, but sometimes for me, it takes a while for something to come out, like on the spot. This is why I didn't like taking an improv class; sometimes I need time and space to come up with ideas.
I think there were some things that we were already both like, “oh yeah, we definitely need to introduce ourselves.” From my end, it was like, “oh, I wanna talk about support groups cause I'm in support groups.” On her end, she had her friend Byron on the show who's a therapist. It's basically like from each other's, our own experiences.
So yeah, I think we each would bring our own topic ideas and then we'd write them all down and then we would go through them together and agree what are our set topics because we're not ongoing. I think last season we did like nine and a half episodes. So we kind of whittled it down and we also had to be aware of like what is in our bandwidth. So we also tried to do things where it was like, I know that the person who runs my support group will happily join. In Sandrine's case, she's like, here's a person who's a friend of mine who would gladly speak on this topic about being a therapist.
What are some things you’d like to cover but haven’t yet?
Great question because at this point it's really just life that is in the way. We've got our deck, it says season two, and there's like a bunch of episodes. But one thing that we've already recorded is a crossover episode with I’m Listening to see if it works. The episode is, “Is Frasier a good caretaker?” because he takes care of his dad. We're gonna put it out on both feeds.
Something else that we definitely wanna record is a traveling as a caregiver episode, because now Sandrine and I have both done this. I took my dad, who has dementia, to Peru recently and learned a lot from that experience.
And Sandrine has gone to another country with her husband, her elderly mother, and her baby. It's unbelievable; that's a lot. So she learned a lot from that.
So you’ve mentioned that your dad has dementia, and I know you have been active with some advocacy around memory disorders. Can you tell us about some of the work that you’ve been involved with?
I mean, I guess it depends what you consider advocacy, because if this counts I would say one of the biggest things I've taken upon myself to do is if somebody needs advice [I give it]. I guess an example would be in my support group, I recently was saying thank you to the group because everyone gave me tips and it was so helpful in terms of how I prepped for this trip. And there was somebody in the group who reached out to me. So I started a WhatsApp group for everyone in the support group so that we could check in if people had other questions outside of the support group, and somebody did reach out to me. And said like, “I wanna take my loved one to the country that she is from and she has dementia. How did you do it?”
And I ended up writing a very detailed sort of like, here's what I learned, here's tips. Here’s the spreadsheet I made to work off of, if you're considering taking this trip. People will often now be like, “oh, my friend, you know, so-and-so their loved one has dementia like, can I connect you?” And I say, yes, of course, connect me.
For advocacy I would say it's very one-on-one. Like, you know that I've definitely gotten people who have reached out to me because of CareTalkers, so often that I can start a dialogue or they're like, “Hey, do you know / can you send me some support groups?” And I'm like, yes.
I'm also heavily advocating for the, Alzheimer's Association because they have helped me so much. I am constantly sharing their phone number to everyone because truly I have called them in a panic, just crying. Just being like, I'm in a particular situation, I need resources, I have questions.
So if that means anything, I feel like I'm advocating for the Alzheimer's Association and constantly encouraging people, anyone who has a loved one with dementia, to get involved.
Are there any upcoming projects you would like to share?
Well, so one thing that's definitely coming out in early June  is an episode of a podcast called Latino USA that is gonna be all about my relationship to speaking Spanish because my dad is from Peru and I am not a fluent Spanish speaker. But since he got diagnosed with dementia, it has become a priority to improve my Spanish. So that's a story that's gonna be kind of about language learning and also caregiving.
Update 6/30/23: You can now listen to the episode, En Español, here.
Also CareTalkers is gonna come out at some point. And then as for I'm Listening, I would like to bring the podcast back because there is a Frasier revival coming out. So you should definitely follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @anitajewtina because I will update you when all that stuff comes out.
What about resources for caregivers?
I would say the Alzheimer's Association, though for me [my recommendation] is because I'm dealing specifically with a loved one who has dementia. But if you go to their website, their phone number is there and I have always been able to connect with a person, so I'm very pro that.
And also, I would just recommend if you're looking to join some sort of caregiver support group, they're everywhere. I mean, I'm in one on Facebook called the Dementia Caregiver's Support Group.
So yeah, I think if you just look up support groups, try and find your community; they're definitely out there. There's so many people caregiving and I'd say with the people that are doing it, it's much easier to talk about it. Because I feel like–speaking for myself–sometimes I'm like, ah, I don't need to bring the mood down when I'm talking to other people who are not currently caregivers. So it's very nice to be able to try and connect with people who are in a similar experience.
What was the last thing you listened to?
Mallwalkin’, a podcast by Matt Gourley.
What was the last social impact action you took?
I filled the community fridge that's near my apartment as part of my mutual aid group.
If you could pass the mic to someone about a social issue you care about, who would it be and what would they talk about?
Franchesca Ramsey because she’s just so thoughtful—and has been filling us in on the Writer’s Strike.