Posted Mar 8, 2020 at 9:16 AMUpdated Mar 8, 2020 at 9:16 AM
Patrick Hinds will soon make his debut on a Broadway stage. Just not the way he had once dreamed.
Hinds, who grew up in South Yarmouth, co-hosts “True Crime Obsessed,” a murder-oriented, yet comedic, podcast that has boomed in popularity over the past year. He and show partner Gillian Pensavalle will be in Boston on March 20 for the first show in a six-city live tour that sold out in a week. The show at Boston’s 750-seat Royale nightclub sold out in a day.
And on June 1, the duo will be the first podcasters to bring a live show to a Broadway theater.
As a teen, Hinds, whose mother, Pam Parker, now lives in Brewster, performed in shows at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School. He studied at Emerson College in Boston, where he was disappointed not to be accepted in the musical theater program. But after a number of unsatisfying jobs and moving to New York City, he decided to become part of the theater community by reinventing a defunct Broadway podcast he had loved.
Hinds created Broadway-oriented podcasts for three years, and met Pensavalle because she created the official podcast for the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Now, close to three years after becoming friends and turning a shared love of crime documentaries into “True Crime Obsessed,” the two have come full circle.
“It’s sort of like ‘We did it! We figured out a way of getting to Broadway without actually having to be good at the acting!’” Hinds joked in a phone interview.
That live show will include a few Broadway performers they know. “It’s very overwhelming to think about, it’s very exciting and we can’t believe it’s happening,” Hinds said. “Every time (we) talk about it, I either start to cry or I start to scream.”
Their Broadway entree has been through an unusual true-crime podcast that has about 200 episodes, and gets 3.5 million downloads each month.
What should you watch?
Former Cape Codder Patrick Hinds, co-host of the “True Crime Obsessed” podcast, says these are among his favorite crime documentaries, “the gold standard” of what has been discussed on his show:
“Abducted in Plain Sight,” about an Idaho teenager who was kidnapped — twice — in the 1970s by a neighbor. (“It’s such a well-made documentary, so bonkers crazy — every five minutes there’s a new thing that happens.”)
“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,”talks with the serial killer on death row.
“Who Killed Garrett Phillips,” about the 2011 murder of a 12-year-old and the trial of a college soccer coach.
“The Case Against Adnan Syed,” a reexamination of the 1999 disappearance and murder of an 18-year-old and subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend.
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In December, Kastle Systems, a Virginia-based security company, released a statistical study of which true crime podcast was most popular in each state. Here are the 10 podcasts that nabbed the No. 1 spot in the most states:
“Generation Why” “Morbid” “Doctor Death” “Root of Evil” “Dirty John” “Room 20″ “In the Dark” “S-Town” “Monstruo” “Serial”
While competition for listeners is stiff among true-crime podcasts (iTunes lists 240 choices), what sets “True Crime Obsessed” apart, Hinds said, is its focus on recapping documentaries and making fun of them — with what a press release describes as “signature hilarity and sass.”
For each week’s episode, the two separately watch a documentary — from Academy Award winners to low-budget indies — and take notes before recording. For the show, “we sort of go through (the documentary) minute by minute. And we’re laughing and we’re yelling and we’re screaming,” Hinds said. In editing, he adds clips from the film under discussion.
“We don’t research cases, we just discuss what’s being presented in the documentary. And that’s something that really sets us apart,” Hinds noted. “We’re not reinvestigating, we didn’t do the research. We’re just a recap show that happens to be about true crime and we just get a kick out of each other, so it’s funny.”
Only a year or so ago, Hinds worried they couldn’t sell 120 seats at a small New York venue. This week, the two launched The Obsessed Network, adding a second true-crime podcast (the four-episode spinoff “Abducted in Plain Sight”); are readying for the live tour on both the East and West coasts; and are now a sponsor for August’s PodcastCon in Chicago to help teach up-and-coming podcasters, and bring podcasters together with their listeners.
“I worked jobs for 20 years out of college that I didn’t like, and I’m (now) really, really grateful for people who listen to the podcast, who make it so this can be my job,” Hinds said. “It’s a shocker to me every single day.”
The journey of “True Crime Obsessed” almost immediately veered from what the two expected.
Both married and settled, Hinds and Pensavalle “just clicked” as friends, and discovered their mutual love of true crime while simply hanging out together. Hinds was ready to “try making something new” beyond their Broadway focus, so the crime podcast idea was born. At first, it was going to be “this very nerdy, NPR-style, dry sort of true-crime podcast,” Hinds said, starting with analysis of the 2012 documentary “The Imposter.”
But then Pensavalle started talking.
“I had no idea (Gillian) was that funny,” Hinds remembered. “I had all these really nerdy notes … and Gillian was just like ‘Girl, I don’t know, the sister is bonkers and that hair is insane’ and she was just making me laugh so hard and I couldn’t believe it.”
They worried whether comedy on a crime podcast was OK and then decided, for several reasons, that it could work.
“I kept thinking ‘Is this even appropriate? Are we allowed to even laugh at this stuff?’ And it sort of occurred to me that, you know, we’re not laughing at the victim, we’re not laughing at the crime,” he said. “We’re very supportive — victim advocates and that whole thing. I thought there isn’t anything else out there that’s like this, I think we should just lean into (the comedy) and do this. And here we are, 200 episodes later!”
Their live shows take that style to an even higher level. With a bar.
“We always say it’s like a big party. … The word is out that our shows are really fun,” Hinds said. “You get all the information (on a crime case) but it’s also live, so it’s very high-energy, I’m bouncing off the walls, it’s very theatrical, it’s very funny. … It’s always making fun of each other, making fun of the audience, getting made fun of by the audience.”
In Boston and Philadelphia, Hinds and Pensavalle will be joined by Tim Pilleri and Lance Reenstierna of the “Missing Maura Murray” podcast, plus Maggie Freleng of Oxygen’s “The Disappearance of Maura Murray,” for an evening of “obsessing” over that case of a college student who disappeared in 2004. Later live shows will have different guests and topics, with the crime that launched the hit “Serial” podcast in two cities, and LGBTQ pride and the Stonewall uprising discussed in the other two.
Hinds is one of the industry’s few LGBTQ podcasters, and several of the “Obsessed” episodes focus on LGBTQ-centered crimes.
Live-show guests are good sports about the jokes, Hinds said. When the “Maura Murray” guests agreed to be part of a previous show, he said: “I reached out to them and said, ‘I love you guys so much but you do understand we’re just going to make fun of you the whole time, right?’ They said, ‘Yes, we love your podcast so much, we’re really into it. So bring it, bring it on.’”
Fans have told Hinds and Pensavalle that the podcast’s humor is what helps them get through the sometimes grisly stories and graphic content in the documentaries discussed. Fans have also said the podcast’s style has helped them personally get through tough times, whether it was losing a job or being scared by the current political situation.
“I think one of the reasons we got popular is we’re offering an escape from that with our comedy,” Hinds said. People can listen to something funny “and still get (their) true-crime fix.”
Why all the interest in true crime? “People really like to be scared,” Hinds said, and true-crime stories have the added horror of being real and the “it could happen to me” idea. People like a satisfying ending, he said, but also enjoy trying to solve mysterious circumstances.
And while spending a week editing those dark tales can sometimes be a little wearing, 200 episodes and numerous live shows in, Hinds is still hooked on true crime.
“I never get tired of it,” he said. “Every week when I sit down to watch a documentary, I’m excited. Which is ridiculous! I don’t know how that’s still possible, but it’s true.”