If you are anything like me, you’ve had your News alerts on “off” mode since the Kavanaugh hearings. Others tuned out soon after the 2016 elections, describing the constant onslaught of devastating headlines as too painful and overwhelming. The problem with this method? Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. I was recently reminded of this fact when I sat in on a recording session with the hilarious duo behind the new podcast, Highly Political. Hosted by Tianna and Sam, the new podcast takes tough conversations about current events and confronts them head-on with the help of comedy and cannabis.
On an abnormally grey Wednesday in West Hollywood, I sat in a cozy second-bedroom-turned-studio filled with artful tapestries and soundproof foam, sipping on a Spindrift. Tianna and Sam checked their sound levels while “princess Jaqueline,” Tianna’s adorable Chihuahua, curled up in her lap. As Tianna reached for a Skunkberry strain preroll, Sam uttered her quintessential line, “spark it up, T”—and I knew recording was in session.
Highly Political is a podcast that intersects comedy, politics, and cannabis. It’s a formula so natural, they’ve already caught the eye of Elizabeth Bank’s digital creative company, whohaha, who provided the two with a studio and mentorship for their pilot episode. The premise of the show is simple: two well-spoken women smoke a joint and talk about current events. With just a few episodes released, they’ve covered topics like the 2020 candidates, The Mueller Report, healthcare, and saving our planet from single-use plastics, to name a few. Ambitious at first glance, sure—but add a dash of cannabis mixed with the hilarious banter of two comedians, and suddenly, these hard conversations become a bit more pleasurable.
Two longtime friends, Sam and Tianna’s inspiration for the podcast came out of a craving for unity and understanding. Like many of us, the 2016 elections served as a wakeup call for Sam and Tianna, revealing how deeply divided we really are. “After the election, we had a lot of rage and thoughts and feelings,” Sam says. “We realized we were living in a bubble. We wanted to inspire people to feel comfortable to have conversations with their friends and families. To bring people together.” Why add cannabis to the mix? Aside from the fact that both women work in the industry, “cannabis is a nice lubricant for these hard conversations. It helps put your guard down.”
“We realized we were living in a bubble. We wanted to inspire people to feel comfortable to have conversations with their friends and families. To bring people together.”
In the short session I sat in on, they aired their frustrations on a range of issues facing the U.S. today. They covered everything from Tianna’s favorite day (Tacotopia), to why beer gives some yeast infections, to how Joe Biden is proving himself not to be the fun uncle they thought he was when Obama was around. Each story they cover gets dissected and analyzed from the micro lens of their own experience and a macro vision of what it means for the country as a whole. A story about the heir to the Coca Cola bottling fortune getting arrested for smuggling weed plants onto a private jet, for instance, turned into a conversation on privilege during security checks. “He is willing to take a lot of risks I wouldn’t dare try with this hair,” Tianna says.
The topic that took up the most airtime was one Tianna sarcastically referred to as a “light, uncontroversial topic”: abortion. Sam aptly called it “the GOP’s number one distraction tool,” before pointing out that women in their 20s account for the majority of abortions. They explained the nitty gritty of the heartbeat bills passing in Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, and beyond before calling out Kay Ivey–the woman who would cast a deciding vote on the heartbeat bill in Alabama. We didn’t know it until recording wrapped, but she signed the bill into law as they spoke. To “add insult to injury,” Sam and Tianna bemoaned the glaring lack of regulations targeted at the men responsible for the other chromosome: “especially with all these young [women] getting pregnant, you know the men were the only ones who had a good time anyway.” It’s true, Sam agreed: “I didn’t orgasm for years.”
Whether it’s a punchline or policy debate, by opening up about their own experiences with these topics, Tianna and Sam remind us that the political is always personal. A discussion on our desensitization to gun violence, for instance, evolved into Tianna sharing a heart-wrenching poem she had written after a police officer shot and killed Philando Castille in Minnesota. When it happened back in 2016, the officer said one of the reasons he feared for his life (and subsequently shot Castille) was because he smelled cannabis upon approaching the car. According to Tianna, “in these situations, cannabis is used to villainize people.” The poem was so powerful, it moved me and brought Sam to tears:
This is about the misconduct of the few.
This is about the children who will never see their father again
And the families who don’t see how their hearts will ever mend.
This is about the conversation I will have with my son
That even if he fears for his life, he shouldn’t run.
This is about the tears in my eyes when I woke up this morning
And how I don’t understand why the whole country isn’t mourning.
This is about disrespecting me by saying you are color blind
As if my blackness is something I could leave behind.
This is about sacrificing self-respect for safety.
‘Hands up!’ Please, don’t shoot me.
At its core, Highly Political offers you two new friends to scream into the existential void with. Together, they weave entertaining banter in with two friends emotionally processing the weight of their punchlines. They capture what it’s like to be a millennial: to have most of your life ahead of you all while watching the devastating impacts of our most time-pressing issues hurl towards us like a meteor racing towards the earth. As they riffed about how overwhelming it can be, Tianna joked about the frustration of getting through the days with this knowledge on our shoulders: “It’s like, yeah, the earth might explode in 5 days… but yeah I’ll be sure you have your side of ranch.” Highly Political balances mournfully lamenting this reality, and necessarily laughing at it.
They capture what it’s like to be a millennial: to have most of your life ahead of you all while watching the devastating impacts of our most time-pressing issues hurl towards us like a meteor racing towards the earth.
Despite the weight of the headlines they discuss, Tianna and Sam have a clear message: “we need to not shut up about this.” No matter what happens, we can’t stop talking to each other. No matter how heavy things get, we can’t succumb to silence. No matter what side of the aisle we’re on, we can’t stop finding ways to laugh together. If any of that sounds hard, cannabis can help.
Highly Political is available on Apple Podcasts, Sticher, and Spotify
All Music composed and performed by Sarah Margaret Huff
Original Logo by @sarahdayarts