Does Bobbi Althoff mark the end of the apathetic celebrity interviewer?

By Emma O'Regan-Reidy

Published Oct 19, 2023 at 08:15 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Like most, you probably came across Bobbi Althoff because of her viral (and now-deleted) Drake interview. In it, the two share a California King-sized bed as Althoff does her now-well-known bit of acting disinterested as she asks the rapper questions in an almost ASMR-like tone.

The podcast was equal parts unique, off-putting and uncomfortable. The video prompted many to assume that Althoff is an industry plant—while this high-profile guest star also piqued interest in the podcaster, encouraging many to keep up with her expanding catalogue.

Recently, the host of The Really Good Podcast (which only launched in April 2023) has come under scrutiny because of her interview with Offset which was especially cringeworthy. While many see Althoff as a one-off, her apathetic celebrity interview style isn’t anything new—however, her approach may signal that the format is losing its allure. Let’s get into it.

Deadpan interviews have been around for decades, on both TV and the internet. Popular satirical shows you may already be familiar with include Ziwe, Between Two Ferns, The Eric Andre Show or even the Da Ali G Show—as well as YouTube favourites like Amelia Dimoldenberg’s Chicken Shop Date or Caleb Pressley’s Sundae Conversations. However, the difference between all of these and Althoff’s (and even Dimoldenberg’s) interviews, seems to be that the subject is very aware of the dynamic at play. At its best, this technique offers delightful, fan-approved moments. Conversely, at its worst, it comes off as almost entirely unwatchable.

Althoff’s lack of journalistic training or preparedness, performative or not, also rubs a lot of viewers and other reporters the wrong way. “Play this clip to any journalist who has completed weeks of prep for a celebrity interview they fought tooth and nail to pin down and they will probably have a substantial meltdown,” says Maddy Mussen, a journalist at the Evening Standard.

Likewise, Rachelle Hampton, co-host of the podcast ICYMI, echoes this, saying that “in an era when it is harder than ever for real journalists to land a celebrity interview—because celebrities either want soft-ball interviews like this one, or they just want to go to social media rather than submit to actual questioning—the fact that this woman who has started a podcast six months ago is not only so famous, but also so unprepared, it’s insulting.”

But Althoff’s off-putting interviewing technique isn’t the only thing that doesn’t sit well with some viewers. Similarly to Dimoldenberg in the past, many have started to question why Althoff is primarily interviewing prominent Black men (particularly rappers) like Lil Yachty, Drake, Offset and Tyga, among others. While the Chicken Shop Date girl has somewhat diversified her interview subjects since the start of her YouTube channel, it’s still worth noting the commonalities between her and Althoff.

Kuba Shand-Baptiste, assistant opinions editor of The i Paper, writes: “The pull [of the YouTube series] back then seemed to be the juxtaposition between [Dimoldenberg], a middle-class white woman with a painfully awkward persona, and Black grime and drill artists who found her lack of decorum (however affected), charming.” The same can be applied to Althoff, who initially grew a sizable TikTok following as a mom blogger, and has since pivoted to becoming somewhat of a makeshift hip-hop journalist.

Mussen speaks to this, observing that “the only reason [this technique] has worked so far is because the women who employ this technique are attractive and unthreatening, which is not a great basis for an interesting experience for anyone concerned, least of all the viewers.”

Similarly, in response to Althoff’s interview with Offset, Jemele Hill, contributing writer for The Atlantic, took to X (formerly known as Twitter) to share her opinion. Rather than being an enjoyable interview for a fan to watch, she notes how “it just sadly points out how real hip-hop journalism has been practically erased. Some of the media teams behind these artists aren’t interested in them sitting down with credible people who know how to tell stories and do quality interviews.”

So, what exactly is the difference between Althoff and Dimoldenberg’s interviews—and what makes the former cringe and the latter charming? While sometimes being awkward (but never blatantly rude), Dimoldenberg creates lighthearted conversations that allow the subject to reveal aspects of their personality without having to bare their soul.

Candice Lim, the other ICYMI co-host, describes this, saying that she notices how Dimoldenberg “allows herself to be the butt of the joke.” Compared to Althoff, she never tries to pretend that she doesn’t know who a celebrity is. Lim sums up Dimoldenberg’s approach as two-fold: a bumbling, friendly character and a producer, which at first glance is easier than it seems. As a result, says Lim, “even if it’s harder than it seems, the popularity of it has made people, like Bobbi, be like ‘Well I can do it too. It’s so easy, just be rude.’”

But, it isn’t that simple. As a result, Chicken Shop Date girl’s American counterpart comes off as mean-spirited more often than not, due to her lack of preparedness which results in an uncomfortable interview that teeters on the edge of satire and unprofessionalism.

By opting to go on a podcast with Althoff or a similar interviewer, celebrities can dodge industry-specific questions they may not want to answer and avoid the institution of traditional media (like magazines or newspapers). However, ultimately, the result is an apathetic interview which offers more soundbites than substance. For that reason, it seems like this lengthy, cringeworthy format may not be around for the long haul—even if The Really Good Podcast continues to land A-list guests.

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