On Feb. 19, Manhattan’s Beacon Theater was at capacity for a live taping of The Read, the beloved pop culture podcast hosted by comedians Kid Fury and Crissle West. This show was particularly meaningful because they were celebrating the podcast’s 10th anniversary. Given their profession, Fury and West are always talking, but when their introduction was met with prolonged, thunderous applause, just for a moment, they were silent. “I definitely had a moment backstage where I started to get emotional,” West tells TIME a week later. “It’s wild to see how much progress we’ve made and how far the show has gone.”
Since 2013, three presidents and a never-ending list of celebrity antics have provided fodder for The Read. The format has largely stayed true to four segments: Black Excellence, which highlights a Black person they feel deserves it; Hot Tops, a pop culture news segment; Listener Letters—pretty self-explanatory; and the titular “Read,” in which they cleverly rant about a person, place, or thing (think: Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bills or Chris Brown’s half-hearted notes app apology after insulting the artist who beat him for a Grammy). These components, along with their unscripted banter, Fury’s quick quips, and West’s belly laugh, lend a sincere quality to the podcast that has garnered it 2.5 million plays per month and fans in more than 50 countries. Those fans include celebrities like Missy Elliot, who thanked Fury and West during her acceptance speech after winning the MTV Video Vanguard Award in 2019, and Issa Rae, who tapped West to co-host the official Insecure recap podcast and Fury for the writer’s room of her HBO series Rap Sh!t.
Bashful as they were about their fans’ adoration at the live show, West and Fury don’t mince words when reflecting on what has allowed The Read to flourish in an increasingly saturated podcast landscape. “I don’t think people require that much from us besides the versions of us we’ve given so far, which has just been regular, honest, Black folk,” Fury says. West agrees: “The show’s success is because we are who we are.”
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West and Fury had been friends long before the podcast came about, first on Twitter, then via long-distance text between New York City (West) and Miami (Fury). After moving to New York, Fury turned to Crissle one day while waiting in line to see The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and asked if she wanted to join him in a podcast venture he’d been offered by Chris Morrow, CEO and Co-Founder of Loud Speakers Network. Their first episode was released on March 4, 2013.
Since then, the podcasting landscape has shifted drastically. Many have attempted to replicate their style—two friends behind a microphone, cracking jokes and offering advice—but in today’s crowded marketplace, it’s harder than ever to break through as a newcomer without a significant preexisting platform, and the gulf between upstarts and those with multi-million dollar Spotify deals is wide. Fury and West’s casual, organic vibe has been key to their longevity. “I don’t think that people require that much from us,” says Fury. “A lot of the difficulty is trying to stay out of my head when it comes to the creative aspect of it.” The duo also provide a rare safe space for the Black, queer community that has helped cultivate so many devoted listeners.
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These days, West and Fury have their hands in more than podcasting. Fury announced the revival of his popular YouTube channel “Furious Thoughts,” which he will convert into podcast form. “[This] is going to be an extension of what I used to do on YouTube that I kind of missed doing, which is just a random stream of consciousness that I needed to get out,” Fury tells TIME. “I will still be working on The Read, and I guess I’m a glutton for punishment because I don’t stop working.” West is currently getting her masters in mental health counseling, in what feels like a natural progression, given the mindful advice she offers listeners. The duo is also working on a comedy album on Rae’s label, Raedio. According to their publicist, the album is “far along,” and they hope to release it “by the end of the summer.”These endeavors have led fans to fear The Read may be in its final chapter. But the co-hosts say it isn’t so. “Five years came and went, then magically it was 10,” says West. “I think about how much we have both changed.” But for now, they just check in with each other as any good friends do. “What we always land on is ‘If you good, I’m good,’” says Fury. “When you’re done, let me know. Until then, let’s have a ball.”
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