They say they are just two chicks chatting into the same phone at a kitchen table and if you tune in to their insanely popular podcast – along with the 100,000 or so who download every episode – you really will find just that. Only these are not just any chicks, they are high-profile journalists Leigh Sales – host of ABC’s searing nightly 7.30 report on which she regularly grills politics’ toughest nuts – and Annabel Crabb, who excels in putting the Canberra bubble under her microscope, sometimes while baking cakes, and recently brought us the rigorously researched TV series Ms Represented about the rocky rise of women in politics.
Okay … but here’s the thing … this podcast is nothing to do with political hot potatoes, current affairs or any of that complex and serious stuff. Well, potatoes do get a look-in – a recipe for glass potatoes using a jaw-dropping 250ml of oil to be precise. And it is hot, in the sense that Annabel and Leigh have stumbled upon something that has ignited the Zeitgeist. But the true appeal of the podcast, while no doubt founded on the living room profile of these two women, is about something that has the power to connect us all.
One listener sums it up as: “Friendship like this is what everyone should aim for in life.” While another urges: “Feeling a little bit lonely? ... as therapeutic as a night out with your best friends.” And there’s more. “Honestly the best podcast in the world … To paraphrase Darcy to Bridget Jones ‘We love you – just as you are’.” While another listener suggests: “We all exist somewhere on a spectrum between Leigh (ultra-organized and structured but sometimes a little predictable) and Annabel (spontaneously creative, but sometimes all over the shop). The delightful combination of these two personalities not only entertains but helps us shine a mirror to our own personalities.”
The statistics, including those for the spin-off Facebook group with its 45,000-and-counting members, suggest a movement is underway, a cult even. But the reality is far less calculated.
So, to invoke Michael Caine, what’s it all about, Annabel and Leigh?
Under its highly confusing masthead, Chat 10 Looks 3 – an in-joke reference to the song ‘Dance Ten: Looks Three’ from Leigh’s favourite musical A Chorus Line – presents the often random and frequently off-thewall ramblings of “Sales” and “Crabb” on what they’ve watched, read, cooked and thought about.
The dynamic duo digresses with alacrity: musical theatre fanatic Leigh can break into a show tune accompanying herself on the piano, both regularly tumble into fits of giggles and ridicule one another with that ribbing that comes with years of familiarity and at least one episode was hijacked by garden fairy wrens!
All this babbling has hit a national chord, with followers – called Chatters – growing in numbers and even snapping up merchandise – an apron, doormat, tea-towel, waxed-paper food wrapping, the currently sold out cotton floral face mask – while flocking in their thousands to the live interstate sell-out stage shows.
Next stop is the newly released book, Well Hello: Meanderings from the World of Chat 10 Looks 3 in which Annabel and Leigh are depicted in illustrations with a distinct Scooby Doo-esque aura. Jeepers!
“It’s weird, isn’t it. When I think of the amount of resources in the entertainment industry that go into trying to make things work, it’s bizarre when something just happens literally by accident,” Annabel muses while sipping a cup of tea and sitting at – yes – her kitchen table.
Thanks to COVID restrictions we are unable to meet in person so Annabel, Leigh and I are chatting via Zoom. As we banter, often veering off-topic, it feels uncannily like I’m in the inner sanctum of an episode from the podcast. Annabel’s daughter wanders through in the background proffering a wave and Leigh grins into the screen sitting in a spare bedroom.
“Sales was a bit smarter about it than I was, but it did really just sort of occur,” Annabel continues. “Yes,” chips in Leigh. “I think it’s really hard to identify why it happened or what the key to its success is, but in hindsight, I think it’s just the sense that it gives people a community where they feel connected to like-minded people. When they listen to us it gives the same kind of s*** that you get if you have a night out or a lunch with your female friends. I think that’s a big part of it. Fans of the podcast respond to us and interact with us. They see us as their friends.”
Trying to secure time with these two has been challenging, with mum-of-two Leigh on TV most nights and mum-of-three Annabel juggling multiple gigs from writing to program-making, and in the podcast they frequently underline how strapped for time they are. Indeed, Leigh is renowned for her “right, let’s wrap this thing up now” wind-ups as Annabel threatens to warble on for hours ... which begs the question, why, in November 2014, did they add a podcast to their burgeoning workload?
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