At first glance, “Poog,” a wellness industry podcast, seems like a joke. The name is Goop, after all, spelled backwards.
Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak, the comedians who started the podcast in November, are equally irreverent and candid about topics like facial yoga, colonics, optimizing one’s potential during menstruation, lymphatic drainage, and crystals. The premise of “Poog” is not to debunk or even fact-check wellness trends, but to playfully explore them with a curious audience.
“I think people are wondering if it’s a parody because they can’t believe we have the nerve to act so intensely on hyaluronic acid,” said Ms. Novak, 38, from her home in Hollywood.
The ‘hags’, as they call themselves, have different areas of interest. Ms. Novak leans toward esotericism and the metaphysical: ghosts, astral projection, out-of-body experiences, EMDR therapy, and skin care, to name a few.
Ms. Berlant, 34, is also fascinated by skincare, in addition to mindfulness and food: dairy and dairy alternatives, gluten-free bread, cage-free eggs, microgreens, hotel buffets, spaghetti dinners and martinis (she’s a fan).
Podcasts are big business now, and so is wellness. A survey of digital media consumer behavior conducted by Edison Research found that monthly podcast listeners in the United States surpassed 100 million for the first time in 2020. When it comes to wellness, its market value is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars.
Wellness is a market that thrives on the celebration of one’s own specialty, where “Go on, girl” has become less of a rallying cry and more of an endlessly repeated mantra. This daily grind of onanistic boosterism can get tiresome.
Ms. Novak and Ms. Berlant might be considered the antidote, and yet they were invited to the high temple of well-being when they appeared on a Goop podcast, “The Beauty Closet,” in July.
“Because wellness and beauty are considered feminine domains in our culture, they are mocked and devalued. Berlant and Novak understand the sheer sexism behind that idea,” said Jean Godfrey-June, Goop beauty editor and podcast host. “As a woman, you always get ‘less than’ messages from the culture. All you can do is laugh, and ‘Poog’ makes me laugh.”
Although the podcast started during the pandemic lockdown, the two friends no longer spend as much time in their living room. Mrs. Berlant has just finished filming a role in Olivia Wilde’s new movie, “Don’t Worry Darling,” and has started shooting Abbi Jacobson’s “A League of Their Own” for Prime Video.
And Mrs. Novak’s one-woman show, “Get On Your Knees,” sold out at New York’s Cherry Lane Theater earlier this summer; she will take the show on tour next month.
From the first episode, the comedians said that part of their motivation for doing the podcast was a search for free products. And companies delivered. ‘The products are coming,’ said Mrs Berlant. “It’s actually stressful because there are so many of them and they gain weight so quickly.” She added that “everything tastes better when it’s free.”
The commercialization of wellness is ripe for a skewer, but Ms. Novak and Ms. Berlant aren’t interested in busting myths.
“There’s something endlessly fascinating about listening to people freaking out about products,” said John Early, an actor who has worked with both women for years. “I really wish them freedom from the prison of consumerism, but I also don’t think we would have such a great podcast then.”
The actress Megan Mullally is a fan, as is Amy Schumer, who spoke about the show on Paris Hilton’s podcast. “They are really people who don’t apologize for who they are and just share their sincere thoughts and feelings,” said Ms. Schumer.
Miranda July, the author and filmmaker, is another fan. She contacted Ms. Berlant and Ms. Novak with a request to meet, and what started as a weekly Zoom session has shifted to real-life encounters.
“It’s comedy in its most complex form,” Ms. July said of the podcast. “This should be the basic unit of the highest human thought: two talking women.”