Vivian Hoang ’24 is from Fairfax, Va and hopes to use her history and journalism and digital media double major to uplift marginalized voices. Outside of being The Flat Hat’s Executive Editor, she is a Communications Student Partner with STLI and a Reporting Fellow with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. As a journalist, she is especially passionate about reporting on topics related to race, ethnicity, community, displacement and power. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven’t heard the name Bobbi Althoff recently, what’ve you been up to? Honestly, not missing out on much.
Some context for those out of the loop: the seemingly average, white millennial woman launched into the spotlight over the last couple of months after she brought A-List celebrities like Drake (on a now deleted episode) and Lil Yachty onto her new, ironically titled show, “The Really Good Podcast.” My description of Althoff as an “average white girl” may come across as a jab, but it’s a nod to her marketing strategy; part of her allure is that she comes across as just any other girl you might see in line at Starbucks, which many think makes her star-studded interviews all the more impressive — and confusing.
Althoff’s meteoric rise in popularity despite having unknown, mysterious origins has everyone scratching their heads and doing deep dives on the internet, with an entire Reddit thread dedicated to Althoff and speculation over who she could be. Many have accused her of being an industry plant or the product of her husband’s extreme wealth because it’s unheard of that someone with virtually no platform would suddenly be out parading with Tyga.
I personally agree and find her sudden stardom fishy, so it’s difficult for me to find her content’s low production value and brand as a one-woman, rags-to-riches show personable and authentic like her fans do. If anything, it feels forced and fake, like she’s playing into this persona of someone who serendipitously stumbled into the spotlight (just like anyone else could!) when there were definitely invisible strings being pulled and connections having already been made behind the scenes. It’s understandable to have privilege, but you’ve got to at least acknowledge it.
And then there’s Althoff’s other main draws that’s got everyone talking: her deadpan, “The Office”-style humor that makes interviewees and watchers alike cringe (mainly in a bad, agonizingly painful way) and her out-of-the-box filming locations like a dirty warehouse floor with billionaire Mark Cuban for extra shock value and haha-funny points.
Of all the things wrong with Althoff, here’s where I’ll really dig in. While I do loathe Althoff’s comedic timing and find her absolutely not funny at all but rather grossly overhyped, I’ll begrudgingly concede that humor is subjective, so people are allowed to find her funny. What I do take issue with is that her entire shtick is directly ripped off from another female creator from across the pond.
Enter Amelia Dimoldenberg, a UK-based influencer best known for her series “Chicken Shop Date,” in which she interviews celebrities at a fast food chicken joint in London — another unusual filming location, you catch my drift? One of Dimoldenberg’s most viral interviews was with rapper Jack Harlow, with whom she shared beautifully awkward chemistry. Watching Dimoldenberg’s impassive character and blank-eyed expressions slowly crack as she and Harlow exchanged stifled giggles and subtly flirted with one another was amazing in every sense of the word as it really humanized Harlow and brought out his playful side.
So if using a dry, cheeky persona during interviews with A-Listers from the U.S. and U.K. alike originated with Dimoldenberg, why are people praising Althoff like she’s somehow reinvented comedy and podcasting? They really have no reason to, especially as Althoff frequently crosses the line between being an NPC character for laughs and showing poor etiquette towards her guests while Dimoldenberg gracefully toes it.
If you’re going to blatantly steal, you should at least do it better, Bobbi. I get you’re playing a character, but even then, your persona shouldn’t make guests uncomfortable, impede the flow of conversation or prevent viewers from actually learning anything real about the celebrities they love. A great podcast host is someone who can sit back and listen or whose engagement with their guest can showcase a side of them that wouldn’t otherwise be seen. Althoff does none of that, so it’s difficult for me to say she deserves her platform at all.
Without having stolen another interviewer’s whole gag or being propped up by external connections, Althoff really has no discernible talent of her own and brings absolutely nothing innovative or special to the influencer scene. We need to stop allowing social media to bring fame and money to bland, uninteresting people like Althoff because it causes other influencers who actually work hard to differentiate themselves and create their own niches to get swept under the rug.
So, let’s give our attention not to Althoff but to genuinely unique interviewers like Nardwuar, who brings an infectiously eccentric charm and shockingly in-depth knowledge of famous rappers’ pasts to elicit huge, emotional reactions from rappers that traditionally don’t otherwise occur during televised interviews. Let’s give praise to Ziwe, a Black female host with a confrontational, big-sister-trying-to-get-the-tea interviewing style, creative game show segments based on relevant internet culture like “Women’s Rights and Women’s Wrongs” and a signature pink, feminine aesthetic. Like Dimoldenberg but unlike Althoff, these are creators who actually know how to use a character to enhance an interview rather than distract from guests brought onto the show.
Choose to support other comedians and online creators that actually make meaningful content, give guests a real platform to share their stories and have a damn personality. I’m not asking you to be an outright Bobbi Althoff hater like me, but I think there’s a greater lesson to be learned here about who we as a society deem worthy of our watch time. Think critically about what the content you consume says about you as a person and who you’re letting have a platform. Don’t mindlessly scroll; be an active consumer of media and shape your own online watch history, especially as Gen-Zers tend to be the target audience for gimmicks like these.
And to Bobbi Althoff: I sincerely wish you the best, and I hope you have as equally steep of a drop-off as your rise-up. Have a great rest of your (hopefully) short-lived podcast influencer career!