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From Newsstand Studios at Rockefeller Center: Don’t Tease the Animals

By Sylvia A. MartinezMay 10 2021
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Home to NBC’s Saturday Night Live for 46 years, Rockefeller Center is also now home to another comedy duo, Pamela Riley and Sarah Armstrong-Brown, hosts of the “Don’t Tease the Animals” (DTTA) podcast. Co-hosted and co-created by the two musical theater veterans, DTTA is billed as a “casual comedy podcast where any topic is game… literally.”

DTTA, one of eight podcasts now recorded at Newsstand Studios at Rockefeller Center, features Riley and Armstrong-Brown’s comedic musings on topics ranging from love on Galentine’s day to frontline worker appreciation and even mental health. Unlike some podcasts where hosts are subject-matter experts, Armstrong-Brown and Riley “crack down on a relatable topic we're obsessed with, inspired by, or clueless about, and create ridiculous games all about it”—sometimes with guests, sometimes just the two of them. For example, they played “Would you rather?” with their husbands in the second season finale; in another game, Riley read passages from Harlequin Romance novels and had guest ICU nurse Kelly Bradshaw fill in blanks with medical terms.

The co-hosts met in Fort Collins, Colorado, 11 years ago while working in musical theater and remained friends, and years later reunited in New York. The idea and planning for the podcast started pre-pandemic, but the podcast itself launched in March 2020, while the two were quarantined at home with their respective families. The two friends now have two seasons (44 episodes) under their belts, and are currently working on their third season, which launched this month. The Center Magazine talked to Armstrong-Brown and Riley about their podcast.

So what has it been like to go from hosting a podcast at Sarah’s kitchen table to Newsstand Studios at Rockefeller Center?

PAMELA RILEY: Incredible. I mean, what an honor! I grew up idolizing SNL and The Tonight Show, so to share the same quintessential NYC grounds, creating what I love with a dear friend along for the ride, has become a dream come true. From many frigid tree-lighting ceremonies and ice-skating at the Rink to my first concert at Radio City [Music Hall] at age 9 to experiencing Top of the Rock with my daughter—Rock Center is truly a magical place.

SARAH ARMSTRONG-BROWN: I feel like recording at Rock Center is kind of surreal… it's such a New York icon, and to be a part of any kind of content that gets created and shared there is just dreams! Plus, talk about a dream team! I had this moment leaving the studio the other day, walking through the Plaza where I had watched Sara Bareilles perform in the summer concert series a few years ago, and had this kind of fleeting feeling like "How crazy is this that I get to be a small part of this huge thing now?" I’m just so grateful and excited.

How would you describe “Don’t Tease the Animals”?

SAB: We’re like an appetizer sampler of life. We want you to just smile for 40 minutes and then go about your day and maybe say, “Oh, I didn’t know that was a thing, that sounds cool.”

PR: If Seinfeld met The Tonight Show ... and hooked up one night and had a baby, that would be us.

SAB: We would be the baby’s crazy aunt.

PR: I think we’d be the baby. We can be the baby.

SAB: Collectively, we’re the baby?

PR: We’re twins. [They both laugh.] Our podcast is always comedy, and we try to take real life and find the fun moments even when it can be serious because life is too short. Any topic we find is game, literally.

Yes, the games are a big part of your episodes. Is it fun or a challenge to come up with games for each episode?

SAB: We kind of pick topics that give us an excuse to make up games and to have a silly, fun time. We have two every episode. We have a chance to have a dichotomy of experiences, that can be a challenge.

PR: When we decide on a relatable topic, we start taking it apart with jokes… The first game ends up being off the rails or improv, trivia almost. The second game is usually a little more personal and [makes guests] more personable. It’s not to embarrass them. We never, ever blindside our guests. Everyone gets to see their outlines before we record with them.

You two also have a running joke about your nine listeners. What’s that about?

SAB: It’s basically a shoutout to the people that have listened from the very beginning, mostly our friends [smiles]. It’s a running joke that we have a small but fiercely loyal listenership. The nine is an exaggeration, obviously. If you are a listener, then you’re a part of our crew and you’re one of the nine, whether the nine is actually nine or a million. We want people to feel like they’re part of our community.

Where did the name for the podcast come from?

SAB: The title came out of Pam’s imagination. The title was the first thing that we started with. She’s like, we’ve got to do this podcast. I was like, “Okay, you wore me down.” It was kind of a backwards way of coming about it, but I love it, and it’s a great title. There are like eight million podcasts, so we were surprised we could even get that title on a lot of social media.

Is there a subject you won’t touch?

PR: I don’t think there’s a topic that we’re afraid of. We won’t touch politics, and we won’t touch religion. We would never want to go tit-for-tat with someone because of their beliefs, because that is what they believe.

SAB: We don’t want to overstep our bounds. We would rather go in on something that is within our experience and that we can share our opinions in a light-hearted manner, but not in a way that’s going to trigger anyone or make anyone feel left out, because that’s not what we’re about. We’re also not medical professionals or mental health professionals. It’s not our responsibility to offer advice we have no business giving. [Laughing]

PR: Really? I don’t know. [Laughs]

SAB: We’re going to stay in our lane.

PR: Okay, it’s a comedy podcast, yes. [Laughs]

What’s in store for your listeners this season?

PR: We have a war hero and veteran on Memorial Day weekend. He’s a triple amputee, and he’s doing comedy now. He has legitimately found the humor in life. We’re so pumped to have him.

SAB: So pumped!

PR: We’re having a body-building couple.

SAB: We’re talking conspiracy theories.

Are you going to be able to avoid politics when you talk about conspiracy theories?

SAB: We’re going broader. Like Bigfoot.

PR: We’re going to talk about dumb stuff from back in the day.

SAB: For instance, I just learned this the other day, that back in the ’50s and ’60s, when women started to compete in athletic events, there was a campaign to start all of these rumors that if you trained your body, you would start growing hair on your chest and your uterus would fall out. [Makes a funny face.]

PR: And that’s just a preview of what’s going to happen that episode. [Laughs] We talk about Disney. We talk about wine. We talk about fashion.

SAB: The rest of it, I think we’re going to just keep under wraps.

Tune in to the podcasts recorded at Newsstand Studios at Rockefeller Center, located at 1 Rockefeller Plaza.

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