The moment that co-workers Elaine Chaney and Paula McCambridge met at their local nonprofit job, they had instant comedic chemistry.
"We were always bantering, going back and forth," McCambridge told New Times. "Elaine and I had started carpooling together because she's in Los Osos and I'm in Morro Bay. Elaine literally walked up to me one day and said, 'Do you want to do a podcast together?' And I was like, 'Yep!'"
Chaney, who has a background in freelance humor writing as well as occasional stand-up comedy performing, had long pondered starting a podcast but didn't feel inclined to do it solo. When she met McCambridge, who has a background in journalism, their shared sense of humor hit it off.
"It was like this improv mentality," McCambridge said. "One of us would say something, and then all of a sudden we were riffing for five minutes."
The weekly podcast, called Wait, Whaaat?, follows a similar format to popular world-touring podcasts like My Favorite Murder and And That's Why We Drink. For every episode, McCambridge and Chaney each choose a paranormal-related "news" story prior to the podcast. They keep their stories a secret from one another until the mic starts recording, and then take turns reading their respective UFO or ghost sighting of the week, cracking each other up in the process.
"I have always loved the paranormal since I was little—UFOs, all that good stuff," Chaney said of her inspiration for the podcast.
Though the pair has been podcasting for less than a year, they already have a loyal following. Every week, listeners from all over—including locally—tune in to hear new episodes, which are released on Fridays. Since McCambridge and Chaney started in January, they have not missed one week.
"If we're going to be out of town, we'll schedule another day," McCambridge said. "There was one week where we had to schedule a different day to record, and then we had some audio problems, so Elaine did this impromptu 'best of' episode, which is hilarious because we were maybe six episodes in."
"Six in, and we had a 'best of' episode!" Chaney jokingly echoed.
"It was kind of crazy after just that many," McCambridge agreed with a laugh, "but what I loved about it was that we were like, 'OK, we screwed it up this week, but we are still going to have something. We are not just going to leave it hanging.'"
McCambridge and Chaney's commitment to the craft has paid off. They've gained fans throughout the U.S. and even a consistent listener from Berlin, Germany.
"She even showed us her Monster," Chaney said of their German listener—the popular energy drink has become something of a symbol for Wait, Whaaat? fans, as Chaney and McCambridge each drink one before almost every episode.
"They're not sponsoring us yet, but they better," McCambridge laughed.
The duo says they've been continually impressed by how accessible web-based endeavors like podcasting are for both the user and the creator.
"The thing about a podcast is people have access from absolutely anywhere," McCambridge said. "It's so bizarre, and it's so awesome."
"Before, if you wanted a radio show, I mean, good luck," Chaney added. "You had to book studio time, and who's going to air you if you're unknown? But now you can just be interested in, like, Jem and the Holograms, and have a podcast and everything."
"This is our radio show, completely uncensored," McCambridge said. "It's whatever we want to say."
Wait, Whaaat? streams via Anchor.fm, a free service that allows users to record and disseminate their own podcasts. The app also finds sponsors for podcasters based on the number of listens that they average.
"What's always the dream? It's to make money doing something that you love," Chaney said. "This is all of those things."
Though they're only 10 months into the journey, the podcasting pair is always looking to take the show further.
"We are not treating this like a hobby," Chaney said. "We want to take this to the next level."
Following the lead of other popular podcasters, McCambridge and Chaney decided to try something new: a live show. Held on Sept. 27 at the Morro Bay State Park Campground, the event was originally planned to be at a local residence, but it garnered so much interest that it had to be moved to the larger space. McCambridge and Chaney covered alleged alien abductions and the origins of The Exorcist for their 39th episode, and they were met by an audience of roaring laughter for 46 minutes straight.
"It's just all these little moments," Chaney said of the first live show. "Knowing that our show is making people laugh, that's really the thing." Δ
Arts Writer Malea Martin is listening to Wait, Whaaat?'s latest show. Send arts story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.