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You’ll hear Courtney Kocak’s name in the credits of three very different podcasts: Netflix’s Know It All (scriptwriter); The Bellas Podcast by pro wrestling siblings the Bella Twins (executive producer); and Private Parts Unknown (cohost and cocreator), where you’ll hear Courtney’s comedic chops as she explores love and sexuality around the globe with best friend Sofiya Alexandra.
Needless to say, the Los Angeles-based creative, who has also written for Bustle and The Washington Post, has a great ear for great stories. Incredibly, it was just a few years ago that she was stuck in a “shitty day job.”
So how did Courtney become a full-time podcasting pro?
Better than tell you how, she’ll show you.
For seven weeks beginning January 15, 2022, she’s teaching an intensive course at Pandemic University, covering everything from planning to production, marketing to monetizing. Or, as Courtney summarizes, “basically all the stuff I wish someone told me.”
Registration is still available but seats are limited to 16 students.
To get to know Professor Kocak better, we asked her a few questions about the varied audio storytelling business, how to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and more!
Why did you want to teach this class?
I took my podcasting skills pro over the past few years, and it has been truly life-changing. I don’t have a shitty day job anymore, and I make good money doing something I love. I’m teaching this workshop because I want to help other creatives reach their goals through podcasting. It’s basically all the stuff I wish someone told me.
A lot of people might just picture their favourite podcast host when they think of the genre. Are there different ways to be a podcast professional?
Being a host is awesome, but there are lots of other important roles in podcasting and radio. There are so many opportunities for podcast producers these days. Writing for audio is both a wonderful creative outlet and a great job. If you’re a more technically-minded audiophile, there is a plethora of sound editing, mixing, and designing gigs out there, as well.
What has been the most enjoyable audio project you’ve worked on, and why?
Don’t make me pick! Right now, I executive produce The Bellas Podcast, I’m the scriptwriter for Netflix’s Know It All podcast, and I co-host/produce a comedy-sex-travel podcast called Private Parts Unknown. They are all my favorite. I try to be in love with every show I do — that’s how I do my best work.
Podcasts have had a huge popularity surge in recent years, and now it seems like there’s one for every topic. What’s your biggest tip for standing out?
It sounds trite, but be authentic. There are shows about every topic, so to stand out, you need to bring your passion and uniqueness to the mic and/or editing board. Don’t chase trends. Focus on making the best version of a show that only you can make. And perhaps most importantly, ask yourself: “Would I want to listen to this if I wasn’t involved?”
How do you know when something would make a better podcast, than, say, journalistic article or personal essay? How do you make those genre decisions?
Ah, such a good question! I think about this a lot. Sometimes you can approach a topic or premise you’re obsessed with from multiple angles, and the answer is D) all of the above. I could teach a whole class on this, but the short answer is the medium should help you express your idea, not hinder. And you want to make the best use of the source material that’s available — so if you have great archival tape, you want to make a podcast, not a painting.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.