Why is this interesting? - The Monday Media Diet with Priyanka Mattoo

On comedy, great podcasts, and cross-stitching

Priyanka Mattoo (PM) was introduced by a few friends and contributors to WITI. She’s a woman of many talents, which she’s shared with us below. Also, if you’re starved for new podcast recommendations, you have come to the right place. - Colin (CJN)

Tell us about yourself.

I am a (mostly comedy) writer and filmmaker, but was formerly a talent agent at large Hollywood agencies UTA and WME, and then Jack Black’s partner at our production company, Electric Dynamite. I’m the co-founder of Earios, a women-led podcast network, and co-host its critically-acclaimed beauty/wellness podcast, Foxy Browns. I write essays that have appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, and The Hairpin, and a career advice column, about breaking into entertainment, for Vulture. 

I was raised in India, England, and Saudi Arabia before moving to the U.S. in high school, and studied Italian and Law at the University of Michigan. I now live in Venice (California) with my husband and two little kids.

Describe your media diet. 

It really IS a diet right now, because I’ve been weaning myself from Twitter—I think it’s a terrible place for me to get my information, but a wonderful place to connect with like-minded women, so I use it as a water cooler, and turn to Feedly for news instead. With all the information on the entire internet, plus my infinite curiosity about everything, I need to be mindful and deliberate about media consumption, or my brain feels like a fried egg.

My morning Feedly: 

First, food, because we have a hungry family: Milk Street, the kitchn, food52 blog, Nom Nom Paleo, Elana’s Pantry

Home stuff, because there’s always something to fix: Remodelista, Apartment Therapy

Travel—why, I don’t know, I’m just torturing myself, googling Italian villa rentals: Skift

Books: Lithub, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus

News is last, because, well: NYT, WaPo, LA Times, Guardian, BBC

I work in entertainment, but I don’t read about it, other than Vulture, and my friend Richard’s newsletter The Ankler. I’m just starting to tiptoe into newsletters, because I find most email a personal attack. BUT Julieanne Smolinski is one of my favorite writers, period, and I’m glad she’s back on the prose train with The Minimizer. Samantha Irby’s is a beautiful daily dose of her wheels-off energy. Carrye Frye’s Black Cardigan Newsletter and Courtney Maum’s Maumalog are great for writers. Nick Quah’s podcasting industry newsletter Hot Pod is great, and I get Diya Chacko’s Coronavirus Today newsletter from the LA Times so I can get all the updates I need at once, instead of panicking all day. NYT Parenting Newsletter is fantastic, as is Prof. Emily Oster’s ParentData. Also just signed up for The Juggernaut.

As for print, at my peak I subscribed to 32 magazines, but imagine that forest of paper! So now I use the Texture app for most, and still receive The Atlantic, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Allure, Milk Street, Bon Appetit. I’m thinking about getting our son The Week Junior, because he’s been a champ through the lockdown, but it would be nice to surround him with some good news (and kids love mail). 

Podcasts: Obviously I’m partial to our Earios shows. But outside of our network I love anything Jane Marie (The Dream) touches, Call Your Girlfriend, Song Exploder, Home Cooking, She’s All Fat, Ask Ronna, Jesus and Jollof, The Guilty Feminist, My Dad wrote a Porno, Esther Perel’s Where Should we Begin, Ghost of a Podcast. The kids and I listen to a lot of Story Pirates

What’s the last great book you read?

Oh gosh. This is hard because I read like a maniac, hundreds of books a year, and can find the value in so many. I just re-read (for the millionth time) Elif Batuman’s The Possessed, which I’ve owned since it came out, and I can still open it to any page and cackle. When I’m a little glum my husband might say “why don’t you read the book about the Russian grad program?” In addition to being fantastic writing, it always cheers me up. 

I just finished and really enjoyed Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times. Her extremely direct way with words is like a knife to my funnybone. Bess Kalb’s book No One Will Tell You This But Me was astonishing. I sobbed and laughed my way through it and handed it to my mother-in-law immediately. Brit Bennet’s The Vanishing Half couldn’t have come at a better time. Megha Majumdar’s A Burning. Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown.

What are you reading now?

Brown Baby, by Nikesh Shukla. It’s a memoir about the birth of his daughter right after the death of his mother, and explores how we can instill joy and hope in our children while navigating our bleak socio-political climate. I usually read quickly but I find the book really affecting, so I’m reading a bit at a time, with breaks for deep breaths and mulling things over. 

What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?

I start in the back and work my way forward, and carry it everywhere with me. Night time is my book-reading time, but with the two kids and the two jobs I find windows in the day to work through articles—while they’re eating breakfast, over my own lunch, nap/screen time. 

Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?

Overall, I think everyone should be waking up to seeking out things by people who aren’t exactly like themselves. My friend Dan Saltzstein at the NYT committed to reading only books by women last year, and his world opened right up. I read mostly novels, and have always groaned about non-fiction that isn’t in memoir form, so I’m rolling up my sleeves to attack some. One should read brown and Black women, always, if you want to know how the world really works. And that doesn’t just mean solely educating yourself on race and gender in America (although that is also essential). I think every human should learn about joy in communities other than their own. Diksha Basu’s The Windfall, Bolu Babalola’s upcoming Love in Colour, Neel Patel’s If You See me Don’t say Hi, are all books that make me happy, and tell stories that aren’t solely about identity politics, or cultural burdens. 

What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone? 

Paprika! It’s a recipe organizing app that, among other things, sifts through the chatty parts to download and file just the recipe on any site. 

Plane or train?

Plane. I love airports, I love airplanes, I love passport stamps, I love clambering, jet-lagged, out of a sealed steel tube into a different language and different air. I can’t wait to get back out there. Even the 12 hour flights with wakeful, extroverted kids are always worth it when we land. That said, I want to take a long rail journey with my Dad for his 70th. Like a real Orient Express-type sleeper. 

What is one place everyone should visit? 

Pune is my favorite Indian city. It’s got a really progressive, cool vibe, great food, comedy, art scene, and find it more manageable than Delhi or Mumbai. It’s a good starter town. Feels like the Austin of India, and if you go, my family there will show you a fun time, because they’re the greatest. 

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.

Every second of every day is a rabbit hole, because I have a compulsion to know everything about everything. I started Tuesday with this photo from my friend Reilly (below), of a cross-stitched pillow at his sister Bonnie’s house. It’s a quote from the 1949 play The Lady’s Not for Burning by Christopher Fry. Then I read everything about the playwright, ordered the play, read it, and found the obituary of the woman who owned the pillow before Bonnie did. Shirley Leviton was a light switch heiress, whose obituary ended with a request to make donations “to a charity of your choice.” We might have been friendly, Shirley and I.

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Priyanka (PM)

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