Nearly 10 years ago, after ending a bad relationship, I had recurring dreams in which I ran through a city looking for my ex. A stranger on the street would say, "He went that way, into that building." I'd slip down hallways and up flights of stairs, and just as I was about to open what seemed like a promising door, I'd wake up. These dreams happened months after the relationship ended. I didn't often think about this person in waking life; we didn't even live on the same continent.
There's no neatly packaged meaning to extract from that dream. That's just how dreams are: they're weird, boring, exciting, sad. They can mean nothing or everything. And two comedians, Chris Gethard and Gary Richardson, are going to attempt to unravel the finely spun yarns of listeners' dreams in their new podcast on the Earwolf network, In Your Dreams.
In preparation for the show, Earwolf asked listeners to call in anonymously and leave a two-minute description of a strange, upsetting, or funny dream they recently had. Gethard and Richardson then picked their favorites to dissect during each episode.
"When you want someone else telling you about their dream, you want it to be in 30- to 45-second bursts." —Chris Gethard
"Dreams are kind of a classic, off-limits conversation topic; nobody wants to hear about other people's dreams," says Gethard. "At the same time, there is this world of dream analysis that I think is fascinating. When you want someone else telling you about their dream, you want it to be in 30- to 45-second bursts, so you can say, 'What the fuck are you talking about?' Then, you can hear comedians riff about it. To me, that was the way to do it."
"People think that dreams are some sort of look into a person's psyche," explains Richardson. "People like the idea that if a dream can be analyzed, that there is a finite answer for whatever they're working through. I think that appeals to people, that there's a right way to think about their dreams."
"You could say I am a graduate of the Naropa Institute." — Gary Richardson
Naturally, I wonder, are the pair actually qualified to analyze dreams? Gethard's work hinges mostly on his own anxiety and his history of mental health issues. His tremendous empathy is what, in part, makes his podcast Beautiful/Anonymous, also on Earwolf, so moving. For that podcast, listeners can call Gethard during recording hours, and if they get through, Gethard is not allowed to hang up for an hour. So, when it comes to relaying awkward or uncomfortable dreams, Gethard is probably the least judgmental audience to have.
"I had a dream when I was 18 years old that I met an alt version of myself in a forest. And the alt version said, 'Your life is halfway over.'" —Chris Gethard
The podcast's home page describes Richardson, a Brooklyn-based comedian, as "an expert of questionable credentials." When pressed on his qualifications, Richardson says, "You could say I am a graduate of the Naropa Institute," before asking to go off the record. I don't know of an existing Naropa Institute, though in Colorado there's a Naropa University, formerly known as the Naropa Institute. However, when I called Naropa, the school could not find a record of Richardson among its alumni. So, questionable indeed (also, Google tells me he went to Columbia College in Chicago).
Still, Gethard and Richardson are two natural improvisers who will have no dearth of material from the calls of curious dreamers. Regardless of how absurd their interpretations of callers' dreams may be, as a listener of In Your Dreams, I'll be enthralled and, honestly, probably convinced.
Below, Gethard and Richardson share their own memorable dreams.
Gethard: "I had this dream two years ago, and it felt so real. I was driving, and I was in a car chase, and I hit a red light. Because I'm a good boy, I stopped at the red light even though I was being chased. And a guy got out of the car behind me, ran up to me, threw a bunch on gasoline on me, and lit me on fire. I also had a dream when I was 18 years old that I met myself in a forest, an alt version of myself. And the alt version said, 'Your life is halfway over.' And I woke up in a panic. That was when I was 18, and I'm 36 now."
Richardson: "Over Thanksgiving, I went to my girlfriend's family's place in Portland. I had a dream where I went upstairs to get breakfast in the morning, and her mom had a couple of the [Portland] Trailblazers there eating food. They told me that I had to make 10 free throws before I could eat. Then, when I went to pick up the basketball, they were like, 'Dude, we're just joking with you. You can eat.' That was it."