The Karen and Ellen Letters is a podcast where actors narrate actual letters written between two trust fund babies and the landlord of their first apartment. The letters are from 1987 about a rental property in Berkeley, California … and so much more. I don’t have any reason to believe the letters are not real, as they have had a life of their own for many years before becoming the subject of this podcast. The owner of the letters is host Josh Hallmark, who explains how he came into possession of this treasure trove in a couple of the first episodes.
Remember that in 1987 there was no e-mail, certainly no texting – people hand wrote letters and mailed them. Well, Karen and Ellen wrote about a lot more than simple landlord-tenant matters! As did their landlord, Mark. Karen, in particular, was much more focused on her financial situation and wanted to make sure she was deducting from her rent any “reasonable” expenses she felt Mark should pay for. Ellen is more new age-y, writing to Mark about general goings-on in her life and even sharing good news with him. I won’t spoil for you what they write about, you really should at least listen to the first episode which is less than 15 minutes long and get a taste of the kind of things they write about.
If you weren’t even a thought in your parents’ minds in 1987, you may have a hard time believing that people would write these things, but I remember the value of letter-writing, even into the late ’90s. Mark initially responds to their letters with irritation, but as time goes on he begins to mock them slightly in his replies.
I love this show because it is unbelievable what Karen and Ellen expect Mark to do for them, and they make so many grammatical and just … intelligence? … errors that you can’t help but laugh. I think most people know a Karen, Ellen, or Mark – or even have had K/E/M moments of their own.
The show is organized into short episodes where actors read the letters and aftershows where Hallmark and guests discuss (including playing drinking games) and dissect the letters. Hallmark makes good use of ’80s music and has brought on some hilarious guests. Their analysis has been more silly than sardonic, though there is plenty to mock. Even landlord Mark is not immune from the occasional snarky analysis – after all, in later letters he certainly dishes out some snark to Karen and Ellen.
I haven’t been so excited about new podcast episodes dropping each week in a while – Karen and Ellen go right to the top of my up-next list. As the show goes on, you’ll hear that Hallmark becomes personally interwoven in the story and there definitely seem to be some big revelations coming up in episodes 8-13. The humor I derive from judging Karen and Ellen’s idiocy is what keeps me coming back to the show week after week, but those forthcoming surprises and Hallmark’s honest self-awareness of how deeply he got involved in the letters is what excites me about the full story arc.
There is a fantastic Facebook group that discusses the podcast (sometimes) and also writes Karen- and Ellen-style letters to each other. It brings me a lot of joy and in the spirit of Karen and Ellen, and that Facebook group which so celebrates their stupidity, I bring you an extra special bonus review section which you’ll only fully appreciate if you listen to one or two episodes of K&E.
Dear Audible Feast Readers,
I am writing to tell you about a new show called The Karen and Ellen Letters. It is awesome. However while I was listening to the showe I wasn’t paying attention and I ran into a doorweigh while I was walking and listening to the show. I figure Josh Hallmark should pay me $110 for my doctor visit because it is his fault I ran into the doorweigh. Plus my boyfriend Chad, he is going to radio school in Los Angeles, he told me that podcasters make lots of money and have money set aside for these purposes. You know, like insurance? Okay thanks!
I also want to tell you that I’m a virgo, and you know what that means! Anyways, I am planning a trip with my friend Summer and Tiffany to Maraco, we are planning to visit the bizarre there and pick up some fresh vaggies. I bet Josh would like some homade crafts and stuff from there, I’ll bring him some and deduct that from what he already owes me. It will probably cost like $2,600 including the plane ticket.
So adding up everything, I figure Josh Hallmark should pay me about $2,900, could you let him know? Thank.
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss! Also subscribe to my twice-monthly newsletter!
Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (0 / 5)
Be prepared to get dumber. Happyly!
Pop Culture Value (5 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (5 / 5)
I guess the hosts are … Karen and Ellen? And they are soooo fun to listen to 🙂 Side note – I do enjoy actual host Josh Hallmark on the aftershows and also love his other podcast, Our Americana, which is not funny at all but has much more Hallmark in it. In it he interviews people in small towns across America about life in their town. Give it a listen as well – totally different but great storytelling.
Flow & Production Value (3 / 5)
Hallmark admits there are some production issues, and sometimes the aftershows lack flow or solid chemistry between guests that don’t really know each other, but I like the overall organization of the show with the short episodes with just the letters, the aftershows with funny people analyzing the letters, and the Q&A show in the middle of the existing episode list.
Humor (5 / 5)
If you smell an avocado in your oven, you should definitely stick your head in the oven to see if you can find the avocado. And make sure to keep receipts for all of your cleaning supplies to deduct from your monthly rent. Guru Patel can do an exercism to get rid of any bad spirits. Also, it is possible that allegator should be submitted for inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary.
Investigation (5 / 5)
Storytelling (5 / 5)
Makes Me a Better Person (0 / 5)
I am actually a worse person for listening to these letters, because I lose a lot of brain cells listening to these letters and listening. 🙂
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (5 / 5)
Go listen now, and grab a glass of wine and play a drinking game for every time you hear the words vacuum, avocado, and jurisdiction.
Start with These Episodes:
You gotta start at the beginning and listen in order.
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