New podcast, “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” examines humor, joy, pain

How are you really?

Twin Cities writer and podcaster Nora McInerny Purmort poses with son Ralf.

Twin Cities writer and podcaster Nora McInerny Purmort poses with son Ralf.

by Maddy Folstein

Nora McInerny Purmort, acclaimed Twin Cities writer, charity founder and all-around funny person, has embarked on another creative conquest: a podcast.

Her new podcast, “Terrible, Thanks for Asking,” is set to be released on November 28. The podcast looks at how we really feel when we’re asked, “How are you?” — our answer might not truly be, “Fine.” We might be feeling terrible, stressed or anxious.

McInerny Purmort is no stranger to life’s tragedies. She started her blog, “My Husband’s Tumor,” in the midst of her late husband Aaron Purmort’s cancer treatment.

“It was password protected. It started as a way for me to document things. When I sent it to friends and family … I knew that it was important for us to own our own story and tell our own story,” McInerny Purmort said.

Her writings — funny, candid and expository — took off rapidly. Her husband’s co-written obituary, which instead announced the death of Spider Man, went viral. Her book, “It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too),” examines the intersections of grief and humor, joy and sadness.

Humor lives at the core of McInerny Purmort’s work.

“For me, a lot of that comes from my family,” she said. “I was raised by a dry and funny man and I married a funny person.”

Even the couple’s three-year-old son, Ralph, has a knack for comedy.

“He’s realized that swearing is funny in the right way … who to say things around and how to make kids around him laugh,” McInerny Purmort said.

Even before she started her blog, McInerny Purmort had gained experience writing from her years in middle school.

“I [was] paid by line in middle school. I asked for it. I wrote a letter [saying], ‘There are a lot of kids in Southwest Minneapolis, and there’s nothing in the newspaper but a dumb cartoon for us. We need something from the perspective of a kid,’” McInerny Purmort said.

This focus on perspective is still evident in her work today. McInerny Purmort is the creator of an online group called Hot Young Widows Club, a secret Facebook group for people who have lost their “person.” It’s a forum that allows those experiencing the most difficult losses to share their perspectives of sharedexperience.

“Sometimes we need to say something really messed up to a group of women and men who will get it,” McInerny Purmort said.

Other social media platforms like Twitter have connected McInerny Purmort to others seeking a voice.

“I’ve met amazing people. [It helps] knowing that when somebody googles something terrible, sometimes they find me instead of something awful and hopeless,” she said. “[That knowledge] makes me feel like I’m not just a useless person.”

“Terrible, Thanks for Asking” will open up the conversation on grief to both those experiencing loss and those who are bystanders.

The podcast will emphasize that while life sucks sometimes, pain is a universal feeling. While McInerny Purmort’s experiences rest mostly in coping with death, her podcast looks to extend to grief and sadness in many forms.

“We all think that what we’re carrying is so big, so unnamable, so unknowable,” McInerny Purmot said. “With a feeling of such strong isolation, it can be difficult for us to open up to others … especially when hit with the universally-practiced small talk question of, ‘How are you?’”

“If we’re giving the same answer to our barista as we are to our brother, we’re not giving ourselves the chance to know and see us. If your loved ones don’t know what you’re going through, they can’t [help you].”