Other Men Need Help: An interview with Mark Pagán
Other Men Need Help is a podcast about the emblems, habits, and struts in the male performance. In each episode, Mark Pagán dissects the ways OTHER men avoid accountability, cling to power, mask insecurities, and quietly scream for connection. Other Men Need Help shares these personal tales using a playful format of documentary, essay, and archive-based storytelling. Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions about Other Men Need Help (OMNH).
PBC: Tell me a little about you – your background and why you decided to start Other Men Need Help. Also, give us a little info about the amazing team that supports you.
Mark: In the spirit of on-brand Other Men Need Help honesty, one of the reasons I started the show is that I was seeing what I could get away with in my life and how much of a hypocrite I was. Me, a self-defined nice guy, doing bad things? Preposterous! No, no, no! That jocky dude at the bar is the one who’s gonna be intimidated by your past lovers–oh wait, what about that time I made an ex feel bad for having more sexual partners than I did? But hold on, that doesn’t count – I voted for Hillary!
I don’t know what fairy I can thank for being able to see some areas of privilege that were occurring in my life, but the show couldn’t have existed without that self-reflection. I didn’t feel a show was needed that calls out behavior without some personal accountability, as well as a core of compassion for self and others. And I knew that the entry point for me had to be playful because what most of us are trying to project when we walk out the door is absurd. The performance of trying to be anything is hysterical. I mean, if you can pinpoint and share what your imagined version of yourself is with a balance of grace and self-effacement, oh it’s magic for me – I am in. And how you wish the world would see you is the most universal thing, isn’t it? Currently, I think that’s the strength of the show – sharing our imagined headspaces and intentions and opening up about our true desires behind that pageantry.
I’ve had the fortune of working with Caitlin Mae Burke, a documentary film producer on this season. I mean, it helps that we’re romantically involved but she is a wizard. Over the last two seasons, I’ve had Ben Goldberg and Rebecca Seidel as associate producers. I can’t begin to sing their praises – tremendous story editors and engineers. They also call out all the antiquated references I throw into drafts and then I’m like, “what, not everyone remembers 1990 one hit wonder sensation, Gerardo?!”
PBC: When you started the podcast, did you think your primary listeners would be men? Has that been true for the most part?
Mark: I thought it would be men. But it’s still hard to tell. And I think the reason behind that is partly why the show exists.
For example, when we’ve made an episode that really touches an emotional nerve, we get texts, emails, etc. And when I’m getting those messages from women, they’re often effusive: “I loved this episode for this reason and that reason, this is what it emotionally brought up for me, this is what it made me think of, etc.”
And I’ll get messages from men for that same episode and it’ll say something like “I liked this one.” That’s it.
And I know they’re trying to say the same thing! So as far as audience, I’d like to say it’s balanced but we hear more directly and explicitly from women who listen.
PBC: How do you find your stories and the “other men” you feature?
Mark: BY ASKING EVERYONE. We’re a small, scrappy crew and we’re looking for stories however we can.
Currently, our non-Mark story subjects have mostly been found through conversations. For example, our “Two Men and the Sea” episode from this season came about after my friend Dom talked out the awkward interaction between her father meeting her ex. This led to a longer conversation where I found out her ex had been there for her dad in his grief and it made sense as an OMNH story idea. Luckily, everyone was game and voila, it happened.
As far as advice, it helps to be curious and have a show or themes that spark interesting conversations in any situation. Everyone can relate to what OMNH discusses, and these chats that we have at parties, BBQ’s – they lead to us finding story ideas in unexpected places.
PBC: What has the reaction to the podcast been and were you surprised by anything?
Mark: The reach has been surprising. I often have no idea how people are finding out about OMNH, but after we release an episode, it’s honestly very moving to see parts of the world download our show that I have no connection to. I mean, I don’t have any connection to the middle of Florida and boom, there’s a large community of people listening there. Folks all throughout Texas!? How did you all find out about it?
PBC: PBC is all about creating community. Have you managed to find community outside of the production team through the podcast? Any fun stories to share in that realm?
Mark: Yes, for sure. Before we launched our second season, we found out that the show was part of a church homily. Reviews are great, sponsorships, moolah – all of these are great. But good grief, finding out that your show was part of someone’s religious diet for the week!? I don’t know whether to be worried or completely fulfilled by this. Mostly the latter. I am amazed at what this medium does to connect disparate folks globally. I’m especially amazed at how intimate this medium feels to listeners and they actions they take to share that with friends, family, and congregants.
My mom was thrilled with this by the way. A mention in church was kinda like, “oh so you’ve made it now, right?”
While we love what we’re making, it can be a very isolating experience. So, WE ARE THRILLED WHEN WE HEAR FROM LISTENERS. And we’d love to know how to make the show better and find out what’s resonating.
PBC: Podcast Share Time! Outside of OMNH, what podcast(s) are you loving lately (new finds or old favorites)?
Mark: Lately, BBC 4’s Soul Music, Imaginary Advice, Switchblade Sisters, Still Processing, and Fresh Air. I thought Believed was tremendous.
It’s a one-off, but I come back to Radio Spiritworld every few months. It gives me such joy.
PBC: Thanks for taking the time, Mark! We love what you do! Final question: how can people follow/get in touch with you?
Mark: It’s been a pleasure!