Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales aren’t your average double act. For a start, they are ABC’s star presenters with three Walkleys between them. They’ve interviewed Prime Ministers (including a very hungover Boris Johnson), covered the biggest stories both at home and abroad and written bestselling books.
But, to the ‘chatters’ in their 36,000-member-strong Facebook group, they are the voices behind their favourite “peripatetic podcast” Chat 10 Looks 3. What started as a hilarious and honest conversation about books, TV and cooking has gone “absolutely berserk”, regularly topping 100,000 downloads a week and bringing the pair to a whole new female audience.
The secret to the podcast’s success, they told an intimate group at a Future Women event at qualia on Queensland’s Hamilton Island last week, was the very thing that brought them together in the first place: friendship. Even if they can’t agree on how they first met, or much else. Here, Crabb and Sales, as they call each other, reveal the moments that have defined their friendship – and why they were as surprised as anyone to see their podcast topping the charts.
“We have a slightly different take on how we first met”
Sales: “We met when Crabb cold called me because she’d been offered a job at the ABC. And she called me and said: ‘Hi, we’ve never met but we know similar people’.”
Crabb: “I don’t remember that.”
Sales: “We agreed that Crabb would come over to my house, so she arrived at 10:30am on this particular day. And the hours passed – and when Crabb tells this story she says she checked her phone and it was 5:30pm and she wondered where the time had gone. I was like, ‘I’m having fun but when is this woman going to leave?’.”
“We didn’t have any expectation that anyone would listen to our podcast”
Sales: “We knew each other a little bit, and got on quite well, but there was never time to do anything together. I just thought it would be great to do something professionally together – like writing a sitcom, or a book, but every time we’d discuss it, it would come down to when we’ve got time. And we’d go, ‘I don’t’. We kept whittling it down to what is the thing that would take the least time and effort – and podcasts were just starting to become a thing. We have a lot of interests that are outside our day job like reading, watching TV, cooking so we thought, ‘Well, let’s have a conversation about that, record it.’ We didn’t have any expectations that anyone would listen to it and it would become a thing. So we just recorded something on an iPhone.”
“The podcast was just a way to catch up”
Crabb: “My take is so different. I thought that we just never got to catch up! I always say that Sales used to write this column, and it was just a list of 10 things that she had read that week that she’d found interesting and it was such a good list. I would always find at least three things in there that were actually interesting! I found that when I would run into Sales a conversation with her was a bit like reading that list. So I thought in my head, we actually never got our shit together to sit down and actually have a coffee and a chat so I thought you made some joke that if catching up was producing something we’d probably do it more often… Both of us are workaholics.”
“People say listening to it is like catching up with friends”
Sales: “We thought when started the podcast that it was a conversation about culture, and maybe other bits and pieces, and what we were doing in our work lives. But once people started interacting in real life with us about it, we realised what they like about it is that it’s about friendship. And people tell us the feeling they get when they’re listening to it is that they’re left with the same buzz as if they’ve caught up with their own friends, but you don’t usually have time to do that in your real life. Even my real life friends say, ‘Let’s not bother to meet up, I’ll just listen to the podcast!’”
“Kindness is a Chat 10 prerequisite”
Crabb: “We didn’t want to have a Facebook group where people argue about politics – and people have been super respectful of that. It means it’s a good place to take a break from the day-to-day and actually just talk about things that you have in common. Kindness is a prerequisite and actually what we’ve discovered is that when people start being kind to each other, some amazing things happen.”
“Your face is always a picture when I tell you I’ve cooked one of your recipes”
Sales: “Your face, whenever I cook one of your recipes and I say, ‘That was a fantastic recipe, I loved it, I just added a teaspoon of salt’, your face is a picture.”
Crabb: “It’s not a bit of salt! It’s like, ‘I took out the mushrooms and I added this. It’s actually quite good!’”
“Crabb played a very big role in persuading me to write Any Ordinary Day”
Sales: “In 2014, there were two big news stories: one was the Lindt cafe siege and the other was Phillip Hughes, the young cricketer who was hit with a cricket ball. I found both of those stories really hard to take. They felt really confronting and awful. I’d had a really rough personal year, too… I felt already vulnerable, and then those news stories happened and I think everyone began to feel vulnerable. The fragility of life. I wrote a short piece for The Australian about how one of the most uncomfortable things about life, which you see in the news all the time, is how suddenly and unexpectedly it can change. It had a lot of response. And I felt like I hadn’t finished exploring it.
“I had previously written two books and I felt like with everything going on in my life and trying to hold on to my job as well, I felt like I’ll just be a full-time journalist, manage that stuff and that will be it for me. I won’t have time to write any more books. And then Crabb and I were shooting something called When I Have a Minute. We were on a shoot one day and Crabb was writing the 2015 election book, and when you’re shooting, it’s so slow. When we would be sitting there waiting for the crew to call us, Crabb would just pull out her laptop and start typing away, whether it was five or seven minutes. And I said, ‘How are you doing it?’ She said, ‘I have to, it’s the only time I’ve got.’ And I went into this thing of ‘I have to be left alone for 14 hours a day to write.’ And Crabb said, ‘Get over yourself. Do you want to write anymore books?’ I was like, ‘Yeah I would’ and she said, ‘Well you’ve got two children and a massive job, how do you think you’re ever going to write anything again unless you’re doing it in 5 or 7 minute bursts? The only thing that’s standing in the way of that is your mindset’. And it was a really massive wake up call to me. And I thought, yes she is absolutely right. So I thought I’ll just start some research and see what happens. Some nights I wouldn’t do anything, some nights I’d do 15 minutes, some nights I’d do two hours. Once I started it was much easier. After about a year doing that, I thought actually this is something I could turn into a book. I was enjoying it a lot and it was actually like therapy to me, but because nobody knew I was doing it, it was something I was just doing for me and there was no pressure or deadline or deal or advance.”
Crabb: “Imagine the publishing industry when Sales turned up with this fully-formed book. They were like, ‘This is great!’”
Crabb and Sales’ Reading List
Leigh Sales: “Margaret Atwood’s new book, The Testaments, which I got a sneaky advanced copy of. It is really good and touches on the characters in The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s really riveting.”
Annabel Crabb: “Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It’s fascinating with a superb twist. Also loved Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. Not to be outdone by Sales, I got an advanced copy of Charlotte Woods’ new book, The Weekend. It is the most lovingly precise and insightful and funny and sad examination of female friendship, something that is so rarely examined in fiction. She has absolutely nailed it. It’s a great, great book.”
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