I’m no teacher, but I have an idea of what school curriculum looks like—and I doubt there’s any mention of Meg thee Stallion, Oktoberfest, the religion of Jediism, or the Bling Ring.
By day, Hayley Madden and Katja Barnhart are charged with educating young minds on lessons regarding literacy, arts and crafts, fractions, geometry, and so on. But, by night, the local educators stray away from their syllabi to touch on the topics that they wish they could as the hosts of their comedy podcast, Night Classy.
“We were both first year teachers last year,” Barnhart said, “and I think, especially when you’re just starting out in that profession, it has the tendency to overtake your life a little bit. That’s just the nature of feeling so invested in your students and in a job like that. We’re both interested in a lot more things than our subject areas, which for me, is sixth grade math. It is important, but not all that interesting. We wanted an outlet where we could research things that we’re interested in while still kind of flexing that teaching muscle.”
In 2019, Madden and Barnhart relocated to Memphis through Teach for America. Amidst them finding their footing as first-years, they also found a strong friendship that’s led to countless conversations that you get to be a part of every Thursday.
From uncovering the controversial backstory behind childhood staples like Lisa Frank to detailing the frenemy relationship between Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, the dynamic duo—along with their “in-house” producer Alec Ogg—allows their curiosity to carry them in all directions.
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“I wanted to research Lisa Frank just because her art was so awesome and I loved it so much,” Barnhart said. “But, as I did this research, it turns out that there’s all this controversy surrounding the release of the Frank Brand. Her and her husband were like absolute monsters and ran their company with an iron fist. There was drug use and cheating and all of this drama, and it just became a really cool story. Those are my favorites—[the stories] where you don’t expect what you end up finding.”
And speaking of unexpected storylines, I doubt the pair had any idea that this would turn into a pandemic project. Night Classy was in its early launch phase when the ladies had to leave their classrooms in March 2020. Sure, their full-time teaching gig was at a standstill, but the extra time off provided an opportunity for them to be the students.
“I didn’t really even listen to podcasts before we started this,” Madden said. “I just knew that I had fun drinking wine with my girl. We’re both teachers, so obviously we get something out of learning and leading others. The fact that I get to do all of that in one…Yeah, I want to roll with this as long as we can.”
With endless uncovered topics, and hopes of live show recordings, there’s no end in sight for Night Classy! In fact, you can help Barnhart, Madden, and Ogg keep the edu-taining going.