The Good Children Make Art For Their Queer Childhood Selves
The creators of the Good Children podcast on their lifelong friendship, healing in real time, and making anxiety the punchline.
It was dark outside but the Good Children were iridescent, floating into the red-lamped atmosphere of Bushwick’s Cherry On Top like a pair of earth angels. We tucked ourselves inside an alcoved booth with our wine and crisp beer and the French bread and the olive tray they ordered and we began, the Good Children across from me, my face a wanton replacement for an aperture.
For those unacquainted, here’s what you should know: The Good Children are podcasters. (A famously unutterable sentence.) They are best friends. They are gay and hail from Long Island. They are Joe Hegyes and Andrew Muscarella, and they’ve known each other since they were four years old. As the show’s name suggests, they were categorically “good children.”
“Joe's been making martini’s lately,” Andrew says like it’s a secret, smelling of fresh cologne like your high school crush. “That’s becoming a problem,” Joe adds. “I’m making one too many martinis while sitting around on a Monday night, doing nothing.” They turn to each other and laugh, their lifelong friendship unmistakable, the both of them dropping tiny olive pits into a porcelain dish and padding fingers into their napkins like gentlemen.
As we spoke, it became clear to me how little of a show they put on for the camera’s sake. Their accents were heaven. Coffee was cwaw-fee. Sauce was saw-ce. They delighted me: Andrew laughing big in a knit collared shirt and spreading butter on a bread slice. Joe resplendent and nestled in a beige Folklore zip up, hair hidden into a baseball cap. They are the same as onscreen and simultaneously not of this world, all three-dimensional and sturdy, so unlike the flatness of my phone.
You might be wondering: What is the criteria for being a good child? For Joe and Andrew, it means they were God-fearing Catholics, little hands folded in prayer. They were chaste, their sexuality a secret. They were studious, sober young people yearning for rebellion, yet skeptical, opting instead for filming videos of each other in the family playroom and Photobooth lip-syncing to Nicki Minaj after school.
Their childhood experience is one with which many of their millions of listeners can identify, including myself, particularly since Joe and Andrew have a penchant for sharing archival footage in their episodes. (Like their imitation Disney skits or outdoor iCarly-esque videocasts.) However, what binds all Good Children listeners together is one feature: “We’re all nervous,” Joe says. “We speak from an anxious point of view. Even with the jokes we make, anxiety is the punchline.” As someone with chronic anxiety (I’m so brave), I can’t help but agree.
Comedy, however, eases the suffering. The Good Children use the podcast as a space for unpacking the ways their childhood nerves and insecurities have followed them into adulthood where, like many of us, they trade in their goodness for a more real, unfettered enjoyment of their lives. They let audiences in as they dismantle their body dysmorphia, learn to traverse gay spaces, dress up in full drag all effervescent and glamorous, get boyfriends, and go on dates, sometimes joined by the likes of cultural and indie icons (like Julia Fox and Slayyyter) along the way.
In short, they’re making the art they wished for as kids. Their film set is literally a backdrop of late 2000s to early 2010s nostalgia, the wall behind them decorated with Webkinz, Bratz dolls, composition notebooks, and a bookshelf containing Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, all of which help situate viewers in the landscape of whatever childhood memory they unspool each episode. (Like the time Andrew accidentally attended military camp, or the time they got cyber-bullied for being gay on YouTube, or the time Joe made Andrew attend the Long Island Hunger Games simulation).
And if you fear they might be just a little bit insufferable (that all-too-familiar combination of vapid influencers with no perspective, an abundance of free time, and a microphone) know that they’re far from it. They’re sweet. And while they’re no longer children, they are still very much beautiful and intelligent and real and unabashedly good. Trust: Their listeners would say the same.
The Good Children fandom is niche (though I prefer the term “cult”) but very active and thriving. “Despite believing that I should be A-list famous since I was five years old, getting even one shred of attention in real life hit me like a bus. I was like, ‘I am actually not prepared for this,’” Joe explains. After selling out live shows across the country, it’s uncommon for them to leave their shared Brooklyn apartment without being approached by viewers—a phenomenon that’s doubly an artist’s dream and nightmare.
The bright side? “We’re in this together, which makes it exciting,” Andrew says, smiling. Now, as over a year has passed since they started the show, they’re handling the attention better and are just “grateful and appreciative,” they both add. “As a child, when Andrew was in my class, I knew it would be a good year because I could be my actual self. The same thing applies to adult life,” Joe says, all of us taking the final sips of our drinks, the bartender’s Spotify playlist of alternative ambience echoing in our eardrums.
This is especially true as they look forward to pursuing their ever-growing list of creative aspirations, which include but are not limited to: Andrew’s growing acting career, Joe’s directorial talents, pitching a Good Children scripted television series, making the feature film they wrote together, another cross-country tour, signing with a production company, the list goes on. “We’re trying to defy the odds,” Andrew says. So far, they’re doing just that.
For now, however, all they want is for you to keep listening. “By having these difficult or obscure conversations about our lives, we’re healing in real time,” Andrew says. “We hope that as people listen, we help them find a headspace where they can heal, too.” After our conversation, I left the bar and the cold November air kissed the back of my neck. I looked up at the night sky and I felt less alone in the universe. Thanks, of course, to the Good Children.