Featured image credit: https://www.very-amusing.com/
Theme parks are back, baby! For people (like myself) who feel the most at peace while their brains are shaking on a wooden roller coaster drop, the 2020 theme park era was certainly different. During these coasterless times, theme park fans found other ways to cope and connect — one of those being podcasts.
A favorite of mine quickly became Very Amusing with Carlye Wisel, a non-stop fun show covering some of the most unique stories about everyone’s best-loved theme parks. In addition to the show itself, Wisel has launched the churro hotline — where listeners call in and leave a voicemail with their theme park questions, stories, and niche opinions to be read at the end of each episode. With a stacked first season and more episodes on the way, it’s safe to say that I’ll be listening even with parks reopening — and you should be too. Read on to hear about the love that goes into the show, and the challenges of launching it during the height of the pandemic.
How did Very Amusing come about? Was this a long time in the making, or a sudden burst of inspiration?
It was actually a long time in the making! I began putting the show concept together in 2019, and worked with an agency to find a hosting platform in early 2020. The podcast was originally formulated for non-pandemic times, but since theme parks are a destination that many guests only visit once every year or few years, only about half of the episodes had to be shifted to fit the current climate.
The first episode of Very Amusing aired in mid-august of a summer unlike any other. How has the pandemic affected how you deliver your podcast? Would it be the same if we were in “normal” times?
Beyond there being less news and ride openings, which usually happen each summer, the main difference comes from factors that never could have been anticipated. The decision to visit a theme park was previously only based on affordability or where you plan to vacation, but now, visiting the parks requires one to evaluate their own safety and personal comfort levels. With California’s parks sitting closed for the majority of the year, many of us simply cannot go to the parks even if we wanted to, which is a unique and unprecedented scenario. Beyond that, though, it’s been incredibly important to me to tell stories while simultaneously keeping the pandemic-related trauma and weight my listeners are carrying with them at the front of my mind. I’ve been extremely careful of the language I use, as parents are more likely to be listening near children while staying at home, and conscious of the massive Disney layoffs and the effect of it on employees and listeners, which is constantly taken into consideration while working on stories or even discussing the news.
Which episode are you most proud of, or was the most fun to record? Why did you pick that one?
I’m quite proud of The Great Soda Mystery, just because I’ve spent the majority of my career writing Disney stories for non-Disney audiences, and it was so fun to cater an entire story directly to folks who watched that unravel on Twitter in real time, while also contextualizing it for people who were new to it.
Talk to me about the Churro Hotline. How does a typical session of listening to these voicemails go?
I actually get alerts every time there’s a call! It’s probably a bad distraction for myself, but I love seeing them come in too much to turn it off! Once or twice each week I will go in and transfer the call and its contents into a big spreadsheet that I organize by episode. Listening to them brings me so much joy, because callers are usually just as passionate as I am about the tiniest theme park details. It makes me feel like I’m really surrounded by my people!
Is there anything else you want to add?
Launching a podcast in the middle of the pandemic about a place many of us are unable to go to right now would usually be considered a terrible decision, but it has brought me closer to a community of incredible fans and allowed me to use what I do professionally to help keep folks connected to these parks, even if they don’t plan to return for a while. It makes all the hard work and late nights worth it!
You can find Very Amusing With Carlye Wisel wherever you get your podcasts, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Podbean. Episodes are released on Wednesdays every week, with Season 2 premiering on May 5th, 2021. To contact the churro hotline and leave a voicemail of your own, call 747-CHURROS (747-248-7767). Outside of her podcasting, Carlye Wisel is a theme park journalist with contributions across various websites. For more about Wisel, check out her website.
Hannah is an accidental internet meme, drummer, loud talker, and proud owner of a purse that functions as a working analog clock. She got the media writer gene from her dad, PF Wilson, another writer for Pop Culture Beast. Her favorite bands come and go on a seasonal rotation, but Marina & The Diamonds and Say Anything are here to say. She’s probably watching The Grand Budapest Hotel right now, but if she isn’t, she’s out photographing rock concerts.