Anyone can watch a reality TV show, but it takes commitment to wait in a line to meet Cameran Eubanks, a cast member on MTV’s “Real World: San Diego.” In high school, Lily Marotta and Steven Phillips-Horst had that kind of commitment.
The two best friends were, if not obsessed, uncommonly enthusiastic about celebrity culture — no matter how minor the celebrity — and they sometimes ditched school to go to a meet-and-greet where, with a little luck, they’d get a photo of a C- or D-list luminary.
“On weekends, rather than going to a rager at someone’s house, it was, like, let’s tell your parents we’re going to the mall,” says Marotta. “And then we’d drive to a hotel in Nashua, N.H. and get an autograph from the blonde girl on ‘Real World.’”
Fifteen years later, Phillips-Horst and Marotta are still fixated on the rich and semi-famous. But instead of staking out book-signings, they host a podcast, “Celebrity Book Club with Steven & Lily,” on which they discuss — or just diss — a different celebrity memoir each week.
To its credit, the podcast, which launched in January, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Maybe that’s because both hosts have a background in comedy. Or maybe it’s because when tennis player Andre Agassi writes about his romance with Brooke Shields — they started dating via fax! — it’s just funny.
Either way, what makes “Celebrity Book Club” an entertaining listen isn’t necessarily the dishy bits of the books, although those are often good — supermodel Janice Dickinson’s tell-all is naughty — it’s the hosts’ obvious affection for each other.
Phillips-Horst and Marotta, now in their early 30s, met when they were middle-schoolers at Buckingham Browne & Nichols in Cambridge. He’s from Newtonville, she’s from Cambridge, and right away, they forged a friendship through comedy, particularly their love of Margaret Cho.
“BB&N is kind of a jockier school and we were, like, these two weirder gay kids,” says Marotta. “I was, like, oh wait, you love this sassy, irreverent, campy comedian, too?”
They became besties: Phillips-Horst and Marotta would stay on the phone together while watching “Desperate Housewives”; they went to the Barnes & Noble at the Pru to glimpse Goldie Hawn promoting her book (titled “Goldie : A Lotus Grows in the Mud”); they met the cast of “Veronica Mars” at the Cambridgeside Galleria; and they cut class to say hello to “Project Runway” host Heidi Klum at the Victoria’s Secret store in the Copley Mall.
“We told her, ‘We skipped school for this.’ We thought she’d be impressed,” says Marotta. “But she got a very concerned look on her face and said, ‘Don’t ever do that. Go back to school right now.’ And I was, like, oh my god, I disappointed Heidi Klum.”
They also began reading celebrity memoirs — a lot of them — and they still agree that TV actress Teri Hatcher’s 2006 “Burnt Toast: And Other Philosophies of Life” ranks among the best. But not because it’s debauched.
“It’s important to us because it’s extremely neurotic,” says Phillips-Horst. “I don’t want to insult Teri Hatcher because she’s a wonderful woman, but you can see her neediness and uncertainty in every line.
“I think, ultimately, I have a lot of the same insecurities that Teri has,” he says. “Sometimes, I’ll just be, like, ‘I’m feeling so Teri right now.”
After high school, Phillips-Horst went to New York University and Marotta enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She eventually moved to New York, appearing on the HBO show, “High Maintenance,” and creating “Danny’s Food Corner,” a video series in which she plays Danny, an aspiring food critic and grill master from Boston.
Phillips-Horst, meanwhile, has worked in advertising and politics — he’s penned speeches for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, among others — and is part of the comedy duo Talk Hole.
As podcast partners, Phillips-Horst and Marotta are well matched — they’ve been chattering about the inanities of celebrity since they were 13, after all — and often finish each other’s sentences. They use the exploits described in the books to share their own experiences. (While discussing Tegan and Sara’s memoir “High School,” Marotta talked about her first kiss.)
“In a way, this is almost a therapy exercise,” Marotta says. “It brings up stories from our lives that maybe wouldn’t come out in everyday conversation.”
They’re trying not to only binge books that have lots of sex and drugs — Agassi did meth! — but present a cross section of pop culture. The podcast has featured, among others, the memoirs of actress Demi Moore, chef David Chang, comedian Aziz Ansari, and teacher/spouse Chasten Buttigieg, whose book, Phillips-Horst and Marotta agree, is a snore. The new episode, posted Wednesday, dunks on “KG: A to Z: An Uncensored Encyclopedia of Life, Basketball, and Everything in Between,” by former NBA star Kevin Garnett.
But Phillips-Horst and Marotta say they’re still waiting to read something as delectable as Hatcher’s “Burnt Toast.”
“The stuff we’re drawn to is, like, when she talks about going to California Pizza Kitchen and what she orders,” says Marotta. “Yes, we love to talk about who slept with who, but also, you know, is Teri Hatcher someone who orders a barbecue chicken pizza?”
Spoiler: She is.