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‘Criminal’ podcasters will take to the stage in Somerville

Phoebe Judge (left) and Lauren Spohrer.Arian Soheili

“Criminal” resulted from a conversation between two friends who were sitting on a back porch and chatting about crime stories. The radio show that Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer had worked on together had just been canceled, and the pair decided it was time to create their own podcast. People who listen to public radio also watch “Law & Order,” Spohrer told Judge, so why not combine the interests?

Over the past 2½ years, the podcast, distributed by the Cambridge-based nonprofit PRX, has highlighted obscure yet personal crimes in roughly half-hour episodes released bimonthly. Ever wonder how the popularity of inkjet printers influenced money counterfeiters, or about the legalities of flipping someone off? So have Judge, the show’s host, and Spohrer, a producer.


With more than 50 episodes under their belt, the duo is now taking their successful podcast on the road. The Globe spoke with Judge ahead of their appearance Wednesday night at Somerville’s Arts at the Armory.

Q. How do you come across all the stories recounted in “Criminal”?

A. Lauren and I, we’ll just go on these crazy tears looking [up] all of the things that interest us — get on the Internet and just search for things that we’re curious about. Sometimes I don’t even know how I get [somewhere]. I start off thinking about ballerinas, and three hours later I’m on some obscure article about an owl attack in North Carolina. We just constantly have our eyes open for interesting things.

Q. What’s the primary motivation behind “Criminal”?

A. What we were hoping to do is be, in some ways, a counter to a lot of the crime stories that we’re seeing in the mass media, which we find to be sometimes sensationalistic and dramatized in a way that is, to us, sometimes exploitative of people’s stories. We really wanted to be a show that explored the deeper meaning behind why people commit crimes, but also what happens when one is a victim of a crime. I think the best compliment that we ever received is that “Criminal” is a quiet show.


Q. How will you transform the podcast into a visual experience on tour?

A. The stories will be brand new, but Lauren will be performing them, Lauren will be live mixing them. We’ll also have strong visual components, things that you’re not seeing when we tell you the story over the podcast.

Q. Is the lack of a visual element something you’ve ever struggled with while telling stories?

A. I think the reason we decided to work in audio is because there’s an incredible power in just hearing the human voice — an intimacy that that brings. No, we don’t feel challenged by it. We’re not asking you to use all of your senses, you know? We’re not asking you to use your eyes and your ears, we’re just asking you to use your ears. We hope you can pay closer attention to what we’re saying and to what the subjects that we’re talking about are saying because you can really get into the story.

Q. Podcasts seem to be more popular than they’ve ever been before. What is it like to produce one during this time?

A. We feel like it’s the Wild West out there. No one really knows what’ll happen next. The freedom that comes with podcasting has been one of the most rewarding things. You can decide one day on your back porch that you’re going to start making a show. You can make that show, and no one can tell you not to because you just make it. We’re so grateful for our audience. It feels like the luckiest job in the world.



Presented by Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave., Somerville. Nov. 2, 8-9:30 p.m. Tickets: $21,

Interview was condensed and edited. Sonia Rao can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @misssoniarao.