At the outset of Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus from Lemonada Media, Hollywood legend Jane Fonda recalled the sudden revelation she had on the eve of her 59th birthday: that she was entering her life’s third and final act.
“You know how important third acts are,” Fonda, now 85, told host Julia Louis-Dreyfus early on in the episode. “They can make sense out of the first two, right? They’re very important — it’s kind of a legacy that you’re going to leave behind.”
Right out of the gate, Wiser Than Me attracted a massive audience on Apple Podcasts, spending 29 days straight as the No. 1 show in the U.S. overall — a feat that has yet to be topped in 2023.
Apple is proud to celebrate Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus with the Apple Podcasts Award, a recognition given each year to honour a show that demonstrates quality and innovation in podcasting. The show’s popularity and accolades are a testament to its refreshingly authentic approach to amplifying the voices of older, wiser women — a demographic not often centred in mainstream culture — and encouraging intergenerational listening.
Over the course of the show’s 10-episode debut season, accomplished actor and comedian Louis-Dreyfus employs her signature wit to mine priceless nuggets of advice from women who have lived long enough and well enough to truly have perspective on it all.
The Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus podcast page displayed on iPhone 15 Pro.
Season 1 of Wiser Than Me is available now on Apple Podcasts, featuring Jane Fonda, Isabel Allende, and more.
Beginning a new chapter of her own at 62, the first-time podcast host brings personalities like singer Darlene Love, 82, and author Amy Tan, 71, to the microphone for far-ranging conversations that evoke laughter, tears, and just about every emotion in between.
“All of these women have demonstrated how to live a life,” Louis-Dreyfus says of her guests. “That doesn’t mean they didn’t make mistakes, but there’s something about being older where perhaps you feel not as protective in terms of sharing. And so I’ve taken advantage of the intimacy that offers. That availability to be real and to be open is a great gift.”
A big part of Wiser Than Me’s appeal is Louis-Dreyfus’s willingness to be playful and stretch the bounds of the typical interview-podcast format, explains Stephanie Wittels Wachs, cofounder and chief creative officer of Lemonada Media, the podcast’s home network. “Julia never wants to have a typical conversation,” she says. “She wants to play and weave and bob, and do all the fun things that you expect from something unexpected.”
Lemonada cofounder and CEO Jessica Cordova Kramer credits the accessibility of Apple Podcasts with helping the show reach new audiences. “Apple does a great job of showcasing diverse shows of different kinds, following whatever’s happening in the world and helping people discover new things — not just the most popular things,” explains Cordova Kramer. “We love our Lemonada Premium channel because we have a big slate of shows now, and for us, that has been a huge translator of audience overlap.”
After its wildly successful first season, Wiser Than Me is gearing up for more — Lemonada recently announced a second season set to premiere in spring 2024.
The show’s organic flow and off-the-cuff structure are best exemplified by a moment a mere 15 minutes into that very first episode where a bomb cyclone interrupts Louis-Dreyfus’s Zoom connection, forcing her to reschedule the rest of the interview with Fonda. Instead of editing the mishap out in post-production, the podcast leans into the moment, taking listeners behind the scenes as Louis-Dreyfus’s recorder continues to roll.
“That’s why the show is so real. You’re dealing with somebody like Julia, who’s so well known and beloved, but her internet goes out, and it offered this amazing peek behind the curtains,” Wittels Wachs says. “I think having that as episode one made it so accessible for listeners, and that energy just kept going throughout the series.”
No topic is off-limits for the show’s guests, who gamely approach the mic with an unguarded vulnerability as they discuss their highest highs and their lowest lows, along with weighty topics like sex, divorce, politics, sexism in the workplace, death, and the physical realities of aging.
“The magic of it is that Julia is open about her own journey in ways she never had been before, so you are getting this sort of reciprocity,” adds Cordova Kramer. (During the show’s first season, Louis-Dreyfus opened up with guests about her struggle after losing a pregnancy, as well as her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017.)
The Lemonada team explains that the medium of podcasting lent itself especially well to the kind of conversations Louis-Dreyfus was interested in having. “These women don’t need to worry about hair and makeup,” says Cordova Kramer. “They can log on from their bedrooms, their hotel rooms — wherever they are in their busy lives — and they can have this beautiful conversation with this incredible interviewer that is way less guarded and allows for much more authenticity.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Season 2 of Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus is slated to air in spring 2024.
One especially memorable moment for Louis-Dreyfus was sitting down for a conversation with one of her lifelong comedy influences for the season’s final episode.
“Carol Burnett was a huge part of my life growing up in a way, without me even realising she was a huge part of my life,” Louis-Dreyfus explains. “She was a part of the fabric of our culture. And as a woman, she really modelled a female power that sort of got into my bones without my even realising it.”
With its unapologetic, raw discussions, Wiser Than Me is inspiring people in their 20s, 30s, and beyond to rethink their attitudes toward getting older.
“There’s a lot of fear around aging, and I think the podcast is making people excited about it. It’s making it less scary. It’s making it accessible,” says Wittels Wachs. “There’s tangible wisdom that we hope people will take away from it. And then there’s that inspirational wisdom people are getting that’s just like, ‘Oh, aging. Oh my god — that’s awesome. I want to do that. I want to be like these women.’”
Often, some of the show’s most heart-warming moments come courtesy of the post-interview epilogue where Louis-Dreyfus calls her mother Judith, 89, to debrief and continue the conversation.
“Judith is a gem — a priceless gem. She’s incredible, and she’s everyone’s favourite,” Wittels Wachs says. “Julia is just eating it up, and so is Judith. I think it really is encouraging a kind of intergenerational dialogue. And that’s really what we wanted — for women in their 20s to talk to their mothers and their grandmothers about their experiences.”
Enjoy A Peek Behind the Scenes to hear Julia catch up with Judith about Wiser Than Me being recognised as the Show of the Year. Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for bonus episodes with each guest from season 1, and follow Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfuson Apple Podcasts to be notified when season 2 premieres in spring 2024.
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