Lorin Clarke’s dad once gave her some good advice: “Life will offer you many opportunities to shut up. Seize all of them.”
Given Clarke had, until recently, made a living by doing lots of talking on Triple R’s Breakfasters, they might seem like odd words of wisdom. But it’s a mantra that’s held her in good stead since she and fellow presenter Stew Farrell were told by the station just before Melbourne Cup weekend that their services were no longer required.
Since leaving, Clarke and Farrell have steadfastly refused to make any public comment about the situation. This has been in contrast to some of their listeners, who have been dismayed not just by the decision, but also by Triple R’s refusal to offer a public explanation beyond saying they wanted a “fresh start” in 2015. (Triple R management declined the opportunity to make any further statement to Broadsheet for this article).
“We are grown-ups,” says Clarke, who had been presenting the breakfast show with Farrell for almost two years. “We’ve always understood that that’s part of the job.”
“A decision was made,” she continues. “You’re not going to change the decision. So what was the point in getting super involved in what was going on and getting upset about it?”
The duo was given the option of continuing on until the end of the year or finishing up straight away. They chose the latter.
“Initially we were going to stay and then we thought, why? They need to get on with the job of replacing us. They might as well do that and we’ll get on with what we want to do.”
What they wanted to do, they both realised, was to keep working together and give listeners a place to quickly find them again after they left the building.
They set up a website called Stupidly Big. Then, immediately after finishing their last shift, Clarke and Farrell sat down to work out what to do with it.
“We thought maybe we could do a podcast,” says Clarke, who admits that neither she nor Farrell had any idea how to make one.
There were lots of question marks: “Is that crazy? Are we able to do it? Does it cost money? Is it technically difficult?” says Clarke.
“That's when we thought, let's just do something little, bite-sized, everyday. Because there aren’t that many people doing daily podcasts and people can listen to it in the shower or on the way to work or whatever.”
They decided to (somewhat confusingly) call it Stupidly Small. Half an hour every day of Clarke and Farrell riffing from a cramped room in Clarke’s house on whatever takes their fancy, with occasional guests coming in for a chat. Listeners can also contribute by leaving voice messages on the website, some of which are incorporated into the show.
With the recent success of mega-podcast, Serial, the format is suddenly fashionable. Still, Clarke and Farrell, like most podcasters, understand it’s not unusual to toil for months or even years before gaining traction with an audience.
“We were just expecting that we would be sitting on our own in a cupboard talking and a few people would listen and maybe we’d get better at stuff and learn a bit,” says Clarke, who with Farrell launched the podcast barely a week after leaving Triple R.
Instead, Stupidly Small quickly became big. Within a week of the first episode the podcast topped the Australian iTunes comedy charts, beating heavyweights such as Hamish and Andy. At one point it was the third-most-popular podcast in Australia, behind Serial and This American Life.
“I didn't even know there were charts until the other day when somebody said: ‘You know you guys are number two (on the Australian comedy charts)?’” says Farrell.
“And the next day we went to number one. Before that, I wasn’t aware of the existence of charts.”
They say the support they received, initially from listeners upset at their departure from radio, then from people downloading the podcast, means their time at Triple R already feels distant.
“This (Stupidly Small) feels real and the Triple R stuff feels like it happened a hundred years ago,” says Clarke.
“It feels like it happened to people who were the echoes of us.”