In this Podsauce web exclusive, Dax and Alesha are joined by the creators and hosts of the popular new podcast “Was I In A Cult?” Hosted by documentary filmmaker Tyler Measom and writer/comedian Liz Iacuzzi, the podcast showcases the survivors of cults, at once humanizing the cult experience and proving just how easy it is to fall prey to the sociopaths and psychopaths who lead them.
Alesha and Dax are ready to hop right into their favorite episodes, but first, Measom and Iacuzzi give more of a breakdown of their podcast. “Was I In A Cult?” features firsthand accounts with the survivors of cults across the nation, from Children of God to NXIVM. Not only are episodes first-person experiences, but Measom and Iacuzzi will profile the cults and their leader, what it takes to lead a cult and what it takes to leave a cult both physically and mentally.
Iacuzzi points out that the podcast is actually hopeful and inspiring despite the gravity of the topic. As their guests are telling their stories, both Measom and Iacuzzi will add levity to the conversation with their humor and also explanations of any terms or practices that are unfamiliar. As a documentary filmmaker, Measam knows a thing or two about adding levity to harsh realities, speaking on how it not only deepens the emotional aspects of the story but also gives the audience a chance to breathe.
“Was I In A Cult?” is a focus on the individuals as opposed to the cult itself. As Iacuzzi says, other podcasts and even the media are typically focused on the salaciousness of cults and their leaders, whereas they wanted to approach the topic from a humanitarian perspective.
Something else that they make sure to add to their show is that the term “cult” can often be misleading, referencing an episode where the interviewees family was actually the cult. But from mainstream religions to Crossfit to toxic workplaces, they speak on what makes a group of people with commonalities a cult.
On the religion topic, Measom talks about his Mormon upbringing and eventual departure from the Mormon faith. Like 19-year-old Mormon boys do, he went did his mission in a white button down and tie to try and convert people in the Midwest to his faith. After his two years, he sat down and really researched Mormonism, finding it’s history of polygamy (which is no longer practiced in the main religion, but certain sects still practice), misogyny, and racism (all of which the Mormon Church is not alone in). Since deciding to leave, his art became focused on why people believe what they believe, eventually leading to “Was I In A Cult?”
Iacuzzi, on the other hand, has a fairly different story. She moved to Los Angeles when she was 20 years old in pursuit of an acting career. Coming from the comedy scene in Chicago, she decided to focus on serious acting and attended a class recommended to her by her rather toxic partner at the time. She talks about being “love-bombed” by the other attendees at the end of the class, a common cult tactic. She got deeper and deeper into the group, which was actually a cult, until one day, her friend, also a member, sent her a magazine article titled something like “How do you know if you’re in a cult?” As she checked off more and more boxes, she realized her reality and immediately left.
Together, Iacuzzi and Measom have many goals for this podcast. Not only are they hoping that it could plant a seed of doubt into someone’s minds if they are in a cult, helping them find the courage to leave, but they also hope that it will help people see red flags in toxic and abusive relationships as well.
Lastly, they discuss how the public has somewhat come to accept the tactics cults use as they are not so different from many marketing techniques that we encounter every day. From getting discounts if you apply for an apartment the day you tour it to “love-bombing” you at clothing stores, encouraging you to buy something, people are susceptible to cults more often than we’d like to think. As Measom points out, when it comes to cults people think of the ’60s and ’70s with Manson and robes and communes, when in reality, there are many active cults out there today.
To end this amazing interview, Measom and Iacuzzi share their favorite podcasts, listing “This American Life,” “99% Invisible,” “SmartLess,” and “Snap Judgment,” along with the sports mystery podcast “Lost In Sports.”
That’s all for this web exclusive, you can check out “Was I In A Cult?” and all of the hosts’ favorite podcasts down below!