The professional working world seems typical. At your desk by 9. Sneak out at 5. Sit in traffic. Do it all again tomorrow. 
But it’s a big world out there, and people’s lives (and livelihoods) are far weirder than we could have imagined. 
This podcast looks at all the jobs that leave us saying... “Wait, you make money doing that?"
 
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Listen to Recent Episodes


Episode 37: “I make ramen that helps people find their dreams."

You’ve been listening all season long to how people turned their passions into professions. And want to make the jump, too. But what if you don’t know what your passion is? How do you pursue your dream if you don’t know what your dream is?

Well, there’s a ramen shop in Boston called Yume Wo Katare, and it’s got just the bowl for you. We talk with owner Tsuyoshi Nishioka about the concept behind his restaurant, and how he made helping others find their dreams his personal mission.

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Episode 36: “I'm a comic book inker."

Mark Morales has probably worked on all of your favorite comic book characters. But the job of comic book inker is not only one of the most ambiguous in the industry, it’s an increasingly rare position.

Mark takes Sam through the comic book production process, and explains how even outside the traditional 9 to 5, the almighty deadline still wields its own kind of superpower.

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Episode 35: “I created The Museum of Selfies."

Tommy Honton has a familiar story. Aspiring screenwriter who sets out to make it big in Hollywood. But eight years later, he found himself disillusioned and unhappy with his job. Rather than let the fear of complacency settle in, Tommy pursued another form of storytelling.

This week, Sam talks with Tommy about designing immersive and experiential spaces like The Museum of Selfies and an unconventional escape room. Plus, he offers some advice for how to break out of the 9 to 5.

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Episode 34: “I perform with cats and rats for Cirque Du Sewer."

Melissa Arleth always loved rats. But she was also fond of her feline pets, too. So she took them both onstage with her and created Cirque Du Sewer, the world’s only cat and rat circus.

Sam talks with this acrobat about working with acro-rats… and one confused cat. And he finds out that nature’s mortal enemies can not only get along, but put on a damn good show.

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Episode 33: “I'm a professional hand model."

You can spot Ashly Covington out in public or on the subway pretty easily. She’s the one wearing long black gloves, a sunproof hoodie, and playing an invisible horn. Such is the life of a professional hand model.

In today’s episode, Sam and Ashly talk about the dedication it takes to cut it as a hand model, how Ashly broke into the business, and why the industry term for hand model work is perhaps the most unprofessional name out there.

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Episode 32: “I'm a dungeon master for Dungeons & Dragons."

You’re stranded on a desert island. What do you do? If you’re Timm Woods, you find the nearest rock and start carving away at your latest Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

Timm is a dungeon master, the game wizard who meticulously crafts each game. He tells Sam how he turned his lifelong passion into a profession, and why he still can’t accurately describe the game to his own parents.

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Episode 31: “I'm a professional mom."

Nina Keneally is the founder of NeedaMomNYC, where for $40 an hour she’ll give you the full mom experience. Nina offers sage advice, helps you battle your landlord over security deposits, and weighs-in on big life decisions.

But how do other moms feel when a stranger gives their child advice? Sam calls his own mom to get a second opinion.

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Episode 30: “I write obituaries for The Economist."

Ann Wroe writes obituaries for The Economist. And she knows what you’re thinking: Writing about death must be terribly depressing, right? Maybe, but not for Ann.

Sam gets Ann’s take on how she deals with death, and Ann shares her unique approach to writing about those who live on in the pages of the magazine.

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Episode 29: “I turn accidental fur into high fashion."

Pamela Paquin may have grown up on a farm, but she never thought her life would forever be linked with animals. She was living in Denmark with a high-paying job when her life was completely upended.

That’s when Pamela began to notice inefficiencies in the fur industry. And after seeing the amount of fur going to waste on the side of the road, she grabbed a knife and got to work. She now creates high fashion from accidental fur for her company Peace Fur.

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Episode 28: “I'm a professional gamer."

Peter “PPD” Dager is one of the winningest professional gamers in history. But we’re not just talking about trophies. Peter has made millions (and millions) of dollars as a professional gamer.

Sam talks with Peter about his journey from being on top of the gaming world with Evil Geniuses, to becoming the team’s CEO, only to return once more to the lights, camera, controller with his new team, OpTic Gaming.

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Episode 27: “I make money off of Lizard People."

Katelyn Hempstead is a comedian and the host of Lizard People: Comedy & Conspiracy Theories, a podcast where her brilliant friends try to convince her to believe different conspiracy theories. You can even find Sam on there talking about the rogue artificial intelligence that created Bitcoin.

Today, Sam and Katelyn peel back the podcast curtain to reveal how anyone (even the Illuminati) can get into the podcast game and grow an audience.

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Episode 26: “I'm a professional wingman."

Thomas Edwards is a real life Hitch. And after nearly a decade of work, he’s helped over 150 people find love and get married. But this self-proclaimed hopeless romantic wasn’t always the ideal wingman.

Thomas’ journey starts with Gary Vaynerchuck, hits a potential detour courtesy of Mark Cuban, and ends with the founding of a global wingman empire.

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Episode 25: “I'm a professional garbage picker."

Martin Gregory scours the streets looking through people’s trash. And it turns out, there’s a lot of valuable items people toss away. Martin sells his garbage finds on eBay, and he writes about them on his website, Things I Find in The Garbage.

Sam talks with Martin about teacups, the growing trend of minimalism, and just how much money you can make from selling garbage online. Because what’s one person’s trash is this man’s treasure.

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Episode 24: “I'm a professional cosplayer."

Cosplay is a world of transformation, where art meets performance. And no one knows that better than Riki LeCotey. You might’ve seen her on SyFy’s reality tv show Heroes of Cosplay, or maybe you’ve seen her judging costumes at your local convention.

Riki has turned her passion project into a full-time business. And she tells Sam how cosplay helped her land her latest dream gig: working on costumes for all the latest Marvel movies.

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Episode 23: “I make props for Hollywood."

Em Schulz is the co-host of And That’s Why We Drink, a podcast about true crime and the paranormal. But Em’s resume runs the gamut: Clown school graduate, professional Segway tour guide, kite salesperson, paranormal investigator, and the list goes on.

These days, Em makes props for Hollywood films and TV shows. You might have seen Em’s work on a few Eggo waffle boxes on a little show called Stranger Things. Em tells Sam what it’s like working at the top prop shop in Hollywood, and why not knowing what you want to do for a living isn’t always a bad thing.

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Episode 22: “I repair vintage arcade games."

Gary Vincent is a vintage arcade game technician at Funspot, the world’s largest arcade. He’s also the president of the American Classic Arcade Museum where he works to preserve and promote the history of arcade games.

On today’s episode, Sam learns that arcade game repair can be a dangerous job. And that there’s an entire world of history to be learned, right below his fingertips.

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Episode 21: “I’m a weed nun."

Sister Kate isn’t your average nun. She’s a self-declared nun who owns Sisters of the Valley, a cannabis-based healing products company. But after her early days in the Occupy movement, she now answers to a higher calling.

Sam talks with Sister Kate about working in the marijuana industry, how she grew the company into a million dollar global business, and how she’s helping empower women through her work.

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Episode 20: “I’m the listeners' favorite episode of 2017."

We asked you to tell us your favorite Weird Work episode of 2017 and man did you guys deliver. You mentioned Jen Glantz, the professional bridesmaid, Steven Kutcher, the Hollywood bug wrangler, and Kassandra Brown, the professional cuddler.

But one episode stood a full broadsword above the rest. That’s right. Today, we bring to you, the Weird Work Listener Favorite Episode of 2017.

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Episode 19: “I’m The New York Times crossword puzzle editor."

Will Shortz is the crossword puzzle editor at The New York Times. But he’s also the only person in history to receive a degree in Enigmatology -- the study of puzzles. And he’s been creating and publishing his own puzzles since he was 14 years old.

Today, Will talks with Sam about the origin of the paper’s famous crossword, and Will explains how the puzzle’s history is not so different from today. Oh, and there’s a puzzle. Did you really think we’d have Will on and not give you a brain stumper?

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Episode 18: “I’m a Vodou priestess.”

Voodoo conjures up pin-pricked dolls and black magic spells. But it’s all just a product of Hollywood, not an actual religion. Everything down to the spelling of its name is bogus.

Vodou, however, is a religion. And today, Sam speaks with Sallie Ann Glassman -- a Vodou priestess. She tells Sam about her journey to becoming a priestess and puts to rest all the myths made by Hollywood and beyond.

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Episode 17: “I’m a professional scent maker.”

Kevin Elkins is a scent maker. He’s crafted custom scents for luxury hotels like The W Hotels and Hotel Emma. For Kevin, the perfect scent is all about the romance.

Today, Sam talks with Kevin about what it takes to be a scent maker, the science behind smell, and together, they figure out the unofficial scent of 2018.

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Episode 16: “I’m a space psychologist.”

Iya Whiteley always dreamt of becoming an astronaut. Only, there was a slight hitch. Iya grew up in the USSR where women were not allowed to become pilots.

So she pursued her other passion of studying human behaviors and decision making skills under intense pressure and a space psychologist. She explains what it takes to become an astronaut and settles an argument about whether taking a one-way ticket to Mars is really worth it.

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download

Episode 15: “I’m the Saturday Night Live bandleader.”

It’s an iconic sound. Lenny Pickett’s saxophone solo during Saturday Night Live’s opening credits has become a hallmark of the show.

Lenny talks with Sam about his responsibilities as bandleader, how he overcame his initial fears of performing on live television, and why he thinks music today is completely undervalued.

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download

Episode 14: “I’m an intimacy choreographer.”

For some actors, finding the line between intimacy on stage and in real life can be a bit murky. It takes strong direction and training in a safe environment. But like any good fight scene, it can’t be left up to the actors to choreograph themselves.

Tonia Sina is an intimacy choreographer, and her work has helped provide protocols and safety nets that prevent the types of sexual harassment she’s witnessed first hand.

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download

Episode 13: “I’m an LSD microdosing coach.”

When Paul Austin looks back on the first time he dropped LSD, he remembers the shame and fear associated with it. So when he created Third Wave, a company devoted to coaching the benefits of microdosing LSD, he knew the biggest hurdle was changing an entire culture through education.

You won’t die from taking LSD, nor will you later be labeled clinically insane. But some myths die hard. Paul puts these myths to rest and offers a glimpse into how psychedelics can best prepare humans for a future of AI and automation.

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Episode 12: “I’m the head knight at Medieval Times.”

Chivalry. Strength. Romance. There’s quite a few things knights are world renowned for. Only, knights died out centuries ago, right? If you’ve ever heard of Medieval Times, then you know the knightly tradition is alive and well.

Today, we head down to New Jersey to talk with Andrew Thomas, the head knight at Medieval Times. He tells us how he made his way into knighting (turns out, it has everything to do with his hair) and shows Sam a few moves with a broadsword. Hope Sam signed that liability waiver...

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Episode 11: “I’m a nude model.”

For some, the nude body is taboo. But for artists, it’s been a constant source of training and inspiration.

Ruby Magic has travelled around the world as a nude model. She tells Sam how she’s become more empowered in her own skin, and even gets Sam to give nude modeling one more shot.

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Episode 10: “I’m Hollywood's resident bug wrangler.”

Let’s say you’re a director, and you need to film thousands of locusts descending upon a group of people. It’s a major production, but CGI just won’t cut it. What do you do? Well, there’s really only one person to call.

Steven Kutcher built his living as Hollywood’s resident bug wrangler. He’s worked on hundreds of movie scenes, from the spider that turned Peter Parker into Spider Man, to that swarm of locusts from Exorcist II. And he even pitches Sam a live-action film that’s Antz meets Thelma & Louise.

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Episode 9: “I’m a professional mystery shopper.”

It’s likely that at some point in your life, while you were out shopping at your favorite store, you were standing next to a fake customer. An imposter.

These people are called mystery shoppers, and they act as quality control for many stores by pretending to be normal customers, and then reporting what they saw. In this episode, we talk to an original mystery shopper. Susan (not her real name) tells us all about the secret life of mystery shoppers, which includes disguises, deception, and even a chase scene.

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Episode 8: “I’m the Bachelor in Paradise bartender.”

What’s life really like behind the bar of a reality dating show? Wells Adams made the jump from radio show host to The Bachelorette contestant a few years ago. But it’s his recent gig as the bartender on ABC’s Bachelor in Paradise that cemented him in the hearts of Bachelor fans everywhere.

Sam talks with Wells about the show, the scandal, and so much more. Plus, Sam and Wells even come up with their own spin off show.

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download

Episode 7: “I'm a professional cuddler.”

In a previous life, Kassandra Brown was a parenting coach. Then one day, about six years ago, she was cuddling with a friend of hers when she had a personal breakthrough. So when she was searching for what to do next in her career, she landed on a combination of coaching and physical touch.

She signed up for a company called Cuddlist.

Kassandra believes that American culture has warped the idea of physical intimacy, and she’s on a one-woman mission to change that - one cuddle session at a time.

 

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download

Episode 6: “I'm a mermaid.”

When you’re a kid, you can be anything. You can be a firefighter, a police officer, hell even a robot. The thing is, we rarely get to grow up and live that childhood dream. Unless you’re Maria Russo. Then you’re exactly who you always wanted to be.

Maria is a professional mermaid. She has an entire company devoted to the art of mermaiding. In this episode, she tells us about what really goes on at her mermaid retreats, how being a mermaid is a mix between dressing in drag and rock climbing, and how anyone can become a mermaid. Yes, even Tom Hanks.

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download

Episode 5: “I've written 18,728 songs and counting.”

Go on Spotify right now. Type your name, or the name of someone you know. Chances are a strange band has a song about that name. And chances are the man who wrote that song is actually named Matt Farley. Matt’s written more than 18,700 songs, and that’s not even counting some of the custom work he does for people.

In this episode, the Weird Work team goes to visit the most productive songwriter in the world and hang out in his home studio basement.

 

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download

Episode 4: “I press human ashes into vinyl records.”

Jason Leach founded Andvinyly as a way to face his own mortality. He heard Hunter S. Thompson had his own ashes set off in fireworks, and Jason wondered how he could be best remembered. Then it hit him: Vinyl records.

What Jason didn’t expect was that he’d accidentally created an entire business model by going through the process. And as much as he tried to ignore it, the people had spoken. They too wanted to live beyond the groove.

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download 

Episode 3: “I’m a professional bridesmaid.”

If you’ve ever been to a wedding where the bride is considering grabbing an Uber and leaving, the ring bearer is missing, and the groomsmen are blackout drunk, you’ve seen what Jen Glantz calls a “normal weekend.

Jen is a professional bridesmaid, which means anything from helping the bride pee, to wrangling a gaggle of groomsmen.

 

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download 

Episode 2: "I make ASMR videos."

Heather Feather was sitting in her classroom. Her teacher pulled down a world map on the wall, and struck it with a pointer stick. Now, you might jump. Maybe even shudder. But Heather felt something different: a slight tingling sensation down her spine. Years later, she realized the feeling was called ASMR.

Today, there’s an entire ASMR subculture of online videos that trigger these feelings, to help people relax or even fall asleep. And Heather’s channel is one of the best. She tells us how she makes ASMR videos, the dark side of being a woman on YouTube, and even improvises an ASMR collaboration with Sam.

 

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download 

 

Episode 1: "I write dinosaur (and monster) erotica.”

Alara Branwen’s author page on Amazon says that she’s a “typical college student by day, but by night she is a crafter of sexy, hot, sensuous, ‘monster’ fantasy erotic fiction.” The reality is Alara, and frequent co-writer Christie Sims, are the same person. In fact, they’re the same guy.

Turns out, most of your favorite dinosaur and monster erotica is written by men. In this episode, we talk about how Alara got into the business and why he pretends to be a woman online. 

 

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Download 

 

Trailer: "I host a podcast about people with weird jobs.”

Starting September 28, Weird Work fills your ear holes with stories from the creative and inspiring people who work some of the weirdest jobs out there. Hosted by Sam Balter.

 

iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher |  Download 

 

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