Two Hot Takes' Morgan Absher Dishes About Her Podcast, Mental Health, Wild Reddit Stories, And More - Exclusive Interview

If you left your undergraduate or graduate studies in May 2020 and suddenly found yourself thrown into a spiraling world without so much as a rudder to help you stay on course, you were certainly not alone. The class of 2020 faced not only the usual challenges that recent grads have to surmount, but also growing anxiety, shutdowns, and workplace hiring freezing due to the coronavirus pandemic. So many plans, contracts, employment opportunities, and goals were put on pause, forcing many to get creative with their professional ambitions. One such graduate who was facing an ever-increasingly difficult professional environment was Morgan Absher, who left her graduate studies in 2020 and didn't have a solid idea of what was going to come next.

An avid Reddit fan, Absher — who got her doctorate in occupational therapy — switched gears and decided to start her own podcast, focusing on the media platform and the wild stories that are shared by users. After all, what's more entertaining than reading the most bonkers stories on the internet and having your own friends, colleagues, and favorite celebrities weigh in? Absher clearly identified a gap in the podcasting world, and her now-hit show, "Two Hot Takes," has more than 7 million downloads (and she's just getting started). Amid her growing success, we sat down with the Los Angeles-based creator to pick her brain about the podcast, her growing TikTok presence, her take on politics, student debt, mental health, and more — you name it, we chatted about it.

Morgan dishes about her day-to-day life and how she keeps track of her busy schedule

I want to talk to you about the "Two Hot Takes" podcast, but I also want to talk to you about how you got to this point — this huge cult following that you now have in just over a year. Can you tell us about the pod, and then we will go back through your journey?

A day in the life ... These days, it's a lot of editing. I have "Two Hot Takes" and another podcast that we've started now, but I'm doing all of the editing. I wake up, and I love to go walk across the street from my house and go get my coffee, see some sunshine and see the light of the day for a little bit. Then, I will come back and I will start editing. It's a pretty extensive process, editing the episode, and then I break down the content into many different formats. Then the TikToks and the captioning is a whole other thing. Something I always wanted to do was make my videos and stuff as accessible as possible — that's the [occupational therapist] in me — so I have a lot of extra steps to do that, but [it's] lots of editing. Also, I'm trying to get back into Pilates and get a class in here or there, but that's about it.

I feel like we're so hardwired to try to get through the checklist every day. It's a lot having to balance so many components and different areas of content.

Yeah — and with my brain, lately, I feel like a little goldfish sometimes. I'm like, "My memory is so bad." I woke up today and I was like, "Okay, I have an interview and then I have to write for USA Today. Then my episode's due tomorrow, so I need to edit." It's constantly something, even though I feel like my day-to-day is the same. There's always something popping up that's a little different to throw me for a loop.

How do you keep track of everything?

I have a ginormous calendar now. It usually helps. But it's massive. It doesn't even fit in a backpack so I have to fold it, but it's colorful and I can see everything in front of me, and most of the time I don't forget things, which is great.

You're a writing-down kind of gal.

Yes. If it's on the phone, I know some people can use their phones. If I can't see it in front of me, it's gone — it doesn't exist.

There's something so satisfying about crossing things off the to-do list. At least, I write everything down as well — otherwise, who knows? Everything would fall through the cracks.

I'm with you. Same.

How does Morgan cater her podcast to her special guests?

Who's been a standout guest throughout your podcasting career so far? You've had some huge TikTokers. I love Tinx — Tinx was great. There was Drew [Afualo], and Nick Viall, who has taken the podcasting world by storm. Are there any standout guests that have inspired you as a creator?

There's so many. I love each one individually ... Every episode is different because you give them such a unique batch of stories, and I try to do my research on my guests before they come on because I want to find stuff they can speak to. I try to tailor my episodes to them, their brand, who they are, what they like. Everyone is so different, but Drew is amazing. I work with her and her sister on their podcast that they do together, and if you need another one, that is an amazing one to listen to.

I also get into this habit with my ADHD where my last guest is usually my favorite because it's the most recent. I just had — my mom's a therapist — [she came] on, and she's also on TikTok, and we talked about my favorite thing, enmeshment, so that was an amazing episode. Then I had Olivia O'Brien on. She is so quick and funny and witty. I was laughing — I looked like a little raccoon by the time we got done and no one told me. I had an intern here and I had mascara down my face. I'm like, "Oh, my gosh." But it was hilarious. I love them all. It's like trying to pick a favorite kid. You can't do it.

Do you have aspirations as to who you would love to have on the pod one day in the future?

I'm trying to convince my mom, but [Joe] Biden — let's get going on that student loan, buddy.

That'd be great.

[I'd] harass him a little bit. But no, overall, there's a couple guests I'm planning that are more inclusive or diverse. I have a guest that's completely blind now that is coming on shortly. One of the things that hits me hard is people have their opinions about the show, and they take something one way even though it might not be the reality of how it comes across. I want to keep diversifying the voices that come on and lend spaces for other creators who speak on important issues to come on, and then give that same spiel to this audience or educate this audience in a fun way, where you're also reacting to a Reddit story about that topic and it's more lighthearted and doesn't have to be so shoved down your throat in a way. It's almost like a Jedi mind trick sometimes, when you ...

... Sneak it in a little bit.

It's funny, too, because I've tried not to get political and I'm very outspoken politically, ironically. I've always tried to keep it as neutral as possible, but I do get political. It's impossible to separate.

Morgan dishes about politics and walking the line of opinion

You're a young woman with a huge platform and a lot of influence, and correct me if I'm wrong, but do you feel a certain sense of responsibility to talk about some of these issues? I'm thinking of Roe v. Wade and that whole issue that we're still in the mix of and a variety of those topics that aren't political, like a woman's body.

They shouldn't be [political]. It feels weird to even compare myself to Taylor Swift — she's an icon — but what comes to mind for me is watching her documentary, and she's sitting on the couch with her mom and her dad, and she's like, "I need to speak up about this. Who am I if I don't speak up about this?" I do feel like I'm doing a disservice if I don't almost speak up on some of these issues, and Roe v. Wade is one of them. I'm very pro-choice, despite my own mom almost aborting me. I've mentioned that on the podcast, and some people are like, "Well, don't you think you'd be pro-life then?" I'm like, "No. My mom still got to make that choice, and I'm really thankful I'm here, but other women should be able to do that as well."

I let it slip here and there where a story will come up about abortion or things like that and I'm like, "I'm very pro-choice, but obviously, whatever this woman, the decision she makes is the right one for her." It is hard. You toe the line of not excluding anyone or not trying to shove your opinions down anyone's throat. I'm sure you can relate, as a journalist — it's toeing that fine line, but also being sure to yourself and who you are and trying to do a service to the platform and your followers.

It's a huge responsibility, at least, to be in a position to influence and to inform. Like you said, you don't want to ever exclude anyone from your work or your content, but it's also hard not to express some sort of opinion because everything is so charged at this point.

Well, and the show is "Two Hot Takes" — it's an opinion show. Even if you put two people in the room and give them the same information, they're probably not going to agree on anything.

Morgan on the biggest differences between social media platforms

[On the differences between Instagram and TikTok]

That's Reddit to a T. With the content overall, you even scroll the TikTok comments ... One [thing] I posted the other day, I posted on Instagram Reels and on TikTok, and the comment sections were completely different.

TikTok, not the *sshole [segment]. [On the] flip side, Instagram, it's "not the *sshole, great parenting" — you love to see that. TikTok — it's "That man just scarred his child. Wow. Is he terrible?" I'm like, "It's the same cut. It is the same 60 or 90 seconds," and we're all so different. It's wild. I never thought I would be in this position ever, so even you saying, "Oh, you have such a big platform," I'm like ... it's a little bit of imposter syndrome still.

I can relate to that. When I first started my foray into the entertainment journalism world, I was like, "I don't belong here. This is wild."

What motivated Morgan to be so candid about mental health?

There are elements of the show that are funny and lighthearted, but also you get into mental health and self-love. If you don't mind sharing, what personal experiences of your own inspired you to be so candid on mic?

I don't even know because I'm actually super shy and introverted. I know a lot of people say that, but I never truly expected this to go anywhere, and especially as far as it has. I grew up being bullied in high school and having it be so bad that my parents actually had to fight the school — essentially fight them on letting me take college courses so I could get off my high school campus because the bullying was so bad.

I'm sorry you went through that.

As hard as it was in the moment, I wouldn't be the person I am without that experience. It sucks, but I never would've left my small hometown and moved to Minneapolis. I wouldn't be the open-minded, empathetic person I am without it, as terrible as it was to go through, but I struggled with mental health in that aspect. Then, grad school was really tough. I went and graduated in April 2020, right as the pandemic was starting to get underway. It was so cr*ppy. 

Then I graduated with a doctorate in occupational therapy — something that I thought I would have this amazing career in and I'd be set for life, and I'd be helping people and job security and everything. I couldn't get a job. I struggled for over a year trying to get a job.

That's wild.

It was wild. I fell into this deep dark hole of "Well, just another day." I'd wake up and sit on the couch, and I'm unemployed and not doing anything, so I would scan Reddit. I have loved Reddit for years, so I was talking about it and I was like, "What about a podcast on this? I like it. Do you think other people would?" My poor boyfriend got so sick of me talking about it, he finally bought the podcast equipment. It's something we've talked about recently, because you forget after you're out of it, but he was like, "You were in a dark place, babe." I'm like, "Uh-huh. Yeah."

Morgan wants listeners to find a sense of lightheartedness and relief from her podcast

Hindsight is 20/20. Many of us who left school at that time, we were rudderless. There are so many forces out of our own control, and it completely threw a whole generation of graduates for a loop.

[I] completely agree. If you went through your junior [or] senior year of college through COVID, I feel like it's stolen from us. It has stolen time in a sense, and so much of our lives. It's really sad, but I hope other people ... The podcast was this therapeutic way of dealing with all of that and easing myself out of a deep dark hole of depression, so I hope other people have found their COVID muse or hobby — whatever has helped them.

What are you hoping listeners will take away from the podcast in terms of self-love or mental health?

There's so much. There's so many issues. Mental health is the big umbrella, and then you can dive down into anxiety, depression, body issues, eating disorders, things like that. I really want to emphasize [that] therapy is okay. It's okay to reach out for help. Everyone should reach out for help. We all need therapy, in general, and I truly believe there's some people that are on the opposite side from me and they're like, "We're so sensitive. Not everyone needs therapy." I'm like, "Does every car need an oil change? Does your clicker run out of batteries eventually?" 

Yes. We all need therapy. You might not be the worst, but you definitely could benefit from a couple more positive coping skills. I'm a believer that everyone should have therapy. Everyone could benefit from it.

For many young people — Gen Z, Millennials — who are therapy friendly with not only going, but also openly speaking about it ... It's weird to go through things and then acknowledge it after the fact, but it's something that our generations are slowly starting to chip away at with that taboo surrounding therapy, mental health, and being open about those conversations in general.

I completely agree. Even looking at my mom's generation — something we went through in high school was really traumatic for me, but for her, it was just another Wednesday. We still battle, and it came to a head last summer where I was like, "That whole situation still sticks with me."

That's so formative.

Yes. It really shaped me, and she was like, "Well, I was doing my best as a parent, and that's all I knew as a parent. I was going off what I knew." The two of us — I was like 15 at the time — 13 years later, we're finally unpacking it and I finally got this apology, and it's like, "Wow." If my mom would've had therapy back when she was going through stuff as a child — she went through it, so I have so much empathy for her, and she is an amazing mom — but still, there were the times where we butt heads. It's been amazing to finally come to a resolution with that and see how she's even changed and become more open. Now, I'm like, "Okay, let's find a therapist for you now." It feels great.

I'm sure that experience gave you a sense of understanding of what she was doing in the moment as well, which does allow for a little bit more of a nuanced perspective of that, which was a super transformative and informative time.

That's exactly what it is and how it feels. Crazy.

Morgan chats about her podcast segments and the wild stories she's covered

Let's talk about some of the segments, now that we've unpacked all of that.

The human experience we all have ... let's talk more about trauma!

I'd love to specifically talk about some of the segments that you've shared. Obviously, "Am I the *sshole" is probably some of the most debate-sparking areas of content. There are so many that I wanted to pick out — the "flat chest husband" comment discussion is burned into my brain.

In what ways have specific conversations on the pods stood out to you? Are there one or two that even to this day are burned into your brain, or maybe gave you the opportunity to get your footing to be like, "I can present this in a digestible way to listeners?"

There's so many. What's interesting to me is stories that I find vary, and maybe it's because of my experiences and I've had something that relates to it, but some of the stories that stick the hardest with people are the most simple ones. It's so interesting for me to see what resonates with other people, but one that will never leave my brain is the slug story about the guy who was sneakily feeding his girlfriend slugs.

It was so wild.

It was so bad. He was trying to take care of her but would then switch out her heart medication for salt tablets. It was a full, well-rounded, calculated attack, and I don't know any other thing besides it seems like he was trying to kill her. Some of these conversations are so hard because there was an update that came out after that story, after the episode, and it came out that he had antisocial personality disorder. 

Everyone rocks me, but then you get the updates and you get so much more context and then you're like, "Oh, well, wait. It's still not right by any means, but this person is also struggling." That one I will never, ever be able to erase from my brain. The mother-in-law stories about the mothers-in-law that try to breastfeed their grandkids [also stand out]. It shocked me.

Or the mother who called her son at two o'clock in the morning.

Yes — that's enmeshment. Enmeshment is something I'm personally fascinated by, and we all have a little enmeshment unless you have completely cut off your family and no longer talk to them. We all have a varying level of enmeshment sometimes. But something that fascinates me is the son-mom enmeshment. This is so interesting. The mom raised her son to be the partner she never had, but now that she doesn't get to reap the benefits, she's upset and hates the wife. It's some Freud stuff. It's not fun.

Stories Morgan has discussed on her podcast have changed with time

In that example, there are so many elements to a story. It shows that what we get — not necessarily just on the surface, but even two, three layers down — there's still that entire underbelly that has yet to be uncovered.

Completely. What's interesting about this show is I don't necessarily change my opinions based on what listeners share or write in the comments, but it's almost like — and it's how we form our opinions anyways — you have conversations with people and bounce ideas off each other and share experiences. It's like, "Oh, I do see more of a side on that argument." Something else that's been interesting for me is to see how we all, as a community, interact with each other and can grow in our opinions.

What are you hoping listeners will take away from hearing these stories and the commentary that you and guests provide along with it? We are and have been living in such a divisive period of time. While some of these stories are so wild, like the mother-in-law, body image, etc., what are you hoping that people will take away from the listening experience?

We're all entitled to our opinions, but I hope that after listening or while listening, you can still be open-minded, and it is okay to have your opinions change. There's no fault in that. There's no fault in admitting you were wrong or you didn't perfectly understand a concept, and now that it's been further explained, you get it more and your opinion has shifted. I hope it facilitates these thought-provoking conversations where people can take that to their lives and apply it in ways that better their lives. 

There's the big umbrella of mental health as well, and body image and body neutrality and things like that. I love how with the people it has shaped and that they've connected with me so far ... I love hearing their feedback. My overall goal about that is [to have] it help people in whatever way that they can draw meaning from it.

Morgan reveals some of the heartfelt messages she has received from listeners

[On standout stories shared with her by listeners]

I got this one recently — I have gotten a bunch over the course of the show now — but ones that have really stood out is one person that was struggling with mental health and was like, "If it were not for your show, I would not be here." I literally broke down. I was like, "Oh, my God. Okay. We gotta keep going, Morgan. You got this." There was another one recently that was like, "I didn't recognize my partner's abusive behavior. He wasn't hurting me yet, but I know you mentioned if people start punching holes in walls, that's a red flag and you should try to get out." She was like, "My partner probably would've hurt me if it weren't for me leaving, and it's because of the podcast." And there's more lighthearted ones.

I have chills.

This is something I never in a million years would've imagined, ever. I'm like, it's a podcast reading Reddit stories, but yet during lockdown, people in Australia were like, "I've been in my house for four months. Australia is tightly locked down. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and feeling isolated. Thank you. I feel like I'm talking with friends. I'm laughing. I'm having a girl's night." It's absolutely incredible for me to see that because it's not something I ever would've imagined.

What an amazing position to be in to have that kind of influence.

Yes. It's surreal.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Morgan reflects on her life before the podcast

I want to dive a little bit into your life before the podcast. You were raised in Minnesota, and you've been super open about bullying, which we chatted a little bit about, but in what ways in all of those experiences did you learn about yourself, about tenacity and treating other people well? Would you ever go back and change any of those years? We talked a bit about those formative experiences, but I can certainly relate in a way that adulthood and maturity totally makes you look back on those years differently. I'd love to pick your brain a little bit more about that.

I have asked myself this so many times, and it's only about one person specifically, a boyfriend I had. I'm like, "Ugh, if I could take back any relationship I went through, it would be that one." I'm like, "Oh my God, what was I doing?" But, on the flip side, this man was cheating on me with a girl from my same hometown. She was a year older than me, so she was already living in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota going to school. He was dating both of us at the same time.

Oh, my God.

We all end things. I ended up dating him a while after we found that out, but we all ended things. We ended up being in the same sorority. She ended up being my roommate sophomore year. Because of her, I met one of my best friends, who is a co-host on the show frequently. After college, after I got out of a bad breakup, we moved to LA together. I look at that, and as sh*tty and dumb as that relationship was, I would not have my best friend if it were not for it. 

It's crazy to me how life is this series of dominoes. It's a domino effect. It almost makes you think of "The Butterfly Effect" movie where if you change one little thing, there's the ripple in time and nothing's the same. The same with the bullying — as unfortunate as that was, I wouldn't be who I am without it. It's just life, and life takes it out of us sometimes, but it's trying to embrace it and look at the more positive side, as difficult as that is when you're in the midst of all of it. I try to reframe as much as I can and be positive.

"Two Hot Takes" is available to stream new episodes weekly across all major podcasting platforms and YouTube.

This interview was edited for clarity.