Armed with a microphone and recording software, two best friends brought their favorite high school government teacher to tears on their podcast, “This Is Absurd!”
Psychology and history sophomore Tarek Arouse and management information systems sophomore Arturo Rolón dreamed of launching their own podcast since their junior year of high school.
Like many other students, Arouse and Rolan found themselves stuck at home without much to do when the spring semester ended in May.
“What it finally came down to, was my dad gave me an ultimatum,” Rolón said. “He said, go do the podcast or go get a job.”
Since then, they have released 57 episodes and garnered 2,000 listeners on Apple podcasts. The laid-back, conversational podcast usually starts with a brief on the podcast guest, an update on their personal lives and then a deep dive into politics, philosophy or pop culture.
They say their goal is to “explore the chaos of being human in the 21st century.” The podcast tackles everything from Kanye's latest single to thanking their government teacher for giving them the courage to think critically about the world.
“There’s this philosopher I like who defined the word ‘absurd’ as humans wanting to know the answers to why the hell we’re here and what comes after, but the universe answers with a resounding silence,” Arouse said. “We want to know why and we want to know how and we want to ask the unanswerable questions.”
Rolón said the conversations on the show have helped him learn more about how to relate to others.
“I get to learn about what I believe in and I learn how to speak better with people,” Rolón said. “I’ve had to work in this new line of thinking and progress the conversation.”
When Arouse and Rolón began “This Is Absurd!” they had no experience with audio equipment. The two even had to re-record their first episode after a listener told them the audio was so bad they barely got through it.
“The audio was so bad I don’t know how their ears weren’t bleeding by the end of it,” Arouse said. “It was a learning curve for sure, learning how to use the equipment, how to record.”
Over the course of the show, Arouse and Rolón said they’ve learned how to make their conversations as natural as possible to engage the listener. They said their technique compelled one of their earliest guests to join the show: Sadie Hough, the daughter of the pair’s high school biology teacher.
“(She said) it sounded like y’all were having a conversation and I wanted to jump in and add something,” Arouse said.
When they came back to Austin for the fall semester, they invited fellow UT students on the show, including government sophomore Leland Murphy.
“I had been following the podcast before that, so it was awesome that he reached out to me,” Murphy said. “We talked about my involvement in the Senate of College Councils and how my experience as an orientation advisor over the summer virtually was.”
Murphy said he admires Arouse and Rolón’s drive.
“It’s so hard to start up anything anymore,” Murphy said. “I think that it’s awesome that we have a student body that’s so engaged.”