Ira Madison III Keeps It Relevant, Funny, and Real

A headshot of Ira Madison with pink and blue light shining behind him.

Photography by Kit Karzen

This article was published in Touch Issue #93 | Spring 2022

Ira Madison III coined the title phrase of his chatty pop culture–meets–politics podcast, Keep It, some four years ago on Twitter, back before a now-legendary impersonation of Beto O’Rourke got him banned from the platform. More than 200 episodes later, Keep It, which Madison cohosts with fellow pop obsessives Louis Virtel and Aida Osman, remains a weekly must-listen that adds a necessary informative bent—as well as lots of laughs—to timely cultural conversations. Bitch spoke with Madison about his forthcoming book, his unforgettable baritone, and keeping up.

How has your pop culture taste evolved over the past four years?

I think it’s less my taste evolving…if anything, I’ve tried to expand my knowledge base. The podcast has opened me up to topics and films I hadn’t consumed before. This is why we do a [segment] called “Blind Spots.” Having been dubbed a “pop-culture expert” [has] given me more [of an] urge to fill that title. I know what I know already, but I try to consume more outside of my wheelhouse now so that I can have more well-rounded conversations on the show. 

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Has that process made you change your mind about anything? 

This is probably a basic answer: It’s easy to make jokes about, say, Taylor Swift. New album cycles dominate the conversation, [so they] necessarily become things we discuss on the show. Listening to [Swift’s] albums more fully and dissecting her place within popular culture has helped me become more of a fan.

You’ve got such a memorable laugh. Do people notice it while you’re in public?

I’ve been recognized for my voice a lot, which is nice. There was a period where I listened to episodes of Keep It, but I don’t anymore. I’d rather not listen to my own voice, ever. I don’t know whether it’s ptsd from having a “gay” voice as a kid or just not liking your own voice in general because it sounds different in your head. But I’m glad it’s memorable and some people like it.

Tell me about one of your favorite recent guest moments. 

Gaby Hoffmann was really fun. We were talking about her latest film, C’mon C’mon, [and] I mentioned [that] I had just watched Something’s Gotta Give for the first time. [She knows] Nancy Meyers’s daughter and she was like, “Well, I’ve never seen this film.” She was excited by the plot, and like, Keanu Reeves [is] a romantic interest in it, and she was like, “Well, I’ve gotta watch this film later tonight.” A moment like that is really fun, and [it’s an example of] the show working at its best. 

You’re working on a collection of essays. Why now?

I’ve honestly been trying to write one for a while and an idea finally came to me during the pandemic after rereading Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. The book is actually sort of a response to that book, like a modern update from someone who loved reading [it] as a kid [and] in college and then revisited [it] during the pandemic. [The book] informed a lot of my pop culture opinions back then, and [as] a fully realized adult with my own opinions—and having grown up Black [and] gay in the Midwest—[I see] a lot of [the] opinions I adopted from the book in a different light now. That’s what birthed the book for me. 

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

 

by Rosa Cartagena
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Bitch’s senior editor, Rosa is a culture writer, arts editor, musician, retired fencer, and Bad Bunny buff. She’s written for Washingtonian, Smithsonian, and elsewhere.