If you’re a bi-weekly listener of the cult-favorite entertainment podcast, Who Weekly, you likely already know a lot about Bobby Finger. He loves his cats almost as much as his “java,” as he calls it, he’s a die-hard Golden Girls fan, and he can probably give you the filmography of every actress in Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. Over the past six years, Finger and his co-host, Lindsey Weber, have established a name for themselves by discussing the career moves, spon-con, and general goings-on of celebrities. But not A-listers like Tom Hanks or Jennifer Lawrence. No, their lives are too well-protected and, therefore, boring to justify two-plus hours of discussion a week. Instead, Who Weekly focuses on the celebs they affectionately call “Whos,” those who haven’t quite made it to household name status, but are doing anything in their purview to get there, often to no avail.
Now, Finger can add published author to his résumé, which also includes former copywriter, journalist, and Rita Ora expert. The podcaster’s debut novel, The Old Place, hit shelves this month, telling a story Finger knows well—that of small town Texas. The Old Place follows Mary Alice Roth, a recently retired school teacher adjusting to her newly idle life—when one person from her past comes back and changes everything. Below, Finger talks going back to his roots to write The Old Place, his favorite Twitter account, and why he just had to see The Woman King twice.
What inspired the story of The Old Place?
It’s set in a small town in central Texas, and I am from a small town in central Texas. The main character is a retired math teacher, and both of my parents were teachers, so the small town education system is close to my heart. It’s a queer coming-of-age story, and personal experiences have vaguely inspired it.
Was it difficult to return to your roots to write this book?
We moved just before I was in high school, so it’s been a long time since I lived there. I had to relearn things about it and re-access old memories, but it wasn’t hard at all, nor was it any kind of burden. It was really rewarding.
Did you revisit your hometown in preparation?
No, because I wrote the manuscript in the first year of the pandemic, so I wasn’t traveling anywhere. It was nice to disconnect from New York, in a way. I couldn’t go see my family because they’re all in Texas, so it was a way of revisiting that whole place. I haven’t been [to my hometown] in a while. My parents go semi-occasionally, but I haven’t been in years.
You were a journalist before going into podcasting. What has returning to writing been like for you?
I don’t think I could have written this book had I not worked in journalism full-time, at Jezebel, specifically. I started as a copywriter in advertising, but when I went into full-time journalism at Jezebel, it was just so much writing. From morning until you’re off work, it was just blogging. I was more prolific than ever, just because that was the job. I don’t think I could have written this novel had I not gotten conditioned to sitting down and just not stopping for a while, really going at it when it comes to daily word counts.
Your podcast, Who Weekly, likes to divide celebrities into “Whos” (Barbie Ferreira, Addison Rae, Sabrina Carpenter) and “Thems” (Julia Roberts, Bella Hadid, Taylor Swift). Now that you’re a published author doing interviews, does that make you a Who?
No, it does not. Still a “nah,” firmly a “nah.” I don’t want the attention.
Let’s get into some Culture Diet questions. What is the first thing you read when you wake up in the morning?
I open my email, and then I scroll Twitter and check the weather. Lately, my new favorite thing to read first thing is the New York metro weather Twitter account. It’s a voice-y, funny account that tells you what to expect from the weather vibes in New York City on any given day. It’s so much more than just temperature and humidity. Every day gets a rating, every day gets a little write-up about what to expect.
When it comes to Twitter and Instagram, do you use the Who Weekly account or your personal account to scroll? Which do you prefer?
Oh, I hate my personal account. It’s depressing. So it’s fully Who Weekly in the morning, because it’s just celebrities, it’s a little sillier and it’s an easier entry into the day before I get into the hard stuff. I’m not opening the New York Times app until lunch.
What’s your favorite social media account to follow over all platforms?
Just Jared, for sure. I was about to say Pop Crave, but no, Just Jared. For a while, it would’ve been Pop Crave, but it’s too all over the place these days. Just Jared is good, easy, celebrity content.
When was the last time you went to the movie theater? What did you see?
I saw The Woman King twice last week. I saw it Saturday afternoon after seeing it a few nights before with some friends. My husband couldn’t go and he was like, “Oh, I’ll just see it while you’re gone,” since I’m in San Antonio now for a book event. But after I saw it for the first time I was like, “No, we’re seeing it again before I leave, because I want to see it with you. I want to see it again and you’re going to love it.”
Did the second viewing change your thoughts on it?
The first time I saw it was during one of those Thursday night screenings, they call them preview screenings. It wasn’t as highly attended as the Saturday afternoon one. One of the first things I thought after seeing The Woman King on Thursday was, it was just so exciting. I was like, “Oh, this would be just great to see with my family.” It’s a Thanksgiving movie to me. It’s the movie you can just bring everyone to.
There are a lot of very energizing, exciting moments. There are, maybe, five big applause moments throughout the movie and everyone applauded at those moments. Every time that happens in a movie, I love that. It’s not a movie that you’re sobbing during, although there are a couple moments where people are crying.
Do you think you enjoy that kind of atmosphere more now, after watching movies alone for two years?
Oh, absolutely. I always enjoyed it, but it means so much more now, after spending so much time watching films at home with one other person, or at max, maybe a handful of other people. I really did miss experiencing things as a group.
Finally, what’s the last thing you do before going to bed?
When I get in bed, I read a book. Whether it’s a Kindle or paper book, I try to read for half an hour before I go to bed just because it really gets me tired. But then, when I put the book down, I do one final scroll through Twitter and then I go to sleep. My husband and I joke, “Gotta do a final site check.” So the last wind-down is horizontal, on the phone, making sure nothing has happened. And then I put the phone away.
Do you ever see something that wakes you up again?
Yeah. And it’s always bad news. It’s some sort of climate catastrophe or some horrible piece of news. And then you end up reading about that, and it’s like, “Why did I do this?” Because then you have to start the cycle over again, and read the book and not look at your phone.