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Austin comedian Ivy Le braves camping for Spotify podcast 'Fear of Going Outside'

Ivy Le is trying to embrace nature and the outdoors as she attempts to go camping for her new Spotify podcast "Fear of Going Outside."

Austin comedian Ivy Le has challenged herself to go camping, and you can follow her adventures in a new podcast.

"Fear of Going Outside" takes Le through a journey of trying to figure out everything she might need to know about camping: how to decide where to camp, what equipment to bring and which animals could possibly kill her.

The podcast launched on Spotify on June 10, but Le began working on it three years ago and recorded it shortly before the pandemic.

"It took so long," she says. 

Le was chosen for Spotify’s 2018 Sound Up, an incubator program for the next generation of podcasters from underrepresented backgrounds. 

She had about 200 ideas she could pitch to Spotify, she says, and thought that she needed to pitch something that seemed important and would represent her community, such as gentrification and maternal mortality, "or any other number of podcasts I would never listen to." 

Le got into podcasts while breastfeeding her children, when she needed to find a way to entertain herself while not being able to move from one spot. 

"I'm a fun person," she says, and for her podcast, she had to find something that she would want to talk about a lot. "I'm obsessed with nature shows," she says, but "I can't think of one hosted by a person of color."  

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Ivy Le is did not grow up camping, and she challenged herself to learn and try it for a new podcast on Spotify.

Growing up

Le is 38, and she and her partner, Ben, have a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old. She grew up in the Dallas area after her family emigrated from Vietnam in 1980. She had one friend growing up who had some camping experience, but that's it. 

Her kids aren't growing up as outdoorsy kids, either.  

"We're city people," she says. 

She has a theory: There are two types of people in this world. There are people who grew up with family who go outside, who camp, who fish or hunt, who don't scream if they see an insect. Then there are the people who for generations have lived in cities and suburbs and have no reference to going outside other than the space in between buildings. 

"I didn't realize how hard it is to start from scratch," Le says. "There's no Girl Scouts to join at my age." 

She starts her podcast with the story of her parents coming to the United States because her father had a bounty put on his head by the communist government, she says. 

"My kind of people only go to the woods when we are being shot at," she says at the beginning of her podcast. 

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There's also a stereotype, Le says, that outdoor camping "is white people (expletive), and we don't think about it and just move on." 

"Every comedian of color has a funny experience of going outdoors," she says. Le is trying to get to the heart of the stereotype and challenge it by taking a step into becoming more comfortable with camping. 

She believes half the podcast's audience are indoors folks like herself who are curious about those outdoor people and the other half are outdoors people who are rooting for her to embrace her inner woodswoman. 

During each episode, Le interviews experts about everything from snake bites to scaring off bears. By the time she goes camping, she is well aware that there are bobcats, scorpions, mosquitoes, armadillos and cougars out there with her. "It's Texas," she says.

She also talks to experts about the psychology of getting beyond her fears. 

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Writing her own path

The podcast right now is all-consuming, as episodes are still being edited. "This is my day job and my night job and my morning job," she says. "... I haven't slept in days." 

Before the podcast, she studied journalism and political science at the University of Georgia and got her master's of business administration at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business. 

When she first came to Austin, she was a reporter for the Austin Chronicle. She's worked in public relations and marketing for both her own company and the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Le also has been working on building her place in the Austin comedy scene. The pandemic, she says, has helped to level the playing field. Before, with two little kids at home, it was difficult for her to get her name on lists at open mic nights to work on her comedy set, because these things always happen when she's trying to get her kids ready for bed.

Ivy Le loves nature shows but actually going in nature was terrifying. In the third episode of her podcast, she talks about her fear with a psychologist.

With everyone at home during the pandemic, she says, "now maybe I have an advantage working as a writer for a long time."

She had many projects in development along with this podcast.

Americans have also been hungry for comedy during the pandemic, she says. "I'm very lucky that I'm alive at a time where comedians have more respect and demand than they've ever had in my lifetime," she says. 

She loves trashy TV and reality shows, romantic comedies and American sitcoms, she says. And she'd love to see an action movie for someone who looks like her. 

"When trouble actually befalls you, you need a woman superhero," Le says.

She knows she'll probably have to write it, because, she says, "people who look like me are not getting TV deals or selling movies. It doesn't mean we're not making things."

In the writer's room she's creating for her podcast and other projects, she's trying to set a different tone and be more inclusive, which includes hiring queer women of color.

Even though all the podcast episodes haven't been released, Le shares that she did, indeed, go camping, and she kept the tent.  

"I survived," she says. She knows people have taken out bets about whether she would go through with it, whether she would fall in love with camping. 

She learned a lot, and she hopes people will identify with her as she attempts to pitch a tent.

For now, though, "I'm done being outside," she says. "I'm staying my (expletive) inside."