Problems: The Awful Sisters Christmas Special


It’s been a challenging year. Families are trying to figure out how to be together for the holidays when they can’t be together physically. Welcome to Problems, a Christmas special. Problems is a series about comfortable, upper middle class people who have a lot to complain about. This year, Pam and her two sisters, Andrea and Amanda, are planning a Christmas caroling zoom call to their parents. In a series of zoom calls they plan and practice.

But it’s just really hard.


Amanda is played by writer Sarah Miller, of Nevada City, California and a reasonably regular contributor to this show. You can find a link to her essay, Why Cooking Sucks…below.

Andrea is played by Amelia Meath of Durham, NC, singer/songwriter in Sylvan Esso and Mountain Man. I’ve done a bunch of shows for and with Sylvan Esso, some of which are below.

Pam is me.


  1. Zahner Mary Luella
    Zahner Mary Luella December 22, 2020 at 10:07 pm | | Reply

    Oh I loved this! As Amelia’s mom I tend to love everything she turns her hand to. But her relationship with you seems quite special. When this virus thing is over I’d love to visit with you.

  2. Susan
    Susan December 23, 2020 at 9:34 am | | Reply

    This is utterly genius comedy – it’s insight so sharp that I can’t actually share it with my sisters… that’s a massive compliment!!! Please produce more problems, I haven’t heard anything so incisive and hilarious anywhere else.
    Happy festivities! 🙂

  3. Allison
    Allison December 23, 2020 at 3:51 pm | | Reply

    Oh my goodness! As the youngest of 3 daughters – this resonates sooo much! Love this one. Love the podcast. Thanks for the content Erica. Merry Christmas (or should I say… Son-of-Religious-Leader-Mas!)

  4. Tim
    Tim December 30, 2020 at 11:01 am | | Reply

    Erica, This is brilliant, edgy comedy well-played. I lolled my eyes out. I hope there are more episodes!

  5. daniel kirk
    daniel kirk January 11, 2021 at 2:42 pm | | Reply

    This is very funny! I always wanted a sister. But I can tell that if I had one (or two, or three), I might never truly understand a single thing they were thinking. Although, I think I detect a layer of loving micro-aggression in every conversation…the singing is very nice, too.

  6. Thomas Radwick
    Thomas Radwick January 11, 2021 at 8:14 pm | | Reply

    This is my favourite “Problems” episode yet!

    Awful Pam is just the fulcrum of her own universe isn’t she? Even her daughter (“River”!) is an addendum to her own self-importance. I think that by animating this quality so monstrously in Pam, you reveal the crux of so many of our own self-created “problems.”

    The rapport between the actors in “The Awful Sisters” is so brisk and without lull—every line of dialogue seems to reveal more than what is said. How do you conjure such easy-seeming depth, I wonder?

    Anyway, what results is great—as are both the songs in the piece. Those staggered “pa-rum-pa-pum-pums” are “Far In,” as Miles Davis wrote of the musicians who played on his ‘Jack Johnson’ album. And I very much admire the harmonies on your culminating “Silent Night”—outta sight!

  7. Wendy Scott
    Wendy Scott January 13, 2021 at 8:19 pm | | Reply

    Hi Erica,
    I just listened to your show on the Humanities Council. Your warmth and caring really came through which is what makes your shows SO wonderful! I was so happy to hear about the Atlantic magazine recognition. I came in late to the talk so missed hearing more about it but BRAVO on such a good talk and please continue for a very long time.
    All the best,

  8. Annie Greensfelder
    Annie Greensfelder January 13, 2021 at 8:55 pm | | Reply

    oh my, I’m glad I have good bladder control….this was so funny! and a special treat for me as it brings the Nevada City component in.

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