A Guide To Some Great Podcasts
I listen to a lot of podcasts. Actually, I may listen to very few podcasts, but I don't know anyone else who listens to them, so compared to my friends I listen to ALL the podcasts. I listen to podcasts while I get ready in the morning, while I walk Hero, while I'm at the gym, even while I'm falling asleep. In case you don't know what a podcast is (like if you're old or you just started your Rumspringa), it's like a radio show, but you download it to your iTunes or iPod or whatever and can listen to it whenever, and wherever, you want. There are podcasts about all kinds of things, but I mostly stick to comedy and storytelling podcasts, so that's what I'll be reviewing. If you're new to podcasts and are looking for a few to try out, or you're a podcast afficionado and want to add a new show to your subscriptions, I hope this list can help you out. These are all podcasts that I listen to regularly, that I really like, and that I think most people will enjoy. All the podcasts mentioned are free and available through iTunes.
Stop Podcasting Yourself is my all-time favorite podcast. I look forward to it every week. In fact, I use Stop Podcasting Yourself as a motivator to go to the gym - I've made a rule for myself that I can't listen to it unless I'm working out - and it totally works. SPY is hosted by Graham Clark and Dave Shumka, two comedians from Vancouver. Each week they host a guest, usually a comedian and often a friend of the guys, and chat for 90 minutes or so. There are different segments, most of which have delightful theme songs (my favorite is "Hilarious Pranks"), that differ from episode to episode. The two segments that are always, always featured are "Get To Know Us," where we learn what's been going on in the lives of our hosts and guest, and "Overheards," where the hosts, guest, and listeners recall hilarious things that they've overheard (or sometimes "overseen"). Recently for their 200th episode, Graham and Dave did every segment the show has ever had, so that may be a good intro. Or at least a great way to hear all the theme songs.
Julie Klausner's How Was Your Week? is my second favorite podcast. Actually I lied, it's tied for first. If SPY is the official podcast of me being on the elliptical machine, How Was Your Week? is the official podcast of me walking my dog and getting ready in the morning. Other podcasts I let accumulate and listen to whenever, but SPY and HWYW? are the ones I listen to right after they come out. Julie Klausner is a gem of a woman, and her podcast is nothing short of delightful. She hosts two guests in each episode, and she gets some pretty legit guests, let me tell you (Joan Rivers! David Cross! Sonja Morgan!). Ms. Klausner is also, probably, the only person that watches as much TV as I do. Julie Klausner provides commentary on celebrities, pop culture, Twitter goings-on, TV, and everything else I love. Plus she has great guests and is a wonderful interviewer. Basically, I want to be friends with her. I desperately want her to find me interesting. But for now I'll make due with listening to her podcast.
The Pod F. Tompkast is, in my opinion, a classic of the podcast canon. Like, if you wanted to listen to only three podcasts, I'd strongly suggest that one of them be The Pod F. Tompkast. The show is hosted by (you may have guessed this one) comedian Paul F. Tompkins as he leads us through the world of "nighttime on the internet." My personal favorite segment is when Paul calls up "Our Friend Jen Kirkman" and she tells a story about her life. There's also "The Great Undiscovered Project," wherein PFT acts out a radio drama featuring impressions of Ice T, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and The Cake Boss. Plus we get a sketch from Paul's monthly variety show. The Pod F. Tompkast comes out once a month, on average, and a great podcast to listen to while you shop on the internet (at least that's what I do).
This American Life is like, THE radio show, right? I mean, people that don't even listen to podcasts on the reg download TAL, and it's always in the Top 5 Podcasts list on iTunes. Not to mention the millions of people that actually listen to NPR on old timey radios (all radios are old timey. It's 2012 for Chrissake). I feel like This American Life is so classic, well-known, and popular that all I need to do to describe it is paraphrase host Ira Glass: Each week they choose a theme and bring your a variety of stories on that theme.
Unless I'm really interested in the topic, I usually only listen to the first 10-20 minutes of Stuff You Should Know. This is because I listen to this podcast when I can't sleep and need a little background noise to lull me into dreamland. This is not to say the show is boring. It's actually really awesome, and you learn a lot of cool stuff from listening to Josh and Chuck each week. Maybe it's because their voices are soothing, maybe it's because listening makes me forget the worries that are keeping me awake and makes me think of whale sharks or whatever instead. But this podcast is my warm glass of milk and a lullaby that helps me chill the fuck out and get some sleep. SYSK is, like This American Life, one of those classic, essential shows that's always popular and a top download.
Walt Disney World Today is a Disney World vacation planning podcast. Why do I regularly listen to a Disney World vacation planning podcast? Let me tell you something about myself: I'm kind of obsessed with Disney World. One of my most defining characteristics is that I love fake, controlled environments. It's why I'm so crazy about Las Vegas, The Grove, and Disney World. Another story about Disney World: When I was about 7 or so my mom won a Winter Olympics trivia contest (really.) and we all got to go to Disney World, and EVERYTHING WAS FREE. We ate at the best restaurants, went to all the parks whenever we wanted, stayed in a swank hotel, the works. It was one of the best vacations of my life. Anyway, WDW Today is a thrice weekly podcast that covers the goings-on in Disney World, and gives tips on how to have the best vacation experience. Am I planning a trip to Disney World? No (but yes, in my dreams). But I listen to the podcast because just hearing about Disney World makes me feel safe and happy and excited. Call me a nerd, but you can't help what you love. Especially when what you love is TOTALLY AWESOME.
WTF with Marc Maron gets an honorable mention - It doesn't make the actual list because I have a love/hate relationship with this podcast. I only listen to shows with guests I'm really interested in, and I fast forward through about half of the show. I don't care about the beginning where Marc talks about himself for 20 minutes, and sometimes I find him to be a really frustrating interviewer. BUT, overall I'd say this is a really good show and anyone interested in show business or comedy or whatever should at least give it a shot. I don't regularly listen, but when I more often than not find it super interesting. That is, when I'm not yelling at my iPod, "Marc, we get it. You used to be an asshole and everyone hated you, and now you guys are cool and you interview them. But how about not dwelling on your own assholery and actually talk about the person you're interviewing. Huh? HUH? HOW ABOUT THAT?!"